I have been a huge fan of Disney basically since I was born. I have seen the movies, visited the parks, and follow all the latest news. However, there are still things I learn about Disney, especially Walt Disney World, pretty much every day! There is so much history and work put into making it the "Most Magical Place On Earth" that even the biggest fan probably only knows a fraction of the big picture. Turns out, there are a lot of aspects of WDW that nobody knows: some are supposed to be secret and some are just fun Easter eggs for guests to discover.
For instance, did you ever step back and think about all the work Disney puts into creating unique environments in its parks? Turns out there are tons of details and design elements that go into it. No need to spend a bunch of money on a behind-the-scenes tour at Disney World, we've got the information for you! Whether you have been a WDW fan for years or you are preparing for your first visit, you might be surprised to learn some of these secrets. Keep reading for 25 things about Disney World that they would never tell you!
25 They Pipe In Smells
Have you ever wondered how Disney makes you feel totally transported to other times and places? They use tons of tiny details to achieve this, right down to the smells in the air. WDW's Imagineers know that scents can trigger different memories and feelings, which is why they pipe scents into the park. From popcorn and freshly baked goods on Main Street, U.S.A. to damp gunpowder on Pirates of the Caribbean to a musty smell in the Haunted Mansion, each ride and area is unique!
24 And The Sounds
In addition to using smells to set the scene, Disney also adds in music and ambient sounds. Each ride and land has its own unique soundtrack that helps put Guests in the proper mood. While you probably notice the tribal drumming of Adventureland and the fifes and drums of Liberty Square. But did you ever take note of the added screams outside of the Tower of Terror? Or the conversations coming from the apartments in Harambe (Africa) at Animal Kingdom? These little details help your brain feel totally immersed.
23 There's A Replica Liberty Bell
Outside the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square, you can find a replica Liberty Bell. It's a great detail to help transport you to colonial America, but it's not just a run-of-the-mill prop. Back in 1976, each state was gifted a replica of the Liberty Bell cast from the original. However, Pennsylvania then had both a replica as well as the original bell, so Walt Disney asked if he could have the fake to display in Magic Kingdom. They obliged and the bell was installed on July 4, 1989.
22 There Are Hidden Mickeys Everywhere
This next secret is more of a scavenger hunt set up by Disney Imagineers for Guests. All over the parks, resort hotels, and Disney Springs shopping district, Mickey Mouse heads are hidden everywhere. They can be big or small, obvious or subtle. Searching for hidden Mickeys is such a popular past time that people have even written books and apps about it! Trying to find all of these fun details lets you appreciate your surroundings more rather than just running from ride to ride. It's also a fun way to pass time in line!
21 They Recycle Props
One of the things Disney is infamous for is reusing its ride props. They repurpose set pieces and animatronics from closed-down attractions to create scenes in new ones. For example, the spitting camels in Adventureland used to be part of an Aladdin-themed parade. Props from Epcot's World of Motion are used in multiple stores, attractions, and restaurants around Disney property. This practice might seem overly frugal but is proof that you don't make money by throwing perfectly good things away! Lifelong Disney fans have fun pointing these out.
20 Even The Ground Is Themed
Disney knows that in order to help you feel immersed in the environments they create, they need to theme every last centimeter of the parks. No matter where you look, listen, or even smell, you will never feel taken out of the moment. Next time you're at WDW, take a look at the ground. The pavement in each land has a unique look and often features fun details you may miss! Horseshoe prints from Rapunzel's horse are near the Tangled-themed restrooms, there are peanut shells on the ground near the Dumbo ride, and Adventureland has fake jewels embedded in its sidewalks.
19 Disney World Is Built On A Sinkhole
As most people know, Walt Disney bought the land that is now Walt Disney World for so cheap because it is literally a Florida swamp. This type of land is unpredictable and not great for building, so many construction projects have faced problems throughout the resort's decades of history. One of these is the Epcot monorail station. The monorail tracks had to be rerouted due to a sinkhole opening up during construction, which may have totally changed the way that the Disney property looks today!
