Unique Disneyland – Beyond the Usual Attractions

Updated August 8, 2018

Disneyland is so much more than rides and food and that’s a big part of why I love the parks.  We’ve discovered some unique treasures over the years and I know we have many more to learn.

I’ve detailed several, below, so you can share in some of the fun, too!


The First 50 Magical Years 

Take a few moments to venture into the Opera House, located at the front of the park.  In the lobby, on a large widescreen TV amongst DLR memorabilia, plays a 17 minute movie with Steve Martin narrating how Disneyland came to be.

(Great Moments with Lincoln utilizes Audio Animatronics to bring Lincoln to life shortly after, but it’s not necessary to see both features.  Watch the 50 Years movie in the lobby and simply decline entering the theatre for Lincoln if you don’t want to watch it.)

This short film was made in celebration of 50 years of the park, and is a great tool for learning the history and how things came together.  Donald Duck, always in competition, co-hosts and tries to steal the show.  I still go in and watch this from time to time because I love it so much.

DL-N-14

Pet Cemetery Tour 

Ask a cast member if he or she has time to take you over to see the Pet Cemetery at the Haunted Mansion, that is unseen from the park.  If you’re looking at the front of the house, it’s to the right, beyond a gate.  Pet tombstones adorn the lawn.  Some say real pets are buried there.  Some say it’s just for fun.  Who knows?!

There is an umbrella directly across from the exit of the mansion that senior cast members are stationed at. Kindly ask if one of them has a few moments for the tour. During busier times, this tour is far less available. Don’t be surprised if you’re declined. It’s nothing personal.

Most people say this tour is long gone. But, I have come to find in life that I rarely get anything that I don’t ask for. 🙂

017

Map of the Jungle Cruise

While death certificates used to be handed out at the Haunted Mansion (no longer available), maps of the Jungle Cruise are still available. You must ask on your way out and you’ll be handed a map that looks like this.

Occasionally they run out. But, as with many of my other suggestions, it can’t hurt to ask.

11101825_765126230251689_2900064154347153505_n

Hidden Mickeys

More common than they used to be, Hidden Mickeys are everywhere.  The rumored first published sighting was in 1989.  WDW’s Eyes and Ears magazine (for cast members) noted several within the parks and news spread quickly.  Mickeys of all shapes and sizes can be found subtly worked into the design of rides and other attractions.

Cast members will sometimes give you hints on how and where to find them, but Disney itself only recognizes them by allowing the book, Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys, to be sold on site.

We love to search for these while at the parks and often in real life, too.  In fact, my children pointed out one on the Vatican hymnal at mass recently.  Oops.

***This Mickey can be found on Casey Jr. Circus Train in Fantasyland.

039

Walt Disney’s Apartment 

As Disneyland was being constructed, Walt kept an apartment on site to keep track of progress and have sleeping options nearby.  It’s still at the park today, preserved in beauty and used to be available to see on park tours such as the Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps.  (I’ve been on this one and it’s fantastic!)

You can locate the apartment easily, as it sits just above the Disneyland Fire Department.  A lamp sits in the window, always lit, as a reminder to the great man who built Disneyland.

The day Disneyland opened, Walt watched the crowds walk in from the window you can still see today.  Young Mouseketeer, Sharon Baird, was there.

She says, ““On the opening day of Disneyland, we (Mouseketeers) were in Walt Disney’s private apartment above the Main Street Fire Station when the gates of the park opened for the first time. I was standing next to him at the window, watching the guests come pouring through the gates.

When I looked up at him, he had his hands behind his back, a grin from ear to ear, I could see a lump in his throat and a tear streaming down his cheek. He had realized his dream. I was only twelve years old at the time, so it didn’t mean as much to me then. But as the years go by, that image of him becomes more and more endearing.”

Find this apartment and more Disney history by taking my easy, one hour scavenger hunt along Main Street. It’s fun!

tumblr_mf5wdfQLGK1s0c4z4o1_500

The Little Man of Disneyland

The story goes…….Patrick Begorra lived in the orange orchard that existed prior to Disneyland’s existence. Donald and Mickey came along one day and told Patrick of their plans to build the park. Discussion ensued and a flight to the studios even occurred to show Patrick all that was ahead.

After resistance, Patrick finally encouraged the build as long as he could keep a tiny, modest home in the park. They offered him the castle. He declined and kept his home a secret, coming out only at night.

Now you can find Patrick’s home and it’s nothing short of adorable.

