It was always Walt’s dream to open a park in Florida, and he didn’t live to see this dream come to fruition. But when Walt Disney World first opened on October 1st, 1971, it was one of the hottest openings since the opening of the original Disneyland in 1955. Today, Disney World is one of the most visited resorts in the world, and has expanded to four parks, with more plans to expand in the next decade. The resort currently houses 27 resort hotels, two water parks, four golf courses, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can easily spend a few weeks at Disney World and still not have touched everything there is to experience.
Magic Kingdom was the first resort to open, and it was nearly a carbon copy of Disneyland with a few tweaks. Then Epcot opened, followed by Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which means that Disney World spans over 27,000 acres. That’s practically a small city! With so much land to use, there is certainly a secret out there or two. Disneyland has its share of secrets, but the much larger Disney World has many more,
From insider money saving tips from regular park goers, to cast member secrets, to Disney World’s urban legends, here are some of the best kept secrets of the resort that Disney doesn’t want you to know about. As they say on the ride, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, hang on to your hats and glasses, because you’re in for a wildest ride in the wilderness!
10. Free Entertainment
You read that right! Despite Disney being perceived as money hungry, there are actually some lesser-known free entertainment options. But you’ll have to do some legwork and head to the Fort Wilderness Campground. Every night (weather permitting) you can enjoy ‘s’mores over a campfire, and you can even bring your own ingredients to save the cost of purchasing them there. You and your kids can also get to meet Chip and Dale, and sing along with them to some great campfire songs. Afterwards, you can watch a Disney movie projected on a big outdoor screen.
If you fork out the dollar to stay at a Disney Resort, there are a lot of fun things for kids that are free while you’re there. You can set up a wake up call from a Disney Character each morning. Each evening, in-room Disney TV airs bedtime stories to get your kids settled in for the night.
9. Free Beverages
Guess what? You don’t always have to pay $5 for a bottle of your favorite beverage at Disney theme parks. Instead, you can get free soda in Epcot. Club Cool in Future World offers free Coca Cola samples from around the world – some being quite delicious, and some which aren’t quite so good. If you really want to play a prank, get your crew to try the Coke from Italy, called The Beverly, and tell them that you have read that it’s delicious. It’s really, really not.
You don’t have to shell out money for water, either. Water is free at all counter service restaurants in the parks, and you don’t have to buy anything else. And if you bring a water bottle to the parks, they will fill them up with ice water for you.
8. A (Free) Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
If you have ever visited any kind of Disney resort, you’re probably well aware that there are Photopass Photographers stationed all over the parks. You probably know them best as the ones with the camera, heckling to take a professional photograph of you and your party, and then handing you a card where you can purchase your expensive keepsake (they can even integrate Tinkerbell).
But these photographers will also allow you to hand them your camera (or phone) to snap a digital picture that you can upload to your favourite social media site immediately.
7. Ride Secrets
Do you ever wish you could just walk onto a ride at Disney World? Well, you can; that is, if you know where to look.
If you see a 10 minute wait time on any rides, it means you can just walk on. At Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror this is actually posted as 13 minutes, to keep with the vibe of the spookiness. Another pro tip: If you have the choice of two queues, always take the left side. It is almost always the shorter side and typically moves faster, since instinct tends to make most people go to the right.
But, if you do get stuck in a line for the Haunted Mansion, look down at the pavement. Why? Well, for 20 years, Disney fans created a story of a “ring” that was left in the pavement by the ghost-bride of Haunted Mansion, and it ended up spreading like wildfire. In actuality, the “ring” was a sawed off pole cemented in the pavement. However, while the queue area of The Haunted Mansion was reworked, the “ring” was removed. What resulted was an outcry from the fans who loved to find it. So the Imagineers cooked up a plan: They created a real ring and placed it in the pavement, to be spotted by queuers, making it part of The Haunted Mansion’s official backstory.
