Walt Disney himself lived a legendary and highly mysterious life. A man of many secrets, he worked hard to incorporate hidden features through all of his work. Up to this day, there are dozens of special Easter eggs hidden throughout the park. The Imagineer’s that designed Disneyland in California have thought through every detail to make the parks as magical as possible.
Some of these secrets are meant to appeal to our childhood senses and sensibilities while there are plenty of puzzles to figure out while waiting in those long lines. Take a good look around you, wherever you are, and you’re sure to find something with a lot more to it than meets the eye. Every sense is carefully thought through in every section of the park.
‘The Most Magical Place On Earth’ has certainly been designed to live up to the name with specially invented paint, secret apartments, hidden instruments, and an army of adorable mouse-catching cats (although they may have overlooked the irony there). This list includes 25 secrets hidden throughout the park, many of which will be good to remember if you’re heading to the park anytime soon. You never know what Walt Disney may have hidden for you to find.
25 Do You Smell Something?
Disneyland sure smells pretty great. With thousands of people walking around for hours in the California heat, you would think Disneyland would begin to stink a little bit. However, the Imagineers are very smart. Fully aware of the fact that scent in the sense that most strongly connects to memory, the park has what it calls a Smellitzer – a special machine that pumps specific scents into different parts of the park. The Haunted Mansion smells musty while Main Street is scented with the smells of fresh bread and popcorn.
24 Furry Employees
Not everyone on Disneyland’s payroll is strictly human. There are hundreds of cats that live throughout the park (who are almost certainly not on the payroll), intentionally allowed in the park to keep pests away. If you’re concerned about the stray cats you’ve been seeing throughout Disneyland, don’t be. They are definitely supposed to be there, and they are definitely being taken care of. No one knows exactly how many cats there are across the park, but they are beloved members of Mickey's team, even if they’re meant to take care of the, you know... mice.
23 Banned Items
The items that you can buy in the shops throughout the park are specifically kept limited for the benefit of the park. Not only is alcohol prohibited throughout the park (except for one very special location), gum is also on the no-sell list. Disneyland is kept very, very clean and this is one of the reasons why.
Gum is notoriously hard to clean up so the park just circumvents the whole issue by not selling gum in any of the park’s stores.
22 Time Capsules
There are not one, but two time capsules buried under the park. The first was buried in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle when the park turned 40 in 1995, while a second lies under the Buena Vista Plaza, buried in 2012. The most recent one is meant to be unearthed in 2037 after a quarter century.
There are plans to keep burying time capsules throughout the park as the current ones are eventually reopened in the future. If you want to know what’s in it, just wait another 18 years.
21 C-3PO & R2-D2 Are Real
George Lucas himself wanted to make the Star Tours simulator to look and feel as authentic as possible and decided to donate real props from the original Star Wars trilogy. The C-3PO and R2-D2 figures in the simulator were loaned directly from George Lucas and are some of the real props used in the filming of the original Star Wars movies.
The park really wanted to go all-out and make the simulator as real as possible, even while you’re standing in line.
20 The Disneyland Railroad Secret Car
Walt Disney named this specific train car after his wife, Lilly Belle. This beautiful Victorian-style train car is quite special for several reasons. Not only is it extremely exclusive (unless you’re part of a specific club, you’ll need to be one of the first people in line at opening time to get a chance at a ride), the car is packed with one-of-a-kind artifacts from Disney history such as old scrapbooks and family photos.
Good luck getting a seat and make sure to savor the special ride.
19 Tomorrowland's Edible Gardens
Walt Disney himself was awfully interested in the future (and who knows, maybe he’ll get to see it) and invested quite a lot into Tomorrowland. There are plenty of small details that he planned across this section of the park, but the coolest detail is the fact that every single plant in Tomorrowland is completely edible.
Part of Disney’s future fantasy involved completely sustainable agricultural technology, which he turned into a reality in this park. If you want a small snack, anything green will work.
