Updated January 31, 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!
In this article
- The First 50 Magical Years
- Pet Cemetery Tour
- Map of the Jungle Cruise
- Hidden Mickeys
- Walt Disney’s Apartment
- The Little Man of Disneyland
- The Secret Path
- Ride the Lilly Belle
- Pilot Mark Twain’s Boat
- Ask to Hold the Wand on Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- The Goat Trick
- Get a Message from Millie or Molly at California Adventure
- Other Smaller, Unique Finds
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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!
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:
Here is where to find the house in Adventureland, near Indiana Jones:
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.
A close up of his door:
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.
Start at the Harbour Galley Restaurant and head towards the right.
Follow this path to Fowler’s Inn, which is just decor.
Pause for a view into the Rivers of America. Disneyland seems so quiet from this far back.
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.
Peek over at people who just flew down the hill at Splash Mountain. They’re always laughing and happy. Makes me happy!
Take a photo in front of Splash Mountain. Great shots here!
See? So quiet and peaceful.
Exit the path here and you’re a bit closer to the entrance of Splash Mountain and the Hungry Bear Restaurant.
Wasn’t that fun?
Ride the Lilly Belle
(It’s unclear right now if this experience will remain free to park guests. Since the trains started running again, a new tour has been rumored, which includes the Lilly Belle. I’ll keep this post updated as I learn more about the free ride’s availability.)
The Lilly Belle is a special experience and not entirely easy to achieve. 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 get one of the few tickets available per day, 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 and you’ll be able to sit down in lovely seats and see things like Walt Disney’s “smoking jacket” and other artifacts.
Here’s how to have a good chance at riding:
- Arrive to the park at least an hour prior to opening. Once inside, go immediately to the Train Station at the front of the park. Hurry up the stairs, find a conductor and see if there are seats available.
- If there are, you’ll be given a return time and you’ll need to be prompt upon your return.
- Show your ticket and board. Enjoy!
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 in order to ask a Cast Member if you can pilot the boat.
- Ask early in the day – perhaps the first boat ride – and if the answer is “no”, ask if you can return for another chance.
- 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!
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.
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.
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:
Here’s the message:
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.
- 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!
- Crest on the Castle – This is actually the Disney family crest and can be seen directly above the drawbridge on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. It includes three lions with lots of detail and was placed on the castle 5 years after the park opened in 1960.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.