Unique Disneyland – Do More Than Ride

****Updated September 17, 2016

Disneyland is so much more than rides and food and that’s a big part of why I love the parks.  We’ve discovered some unique treasures over the years and I know we have many more to learn.

I’ve detailed several, below, so you can share in some of the fun, too!

The First 50 Magical Years 

Take a few moments to venture into the Opera House, located at the front of the park.  In the lobby, on a large widescreen TV amongst DLR memorabilia, plays a 17 minute movie with Steve Martin narrating how Disneyland came to be.

Great Moments with Lincoln utilizes Audio Animatronics to bring Lincoln to life shortly after, but it’s not necessary to see both features.  Watch the 50 Years movie in the lobby and simply decline entering the theatre for Lincoln if you don’t want to watch it.)

This short film was made in celebration of 50 years of the park, and is a great tool for learning the history and how things came together.  Donald Duck, always in competition, co-hosts and tries to steal the show.  I still go in and watch this from time to time because I love it so much.


Pet Cemetery Tour 

Ask a cast member if he or she has time to take you over to see the Pet Cemetery at the Haunted Mansion, that is unseen from the park.  If you’re looking at the front of the house, it’s to the right, beyond a gate.  Pet tombstones adorn the lawn.  Some say real pets are buried there.  Some say it’s just for fun.  Who knows?!

There is an umbrella directly across from the exit of the mansion that senior cast members are stationed at. Kindly ask if they have a few moments for the tour. During busier times, this tour is less available. Don’t be surprised if you’re declined to go on the tour. It can’t hurt to ask, though.


Map of the Jungle Cruise

While death certificates used to be handed out at the Haunted Mansion (no longer available), maps of the Jungle Cruise are still available. You must ask on your way out and you’ll be handed a map that looks like this:


Hidden Mickeys

More common than they used to be, Hidden Mickeys are everywhere.  The first published sighting was in 1989.  WDW’s Eyes and Ears magazine (for cast members) noted several within the parks and news spread quickly.  Mickeys of all shapes and sizes can be found subtly worked into the design of rides and other attractions.

Cast members will sometimes give you hints on how and where to find them, but Disney itself only recognizes them by allowing the book, Disneyland’s Hidden Mickeys, to be sold on site.

Publicly, the company has never acknowledged or encouraged the Mickeys’ rise to fame.  We love to search for these while at the parks and often in real life, too.  In fact, my children pointed out one on the Vatican hymnal at mass recently.  Oops!

***This Mickey can be found on Casey Jr. Circus Train in Fantasyland.


Walt Disney’s Apartment 

As Disneyland was being constructed, Walt kept an apartment on site to keep track of progress and have sleeping options nearby.  It’s still at the park today, preserved in beauty and used to be available to see on park tours such as the Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps.  (I’ve been on this one and it’s fantastic!) ****Currently, the apartment is not on this tour, but this could change in the future.

You can locate the apartment easily, as it sits just above the Disneyland Fire Department.  A lamp sits in the window, always lit, as a reminder to the great man who built Disneyland.

The day Disneyland opened, Walt watched the crowds walk in from the window you can still see today.  Young Mouseketeer, Sharon Baird, was there.

She says, ““On the opening day of Disneyland, we (Mouseketeers) were in Walt Disney’s private apartment above the Main Street Fire Station when the gates of the park opened for the first time. I was standing next to him at the window, watching the guests come pouring through the gates.

When I looked up at him, he had his hands behind his back, a grin from ear to ear, I could see a lump in his throat and a tear streaming down his cheek. He had realized his dream. I was only twelve years old at the time, so it didn’t mean as much to me then. But as the years go by, that image of him becomes more and more endearing.”

Find this apartment and more Disney history by taking my easy, one hour scavenger hunt along Main Street. It’s fun!


The Little Man of Disneyland

The story goes…….Patrick Begorra lived in the orange orchard that existed prior to Disneyland’s existence. Donald and Mickey came along one day and told Patrick of their plans to build the park. Discussion ensued and a flight to the studios even occurred to show Patrick all that was ahead.

After resistance, Patrick finally encouraged the build as long as he could keep a tiny, modest home in the park. They offered him the castle. He declined and kept his home a secret, coming out only at night.

Now you can find Patrick’s home and it’s nothing short of adorable.

Buy the Little Golden Book from Amazon before your trip, read it, and then find his home during your visit.

Here is the book:


Here is where to find the house in Adventureland, near Indiana Jones:


You’ll have to look a bit, behind those trash cans, but you can spot it if you look into the roots of the trees.


A close up of his door:


Don’t all fictional characters at Disneyland have a personalized door mat?

The Secret Path

There is a secret path in Critter Country that most tourists don’t know about. As you’ll see in the pics, it looks like “cast member only” territory. If you walk through it, you’ll find a nice little eating area, a quiet bridge and a good photo op in front of Splash Mountain.

