From surprising facts about your favorite attractions to little-known construction tricks, these Disneyland secrets will surely enhance your park experience.

By Megan duBois
November 08, 2020
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Credit: Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort

Disneyland in Anaheim, California, conjures fond memories for many people around the globe. If you’ve ever been to Walt Disney’s original park, you’ve likely walked down Main Street, U.S.A., ridden on many of Walt’s original attractions, and even stopped in Mickey’s house to snag the perfect selfie.

But there are plenty of lesser-known spots and fun facts that you probably weren’t aware of, too. For example, did you know that the apartment above the fire station was an in-park home for Walt Disney and his family? How about the fact that Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room was meant to be a restaurant, or that the resort does not sell gum to help maintain park cleanliness? There are a ton of interesting (and surprising) tidbits about Disneyland to discover.

From where to find a hotel inside the park to secrets about Sleeping Beauty Castle, here are 15 things you probably didn’t know about Disneyland.

1. Disney California Adventure Park used to be a parking lot.

When Disneyland first opened on July 17, 1955, Disney California Adventure Park was still over 45 years away from welcoming visitors. In fact, the land for Disneyland’s second theme park was originally the parking lot for Disneyland Park.

2. The Haunted Mansion features a working elevator.

Unlike its Florida counterpart, the stretching room inside the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland is a real elevator. It takes guests underground to a passageway, which leads to the ride’s show building somewhere outside of the park’s berm.

3. Sleeping Beauty Castle uses paint to make it look bigger than it actually is.

Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle is a mere 77 feet tall. To make the structure look larger and more grand, Walt Disney Imagineering uses a technique called atmospheric perspective. The warmer pink hues are used on the lower towers and the team gradually added blue to lighten the colors near the top.

4. Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes are not on a track.

Critter Country guests can board a 20-person canoe and explore the areas around the Rivers of America and Tom Sawyer Island. Many parkgoers believe these canoes are on a track, but they are not. This is the only Disneyland attraction that is solely powered by guests.

Credit: Joshua Sudock/Disneyland Resort

5. A Buddy Pass can get you on a popular attraction even faster.

Over at Disney California Adventure Park, single riders can ask for a Buddy Pass at Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! This allows folks to enter the line at the exit queue and ride with a smaller group who may have waited in the regular line.

6. Sleeping Beauty Castle has an attraction inside its walls.

Inside the walls of Sleeping Beauty Castle lies a walk-through attraction that retells the story of "Sleeping Beauty." The walkways through the castle are dimly lit to show off the intricacies of the scenes and interactive features.

7. Carnation Cafe at Disneyland Park features one of Walt’s favorite meals.

Walt Disney was a man of simple taste when it came to food. One of his favorite dishes was chili, and Carnation Cafe on Main Street, U.S.A. serves up his favorite recipe. Obtained from Walt’s oldest daughter, Diane, and The Walt Disney Family Museum, the savory recipe comes from the Disney family cook who was able to perfectly balance the meat and beans for Walt.

Credit: Paul Hiffmeyer/Disneyland Resort

8. Disney California Adventure Park features a recreation of Carthay Circle Theater.

At the end of Buena Vista Street, guests at Disney California Adventure Park will see Carthay Circle, a restaurant serving lunch and dinner in a relaxed, upscale atmosphere. The establishment features paintings and nods to Walt Disney’s first animated feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” which premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater.

9. The Disneyland Resort has a hotel inside a theme park.

The Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is Disney’s first domestic hotel to be built inside a theme park. The property is located at the edge of Disney California Adventure Park and even has a secret guest-only entrance, which drops people off inside Grizzly Peak near Soarin’ Around the World and Grizzly River Run.

10. The Disneyland Hotel wasn’t always owned by Disney.

When the Disneyland Hotel first opened in 1955, it was owned by Jack Wrather, and Disney licensed the name. In 1988, the company finally acquired ownership of the property, making everything at the Disneyland Resort owned by Disney, including both theme parks, three hotels, and a shopping and dining district.

11. The Disneyland Resort has over 100 food and beverage locations.

There are over 160 places to grab a bite or drink across the Disneyland Resort. Some of them include popcorn carts, each of which has their own mascot (think: Oogie Boogie from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” or the Yeti from Matterhorn Bobsleds) cranking the machine to make the popcorn pop.

12. Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout! offers six different experiences.

When entering the Collector's Fortress on Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout!, you might notice a few familiar artifacts from other Marvel movies, like Cosmo the Spacedog. Once you’re on the ride vehicle, you’ll be dropped into one of six different scenarios featuring Star-Lord, Groot, Gamora, Rocket, and Drax. Each of the scenarios features a different song from the '70s or '80s as you speed to the top of the tower and drop to the bottom.

13. The Mickey Mouse floral design is replanted multiple times a year.

Just inside the gates of Disneyland Park, you’ll see a giant floral Mickey Mouse on the grass leading up to the train station. This flower bed is replaced and replanted six times a year, in order to spruce up the area and make it more festive for holidays like Halloween and Christmas.

14. The New Orleans Square Train Station plays a special message.

If you listen closely while waiting to board the Disneyland Railroad at New Orleans Square, you’ll notice that there’s Morse code coming from the small train house across the tracks. The message that’s being relayed is the first two lines of Walt Disney’s opening day speech at Disneyland.

15. Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park has a recreation of Ornament Valley.

In the movie “Cars,” the characters all live in Radiator Springs, which lies in the shadow of Ornament Valley and Cadillac Range. Walt Disney Imagineering recreated this space inside Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park. Here, the Ornament Valley mountain range covers 300,000 square feet and is 125 feet tall at its highest peak, making it the largest rock structure found at a domestic Disney park.