"A Walk in Walt's Footsteps" - Disneyland guided tour - September 11, 2005
"A Walk in Walt's Footsteps" - Disneyland guided tour - September 11, 2005
Disneyland offers several guided tours that each have a different focus. One of the tours offered is called "A Walk in Walt's Footsteps". Disneyland information literature describes the tour as follows:
See Disneyland The Way Walt Did - The genius and imagination of Walt Disney lives on in Disneyland park. Experience The Happiest Place On Earth from its founder's perspective. Learn about the Park's magic and get a glimpse into the mind of the man who made this magical dream a reality!
"A Walk In Walt's Footsteps" Tour Highlights Include:
A sneak peek of the lobby of the legendary Club 33 restaurant in New Orleans Square
A visit to the Enchanted Tiki Room, the first Disneyland attraction to feature Disney's innovative Audio-Animatronics technology
A collectible "A Walk in Walt's Footsteps" trading pin
Luncheon on the balcony of the Disney Gallery, complete with one of Walt's favorite desserts!
"A Walk in Walt's Footsteps" Tour is offered at $49 per person (all ages) and may be booked up to 30 days in advance. (There is a limit of 15 guests per tour.)
We had booked the 9am Sunday morning tour. The park that day opened at 9am, but Main Street opened half an hour earlier, so after meeting up with a friend who was taking the tour with us, we checked in around 8:45am. We discovered that we'd be on a full tour, as all 15 spaces had been booked. I was a little concerned with having such a large group as it's sometimes hard to hear the tour guide, but I was still looking forward to the tour. We had taken the tour for the first time the previous October, so I was looking forward to seeing what the differences might be. The tour itself can change slightly depending on the tour guide. There is a lot of information at the tour guide's disposal, and each tour guide might pick different things to emphasize or talk about.
In October, we had checked in outside the main gates of Disneyland. It had also been a 9am tour, but the park hadn't opened early that day. After checking in with a cast member at a cart outside the main exit, we had been let in that same way to start our tour. Earlier this year, the new Guided Tours building (adjacent to City Hall) opened, so all tours can be booked at and start from the Guided Tours building. When we checked in for our tour, we were given tour badges and we were asked to choose our preference for lunch from the available selections.
The lunch selections were as follows:
Chili Corn Bread Souffle (A Walt's Favorite!)
Home-style chili, cheddar cheese and corn bread souffle
Greek Salad (vegetarian option)
Romaine chopped, cucumbers, red and green bell peppers, red onion, tomatoes, kalamata olives and a hint of parsley topped with feta cheese and Italian dressing
Iceberg mixed with romaine, tomato, blue cheese crumbles, bacon, egg and smoked julianne chicken breast served with Ranch Dressing
Turkey and Bacon Cheddar Croissant
Honey-smoked turkey breast, bacon layout, green leaf lettuce, tomato, cheese, mustard, mayonnaise all on a buttery croissant
Hawaiian Chicken Salad Sandwich with Egg and Bacon on Croissant
Albacore Salad Sandwich
Albacore mix, green leaf lettuce, tomato, dill pickle chip all on a buttery croissant
Roast Beef with Horseradish and Cheddar Cheese on Croissant
Roast beef, horseradish, cheddar cheese, green leaf lettuce, tomato, all on a buttery croissant
All menu items are served with a beverage (Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, or bottled
water) and a "Walt's favorite" dessert.
After check-in was done, we were asked to wait in the adjacent tour garden, which is behind the AAA kiosk. To get to the Guided Tours building, take the left tunnel after you enter the main turnstiles. Immediately after the tunnel to the left is a souvenir stand, which is next to the AAA kiosk/tour garden, which is next to the Guided Tours building.
The new Guided Tours building.
The AAA kiosk in front of the tour garden.
The tour garden.
The view from inside the tour garden looking out past the AAA kiosk onto Town Square.
The tour garden has benches, but be warned that because of the morning dew or the sprinklers that water the nearby shrubbery, the benches may be wet. As we waited for the other tour guests to arrive, we examined our tour badge. We noticed that it was different than the one we had gotten last year. Last year, our badge was like the ones used for all the tours, a Mickey head with different colors for different tours. This year, a special badge had been created especially for this tour, which was a nice added detail.
The front of the old Walk in Walt's Footsteps guided tour badge, currently still in use for other tours.
The back of the old Walk in Walt's Footsteps guided tour badge.
The front of the new Walk in Walt's Footsteps guided tour badge.
The back of the new Walk in Walt's Footsteps guided tour badge.
