The parks at Walt Disney World are covered with secrets left by the Imagineers as tributes, inside jokes, or just fun things for guests to “discover” as they tour the parks. To me this is what sets Disney parks apart from other theme parks; there are so many details that give you much more to enjoy than just dashing from one attraction to another. Some of these “secrets” are fairly easy to find—in fact they are downright obvious as long as you are looking. Others are hidden and take a bit of detective work to uncover. Here is a list of my top eight things to find in Walt Disney World Parks:
8. The Ring at Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom
This one has an interesting back story. For years there was a “ring” in the pavement near the exit of the attraction that was in reality the sawed off end of a metal post in the ground from a queue that used to be there. Guests noticed it and created a legend that it was the bride’s ring. Then it unceremoniously disappeared, much to the dismay of guests searching for it. But, the Imagineers heard their cries and added an actual wedding ring to the new queue area. If you would like to find it you can ask one of the cast members working in the area, or you can search online as there are a few videos that show its location.
7. The Windows on Main Street USA, Magic Kingdom
This is one of those obvious ones—everyone sees the windows on Main Street as long as they are looking up. Some guests may think the names and occupations on the windows are fictional, but they are actually tributes to Imagineers and other important figures in the Walt Disney Company. You will notice that Walt himself is given the honor of the first window (on the train station overlooking the entrance) and the last (near the Plaza Restaurant on the end of Main Street). I love to read the names and the clever ways the tributes are paid. For instance, Frank Wells is paid tribute on his window with “Seven Summits Expeditions” as this former Walt Disney Company President had the goal of scaling the tallest summits on seven continents. The men who worked undercover in Florida buying up real estate for Disney are honored with “Pseudonym Real Estate Development Company” and the “M.T. Lott Co. Real Estate Investments.” If you are interested in the people behind Main Street’s windows there is a book available, as well as detailed information for each window online (and even an App you can access in the parks).
6. Crates at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
What vintage Hollywood movie studio would be complete without wooden crates that were used to transport the props? There are plenty in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and many of them have tributes on them to classic movies. Check the addresses. One is being sent to Scarlett O’Hara at Tara Plantation, one is on its way to Rick’s American Café in Casablanca, and one is from Wainwright Enterprises being sent to George Bailey in Bedford Falls, New York.
5. The Path around the Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom
Over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom it is hard not to be amazed by the intricate carvings of the animals in the trunk of the Tree of Life. They are all interwoven together so beautifully. But, did you know you can get a closer look? Many people do, and if you wait in line for “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” you will see some of the carvings up close. But there is a second path that is accessed on the left side of the Tree of Life as you enter the park. It is usually pretty peaceful even on a busy day, and it winds its way around the Tree of Life and past waterfalls giving you several up close vantage points of the base.
4. The Well at Indiana Jones, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
We are back over to the Studios for number 5. As you approach the Indiana Jones stunt show you will see a well over to the left as you face the entrance. There is a sign posted that says “Do Not Pull The Rope.” Just this one time, break the rule.
3. Hidden Mickeys
These are all over the parks, and so much fun to hunt. There are books published on Hidden Mickeys, and apps that you can take into the parks on your mobile devices so you can play along as you tour.
2. Mr. Toad in the Pet Cemetery, Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom
As you exit the Haunted Mansion look up on the hill to your left, there is a pet cemetery there. At the very top of the hill is a tribute to Mr. Toad. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was an opening day attraction in Fantasyland that was a fun dark ride through scenes from Wind in the Willows. Despite very vocal guest protests the ride closed in September 1998 to make way for the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Imagineers have immortalized Mr. Toad in the pet cemetery as a nod to his fans.
1. The Key Under the Mat, Muppet Vision 3-D, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
My number 1 find is back at Hollywood Studios in Muppet Vision 3-D. Really the entire queue or waiting area of this attraction is filled with tributes, inside jokes, and funny props so take your time waiting for the next show to walk around (as much as you can) and check out all of the gags. But the secret I’m highlighting here is the key under the mat. Immediately as you enter the building there is an area set up like a reception desk. There is a sign always there that says “Back in 5 Minutes . . .key is under mat!” Well, they mean it! Just lift up the mat and see for yourself.
This just scratches the surface on the tributes, secrets, hidden treasures and more that you can find at Walt Disney World. What are your favorite things to discover while you enjoy the parks?