The only problem with this area is that it has a few steps at one point. 🙁

If that works for you, take a look at the map I’ve drawn to find it and also a few photos from the actual path.


Start at the Harbour Galley Restaurant and head towards the right.


Follow this path to Fowler’s Inn, which is just decor.


Pause for a view into the Rivers of America. Disneyland seems so quiet from this far back.


Stop for a moment if you want to enjoy a picnic or just a place to sit and relax.


Peek over at people who just flew down the hill at Splash Mountain. They’re always laughing and happy. Makes me happy!


Take a photo in front of Splash Mountain. Great shots here!


See? So quiet and peaceful.


Exit the path here and you’re a bit closer to the entrance of Splash Mountain and the Hungry Bear Restaurant.


Wasn’t that fun?

Ride the Lilly Belle

The Lilly Belle is a special experience and not entirely easy to achieve. Named after Walt Disney’s wife, the train car was built in 1928 and made with the finest appointments and details at the time. It was and is used to take Disney “royalty”, including Club 33 members around the park.

If you’re lucky enough to get one of the few tickets available per day, you’re in for a treat. You’ll take a round trip run through the park and the Cast Member aboard will explain the story of this train car and you’ll be able to sit down in lovely seats and see things like Walt Disney’s “smoking jacket” and other artifacts.

Here’s how to have a good chance at riding:

  • Arrive to the park at least an hour prior to opening. Once inside, go immediately to the Train Station at the front of the park. Hurry up the stairs, find a conductor and see if there are seats available.
  • If there are, you’ll be given a return time and you’ll need to be prompt upon your return.
  • Show your ticket and board. Enjoy!




***The Lilly Belle (and the Disneyland Railroad) are currently not running due to the track re-routing in preparation for Star Wars Land. The train is supposed to resume normal operation in the summer of 2017. Until then, the Lilly Belle is often parked on the tracks at the Main Street RR Station for you to peek into, but not actually tour. You can still see plenty, though, from outside.

Pilot Mark Twain’s Boat

Mark Twain’s Riverboat can be “piloted” on occasion. Not a lot of people know this, but it can happen.

Here are some tips on how to do it:

  • Wait until the dock is nearly empty in order to ask a Cast Member if you can pilot the boat.
  • Ask early in the day – perhaps the first boat ride – and if the answer is “no”, ask if you can return for another chance.
  • Only four people can do this at a time, so be prepared to ruin someone’s day if there are five in your group. Just kidding. But, know your limits.
  • Ask for a certificate if they’re still handing them out. It’s a fun keepsake!



***This attraction, too, is on hold until the Rivers of America are rerouted in preparation for Star Wars Land. Check back summer of 2017 for your chance to pilot the boat.

Ask to Hold the Wand on Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

Typically handed out only for those little ones nervous about the attraction, a glowing wand is kept at the entrance of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. It lights up during the ride to keep children “safe” from Ursula and the rest of the mean sea critters. Please respect this one and only ask if you truly have a small child that is nervous.


Get a Message from Millie or Molly at California Adventure

The Citizens of Buena Vista Street (Millie and Molly, Fifi the Photographer, Donna the Dog Ladh and Officer Blue) are becoming more and more popular. I ADORE each of them. 

Millie and Molly are bike messengers and can be found handing out messages from Mickey and friends. If you see one of these lovely ladies, stop, say hello and ask if they have a message for you. They’ll take it from there.

Here is one of the messengers, Mollie:


Here’s the message:


Also, Officer Blue can write you a “citation”. Ask him for one. 🙂

Other smaller, unique finds:

  • Brick Wall Samples – The “test brick wall” can be found just off of Main Street.  You can see brick that was laid out to test, along with different masonry patterns, awaiting Walt Disney’s approval and choice for the park.  As you travel on Main toward the castle, go right on Center Street (where the fruit carts are) and head back toward the lockers.  You’ll see it surrounding the water fountain.


  • Red and White Light Bulb – At the Coca Cola Refreshment Center (on Main Street), look up closely at the red and white bulbs that adorn the entrance.  As they were being installed, the red and white came to an end and a choice had to be made….red or white?!  In trademark Disney fashion, no choice was made and instead, a single bulb was painted red and white so that the pattern was never broken.  It’s little things like this that make Disneyland unique! 404586_c_img
  • Crest on the Castle – This is actually the Disney family crest and can be seen directly above the drawbridge on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.  It includes three lions with lots of detail and was placed on the castle 5 years after the park opened in 1960. 
  • Eeyore sign in the Indiana Jones queue – Since Indiana Jones was built on the Eeyore Parking Lot, Disney pays tribute to him with a sign left over. As you enter the film room, look back and you can barely see it. Ask a cast member if he or she has a flash light to shine on it for you.


image credit

  • Confusion in Pirates of the Caribbean – About mid-way through this attraction, notice the dog holding the keys to open the jail cell holding three pirates. This seems like their only hope for escape. Then, look all the way to your right…..rather quickly…..and notice that the jail cell is actually open for them to walk out at any time. See the arrow in the second photo. It’s hard to tell, but the door has been pushed open with the debris.