Buy the Little Golden Book from Amazon before your trip, read it, and then find his home during your visit.

Here is the book:

11062778_817133335050978_4314711780062361273_n

Here is where to find the house in Adventureland, near Indiana Jones:

11986591_817133351717643_346988180468712829_n

You’ll have to look a bit, behind those trash cans, but you can spot it if you look into the roots of the trees.

11988585_817133421717636_7075142987978901820_n

A close up of his door:

11953054_817133435050968_8054647281125441754_n

Don’t all fictional characters at Disneyland have a personalized door mat?

The Secret Path

There is a secret path in Critter Country that most tourists don’t know about. As you’ll see in the pics, it looks like “cast member only” territory. If you walk through it, you’ll find a nice little eating area, a quiet bridge and a good photo op in front of Splash Mountain.

The only problem with this area is that it has a few steps at one point. 🙁

If that works for you, take a look at the map I’ve drawn to find it and also a few photos from the actual path.

10565071_629611293803184_8143960922516788544_n

Start at the Harbour Galley Restaurant and head towards the right.

10462586_629611480469832_7111691431674946804_n

Follow this path to Fowler’s Inn, which is just decor.

1939927_629611583803155_5853826747681770012_n

Pause for a view into the Rivers of America. Disneyland seems so quiet from this far back.

10511250_629611630469817_3554776291334258195_n

Stop for a moment if you want to enjoy a picnic or just a place to sit and relax. I LOVE this part of the park at night because it’s rarely crowded. When the Mark Twain is docked next to it, the glow is so pretty.

10368186_629611793803134_8302145484955048426_n

Peek over at people who just flew down the hill at Splash Mountain. They’re always laughing and happy. Makes me happy!

10341494_629612300469750_8615323687363036871_n

Take a photo in front of Splash Mountain. Great shots here!

10606295_629612100469770_3277023608235353463_n

See? So quiet and peaceful.

10628570_629612033803110_1259975016116116043_n

Exit the path here and you’re a bit closer to the entrance of Splash Mountain and the Hungry Bear Restaurant.

1551533_629612397136407_6389856363481097497_n

Wasn’t that fun?

Ride the Lilly Belle

The Lilly Belle is an old Disneyland treasure that used to be open to the public on a very limited basis, but is now only available as part of the Grand Circle Tour.

Named after Walt Disney’s wife, the train car was built in 1928 and made with the finest appointments and details at the time. It was and is used to take Disney “royalty”, including Club 33 members, around the park.

If you’re lucky enough to go on this tour and ride the Lilly Belle, you’re in for a treat. You’ll take a round trip run through the park and the Cast Member aboard will explain the story of this train car. You will be able to sit down in lovely seats and see things like Walt Disney’s “smoking jacket” and other artifacts.

046

051

053

Pilot Mark Twain’s Boat

Mark Twain’s Riverboat can be “piloted” on occasion. Not a lot of people know this, but it can happen.

How did I make it happen? I asked nicely. (And, got lucky.)

Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Wait until the dock is nearly empty and the boat is filled with guests. Kindly ask a Cast Member if anyone has been selected to pilot the boat. Don’t ask in front of other guests. Avoid putting the Cast Member on the spot.
  • Ask early or late in the day. If the answer is “no”, ask if you can return for another chance and if he or she has a suggestion on what time might be more likely than others. Be sincere and polite with absolutely no inkling of entitlement. This experience is not part of your theme park admission. It’s unique and cast members appreciate seeing how much guests value it.
  • Only four people can do this at a time, so be prepared to ruin someone’s day if there are five in your group. Just kidding. But, know your limits.
  • Ask for a certificate if they’re still handing them out. It’s a fun keepsake!
  • I recently piloted the boat and shared all about it in this post.

11080938_745697388861240_8281644073419458989_n

Ask to Hold the Wand on Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

Typically handed out only for those little ones nervous about the attraction, a glowing wand is kept at the entrance of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. It lights up during the ride to keep children “safe” from Ursula and the rest of the mean sea critters. Please respect this one and only ask if you truly have a small child that is nervous.

22696_765381196892859_8317169989081119608_n

The Goat Trick

If you’re a fan of being dizzy (who are you people?), try this when you ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

After the second major hill, you’ll descend down slowly and take a right turn once the speed increases. The goat pictured below will be there to greet you. Keep your eyes on the goat as you turn the corner and for as long as you can afterwards, until he’s out of sight. A terrible dizziness will come over you, caused by the inner ear and g-forces and some sort of voodoo that I don’t care to mess with in my old age. I get vertigo just by standing up to quickly. I don’t need to stare at a goat to bring it on willingly.

