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Vacation Secrets: The Hidden Details at Disneyland

I like to notice details. The little bits that most people overlook captivate me. I admire fine woodwork, run my hands across delicate patterns, and squint up at architectural elements. I didn’t realize it was a “thing” until friends mentioned never seeing what I did. That’s when I understood that I had a quirky hobby. A couple of months ago, we took our children to Disneyland and I discovered the ultimate place to geek out on details.

One portion of Fantasyland at Disney

One portion of Fantasyland at Disney

Walt Disney must have been a detail fanatic like me. I learned that Disneyland was the only park whose construction he oversaw completely. Everywhere I looked were little elements of surprise. It didn’t really matter if I was on Main Street looking at shops or wandering through Adventureland, Frontierland, or one of the many other lands. I found details under my feet and way up high.

Note the owls carved into each support beam

Note the owls carved into each support beam

I discovered that just standing still in the throngs of people and looking up drew a crowd around me. It cracked me up to see a bunch of strangers looking up, trying to figure out what I was gazing at so intently.

Even the rides are detailed, such as these baby delivering storks on the Dumbo ride

Even the rides are detailed, such as these baby-delivering storks on the Dumbo ride

I noticed all the various weathervanes that are prominently displayed on many of the park rooflines. I saw roof shingles, each with enough edge detailing to rival the architecture of the Victorian era. The many textures, colors, and materials are mind boggling for an amusement park. No element has been overlooked.  I see why Disneyland attracts over 15 million visitors a year, more than any other amusement park in the world.

Another view of Fantasyland. Note the weathervane on Pinocchio's building!

Another view of Fantasyland. See the weathervane on Pinocchio’s building?

Note the stack of golden elephants in between the light fixtures

Note the stack of golden elephants in between the light fixtures

I expected to find details in Fantasyland. After all, that’s where all the critters and magic from my childhood story books are. And I was used to seeing details in the original 1950s rides. The sets inside those are beautifully done. But when wandering outside the rides, I continued to find little elements of surprise tucked here and there.

This hand painted Chinese dragon has a simple condiment stand in front of it. It blends in and no one notices it.

This hand painted Chinese dragon has a simple condiment stand in front of it. It blends in and no one tends to notice it.

A squirrel weathervane near the Winnie the Pooh ride.

A squirrel weathervane near the Winnie the Pooh ride.

I noticed that the smallest children were often taking in the details too. In fact, one of the ways to find the coolest elements of the park is to watch toddlers’ faces.  They always find the good stuff. I often spotted little ones hanging on their parents shoulders, heads craned back, staring at some hidden detail. Disney has done an excellent job of providing decoration, no matter where your eye might fall.

In the very center of the park, there are brass statues of the classic Disney characters. Most people walk right by.

In the very center of the park, there are bronze statues of the classic Disney characters. Most people walk right by.

One of the detailed, working clocks that are high above the crowds near Sleeping Beauty's castle.

One of the detailed, working clocks that are high above the crowds near Sleeping Beauty’s castle.

With its modern twist, I didn’t expect to see much in Tomorrowland, where the sleek and metallic surfaces are polished with a futuristic gleam. Yet despite all the paring down, details still popped up.  Fortunately, we visited the park at time when it wasn’t as busy, so I was able to walk freely without elbowing people. This allowed me to pause and look in unexpected places.

The sign at the entrance to Tomorrowland. I'd never noticed it before.

The sign at the entrance to Tomorrowland. I’d never noticed it before.

The Astro Orbiter is the eye-catching ride that sets a modernistic tone at the entrance to Tomorrowland. Around it, I found many cool space-age details. I even found interesting planet lighting at my feet and on the ceilings. Even the tiles had space! And one entire exterior wall is textured in a space-age style.IMG_0936

Planetary lighting illuminates the ground around the rocket ride.

Planetary lighting illuminates the ground around the Astro Orbiter.

The extra planets are lighting fixtures

The extra planets are lighting fixtures

Millions of people walk past this wall, not noticing the incredible futuristic details carved into the walls

Millions of people walk past this wall, not noticing the incredible futuristic details carved into it.

The monorail has always been a crowd pleaser. I just recently learned that they replace the monorail train every ten years or so since they’re lightweight and wear down quickly. I love watching it zing around the park. If you ask the conductor, you can sit in the front car. My kids loved being in the glass nose of the monorail with the track rushing up at them.

Inside the Monorail are lighted logos.

Lighted logos inside the Monorail.

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Note the M shaped window in the Monorail hanger

Different colored Monorail trains!

Different colored Monorail trains!

Pointing out a few of these details to my kids made spotting them into a game. Soon, my littlest ones were pointing out particulars that no one else noticed. Our next Disney-related trip will be to Disneyworld. I’ve never been and I’m sure my children will happily accompany me. I’ll be looking into every nook and cranny there for hidden details and magical designs.

Professionally edited by Molly Fisk.

A shop sign from Main Street at the beginning of the Disneyland experience

A shop sign from Main Street at the beginning of the Disneyland experience

 

 

 

 

 

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5 comments

  1. Shannon says:

    Great article, Heidi. Next time check for hidden Mickey’s around the park.

  2. I like be this post Heidi! We are big Disneyland fans here. Though I’ve been dozens of times, I didn’t notice the details until last year, in Fantasy Land (of course). I love these photos and now I’m hankering to get back there! I will definitely pay more attention next time thanks to this post. Xo.

  3. Beth says:

    My younger daughter(17) and I are huge Disney fans. We go for a week at a time, which eliminates the rush to do everything and allows for lots of time to absorb details.
    One of my favorite things (and there are SO many) to notice is all the plant life at the park. Did you know that everything planted in Tomorrowland is edible?

  4. Hilary Hodge says:

    I think you captured the “Spirit of Disney” perfectly! When asked about his attention to detail, Walt once noted, “There may be several details that go unnoticed but a lack of detail would be obvious.”

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