Shortly after 9am, our tour guide gathered our group to begin the tour. He introduced himself (hereafter designated as "R" for ease of reference) and then went around the group to ask everyone to give their name and the city where they lived. Even though all 15 spaces had been booked, it looked like 2 people had not shown up. R started the tour by explaining that Walt's idea for Disneyland was that it was to be like a movie experience. The red bricks that line Main Street are supposed to represent the red carpet that you would see at a movie premiere. When you enter Disneyland and you go under one of the two tunnels beneath the train tracks, you'll notice that there are attraction posters on the walls. These are the equivalent of movie previews that you would see in a theatre, to tell you what you'll be seeing soon, a sort of "coming attractions".
R then went on to talk about the history of the development of Disneyland and that the first building was City Hall and the second oldest building was the Main Street Opera House. At this point, we had moved to in front of the fire station on Main Street, and R talked about the apartment on top of the fire station. The apartment had belonged to Walt, and it was somewhere he could rest and from where he could watch the guests coming into Disneyland. When he was in the park, the lamp next to the window would be lit so that people would know he was there. In honor of Walt's spirit forever residing in Disneyland, the lamp is always kept lit. Once we were inside the fire station, R described the layout of the apartment as he pointed overhead. Once you enter the apartment, you're in the main room, and there's a restroom in the back of the apartment. There's also a fireman's pole that extends from the downstairs fire station to the apartment above, but access was closed off to discourage enthusiastic visitors who wanted an alternate route into the apartment. The apartment maintains the same decor as when it was decorated by Walt's wife, Lillian. Access to the apartment is not open to guests nor even regular cast members. There are special circumstances under which invited guests can see the inside of the apartment.
As we stepped outside the fire station, R went on to tell stories about opening day, including all the mishaps that occurred. As we walked down Main Street, we arrived at the Indian that stands outside the music store, and R mentioned that the store used to be a cigar shop when the park first opened, and when the cigar shop closed, Walt decided to keep the Indian out front as a tribute. As we continued down Main Street, R pointed out the windows which are dedicated to various people responsible for the development of Disneyland. Continuing with the movie theme, the windows are sort of like the credits you would see at the end of a film.
We stopped at the store on Main Street called Disney Clothiers, and R pointed out the window display in front of the store. The display depicts a sitting room and is decorated in maroon and gold, Lillian's favorite colors, just like she decorated Walt's apartment. A look into that window gives you a glimpse of the style in which the apartment is decorated.
The window display in front of Disney Clothiers.
The book in the window display that gives more information about Walt's apartment.
Continuing further down Main Street, we stopped at the porch, which happens to be one of my personal favorite resting places. R explained that behind the porch used to be a bra store, and it was not customary for men to go into the store, so the porch was a place for the men to wait while their wives shopped in the store.
In talking about the many little things that help convey the hometown feel of Main Street, R mentioned that the smell of baked goods is pumped onto Main Street, something that subtly adds to the atmosphere.
At the end of Main Street, we stopped near Plaza Inn. R mentioned that the restaurant used to have a VIP corner where Walt could entertain famous people and dignitaries, but because it was accessible to the public, it sometimes created a problem when guests would ask for autographs. Walt decided that he needed a more private restaurant where these famous people could dine without being deluged by the public. We would return to this subject later in the tour.
Completely aside from the tour, while we were in the Plaza Inn area, we noticed that the Matterhorn climbers had been out and had made their way to the top and were taking a rest to enjoy the view.
What a great way to see the park.
Our next stop was the Tiki Room. We arrived just as the crowd was being let in, so we went in with them and watched the regular show. After the show was over, the other guests left, and we were allowed to stay inside. R said that the attraction had originally been intended as a restaurant and showed us that the podium in the middle is where it was meant to keep the silverware. He also mentioned that the kitchen used for this restaurant was also intended to be used for the Plaza Pavilion and the Tahitian Terrace. Since none of the three are currently in use as a restaurant, the kitchen is currently used more as a storage space. They decided that the restaurant wouldn't work because the guest capacity would be too low, so they instead turned the location into an attraction. Another cast member brought out Ophelia, one of the original animatronic flowers used in the show during the Hawaii song segment. Each of the flowers is hand-painted, and each has a different "personality". The CM pointed out that since Ophelia is a background singer and shy, she is more closed, whereas one of the other flowers that has a bigger role in the song has much more open petals and vibrant colors.