18 You Can't Book The Suite In Cinderella Castle
Every Disney fan dreams of spending a night in the suite in Cinderella Castle. Originally, it was built for Walt Disney and his family when they came to the park, despite the fact that he passed away before the park was completed. The luxurious room, which lets you sleep in Magic Kingdom overnight, is unfortunately only available to very special guests. In order to stay there, you either have to be invited by Disney (which is rare) or win a sweepstakes. It's the only hotel room in the world that no amount of money can buy!
17 Each Land Is Invisible From The Others
Going back to the immersive element of Disney parks, Imagineers wanted to ensure that while you are in a land, that is the only land you can see. Being able to spy Big Thunder Mountain Railroad while you are in a futuristic community would be jarring and take you out of the magical moment! By adding plants and piped-in sounds, you can't hear or see another area of the park, even if you're on a high-flying ride. This design is what makes Disney so different from other theme parks!
16 You Can Be Chosen To Open Magic Kingdom
Every Disney fan knows about the rope drop ceremony that opens the parks each day, but did you know you can get special treatment? At the Magic Kingdom, a different family is chosen each day to receive an exclusive tour of Main Street before the park opens as well as a starring role in the ceremony. The family of the day gets to stand at the train station with characters and Cast Members, waving to the crowd and welcoming everyone into the park.
15 The Buildings Use Forced Perspective
Walt Disney World is huge, but they don't want to spend the time, space, or money to make a bunch of enormous buildings. Especially because many of their structures are facades! That's where forced perspective comes in. This method uses optical illusions to make Cinderella Castle, the Beast's Castle, and more buildings around the property appear larger than they really are. By using smaller bricks at the top of the building, your brain thinks it is seeing a very tall structure because they look further away.
14 You Can Listen To A Message On A Phone On Main Street
This is a fun secret to take part in as you arrive at or leave Magic Kingdom. Right inside the park's entrance, you can find a hat shop called The Chapeau. Many people go here for their Mickey ear hats, but there's a fun hidden attraction inside as well. Pick up the old-timey phone on the wall and take a listen. Most of the time you can hear party line conversations between the townspeople who live on Main Street. Kids will especially love this secret!
13 The American Flags Are Fake
By law, American flags are supposed to be raised in the morning, lowered at night, and flown at half-mast in a time of national crisis. However, because Disney wanted the flags lining Main Street to stay up all the time as decorations, each one is a fake. The flags are missing either a star or a stripe in order to appear real to Guests but are allowed to be up permanently. The only real flag is the one on the tall pole right outside the train station.
12 Liberty Square Is Historically Accurate (And Gross)
While Disney is not always known for historical accuracy in its movies or parks, there are some details that are astoundingly correct. In Liberty Square, the land themed after colonial America, there are no restrooms. This is because you would not have found indoor plumbing in the 18th century! Another, more disgusting detail, is the brown path that runs through the otherwise red pavement in that area. This is meant to represent the flowing sewage that would have been found in streets during times before flushable toilets.
11 There's A Secret Ceremony After Magic Kingdom Closes
If you have ever stayed at a Disney park until its closing time, you know how much effort Cast Members put into getting you out of there. They smile, wave, and direct you towards the exit with their light-up wands. However, if you can kill time for long enough after the park closes, you are in for a magical surprise. Fifteen minutes after Magic Kingdom's official closing time, Cinderella Castle is lit up and a thank you message is played in a ceremony referred to as the "kiss goodnight."
10 They're Hiding An Abandoned Water Park
From 1976 to 2001, Disney's first water park, River Country, delighted guests on an island in the middle of Bay Lake. However, after the park closed for unknown reasons, Disney just left it there to decay. This area is hidden from most guests but you can still see it if you rent a boat and go exploring. Plants have begun to grow over the old slides and the pools are full of green water. It is certainly a far cry from the amazing upkeep the rest of the property sees!
