There’s a reason so many families visit Disney parks every year. The fun, imagination, and chance to snap a picture of your child and his favorite Disney character are just a handful of reasons the conglomerate has drawn millions of visitors since its opening. After all, there’s magic around every corner at each Disney park. But did you know the happiest place on Earth has a few secrets of its own? Disney parks are oozing with little-known facts, and we’re here to give you the rundown on all things Disney.
1. Main Street’s cookie smell is fake
A Main Street that smells like cookies? Yes, please. At Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, they’ve mastered a way to engineer just that. Turns out, the park artificially pumps the smell of freshly baked cookies onto Main Street. Done by way of the utilidors, or tunnels, other scents also have been engineered to match certain areas and attractions.
2. The network of underground tunnels
You might have heard there’s an entire network of underground tunnels. And quite a bit goes on down there. According to Theme Park Tourist, these tunnels — the utilidors — house major computer and digital controls, golf cart-style electric vehicles, and “Kingdom Kutters,” the hair salon created solely for staff members to ensure they matched Disney’s clean-cut image.
So have you ever wondered how this underground network got its start? Legend has it Walt Disney once saw a character walking through the wrong section of the park — a section he didn’t belong in — and was infuriated at just how unauthentic the move was. Thus, the utilidors were born, so no staff member would ever be caught doing something that awful again.
3. The flags lining Main Street aren’t technically real
Lining Main Street are the nation’s flags. But upon closer inspection, you’ll notice they’re not technically American. According to Travel + Leisure, it all has to do with traditional flag regulations. Because they’re supposed to be raised, lowered, and flown at half-staff, Disney Imagineers had to do some creative thinking in order to get around those rules. Their solution? Create flags that are missing a star or a stripe. Additionally, the publication notes the flagpoles are actually lightning rods, which serve to protect guests during storms.
4. The color of Mickey’s shorts is off-limits
Although you can buy just about anything at Disney parks around the world — most of which is probably a huge waste of money — there’s one thing Disney plans on keeping a secret forever. When you think of Mickey Mouse, you probably think of those iconic red shorts of his. So it’s iconic that the exact hue of the color is proprietary and will never be made public. If you do choose to go nuts at one of the many souvenir shops, just know that’s the closest you’ll ever be to getting your hands on those famous shorts of his.
5. Animal Kingdom uses tricks to lure the animals
If you plan a trip to Magic Kingdom, you expect to see some pretty incredible wildlife. And thanks to the staff, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Looking to spot some gorillas in action? Just sit back, relax, and be amazed, as staff shoot raisins out of cannons, Travel + Leisure says. Additionally, the elephants can be lured using their favorite treat: honey. And if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the lions, that’s easy enough. Turns out, the top rock they’re often spotted on is air conditioned, keeping them nice and content.
6. The least-crowded time to visit
As you might have guessed, the winter months tend to be a bit slower at Disney parks. Considering Disney’s target audience, it makes perfect sense. After all, most families have to wait until the kids are out of school for the summer or some sort of holiday break. And according to DisneyFanatic.com, your best chance at dodging huge crowds is January. But then again, if it’s really peace and quiet you’re after, you probably shouldn’t be heading to a Disney park anyway.
7. Hollywood Studio’s Muppet attraction has a hidden key
If you’ve ever been to the Muppet attraction’s ticket office, you might have noticed a “closed” sign. However, if you give it another look, you’ll see a sign that reads “Key Under the Mat.” So do just as the sign says, Roadtrippers suggests, and you’ll find an actual key under the mat. It’s certainly a wonderful MacGyver moment for any little ones you have in tow.
8. Disneyland uses cats to keep mice away
It might sound like just another pun, but it’s true. Disneyland is home to a whole host of feral cats — who have been spayed and neutered, of course — and the park doesn’t see them as a problem. Quite the opposite, these cats are actually a huge help. Turns out, they roam the park at night to help keep the mice away. But we’re pretty sure Mickey Mouse doesn’t have a problem with it. These cats even have their own website.
9. Strait of Gibraltar
Since its inception in 1982, Epcot has been celebrating international culture while delivering a world of nations to park visitors. But there’s at least one aspect that falls short. Between Epcot’s Morocco and France, you’ll notice the walkway is dark and cobbled, modeled after the Strait of Gibraltar. However, the park’s placement isn’t geographically accurate. In fact, the actual strait lies between Spain and Morocco. So just be careful with how much historical accuracy you’re planning on taking away from your Epcot experience.
10. The lack of bathrooms in Liberty Square is no accident
Seriously though, no pun intended here. Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square gives visitors a glimpse back to the colonial days — more specifically, a time before indoor plumbing. So in keeping with Disney’s dedication to authenticity, if you will, there are no bathrooms in Liberty Square. Additionally, there’s a brown winding walkway that’s meant to replicate the pre-plumbing method, when folks dumped human waste in the streets. Walkways that look like sewers? Well, at least it’s historically accurate.
11. The best spot for a boozy Dole Whip
A beloved Disney World treat, the Dole Whip is a must-have for most Disney park enthusiasts. But the lines at snack counters can be over an hour long, which begs the question, “Is it really worth it?” Well, we’ll tell you what is definitely worth it: a boozed-up version, that’s what. According to Traveling Mom, you can score a Dole Whip with rum (yes, rum!), while also avoiding a huge wait time, at Tamu Tamu at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
12. Disney fanatics can join a VIP club
People spend their money on some pretty weird things, and Club 33 is one of them. The super exclusive and expensive club lures Disney enthusiasts with the promise of five-star dining and a VIP experience. And all of it can be yours for a cool $25,000 — just to join. After that, members need to pay thousands more in dues every year.
13. There’s a basketball court inside Disneyland’s Matterhorn
The Matterhorn, which is one of Disneyland’s most famous rides, isn’t the only thing housed on, or in, the impressive mountain. A basketball court was constructed after the Matterhorn was built in 1959 as a perk for Disney employees. According to Mental Floss, the decision to turn the top third of the attraction, which had remained empty space, into a basketball court was voted upon by employees. However, there was only enough room for one hoop, as a regulation court wouldn’t fit inside the space.
14. Epcot was intended to be a residential community
Did you know EPCOT is actually an acronym? That’s right, it stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow,” Business Insider says. The park that’s now home to an array of foreign countries was originally meant to be a model community for 20,000 residents. This idea included schools, monorail transportation, and absolutely no retirees, as it was supposed to keep working toward a vision of the future.
15. You might be sitting on human remains
We’re really not trying to creep you out here, but it’s true. Apparently, lots of folks bring their loved ones’ ashes to a Disney park in hopes of scattering them inside the most magical place on Earth. Sounds a bit strange to us, but there are super fans for just about everything, right? And Disney is no different.
Although lots of people ask to do so, Disney staff always turn down the request. However, it’s said people have been caught doing so anyway, which means the happiest place on Earth could be far more creepy than you thought.