18 Club 33
Club 33 is the most exclusive location in Disneyland. This infamous membership is not only wildly expensive with a $25,000 initiation fee with annual dues of $10,000, it will also require a 14-year wait as of now to be a part of it.
There are plenty of perks involved with this as well such as early park access and valet parking, but the main draw of the club in the park is the restaurant in New Orleans Square, which, besides being a 5-star restaurant in its own right, is the only place in the park that sells alcohol.
17 Doritos Are A Disneyland Original
Back in 1955, there was a restaurant in Disneyland called Casa de Fritos which was run by Frito-Lay. It was in this restaurant that the company came up with what would be Doritos. The chip brand began as a way to avoid tossing out tortillas that had gone stale by deep frying them and giving them new flavors.
For a little while, the chips were only sold in Disneyland until their popularity convinced Frito-Lay to turn Doritos into a national brand.
16 Sleeping Beauty's Drawbridge
If Sleeping Beauty’s Castle looks real—if not extremely colorful—that’s because it pretty much is a real, functioning castle. One small known fact about it is that the drawbridge is in perfect working order. However, it has only been used twice in the park’s history so, chances are you won’t be able to see it ever raised.
The first time it was raised was on opening day way back in 1955 and it has only been opened one other time since then in 1983. Maybe in another 25 years.
15 Disneyland's Camouflage
Part of the mystery of the 33 Club revolves around its awfully subtle entrance. The door is painted with a very specific and intentional shade of green called ‘no see ‘um green’ that was created by Disneyland to mark ‘no-go’ zones. The color is scientifically designed to be, well, boring. Your eyes will naturally scan past this color so it is used to mark electrical equipment and employee only zones.
In short, Disney invented a magic camouflage which is right in line with their M.O.
14 Telegraph Morse Code
Venture over to the Telegraph Cable Office and, if you’re freshened up on your Morse code skills, you might hear something a little familiar. A portion of Walt Disney’s opening day speech in 1955 plays on repeat throughout the day. The lines are a warm welcome to anyone observant enough to pick it up:
“To all who come to this happy place; welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”
13 Disney's 'Weenies'
Walt Disney coined the term ‘Weenie’ to mean a landmark in the park that is designed to catch your eye immediately. The story goes that he used to play with his pet poodles with hot dogs out of his fridge and their eyes would follow wherever the hot dog went. In this scenario, we are the poodles and these landmarks are uncooked hot dogs that we’re supposed to follow.
It sounds weird when you put it like that, but it works perfectly to flow people through the park as was intended.
12 It's Smaller On The Inside
One engineering secret employed throughout the park makes many of the buildings look a lot bigger than they actually are. Many buildings, including Sleeping Beauty’s castle are made thinner the higher up they go and utilize smaller material. This results in an optical trick that makes these places look way larger than they actually are. The castle spires shrink in diameter, making it seem taller and also farther away than it actually is. Of course, this means that there are some strangely small rooms in all of these buildings in the second and third floors.
11 Steer The Mark Twain Riverboat
One of the interactive activities in the park is the Mark Twain riverboat that transports passengers to a small island that can also be explored. During the short trip, there are plenty of things to see on the riverboat itself, but if you ask nicely enough, you can steer the boat yourself. All you need to do is ask the captain and s/he will let you take the wheel no matter how young you are.
Of course, it doesn’t actually steer the boat, but it’s definitely a fun addition, especially for younger passengers.
10 You Can Also Drive The Monorail
Not only can you steer the Mark Twain riverboat, but you can also hang out in the front car of the Monorail that zooms around the park. Again, ask nicely and you just may be permitted into the conductor’s car with whoever is conducting at the moment.
This one is real so unfortunately you can’t take the wheel (or buttons or sticks or whatever it is) yourself, but it’s still a pretty cool sight to see from the front of the monorail—a sight very few people ever get.
