Sorry, mouse fans: if you’ve ever been to a Disney Park, chances are you missed a lot.
“Disneyland was designed so that you really couldn’t see everything in a single visit,” says Paula Sigman Lowery, a consulting historian for the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. She points to Walt Disney’s signature love of arcane embellishment, first in his animation (in Pinocchio, just try to catch all the details of the background paintings in Geppetto’s workshop) and later in his groundbreaking California theme park.
The business names painted in the windows of Disneyland’s buildings are a perfect example. “Imagineer Harper Goff designed the Jungle Cruise’s African Queen–style boats,” explains Lowery. “He also played banjo in the Firehouse Five Plus Two, a Dixieland jazz band comprised of Disney animators and artists. So his window in Adventureland advertises banjo lessons.”
Disney acolytes live for those minutiae and hat tips to those in the know, fueling a brand loyalty that’s the envy of businesses around the world. Disney Parks have parlayed this emotional connection into an uninterrupted reign as America’s best family getaways and most-visited tourist attractions since 1955.
Today, in addition to all the Easter eggs Walt and his Imagineers baked into their attraction designs, the parks have also accumulated almost six decades of hidden history that’s waiting to be discovered by eagle-eyed guests—provided they know where to look.
Related: Disney World Resort Tips and Tricks
Have you seen Disney’s nuclear power plant? Did you watch one of the biggest scandals in American politics unfold at a Disney resort? Ever have a sense of déjà vu when riding a ride? Spoilers ahead: you may never enjoy Disney the same way again.
How many of these secrets did you know?