|By Daisy Sparks|
Who wouldn't love the opportunity to literally walk in Walt Disney's footsteps through Disneyland and learn about Walt's life all while experiencing classic Disney attractions along the way? Disneyland's Walk in Walt's Footsteps Tour takes you on a magical journey as you learn how Walt Disney wove his personal history into the development of Disneyland. And lucky for us, Disney Avenue contributing writer Daisy Sparks recently embarked on the tour and has a wonderful review that's packed with photos. Learn all about this special tour and bring some Disneyland atmosphere to your front door while you do in today's new article...
After all my years of going to Disneyland, I was finally able to go on the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour. According to the Disneyland website, this tour is described as follows:
“Walt Disney, the Man Behind the Magic. Explore Walt’s life as you experience classic Disneyland attractions before ending with a delicious meal. Listen to stories about what inspired him, the challenges he faced and the excitement he encountered while designing what is now one of the most famous vacation destinations in the world.”
I met up with my friends at Tour Gardens where we were greeted by our Tour Guide, Valerie. We were given these personalized buttons that would serve as our name tag as well as help us stay together.
Next, we were asked to make our lunch selections from this menu.
We were given these personal listening devices. We could use our own earphones or the ones that they provided. Not only did it allow our Tour Guide to communicate with us but it would play some music and important narrations during our tour.
We began our adventure by stopping in front of the Disneyland Firehouse. Our Tour Guide pointed to the window above the Firehouse. While it is not part of this tour, she pointed out that Walt had an apartment on the second floor. He used this space frequently while Disneyland was being built. If the lamp was on, everyone on the Disneyland site knew that Walt was around. Today, the lamp remains lit 24 hours as a reminder of Walt’s spirit.
After the Firehouse we walked over to Town Square to stand by the dedication plaque. Through our listening devices, we heard Walt’s voice as he made his Opening Day remarks that included the words on the plaque. For me, it was one of those goosebump moments as you hear Walt’s voice, saying those words while you look down Main Street and Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Our Tour Guide mentioned that Disney Imagineer, Harper Goff, was influenced by his hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado when it came to drawing up plans for Main Street USA. She also pointed to the windows along Main Street that had names on them. The personalized windows were a way to say “thank you” to significant individuals who contributed to making Walt’s dream come true in building Disneyland.
Next we made our way to what is known as “The Hub” of Disneyland. This central point is where Disneyland Guests could travel from land to land. From Walt’s point of view, the HUB was like spokes on a wheel designed to help people easily transition from Main Street to Adventureland or Main Street to Tomorrowland. You know you are at the Hub when you see that famous Partners statue.
Our tour group made its way through the Castle and entered Fantasyland. We learned that the Disneyland carousel, King Arthur’s Carousel, is an original Opening Day attraction. It was purchased from a park in Ontario, Canada and moved to Disneyland. Walt wanted all the horses to be white in color since it was his experience that kids always ran to the white horse first. There is one lead horse that is named Jingles.
We made our way to the Alice in Wonderland attraction. It is different than the other traditional ‘dark rides’ (Mr. Toad, Snow White, Peter Pan) in that it is just more than a ride inside a building facade. It has a track that takes the caterpillar vehicle through a maze so you feel like you are shrinking just like Alice. When you look at the exterior, you know what ride it is.
It’s a good example of a classic attraction that has evolved through the years. Even with new technology, it still retains the important show elements that Walt envisioned of what a Disneyland attraction should be.
Next we trekked over to Frontierland. Our Tour Guide made a stop in front of the Petrified Tree. You can read all about the sweet story of how this tree came to Disneyland in this Disney Parks blog post. It’s fun to know that this tree is kind of a “thumbprint” left directly by Lillian Disney.
The next stop of our tour took us to the steps of the Dream Suite. This is the space located above the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. It is the original space that Walt had envisioned as a larger living quarter than his apartment above the Disneyland Firehouse.
Before entering the area, we were asked to put our cameras and phones away as photos would not be allowed. I think that this was their way to have us focus on the tour of the Dream Suite and not be distracted by taking photos. There were several beautiful rooms we saw and heard lots of great stories, trivia and fun facts about how the Dream Suite came to be using Walt’s original plans and vision of this space.
Towards the end of our time inside the Dream Suite, our Tour Guide kindly offered to take one photo of our groups as our memento. I have to confess that this was my second time in this special place. The following is a photo of the balcony of the Dream Suite. Notice the gold initials that are carved into the ornate wrought iron. They stand for Walt Disney and Roy Disney.
Next, our Tour Guide led us around New Orleans Square. This was the first land expansion and one of the last that Walt had an active hand in. This area was inspired by Walt and Lillian’s various travels and love of New Orleans and antique shopping there. (You can hear a rare recording of Walt opening New Orleans Square in Keith's article here.)
We ended up at the Haunted Mansion where we were invited inside. Here is where our listening devices really came in handy. Our Tour Guide could give us fun facts through our headsets as we waited through the inside queue and got into the elevator. Did you know that the Haunted Mansion bride is named Constance?
After our spooky excursion, we made our way back towards “it’s a small world.” We listened to a couple more stories on our headsets. Hearing Walt’s voice as he told some stories that were related to some of the things that we were looking at was pretty cool and sometimes a bit surreal.
We made our way to the Jolly Holiday Bakery where a nice lunch was waiting for us in a designated area. We noted the fun name cards that were placed on top of our food containers. Our Tour Guide, Valerie, had a Tour Guide Mickey image. It’s all about the details, right?
We were all given an exclusive keepsake to remember our tour. This large and heavy square pin is attached to a postcard photo. The pin opens up to reveal the Opening Dedication words and Partners image. It’s pretty ornate and special.
The walking tour was about 3 hours long. If you are a Disneyland fan or love all things about Walt Disney, this particular tour is for you. Disneyland is the only Disney Park that Walt Disney actively had a hand in building from beginning to opening day. Some refer to Disneyland as the heart of all the Disney Parks. There is so much heritage here to experience. To be able to really walk in Walt’s Disneyland footsteps while you also hear his actual voice/words through the headset is a pretty awesome experience and one I highly recommend.
See ya in the Parks!
Daisy Sparks grew up in Southern California and Disneyland was a regular part of her life. While in college, she started working at Disneyland as a Main Street Merchandise Host. Her "college job" led to 12 adventurous years working with Mickey Mouse. She was a trained Magic Demonstrator, Hat Writer and was even signed off as a Disneyland Monorail Ride Operator. Daisy loved every minute of it while she held various management positions in Merchandise, Business Operations and Attractions.
Daisy is married to her college sweetheart, David (a former Jungle Cruise Skipper). David solicited Daisy's Duck's help in memorable engagement proposal that took place at Disneyland's Club 33. Daisy left Disneyland in May 2001 to raise her two daughters. She continues to visit the Disneyland Resort multiple times a week as a Guest. Daisy particularly loves the Disneyland heritage because of all of the little details and stories that make it "the happiest place on earth."
You can read more about Daisy's Disneyland adventures over on her personal blog at DisneyDaze .
You can find all of Daisy's articles here.