9 The Matterhorn Basketball Court
The Matterhorn mountain in Disneyland is a massive and beautiful landmark with a wonderful ride going through it, but it also happens to be a favorite place for cast members to hang out. In a small space in the middle of the mountain is a basketball hoop for employees to get a game in on their breaks. The underground is full of tunnels and secrets but this is one of the best and most beloved throughout the crew of Disneyland.
8 The Firehouse Apartment
Walt Disney put together a variety of secret locations for special guests and corporate sponsors to visit while at the park. Many of these are hidden in plain sight, just like the apartment atop the Disneyland Fire Dept. on Main Street. The apartment has been kept in pretty much the exact same condition since Walt Disney was alive and can be visited on select special tours.
The apartment has several rooms and is perfectly capable of housing guests, but is rarely used nowadays.
7 Hidden Menu Items
Just about every restaurant through Disneyland has special secret menu items available to those in the loop. If you’re visiting the park, it’s worth asking about a hidden menu item at any restaurant you go to in the park.
Many of these items are (obviously) Mickey mouse themed such as the bread bowl, but there are dozens of these such as loaded tater tots and ice cream nachos. It’s always worth a shot, but like with many of these secrets, the nicer you are to the staff, the more likely you are to get in on the good stuff.
6 Don't Pull The Rope!
“Caution. Do Not Pull Rope! Handling Fragile Artifacts.”
What should you do? Pull the rope, obviously! In the queue for the Indiana Jones Adventure, there is a well with a rope sitting by this sign that not many people pull. However, if you do, there is a secret message for you and if you keep pulling it, you’ll hear a large splash from down in the well. There is another spot in the line with a similar trick having to do with a bamboo pole that can crash the ceiling in around you, sitting there waiting in line.
5 Choose Your TeaCup Wisely
If you’re like me and had nightmares of this freakish ride, then thankfully, there is a secret hidden in it to make the teacups from hell slightly more bearable. The designs on the cups are associated with different speeds, so you can intentionally choose the slowest of the teacups or the fastest, if that’s your cup of tea. The orange cup with diamonds as well as the purple cup with flowers spin the fastest, while the pink and gold cups with hearts are significantly slower than the rest.
4 Musical Manhole Covers
The fountain at the center of Mickey’s Toontown has a statue of Mickey with several instruments in a Fantasia-like ensemble. Remember these instruments when you’re walking through Toontown, because there are several manhole covers inlaid with these instruments. If you see one, feel free to jump on them and you’ll hear a quick tune of that respective instrument.
This is a secret component that’s frequently found out about by accident, but the complexity of the system is still one of the smartest installations in the park.
3 Buzz Lightyear's Secret Targets
There are a lot of ways to bump up your score on the Buzz Lightyear ride like knowing which kinds of targets give the most points (triangles and diamonds are worth way more than circles and squares). If you’re really going for the maxed out score of 999,999, then you pretty much have to know about the two special 100,000 point targets on the ride.
The target on the left hand of the orange robot and the one on the bottom of Emperor Zurg’s Spaceship both give massive points.
2 Magic Horse Hooves
Disneyland really cares about the details and insists on being as pleasant as possible on all of your senses. The park shoots wonderful smells at you, tricks your eyes into seeing the buildings as bigger than they actually are, and it also embellishes the sounds as well. The park is designed with even the most minute detail in mind, including the sound of the horse’s hooves.
The horseshoes used throughout the park are coated specifically to give the horses better traction but also to make the clip-clop sounds even louder.
1 Hidden Mickeys
Perhaps the best known ‘secret’ across the park is actually hundreds of secrets. There are Hidden Mickeys everywhere in the park. From paint splatters, to silhouettes, to carpets, anywhere you look, you’ll be able to see at least one Hidden Mickey in plain sight. The park is designed with this minute details in mind so even when you’re standing in line for an hour and a half, at least you always have a fun scavenger hunt to keep you entertained and happy.
References: Insider, Mental Floss