20 Disney World Secrets You’ll Want to Know
We're spilling the tea on Disney secrets that make its Orlando parks the Most Magical Place on Earth.
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The secrets that make the magic at Disney World
What does it take to create the Most Magical Place on Earth? Well, you need a big castle, a friendly mouse, delightful merchandise, delicious snacks and meals, fabulous design—and some Disney secrets sprinkled throughout. We’ve uncovered some of the coolest insider ways Disney World makes the magic happen, from hiding Mickeys in everything from foliage to art to banishing mosquitoes from the parks. (And in case you’re wondering, here’s what EPCOT stands for and the differences between Disneyland and Disney World.) Read on for the insider scoop!
You can’t take a bad picture at Cinderella Castle
Well, you can’t get a badly lit photo, that is. Cinderella Castle was designed facing south, so the sun is never directly behind it, plus it’s situated so there are no possible shadows from other buildings, meaning even if your family all has their eyes shut, your lighting will still be fabulous.
There’s a secret hotel suite inside Cinderella Castle
There is only one place to spend the night within Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and it’s in the castle, with an entrance in the castle’s breezeway. That’s right—even though it’s one of the secret spots in Disney parks, the door is hidden in plain sight! You have to ascend an elevator to access the suite itself, and to be able to stay in it, you have to be a super lucky and win an invitation. While the thought of getting to stay there might be a little unrealistic, you can at least glimpse it; its stained-glass windows are visible toward the top of the back of the castle.
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The “Stars and Stripes” aren’t quite right
Walk down Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom and you’ll notice a large display of patriotic U.S. flags. Or are they? On closer inspection, it appears that most of the flags are either a few stripes or stars short of regulation. Why, you ask? By not being “regulation,” Disney doesn’t have to follow U.S. flag rules such as lowering the flag to half-mast for special occasions. There is, however, a regulation flag at the entrance to Walt Disney World. Find out why Disney uses purple traffic signs.
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Yup, you’ve seen that animatronic before
Disney is creative, but it’s also frugal. Case in point: Animatronics are often reused from closed rides and attractions and used in new ones. For example, keep an eye out for many of the Seven Dwarfs who were repurposed in the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rollercoaster after Snow White’s Scary Adventures was closed, and it’s rumored that if you look closely at the folks in Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, some may look awfully familiar to a president from the Hall of Presidents.
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There’s a basketball court in the Matterhorn ride
Near the top of Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds ride is a secret, attic-like room with a basketball hoop and floor markings. The secret Disney room started as a resting place for Disney employees who climb the “mountain,” then transformed into a mini half-court when one worker brought a basketball hoop when the weather kept staff from climbing.
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There are “hidden Mickeys” all over the park
As if there’s not enough fun to be had between the rides, meet-and-greets, themed restaurants, and entertainment, Disney Imagineers also snuck a fun, ever-evolving scavenger hunt into the parks. In everything from paintings to fountains to rocks, eagle-eyed guests can spot “hidden Mickeys”: distinctive shapes of Mickey Mouse’s round head with two smaller round ears. Next time you visit one of the parks, keep an eye out for some and see how many you can spot! And no cheating—things that are obviously supposed to be shaped like Mickey, like the Mickey waffles or ice creams, don’t count. For a primer, check out these photos of some of the hidden Mickeys we spotted.
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Disney keeps even its bathrooms historically accurate
You’ll hear a lot about storytelling and attention to detail at the parks, including quirky details at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom related to “historically accurate” bathrooms, or the lack thereof. To whit, Liberty Square is based on colonial times, where there wasn’t running water. Since there wouldn’t have been bathrooms then, the ones in Liberty Square have been pushed back, way back—in fact so far back that they’re actually in different “lands.” Oh, and here’s another bit of Liberty Square bathroom trivia: The wavy paths in Liberty Square also represent the wastewater that would have flowed during those times (perhaps a little TMI).
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Some of the screams at the Tower of Terror are recorded
Okay, has this happened to you? You’re walking up to the stomach-lurching Tower of Terror ride at Hollywood Studios, and just as you approach you hear blood-curdling screams and talk yourself out of the plunge (wait, that’s just us?). Even if you didn’t back out, we know you heard the screams because they’re part of a prerecorded soundtrack played through hidden speakers. (Although we’re sure our screams can be heard pretty well, too…)
Walt Disney inspired the “Disney point”
If you’ve ever asked a Cast Member (Disney’s nickname for all employees) where to find something at a Disney park, you were undoubtedly shown the way with the infamous “Disney point” where the index and middle finger are used together. The theory for this is that pointing with your index finger may be misconstrued as rude to some guests. And while this is true, there’s another reason for this specialized finger point at the Disney parks. The story goes that old photos used to show Walt Disney pointing to various attractions with a cigarette between his two fingers. But the company reportedly airbrushed the cigarette out of his fingers in pictures when the company wanted to dissociate itself from smoking. Now, the pictures just look like Disney always pointed people in the right direction using his two fingers. Curious about other Disney secrets? This is what it means if you see a cast member in a plaid vest.