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  • Nod to Country Bear Jamboree in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – In true Disney fashion, and much like the Eeyore nod in Indiana Jones, you can see the trophy heads from the Country Bear Jamboree in the Winnie the Pooh attraction. After you pass through the dream sequence, look up and back to find these guys. Check out the photos.



Keep it weird, Disney. We love this kind of stuff.

Want more to do? Check out my Totally Free at Disneyland post. There are a few overlaps from this one, but new options, too.

Want to test your skills? Follow my Disneyland Scavenger Hunt to find Walt-related stops on Main Street. The hunt takes about an hour and will show 10 significant stops on Main.

Tickets I recommend (read why)
Enter code DLRPS at checkout to save an additional $2 on each ticket.


  1. I fortunate enough to catch the Max, Buff and Melvin, on my last trip! At first, I was upset they had taken CBJ out (I hadn’t been in 20 something years) but true to Disney form, I saw those guys hangin’ out in the Heffalump room. Great list of off the map attractions!

  2. I heard that in California Adventure they give out newspapers in the Buena Vista area. Do they still do that? Also where could I find those?

  3. do they still give out the Maps after the Jungle Cruise? When/Where can you find Millie or Molly? My kids would love this so I’m trying to figure this all out! 🙂 sorry for so many questions!

    • Maps at the Jungle Cruise are still available, but they occasionally run out. Millie or Mollie can be found on Buena Vista Street wandering around. They don’t have specific locations.

  4. You KNOW that I love the Red & White lightbulb 🙂

    My favorite is the trail along Rivers of America.

    I didn’t know about the Wand on Ariel’s Undersea Adventure…very cool…now I need to kidnap, errr, find a little person to take on the ride so I can take a photo of it…it counts as a Disney Light!

    Sending Hugs and Light!

  5. Love this post. Is there a way to specifically get a message from a messenger? Like a birthday message for my son. Thanks

    • It’s not currently in use. Guests tore the box out and it hasn’t been replaced. I’m hoping it is soon. I’ve left messages for lots of people there before. I’ll update this post as I learn more.

    • I’m not sure exactly how it was done but last year when entering Disneyland California on my Birthday I was given a Happy Birthday button by a cast member at the gate. While waiting in line for fast passes (I wish I could remember her name she does the great shows with Goofy the Five and Dime) was riding around on a messenger bike calling my name. I was oblivious to the fact she was calling me personally but was so cute and persistent and actually approached me asking if I was Shannon when I surprisingly answered yes she handed me a hand written birthday message from her and Goofy. I’m 43 years old and felt like a little kid so excited to have such a special gift.

  6. Love all the info in this post! The kids loved that Molly had a message for them from Anna and Elsa! We definitely felt like we had insider info. And Molly was so fun to chat with.

  7. You (and 4 friends) can ride in the Monorail’s “nosecone” with the pilot. It’s first come-first serve, so it’s easiest to score these great seats on a quiet day. AND asking at Tomorrowland increases your chances of getting the front seats, since all passengers must disembark in Tomorrowland, but they don’t have to get off at the Downtown Disney station. The view during the ride is great from the nosecone and the cast member pilots are friendly. Riding in the Monorail tail (caboose?) is second best.

  8. Hi, I have to say I thought I knew everything about Disneyland. In fact, we are slow at work so to pass time a co-worker has been quizzing me on Disney trivia until your website I was at a 100%. I didn’t know about the “secret path”, the light bulb or the gate on the jail in Pirates. So Awesome! Thanks for posting

  9. If you look at the mountains in Toontown you can find the Mountains have an area that make DI which means Disney Imagineers. If you can’t find it ask a cast member kindly about it and see if he/she will show it to you. It was created as a nod to the cast members

  10. I love this! There is one to ad. On Indiana Jones where you pass the skeletons on the left there is a skeleton leaning against the wall and he’s wearing Mickey ears. I’m not sure if you can get a picture of it. You have to be pretty quick to see it.

  11. oooh this is so fun! My husband and I have been annual passholders for nearly a decade and thought we already knew all the secrets! But I got 3 pieces of new info here! I can’t wait to surprise him next time we go with my new trivia 🙂

  12. Thanks for the map of the hidden path. Someone mentioned it on a forum in regards to extra seating at the Harbour Galley and I did not know what they were referring to. We will definitely have to go down that trail on our upcoming trip.

  13. I’m looking forward to spending 8 days in Disneyland in September. My first trip to Disneyland was in 1970 with my three children. This year I will be spending my 75th Birthday at Disneyland. Where else but Disneyland would I want to celebrate this special day.

  14. Loved this article, my family and I go to Disneyland about once a week and we are always looking for new and fun things that will keep our trips fresh and exciting. We are going to spend 5 days at the Grand California this summer, I would love to see any other ideas you have for those of us who are Disney veterans. Keep up the good work!