Location: Disneyland (starts and stops at the Disneyland Guided Tour area)
Type: Guided Tour
Specialty: Insight into Walt’s life and love
Cost: $109 (before discount – Annual Passholders do get 20% off)
Craig’s Favorite: Tough to choose! But getting a picture inside of Walt’s apartment above the firehouse is probably the top.
How would you like to walk in Walt’s footsteps? At Disneyland, there is a guided tour that let’s you do exactly that – figuratively. While the paths that the guides take you on are surely the same paths Walt himself would walk through the park, obviously you don’t literally walk in his footsteps. However you do journey through time with the power of story to hear about Walt’s life and about his love for Lillian, his children Diane and Sharon, his grandchildren, and for every person who walked through the gates of his beloved park. On the tour, you learn many interesting facts about Walt’s life, like that he loved to dress up on Lincoln’s birthday and recite the Gettysburg Address. He was so good at it that his teachers would annually ask Walt to recite it for the class, stovetop hat and all.
The tour begins on Main Street in the Guided Tour Gardens located to the left of City Hall. From there you are given a headset to more easily hear your tour guide. The hardcore Disney fan may be familiar with many of the tidbits shared along the way – like about the choice between restrooms and drinking fountains on opening day or the soft asphalt where many women sank their heels in literally. But there were also nuggets of information that you may never have heard of before like Walt’s love of Peter Pan led him to build a working harness in his barn so he could fly. Our guide shared with us the story behind the petrified tree in Frontierland, the original concepts behind Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean (including its original name – Blue Bayou Lagoon), and fascinating details behind Walt’s vision for the park and about his life.
On a typical tour, you also get “backdoored” on a few rides meaning you were able to access the ride without waiting in line (during our tour it was Peter Pan’s Flight, the Disneyland Railroad, and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln), get to enter the exclusive Club 33 (however during our tour it was undergoing extensive rehab), and tour Walt’s apartment above the fire station. Probably the highlight of the tour, it was fascinating to hear stories about Walt and Lillian, the times they spent up in the apartment, the “his and her” beds, and fun they would have with their grandkids. Walt’s apartment was a mix between a love of antique furniture and modern day conveniences (including a four head shower Walt installed back in the 1950’s!). The best part was getting a picture in Walt’s apartment. What a rare and special treat.
Speaking of rare and special treats, at the end of the tour, you are treated to a wonderful lunch at Jolly Holiday Bakery with your choice of three different humongous sandwiches and homemade potato chips (the turkey sandwich was the size of a 12″ sub and about 5″ high), a dessert (Mickey Matterhorn Macaroon, Mickey sugar cookie, or flourless chocolate cake), and a beverage. Every guest also receives a beautiful Walk in Walt’s Footsteps pin which is a hinged pin and quite large and detailed. The inside includes a replica of the dedication plaque on opening day. Going on the tour was definitely worth both the time (3 hours) and money. If you get the chance, go on this tour. Make sure you reserve in advance to be sure you have a spot!
Some interesting tidbits we learned from our tour guide that day:
- Matterhorn is the first high speed roller coaster and utilized a new system of track that allowed it to have high-speed sharp-angled turns. Walt wanted the Matterhorn built to hide the unsightly Skyway tower. Walt was a stickler for details and built the Matterhorn in 1/100th scale. He didn’t design the roller coaster first. Instead he told his Imagineers to build the Matterhorn and then find a way to put a roller coaster inside of it.
- The G2 droids in Star Tours who scan you and your luggage are actually the geese from America Sings
- Mary Poppins funded the development of New Orleans Square
- Fastpass slows the line. That is why Fastpass hadn’t been installed on Peter Pan’s Flight or Toy Story Mania. In Disneyland the average wait for either of those rides is 45 minutes to 1 hour consistently (a long time). But in Disney World where they do have Fastpass available for those rides, the stand-by line can be up to 2 to 3 hours long. If you’re lucky enough to have a Fastpass it’s terrific, but if not, your wait is even longer.
- When Autopia was opened in 1955 it was considered futuristic. The highway system didn’t open until 1956. However with the proliferation of the highway system, it no long is considered futuristic and will likely be leaving the park once a plan is developed for something new to take its place.
- Walt called the things that draw you into a land like the castle, the old moonliner, and the Mark Twain riverboat “weenies.”