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Disney uses garlic in a truly unique way
In notoriously swampy Central Florida, flying and buzzing and biting insects are a continuous nuisance. Except at Walt Disney World, that is. Ever wonder why there are no mosquitoes at Disney? There’s a twofold reason: First, the park was designed to keep mosquitoes at bay by removing any possibility of having standing water where they can lay eggs. And second, if mosquitoes do make their way into the parks, Disney is ready with its secret insect repellent: garlic. Mosquitoes notoriously can’t stand the smell of garlic, so Disney sprays an extract around the park. (Don’t worry, it’s formulated to not be detectible to humans.)
Custodians are the go-to Cast Members for directions
Disney has a very strict policy that prohibits any Cast Member from wandering away from their post. But custodians are the exception to the rule because they move freely around the park to maintain order and cleanliness. No one knows how to get somewhere in the park better than a custodial Cast Member, and they’re allowed to walk and talk with you. All you need to do is look for the man or woman dressed up in a pristine white jumpsuit. BTW, here’s what it means when a Disney employee has a blue name tag.
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It really is magically quieter here
In addition to a lack of general litter and pollution, you also won’t experience much noise pollution at Disney World. Ever wonder why airplanes rarely fly overhead? The answer is actually pretty simple: Disney has a permanent no-fly zone over both of its U.S. parks.
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There’s a secret VIP club
Do you love to dine at Disney? Like really love it? If so, you may be interested to hear that you can belong to a secret dining club with locations at every park in Disney World and Disneyland: Club 33. This VIP club gives you park tickets and tours, which is nice, but the real perk here is access to swanky private spaces with plush bars and elevated dining in every park. According to reports, when Disney World opened up Club 33 membership in March 2018, it was $33,000 to join with a $15,000 annual fee—meals not included. Oh, and you have to be invited to join and there’s a years-long wait list. While you wait, check out these hidden gems for grown-ups at Disney.
You can only meet the Beast in one place
Unfortunately, you won’t ever see the Beast step foot in any park. Sorry, Beauty and the Beast fans! In fact, the only place you can catch him is at the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom during dinnertime. But we’ve heard that dinner reservations go fast and you may have to book a table as early as 180 days in advance!
Cast Members have a secret language
You probably know there’s a lot going on behind the scenes at Disney World, but you may not have caught the secret lingo Cast Members use to alert colleagues about ride difficulties, gross accidents, and other mishaps. For example, a “Code P” means someone accidentally urinated in the park and a “Code V” stands for vomit. We even heard about silly codes such as “405 in Line 2” which means there’s someone attractive standing in line. Of course, codes of this nature are not Disney-approved in any park. Make sure you know the three words Disney Cast Members are never allowed to say.
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Don’t be deceived by long wait times for a ride
We’ve heard ride-line waiting times compared to the stock market: When it gets high, it’ll likely see a significant drop. For example, when the Disney app shows a 200-minute wait for a ride, it often scares people away so it drops faster than a 100- or 90-minute wait time. On the other hand, low wait times may work against you, especially if you’re far away from a ride, because everyone else will also be rushing over to get in line—by the time you arrive, the wait may be even longer than before. Remember that everyone on the Disney app sees the same information, so keep that on your radar when calculating your next move. Time passes by when you’re having fun—our Disney trivia will keep you entertained until it’s your turn.
You don’t have to pay park admission to have a character meal
Want to have breakfast with Mickey or lunch with a princess? Some of the best character dining experiences at Disney World are actually at Disney’s properties outside the theme parks. For example, the big-eared star can be found every morning at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Hotel alongside his pals Pluto, Goofy, and Donald before scurrying over to Topolino’s Terrace at the Riviera Resort. At Ohana character meals at the Polynesian, Lilo and Stitch welcome kids of all ages for breakfast and dinner. You can also have breakfast with Mickey’s pals at the Four Seasons Orlando Resort.
You’ll never see two of the same character at once
The last thing Disney wants to do is ruin the magic of the theme park. Therefore, each and every character has a set time throughout the day to prevent two Mickeys, Cinderellas, or Goofys from showing up at once around Disney World.
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Head to Epcot to meet rare characters
Disney characters sometimes train at the International Gateway in Epcot located between the United Kingdom Pavilion and France Pavilion, including some rare characters. If you’re here at the right time, you may get to meet rarely seen characters such as Flynn Rider from Tangled or Mushu from Mulan.
Disney gives back to the community
While you’re enjoying your vacation, Disney is working behind the scenes to make sure their neighbors are taken care of, too. The Disney Harvest Program, launched in 1991, annually collects more than 823,000 pounds of prepared, unserved food from throughout Walt Disney World Resort for distribution to more than 40 Orlando-area nonprofits served by Second Harvest Food Bank. Next, find out what to expect at the upcoming Disney World 50th anniversary!