On my most recent trip to Disneyland we decided to do the behind the scenes tour that they offer, called Walk in Walt’s Footsteps. We booked it for July 17th, which was exciting because it was the birthday of Disneyland. The park originally opened on July 17th, 1955, so it was celebrating its 62nd birthday. I’ve enjoyed the two other backstage tours I’ve done immensely in Disney World (Behind the Seeds and Wild Africa Trek), so I was looking forward to trying one at Disneyland.
We checked in half an hour before our tour started, where we got a button with our names on it that said Walk in Walt’s Footsteps, audio packs to with headphones so we could hear our guide while walking around the park, and a menu to pick out what we wanted for lunch. Once the tour started, we walked down Main Street as our guide, Carlos, shared information with us about the creation of Disneyland and Walt’s involvement in it. The audio also played clips from many of Walt’s speeches.
The tour basically makes its way through the different lands sharing information about the history of Disneyland and Walt. I will be honest – as a huge Disney fan and one who has interest in the history of it, I knew probably 85% of the information that they gave us on this tour. There were still some fun tidbits I picked up though. Here’s a couple of examples about some of the types of things you’ll hear if you take this tour:
- There is no tall structure or “weenie” in Adventureland. This is done to make it seem more mysterious.
- Sleeping Beauty Castle used to have working drawbridge.
- Walt wanted to do an adventure down the Mississippi river with some of his friends, but then we joined the war. Once we was back home he found that his girlfriend had married someone else, his dog died, and his best friend was engaged and no longer interested in their trip. Walt didn’t go down the Mississippi, but he created it at Disneyland.
- Before Club 33, the Red Wagon Inn (where the Plaza is now located) had a private area where Walt could host guests.
- Walt loved jazz and they had “Dixieland at Disneyland” celebrations.
The history of some rides, like Pirates and Haunted Mansion, were discussed, as well as the World’s Fair, Walt’s love of trains, his plans for Disney World and Epcot, and his death.
As part of the tour we got to go on three attractions without waiting. The first was Alice in Wonderland. After I rode I asked Carlos what year it opened and he said it was an opening day attraction. That didn’t seem quite right, and a nearby cast member working on Alice told me it was incorrect and he would show me. So he brought me around to an area where the cast members had access and showed me a sign that said it opened on June 14th, 1958. So not quite opening day, but a few years later. We were also supposed to ride It’s a Small World but it was down at the time. They ended up giving us a fastpass to come back later, but it would have been really nice to have done it then, considering how much we’d been walking and how hot it was. Finally, he took us into Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
The ending part of the tour was what everyone had been waiting for. We got to go up to Walt’s Apartment, the area where he would spend the night if he wanted to sleep in the park. The tour (or being famous or influential) is the only way to see it. You can’t take pictures but they will take a photo of you in it. It was cute, and neat to see all of the little details from Walt (some pieces or original and others are recreations). But the coolest part of all was something that wasn’t planned. We happened to be up in Walt’s apartment at 12:20 that day – that’s right when Walt gave his opening day speech back on July 17th, 1955. Exactly 62 years later I was standing where the Mouseketeers stood that day. And they played Walt’s opening speech over the loudspeakers. Characters were out. So I was able to hear Walt’s speech, and see Mickey Mouse from the window of Walt’s apartment on the anniversary of the opening. That’s something pretty special.
The tour ended with lunch from Jolly Holiday Bakery. I got a caprese sandwich. It was pretty good except the bread was really thick, so it was almost all bread. I had also asked for chips but they gave me fruit instead. It was fine though, it was good fruit. For dessert I had the Matterhorn macaroon, and my friend had the chocolate cake. It was all very filling. Carlos came around to our tables to thank us and give us a parting gift (a Walking in Walt’s Footsteps pin). The whole thing lasted close to 4 hours.
So what was my overall impression of the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour? That moment in Walt’s apartment was incredible. And seeing the apartment was cool. But the rest of it kind of felt a bit like a waste. It was neat to hear these facts while walking around Disneyland, but I knew almost everything from books, so I’m not sure that it would be worth the money. You didn’t get on any super interesting rides and didn’t go into any backstage areas. If you’re like me, you’re basically looking at paying $100+ for the chance to see Walt’s apartment and have a decent but not great lunch. So I guess it’s all about how much that’s worth to you.
Now, if you’re a Disney fan who doesn’t know much about the history and Walt’s life and you’re interested in learning more, I think this would be an amazing experience. It would definitely be a fun way to learn all of these facts. I just think they could have done a little more to “plus” the experience, as Walt would say. Maybe a private character meet, reserved seating for a show, extra fastpasses, going into more backstage areas – just something to add a little more value for the already diehard Disney fan.
In the end I’m glad that I did it, but I wouldn’t do it again. I would basically recommend it to anyone who doesn’t know a ton about Disneyland but wants to know more, or people who are really, really interested in seeing Walt’s apartment.
What do you think about the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps tour? Does it sound like something you’d want to do?