Whether you are a long-time visitor of Disneyland or you are doing research before you go for the very first time, I'm sure a lot of you are wondering if it is all it's cracked up to be. I read a comment once that said: "My kids would have had just as much fun at the hotel pool... [the park] isn't worth it." Obviously, this person missed a few things! There are a lot of attractions at Disneyland and if you are too busy trying to ride hop, visit Anna and Elsa, or saving a seat for the parade, you will miss out on what I believe makes Disneyland a truly magical place. Imagineers (the people who create Disney parks, movies, and merchandise) put a lot of quaint and enchanting details that you will miss if you aren't looking for them. In this article, I will share with you a few of those details as you enter the park. I will be writing a list like this for every land of Disneyland Park in following articles. SO, let's get started!
When you step into the park, you are transported into the idyllic 1900s town of Main Street, USA. This land is modeled after Walt Disney's childhood town. The theme song from Pixar's Up drifts happily through the air; you see a square with beautiful flowers and ornate, colorful, buildings lining the "street." Turn of the century cars honk cheerily as they drive around, and giant horses are pulling a pretty trolly. You are immediately filled with excitement as you then spot a few of your favorite Disney characters skipping out to meet you. It is tempting to just get in line and meet Mickey right there, or to hurry through to get to the first ride of the day (especially because most of the attraction of Main Street is the shopping, and you don't want to drag your kids kicking and screaming away from the toys just yet), but I urge you to take a moment and look around first. Don't walk in too deep too fast. As you first walk into the park, turn to the left. Side by side you will see two little buildings. City Hall, and the Fire House. City Hall is the Disneyland Help Desk. You can ask questions, collect lost items, and arrange for tours here. The best thing they offer is free buttons for any special occasion you are celebrating. For example, when I got married, my husband and I went to Disneyland for our honeymoon and we got special "Just Married" buttons. You can also get "1st Visit" buttons or "Birthday" buttons. (Side fun fact: If they are having the promotion, you can get into Disneyland FREE on your Birthday as long as you bring evidence.) The buttons are a good way for the cast members to start a conversation with you and sometimes it gets you free treats. One quick word of caution, though: on very busy days at Disneyland, you are going to find that City Hall has a very long line, but, if that is the case, they will have a Cast Member go down the line and hand out those buttons.
Next door is the Firehouse. Most Disney visitors know that Walt Disney and his family would stay in a little apartment on the top floor of this building. When he was in the park, he would light a candle in the front window to let the cast members know he was there. Today an electric version of this candle sits in that same window, always lit, as a reminder to all that the spirit of Walt lives on in Disneyland. This building is also pretty cool because they have a real fire department and real firefighters that work there. They often bring out the old-fashioned trucks for guests to see. (Fun Fact: one of Walt's daughters used to hate staying at the firehouse apartment because she could hear the noises from The Jungle Cruise behind the building and it used to keep her awake.)
If you come in and look to your left you will see "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln," which was made way back when for the World's Fair. You can also see models of Disneyland and other artwork and Disney History on that side. If you continue down, you will see many stores. Pay attention to the names; these are usually named after a movie title or a past cast member. There is a shop called Fortuocity and that is from the movie The Happiest Millionaire, and most of the names on the windows are real people.
Continue down and feel free to wander through the shops looking all around for hidden gems. Make sure to look up, because there are decorations that have been there forever (as far as I know). In the Emporium, you will see a scene of a dummy barber and customer, as well as other antiques that make you feel like you've gone back in time. One oddity you will want to spot is a red parrot. Rumor has it that this parrot is "Rosita" who is missing from the "Tiki Room" in Adventureland. I just think that those things are really cool. Down the way, in the coffee shop, there is a telephone on the wall...this is one of the props you can touch! Pick up the receiver and hold it to your ear to listen to an old-fashioned party line. My parents showed it to me when I was little, and it's still something I check for every time I go. Magic is in the little things. Another "easy to miss" thing I love is on the right side of the street where there is an alley leading to the guest lockers. There are a few tables and chairs tucked away there, and if you take a moment to sit there you will suddenly hear the voice of a man humming, then whistling, and the sound of a shower running. There are other little sounds such as drilling coming from the direction of the Dentist shop. Another really great thing to pay attention to is the scent of the town. Disney purposely makes it so that the streets smell like candy.
There are a million other things to share about Main Street USA, but I hope you enjoyed the few magical details I shared today. Read part 2 for details in Tomorrowland! I hope you get to visit Disneyland soon, and if you do enjoy every moment, and be sure to pay attention to any small thing because it may be a moment for magic.