6. Show Stoppers
One of the most popular features of Disney World is their shows. From Fantasmic to fireworks, no one knows how to put on a show like the Mouse himself. If you (or a member of your party) is a fan of Frozen, then you’re in luck! There may not yet be a Frozen who, but in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can see “Finding Nemo – The Musical”. The music and lyrics are from Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson Lopez,the team behind Frozen. But don’t be expecting to sing “Let It Go” with Dory or Crush the Turtle.
5. Disney World Ghosts
Ghost stories at Disney World are a plenty, and there are new spooky tales popping up each day. One of the most popular ghost stories is set around Pirates of the Caribbean: The claim is that it is haunted by a ghost named George. If cast members don’t say “Hi George” when arriving to work, the ride will break down.
There has also been a rumor of a ghost boy hanging out on The Haunted Mansion ride, and his picture has even been taken by a park goer who swears there was no boy of that age within 20 people in front of her.
Of course, if there was any place to hang out in the afterlife, many people would probably choose Walt Disney World.
4. Safety of Animals
In the Animal Kingdom, you will not find balloons, straws or cup lids. Why? Disney is committed to protecting the lives of the animals who live there, and these items pose a health hazard. A simple gust of wind or a careless park visitor could make these items accessible to the animals; if consumed, they would cause major health issues.
Speaking of things you won’t find at a Disney park: There is no gum sold on the Disney property either, to preserve the surroundings.
3. Do You Smell That?
If you’ve ever walked the streets of Disneyland or Disney World, you have probably noticed the plethora of different smells around the park. The conspiracy theorist in all of us would speculate that Disney was purposely spraying different smells at us in order to influence our decisions. And, in fact, this is actually true. Disney uses devices called “smellitizers” which pump in scents in certain areas.
Some of the most notable smells have been fresh baked cookies on Main Street (doing all they can to get us to buy a baked good), oranges and pine trees on Soarin’ Over California, and the famous burning smell while passing a burning Rome on Spaceship Earth.
2. Remains of Former Rides & Movies
Walt Disney himself said that the parks would never be complete, which means Disney World is an ever-changing project. When one ride goes, it isn’t necessarily gone for good. For example, “The Journey of the Little Mermaid” in Fantasyland, was once home to the ride, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. In the new line queue, you can find a carving of the Nautilus Submarines in the rock that pays homage to the original installation.
On the “Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” ride, you can find a painting of Mr. Toad handing a deed over to Mr. Owl in the queue. Before Pooh moved in, the once great Mr. Toads Wild Ride called the area home. Finally, the originally concept of the Animal Kingdom was to include an area called, “Beastly Kingdom”, which featured mythological creatures. But the plan never came to fruition. So now, the logo of Animal Kingdom has a dragon depicted in the logo.
While riding The Jungle Cruise you will see an airplane crash site. If you’ve been going to Disney World for a while, look closely, as this is the back half of the airplane that is used in the Casablanca scene in “The Great Movie Ride”. Here’s an extra ride secret: what would you say is the fastest ride at Disney World? If you said Space Mountain, then you’re wrong, as it only reaches 28 mph. The fastest ride is actually “Test Track” at Epcot, which reaches speeds of 65 mph.
1. Free Souvenirs
The gift stores at Disney are notoriously pricey. But there are a variety of free souvenirs at Disney World. At Guest Services, you can pick up a Celebration button that announces to the world that you’re celebrating your first visit, anniversary, or birthday. In the Magic Kingdom, you can get your Sorcerer’s of the Magic Kingdom Cards. If you play the Pirates Adventures: Treasures of the Seven Seas game, it includes a great souvenir map. When you go get your picture taken with Belle in “Enchanted Tales with Belle”, she gives each guest a free bookmark.
If you get a chance to go on stage with Jack Sparrow at the end of the Pirate Tutorial in Adventureland, you can receive a special letter signed by Captain Jack. During the Food and Wine Festival in Epcot, guests can receive a free menu passport. If you go to the park during Easter week, guests can go on an Easter Egg Hunt and receive a free Disney Easter Egg.
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