Disney California Story Guided Tour – Exploring Walt’s Life in the Park

This beautiful pin with rotating wheel is yours when you take the tour
This beautiful pin with rotating wheel is yours when you take the tour

Everybody knows Walt Disney, but do you know the story of how he became the legend he is today?  If you take the Disney California Story Tour you will!  On this three hour journey, you will hear anecdotes of Walt’s early days before Disneyland.  You’ll get the chance to learn more about the significance of the people and places in his life, and you’ll have a ton of fun doing it.  Along the way, you’ll get to go on a few attractions, have lunch together at the Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe, receive a beautiful pin as a souvenir, AND if you’re lucky, get a peek inside the secret 1901 Lounge (reserved for special Club 33 members).

Our amazing tour guide Valerie - she's the best!
Our amazing tour guide Valerie – she’s the best!

Location: Disney California Adventure (starts at the Chamber of Commerce)
Type: Guided Tour
Specialty: Insight into Walt’s early life and the development of his work
Cost: $109 (before discount – Annual Passholders do get 20% off)
Craig’s Favorite: Our tour guide, Valerie, who made it special and perhaps the sneak peek into the hidden 1901 Lounge!

Beginning the tour at Buena Vista Street
Beginning the tour at Buena Vista Street

Beginning at the Chamber of Commerce near the entrance to Disney California Adventure, we traversed the length of the park at a leisurely pace, taking in the different sights and sounds, and hearing about the significance of many of the buildings and landmarks.  After reaching the end of the street, we entered into the Carthay Circle Restaurant and into the 1901 Lounge (no pictures allowed).  So many pieces of memorabilia from Walt’s career were on the walls including an homage to the Nine Old Men.  The furniture was a mish mash of different styles and our guide Valerie told us it was to reflect the early days of the studios when there wasn’t as much money.  The lounge isn’t huge like Club 33, but rather comfortable and charming.  One of the stories I loved was about Walt and Lillian first coming together.  According to the story, Lillian who was working as Walt’s secretary at the time came in one day and said, “Mr. Disney, can I kiss you?”  To which Walt said, “I think I need a new secretary.”  So cute.

On our way to riding Toy Story Mania
On our way to riding Toy Story Mania

After the 1901 Lounge we headed out to Paradise Pier.  We marched along the boardwalk until we got to Toy Story Mania where we were able to skip the traditionally 45 minute to an hour line and get right on the ride.  After a tour of Paradise Pier and some of its history, we went briefly over to the back end of Grizzly Peaks and then over to Cars Land.  We heard more interesting stories and boarded Radiator Springs Racers – again without waiting in line.  We cut through Bugs Land and into Hollywood Land where we stopped by the Art of Animation and drew our own Mickey Mouse, getting our choice of seats.  We finished the tour at Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe where our lunch was waiting.  I had ordered a gluten-free meal and sure enough, even the brownie was gluten-free and packaged individually.

The off-blinking light just like in the movie Cars
The off-blinking light just like in the movie Cars

Along the way we learned so many interesting things. And even though each tour is different depending on the tour guide, the stories they tell and the situation at the park (for instance Condor Flats was in the process of becoming Grizzly Peaks during our tour), I don’t want to tell you everything so you can hear it for yourself.  But I will share a few tidbits I picked up thanks to Valerie.

  • The model in the window at Trolley Treats is based on the proposed but never realized addition to the Storybook Land Canal Boats attraction.  The Casey Jr. train was supposed to circle around it but wasn’t added
  • The light hanging over the intersection in Radiator Springs blinks out of sync – just like in the movie Cars
  • Lightning McQueen’s number 95 is an homage to the release of Toy Story
  • In 1953 there was supposed to be a Mickey Mouse Park situated across from the studios – which eventually became Disneyland
  • Walt Disney’s famous signature was actually created for him by the Nine Old Men!
  • The elevation of Grizzly Peak is listed as 1401 feet – a tribute to the street address of Walt Disney Imagineering

This was a great tour and well worth the money.  If you’ve got the time, do yourself a favor and take it – and if you have Valerie all the better.  Tell her I said “hi.”

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