But, for those of you who enjoy this kind of thing, sit as far back in the ride as you can. It’s most effective in the back of the train.

Become the Screamer of the Day at the Monsters Inc Attraction in California Adventure

This fun event is a bit unpredictable, but when it happens, it’s adorable.

Simply put, children gather right after park opening to participate in a “scream contest” to open the ride. Sulley is most often there to see guests during and shortly after the contest.

One child is chosen on days when the contest is held. That child will win a certificate for that day that entitles them to unlimited rides on Monster’s Inc. Mike and Sulley to the Rescue! with front of the line access every time.

Check out this cutie who won recently.

Get a Message from Millie or Molly at California Adventure

The Citizens of Buena Vista Street (Millie and Molly, Fifi the Photographer, Donna the Dog Lady and Officer Blue) are becoming more and more popular. I ADORE each of them.

Millie and Molly are bike messengers and can be found handing out messages from Mickey and friends. If you see one of these lovely ladies, stop, say hello and ask if they have a message for you. They’ll take it from there.

Here is one of the messengers, Mollie:

10339720_718500958247550_598301778610798843_n

Here’s the message:

10891907_718502494914063_2164441732735387779_n

Also, Officer Blue can write you a “citation”. Ask him for one. 🙂

Other Smaller, Unique Finds

  • Brick Wall Samples – The “test brick wall” can be found just off of Main Street.  You can see brick that was laid out to test, along with different masonry patterns, awaiting Walt Disney’s approval and choice for the park.  As you travel on Main toward the castle, go right on Center Street (where the fruit carts are) and head back toward the lockers.  You’ll see it surrounding the water fountain.

testbricks1

  • Red and White Light Bulb – At the Coca Cola Refreshment Center (on Main Street), look up closely at the red and white bulbs that adorn the entrance.  As they were being installed, the red and white came to an end and a choice had to be made….red or white?!  In trademark Disney fashion, no choice was made and instead, a single bulb was painted red and white so that the pattern was never broken.  It’s little things like this that make Disneyland unique! 404586_c_img
  • Eeyore sign in the Indiana Jones queue – Since Indiana Jones was built on the Eeyore Parking Lot, Disney pays tribute to him with a sign left over. As you enter the film room, look back and you can barely see it. Ask a cast member if he or she has a flash light to shine on it for you.

446230_c_img

image credit

  • Confusion in Pirates of the Caribbean – Near the end of this attraction, notice the dog holding the keys to open the jail cell holding three pirates. This seems like their only hope for escape. Then, look all the way to your right…..rather quickly…..and notice that the jail cell is actually open for them to walk out at any time. See the arrow in the second photo. It’s hard to tell, but the door has been pushed open with the debris.

11042204_10153113223202726_844273510_n

11022990_10153113223357726_1901979486_n copy

  • Nod to Country Bear Jamboree in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – In true Disney fashion, and much like the Eeyore nod in Indiana Jones, you can see the trophy heads from the Country Bear Jamboree in the Winnie the Pooh attraction. After you pass through the dream sequence, look up and back to find these guys. Check out the photos.

heads

Keep it weird, Disney. We love this kind of stuff.

Want more to do? Check out my Totally Free at Disneyland post. There are a few overlaps from this one, but new options, too.

Want to test your skills? Follow my Disneyland Scavenger Hunt to find Walt-related stops on Main Street. The hunt takes about an hour and will show 10 significant stops on Main.

Take a look at how Get Away Today can help with your vacation

39 COMMENTS

  1. Great article. The only thing to point out is that the crest on the castle is actually the crest for England with the three lions that represent courage because that is where Aurora is from. The Disney family crest has three fleur-de-lis in the middle of it that represents purity. The Castle Heraldry Shoppe inside the castle only 30 feet away, which was in Disneyland from 1994-2017, had a printout of the Disney family crest on display. I asked them about the inconsistency between the story and the real crest and he said that it is a Disney myth that just keeps getting shared year after year, even by Disney itself, much like the myth of the petrified tree and that it was a gift for Lillian, which was a story Walt came up with.
    I started researching Disney history in 2006 and have had two books published about it. My most recent book is 700 pages containing over 3,700 fun facts and trivia about Disneyland and Disney Movies. I am always hard-pressed to find new information I don’t already know. From you I learned about the wand on Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and about the telegrams in California Adventure 🙂 Thank you for that. Keep on writing.
    http://www.DisneyGuy.org

  2. In the past when you got tickets for the Lily Belle does the whole party have to be present? We are going later this year and are hoping to ride but we will be a family of 8. Thank you for everything you do girl!!

