Whether you have never been to Disney World and are eagerly counting down days to your magical vacation or you are a Disney parks expert who doesn’t even bother to grab a map anymore, there are facts about Disney that are not generally shared with guests that you might not know. It’s not that they are a secret, but more that Disney doesn’t exactly advertise or share the information in the parks. I tend to think of myself as a Disney know it all; helping friends plan their vacations and eagerly showing family the lesser known items around the parks. But, there are some new things that I have learned recently that even impressed me!
1. There are 8,692 branches on the Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom’s iconic, beautiful centerpiece. This 145 ft. tall, 50 ft. wide man made tree also features over 300 animals on it. Imagineers used an oil rig as the base of the trees trunk to make sure that it would survive a hurricane. Think that’s impressive? The 103,000 leaves that are on the tree were each hand placed.
2. Star Wars fans were delighted when Star Tours, at Hollywood Studios, was given a major refurbishment in 2010. Re-opening in 2011, the ride now features over 50 story lines. In order to see every adventure, you’d have to ride Star Tours for 6 hours straight. I have a feeling there would be a lot of volunteers! Never get tired of Star Tours? Disney has an official Star Tours Facebook page where you can share the experience you had and learn about other plots!
3. Space Mountain, featured at all 5 Magic Kingdom style parks, is an indoor, dark coaster that first debuted at Disney World in 1975. After the success of the Matterhorn bobsleds at Disneyland, Walt Disney knew that thrill rides would be exciting for guests and needed to be in the parks. I know that many friends and family avoid this coaster saying that it is too fast and crazy, but Space Mountain’s top speed is only 27 miles per hour! Could have fooled me!
4. Notice something different about the bathrooms at Animal Kingdom? Every single bathroom actually doubles as a “safe house” in the event that a wild animal is on the loose! If there was an emergency and guests were in danger, find the nearest bathroom where a cast member will safely and securely bolt the doors to keep you safe!
5. Fireworks are part of the expectation of entertainment at Walt Disney World. While Disney does not disclose how much money is spent on fireworks, we do know that they are the number one consumer in the U.S. Experts in pyrotechnics have estimated that 55 million dollars are spent each year on Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot, Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios, and Star Wars: Galactic Spectacular also at Hollywood Studios. Each of these performances is estimated to be at a cost of $10,000-$18,000 per show.
6. There are only 4 buildings on Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom. Due to a building visual trick called forced perspective, you would think that there are more buildings and that they are much taller than they actually are. The second stories are built smaller than the first and the third stories are even shorter! Even the windows are small, but you won’t feel that way when you are looking at them!
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7. You might think that Spaceship Earth, Epcot’s iconic ball is the largest attraction at Epcot. As a matter of fact, it is really pretty huge at 164 ft diameter. But, the tank at the Living Seas would swallow this whole with its huge 203 ft diameter. Imagine seeing that in your clamshell! With water being our theme, Spaceship Earth was designed so that when it rains, water collects into a gutter system that pours into the World Showcase Lagoon instead of dripping on you!
8. The replica of the Liberty Bell in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom is only other bell cast in the mold, as it broke while it was being set. Some will tell you that is urban legend, but Disney stands by this claim! Notice the Liberty Tree? Walt Disney handpicked the 100 year old oak to be the actual “Liberty Tree”. It fell off the truck when it was being transported and cracked down its trunk, but incredible care went into saving the tree because, well, Walt Disney picked it.
9. There are over 300 buses operating in the Disney bus system. They will travel over 100 different routes during the day and amass more than 15 million miles per year. Disney resorts have buses coming and going every 20 minutes on average which allows most out of town guests the ability to forgo the rental car when visiting!
10. It is extremely rare that Disney World is closed. Hurricane Floyd caused the closing of Disney World for the first time in 1999. Since then, other hurricanes have caused the complete shutdown of the theme parks, including twice in 2004 for Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Charley, in 2016 for Hurricane Matthew, and again in 2017 for Hurricane Irma. On Sept 11, 2001, the parks were open and then evacuated.