10 Hidden Pieces of Magic at Disneyland
Updated: Aug 25
Heading to Disneyland for the first time? There is so much to see and do, it is easy to get swept away by all the music and magic that is right in your face.
But there is a whole level of magic that’s a little tucked away. It's easy to miss in the rush of the park, but if you pause, take a deep breath, and look for it you will not be sorry.
Here are 10 (not-so) secret details that you will want to look out for on your next trip to Disneyland.
The Little Man of Disneyland
Did you know there is a little man that lives in Disney’s Adventureland? You can see his small little house built into the base of a tree. The tree is to the right of the Indiana Jones Adventure ride. Before you head on to that ride or start climbing the Tarzan Treehouse, check the bases of the trees in that area to see if you can spot The Little Man of Disneyland’s house.
Neon Lights Show at Radiator Springs
Do you know that part in the Cars movie where Lightning McQueen surprises Sally by fixing all the neon lights in the town? Well, that amazing scene is recreated every night in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure park, complete with the “Sha boom” song and all.
There is no announcement or published show time unless you know who to ask. It is generally done just after sunset. If you ask a Cars Land cast member, they may just tell you what time it will happen that day. Station yourself near the entrance of Cars Land and wait till you hear that magical song.
Cars Land at night is truly a sight to be seen, even if you miss them turning on the neon lights. It is one of my all-time favorite places to be in the park.
Snow White’s Grotto
Located at the eastern end of the moat around Sleeping Beauty’s castle is Snow White’s grotto. It is a peaceful little wishing well and waterfall a little off the beaten path, making it an excellent place to escape all the hustle and bustle of the park crowds. Sometimes you may even find a Disney princess tucked back there signing autographs.
All the coins thrown into this fountain are donated to charity if you feel so inclined to participate. And if you listen closely you can sometimes hear Snow White’s voice singing “I’m Wishing” echoing from the well.
Another fun fact about this area of the park involves the Snow White and the Seven Dwarf statues decorating the waterfall. The Snow White statue is the same size as all the Dwarf statues, making it a challenge for the designers to install them in the park. They came up with an optical illusion, called “forced perspective,” where things are made to look bigger or smaller by the placement and/or incorporation of bigger or smaller objects next to the original one.
Forced perspective is used all over the park. Can you name a few of the other places it’s used?
Windows and Music in New Orleans Square Walkway
Next time you exit the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, take a stroll through the streets of New Orleans Square at a leisurely pace instead of racing off to the next attraction. Take in all the details that went into that little street section so you can truly appreciate it for all its glory.
They really wanted you to feel like you were walking along the streets of the Big Easy.
Make sure you look up at the second-floor windows of those storefronts. There you will find everything from musicians to fortune tellers advertising their services. Listen closely, you might even hear them at work.
This is also where the entrance to the exclusive Club 33 is. This private, members-only club has a long membership waiting list, and membership costs thousands of dollars. If you get an invite to dine as a guest, snatch it up immediately!
Peter Pan Ride Que
One of the most popular rides at Disneyland has one of the best interactive attraction ques. Yes, I’m talking about Peter Pan. If you’ve been there before, you probably think I am crazy but I’m not lying.
Download the Disney Play Parks app on your phone to take advantage of this. Hidden throughout the que are several carvings, making a seek and find game to occupy you and your kids while waiting in the long line. (This ride always has a long line!)
Towards the end of the que, after you have found all the wooden carvings, there is a special hidden surprise that only you can reveal using the app. It’s a fun little surprise that is sure to please your kids. I won’t give it away here, just trust me and play the game next time you are in that line.
The Queen atop Snow White Ride
Another Fantasyland treat, make sure you look up at the top of the Snow White’s Adventure ride entrance. There is a window that looks like there is just a curtain hanging there, but if you watch long enough you will see the Evil Queen peeking out at you. Not super-secret, but hard to miss if you don’t know to look up!
Mark Twain Riverboat
Everyone knows you can ride the Mark Twain Riverboat, which goes on a gentle cruise around Tom Sawyer’s Island in Frontierland. (Princess Tiana hangs out there a lot, for all your Princess and the Frog fans.) You will get a unique view of Tom Sawyer’s Island on the cruise, including some animatronics only visible from the ship.
What you might not know is you can help operate the ship! When you get on board, ask the captain if you can ride up in the wheelhouse. Parties of 4 or fewer are sometimes allowed up there where they can help the captain ring the bell and blow the whistle. You will also be invited to sign the ship’s log, securing your place in Disneyland history.
Walt Disney Apartment
Disneyland is the only Disney park that Walt was alive to see. When you go there, you are literally walking in Walt’s footsteps and can feel his presence wherever you go.
Being he poured so much of himself into this park it makes perfect sense that he would have his very own apartment built there. When he was alive it was a secret place where only he, his family, and special guests were allowed. It is still there above Disneyland’s firehouse on Main Street.
Located in the apartment window where Walt once stood to survey the park and its guests is a small lamp. When he was alive the lamp would be turned on to signal his presence at the park. After his death, the lamp was kept lit in tribute, which it remains to this day.
So next time you are walking down Main Street, take a moment and look up at the top floor of the firehouse and the lamp lit in his honor. Just a small little homage to the man that has brought so much joy to literally millions of people, even after his death.
Horse on the Carrousel
The King Arthur Carrousel in Fantasyland has been in the park since its opening in 1955. It is a classic attraction that dates back even before the park opened and is the perfect ride for even the youngest of kids.
Fun fact about the horses: they are each unique and have their own names. There is even an official roster listing out each of the names you can get for free at City Hall on Main Street.
When you board look for the horse named Jingles. She is the most ornately decorated horse and can be easily identified by the rows of jingle bells draped on her torso. She is considered the lead horse on the carousel and is rumored she was Walt’s favorite. Be sure to look over her beautiful saddle for the hidden Mickeys!
In 2008 Jingles was dedicated to Julie Andrews in honor of her 50 years of contributions to Disney. Something unique to Disneyland is how Mary Poppins will oftentimes board the carrousel with the band for a special ride and performance. No surprise, but Jingles is the horse Mary Poppins typically chooses for this ride.
And so much more….
These are just ten things, but there is so much more I could list! Like the cats that live in the park, the bench that Walt Disney first envisioned Disneyland located in the foyer of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln,” the special hotel suite located above The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and how the skull above the bed in that same ride is real.
In my opinion, it is these subtle details that put Disney parks above all the rest when it comes to the total theme park experience. So next time you have the honor of visiting the park, take a moment to stop and appreciate all these little details that make it so great. And then you have my permission to run off to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
I am a travel agent with Magical Vacation Planner and can help you plan an unforgettable vacation with your family. Email me, head to my Facebook page, or set up time to chat if you’d like to start planning your magical vacation.
Or head here to download your copy of my free Disney Vacation planning worksheets.