  3. As of April 2017 – we checked for the Buena Vista newspapers – however, the staff said they no longer have it! 🙁

  4. I fortunate enough to catch the Max, Buff and Melvin, on my last trip! At first, I was upset they had taken CBJ out (I hadn’t been in 20 something years) but true to Disney form, I saw those guys hangin’ out in the Heffalump room. Great list of off the map attractions!

  5. I heard that in California Adventure they give out newspapers in the Buena Vista area. Do they still do that? Also where could I find those?

  6. do they still give out the Maps after the Jungle Cruise? When/Where can you find Millie or Molly? My kids would love this so I’m trying to figure this all out! 🙂 sorry for so many questions!

    • Maps at the Jungle Cruise are still available, but they occasionally run out. Millie or Mollie can be found on Buena Vista Street wandering around. They don’t have specific locations.

  7. You KNOW that I love the Red & White lightbulb 🙂

    My favorite is the trail along Rivers of America.

    I didn’t know about the Wand on Ariel’s Undersea Adventure…very cool…now I need to kidnap, errr, find a little person to take on the ride so I can take a photo of it…it counts as a Disney Light!

    Sending Hugs and Light!

  8. Love this post. Is there a way to specifically get a message from a messenger? Like a birthday message for my son. Thanks

    • It’s not currently in use. Guests tore the box out and it hasn’t been replaced. I’m hoping it is soon. I’ve left messages for lots of people there before. I’ll update this post as I learn more.

    • I’m not sure exactly how it was done but last year when entering Disneyland California on my Birthday I was given a Happy Birthday button by a cast member at the gate. While waiting in line for fast passes (I wish I could remember her name she does the great shows with Goofy the Five and Dime) was riding around on a messenger bike calling my name. I was oblivious to the fact she was calling me personally but was so cute and persistent and actually approached me asking if I was Shannon when I surprisingly answered yes she handed me a hand written birthday message from her and Goofy. I’m 43 years old and felt like a little kid so excited to have such a special gift.

  9. Love all the info in this post! The kids loved that Molly had a message for them from Anna and Elsa! We definitely felt like we had insider info. And Molly was so fun to chat with.

  10. You (and 4 friends) can ride in the Monorail’s “nosecone” with the pilot. It’s first come-first serve, so it’s easiest to score these great seats on a quiet day. AND asking at Tomorrowland increases your chances of getting the front seats, since all passengers must disembark in Tomorrowland, but they don’t have to get off at the Downtown Disney station. The view during the ride is great from the nosecone and the cast member pilots are friendly. Riding in the Monorail tail (caboose?) is second best.

  11. Hi, I have to say I thought I knew everything about Disneyland. In fact, we are slow at work so to pass time a co-worker has been quizzing me on Disney trivia until your website I was at a 100%. I didn’t know about the “secret path”, the light bulb or the gate on the jail in Pirates. So Awesome! Thanks for posting

  12. If you look at the mountains in Toontown you can find the Mountains have an area that make DI which means Disney Imagineers. If you can’t find it ask a cast member kindly about it and see if he/she will show it to you. It was created as a nod to the cast members

  13. I love this! There is one to ad. On Indiana Jones where you pass the skeletons on the left there is a skeleton leaning against the wall and he’s wearing Mickey ears. I’m not sure if you can get a picture of it. You have to be pretty quick to see it.

  14. oooh this is so fun! My husband and I have been annual passholders for nearly a decade and thought we already knew all the secrets! But I got 3 pieces of new info here! I can’t wait to surprise him next time we go with my new trivia 🙂

  15. Thanks for the map of the hidden path. Someone mentioned it on a forum in regards to extra seating at the Harbour Galley and I did not know what they were referring to. We will definitely have to go down that trail on our upcoming trip.

  16. I’m looking forward to spending 8 days in Disneyland in September. My first trip to Disneyland was in 1970 with my three children. This year I will be spending my 75th Birthday at Disneyland. Where else but Disneyland would I want to celebrate this special day.

  17. Loved this article, my family and I go to Disneyland about once a week and we are always looking for new and fun things that will keep our trips fresh and exciting. We are going to spend 5 days at the Grand California this summer, I would love to see any other ideas you have for those of us who are Disney veterans. Keep up the good work!

LEAVE A REPLY