9 Tinkerbell Literally Has To Fly Out Of The Castle
Walt Disney World is known for its amazing fireworks shows. With music, lights, and pyrotechnics, it's way better than any other fireworks you'll ever watch. One detail, though, takes the cake for the craziest aspect of Magic Kingdom's Happily Ever After show. A Cast Member dressed as Tinkerbell must fly out of the castle window on a wire to add pixie dust to everything. However, if she isn't shoved hard enough, she won't make it to the end of her wire and has to pull herself along!
8 Epcot Was Supposed To Be A Living Community
We now know Epcot as the park where we can learn about technology and other countries, but it was first envisioned quite differently. Walt Disney wanted to create a futuristic place called the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow (EPCOT) where people could live and work among the most innovative technologies. Though this project didn't work out the way Walt had planned, parts of his vision, including a monorail system and shopping areas themed after different countries were included in the Epcot park we know today.
7 You Can Send Mail From The Parks
Those vintage mailboxes lining Main Street, U.S.A. are not just for show. They are official U.S. postal boxes from which the mail is collected each and every day. So if you want to mail a postcard or letter about your Disney trip to a friend back home, the process is super easy! All you have to do is buy the postcard, write it out, and send it without ever leaving your vacation fun. You can even buy stamps around the property so you don't have to remember to pack yet another thing.
6 Some Rides Were So Scary They Had To Be Changed
When most people think of Disney World, they think of a vacation for kids. Hugging characters and riding tame attractions are big parts of WDW but there are plenty of things for adults, too. A few times, Disney actually had to change rides because they weren't kid-friendly enough! For instance, the original version of Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur ride, then called Countdown to Extinction, was much more intense, both the content and a rougher ride. Another attraction, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, guests experienced an escaped alien growling and spitting at them in total darkness.
5 Gum Isn't Sold On Disney Property
Many of Disney's current rules stem from Walt Disney's preferences when he opened Disneyland in the 1950s. He hated chewing gum, believing that it makes a mess. He hated how people stick it everywhere and it gets stuck to your shoes. For this reason, you can't buy gum anywhere on Disney property on either coast. While chewing gum you brought in yourself is still allowed in the parks, be sure not to throw it on the ground. That would break Walt's heart right in two!
4 You Can Have Lunch With An Imagineer
Have you always wanted to pick the brain of a Disney Imagineer? There are so many questions to ask about their creative process. If you dream of learning how they make all that signature Disney magic (and you're 14 or older), you can book lunch or dinner with an Imagineer. Choose from the swanky Citrico's at the Grand Floridian hotel or the Hollywood Brown Derby at Hollywood Studios. You'll get a 4-course meal and the chance to hear behind-the-scenes stories you won't learn about anywhere else.
3 They Use Food To Alter Animals' Behavior At Animal Kingdom
If the animals were left to their own devices, you would probably never see anything on the popular Animal Kingdom attraction Kilimanjaro Safaris. To keep the animals in sight while still treating them well, keepers use food and other tactics to slightly alter their behavior. For example, the top rock in the lion area is air-conditioned so they will want to lay there, of course in plain sight of safari vehicles. They also get the gorillas to move about by shooting raisins across their area with cannons!
2 You're Never More Than 30 Steps From A Trash Can In The Parks
When he first opened Disneyland, Walt Disney observed that guests will only hold on to a piece of garbage for about 30 steps before they just toss it on the ground. For that reason, Disney parks have trash bins at every turn. According to legend, they are all no more than 30 steps apart to ensure litter is minimized. Combine this with the rule that all Cast Members must pick up trash if they see it and it's no wonder WDW is such a clean place!
1 Animal Kingdom Has A Hidden Character
This last one is a true Disney secret. So secret, in fact, that even a lot of Disney World experts miss it! If you look closely in Animal Kingdom, you might be able to spot a roving street performer called Divine. She is up on stilts and well-camouflaged to look like the thick foliage of the park. With leaves, fruit, vines, and even green body paint, it's easy to miss her! Divine can usually be spotted on the path between Africa and Asia but ask a Cast Member if you can't spot her.
Resources: travelandleisure.com, thisisinsider.com, wdwinfo.com