We then stepped outside, and R talked about the Jungle Cruise being the first attraction advertised to the public. The Jungle Cruise had originally been planned to be located where Tomorrowland is now, but it was changed to its current location because of all the trees already there. Walt wanted some special trees to make the Jungle Cruise more exotic, and his horticulturalists ended up resorting to very creative measures to get the trees Walt wanted. The Jungle Cruise was originally intended as a true-life adventure through the jungle, and it wasn't until later that it was changed to include the humour that most people now associate with the attraction. Walt's grandchildren particularly liked the Jungle Cruise, and if they were in the park, they often liked to sneak into the Jungle Cruise and particularly enjoyed going to where the natives are dancing and then pretend to be natives themselves, so some guests ended up getting live dancing and chanting natives on their tours. When that happened, a call would go to Walt, who would come out of his apartment, take a boat out himself, and retrieve his grandchildren.
When we had taken the tour the previous October, the Tiki Room had been closed for refurbishment, so instead, we had gone on a special tour of the Jungle Cruise. Our tour group had a boat all to ourselves. When we were in parts of the attraction where we could be seen by other guests (whether guests on the dock, guests exiting the Indiana Jones Adventure or guests on other boats), the regular CM would be giving her regular spiel. When we were in more secluded parts of the attraction, our tour guide would take over to tell us some background information on the creation and development of the attraction. It was definitely a much different trip than is normally given, and I think it would be a great addition to the regular tour. With the exception of seeing Ophelia, the information about the Tiki Room could be given to the guests from outside the Tiki Room. I think it would even be worth it to extend the tour by the 10 or 15 minutes it would take to include both the Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise visits.
Back to the current tour, R said that the addition of the Indiana Jones Adventure changed the Jungle Cruise a bit. Previously, the Jungle Cruise wasn't tied to a particular time, but when the Indy ride came in, the Jungle Cruise was themed to be in the 1930s to match the timeframe, which also matched the timeframe when Swiss Family Treehouse was re-themed to Tarzan.
In New Orleans Square, R asked us about the three ships we could see. The Columbia and the Mark Twain were easy, but the third ship was a bit more obscure. If you're standing in front of Pirates of the Caribbean and you look towards New Orleans Square just to the right of the Disney Gallery balcony, you can see that behind the buildings is a set of sails. New Orleans Square is supposed to be themed to the late 1800s, on the day after Mardi Gras. What now serves as the Disney Gallery was originally intended to be an apartment for Walt and Roy, a much bigger apartment than the one over the fire station. Walt's and Roy's initials are even included in the railing around the balcony.
Walt's initial is on the left, and Roy's initial is on the right.
Going further into New Orleans Square, we approached the entrance to the private restaurant where Walt wanted to host dignitaries and famous people - the famed Club 33. The entrance is right next to the entrance of the Blue Bayou, marked only by a surreptitious sign of the number "33". People have asked about the significance of the number 33, and there are many rumours surrounding the reason for the use of "33", but it's simply the address of the restaurant. While you normally have to be a guest of the club to enter at all, one of the perqs of taking this tour is being allowed entrance into the lobby of Club 33. The Club is decorated in the same maroon and gold colors as the apartment over the fire station.
The inside of the Club 33 entrance door.
The reception desk area.
The staircase next to the elevator.
After a short visit to the lobby, we continued onto the streets of New Orleans Square, where R pointed out many details reminiscent of the city itself. We continued onto the Court of Angels, which is between the Christmas store and the Radko store. There had been plans to open a jazz club in that upper area that would be like Club 33 but with a live band, but plans were never completed.
R then talked about Pirates of the Caribbean, that the ride is about the sleeping man on the porch that you see at the beginning, where you hear the banjo playing, and the ride itself is his dream of when he was a pirate.
We then continued to the train station, where we took the train to Tomorrowland, which is themed as a futuristic city with the major commerce being a spaceport in the form of Space Mountain. R talked about what Tomorrowland was like on opening day and also talked about Mission to Mars and Circlevision, and that one segment of a Circlevision film is currently used in DCA's Soarin' Over California. Coming out of Tomorrowland, we stopped in the walkway overlooking Ariel's Grotto, and R talked about the House of the Future. When they decided to do away with the attraction, taking down the house wasn't nearly as easy as they had anticipated, and one attempt at demolishing the house became a near-tragedy for Sleeping Beauty Castle. To this day, the foundation for the House of the Future remains hidden beneath some foliage.
We then headed over to Fantasyland where R talked about the carousel and the facades of the buildings. He also pointed out the Disney family crest on the front of the castle. We then made our way to the Golden Horseshoe where R talked about the various acts that have performed there over the years. R then told us about the Mark Twain, that it was a 30th anniversary present from Walt to Lillian. For their 31st anniversary, his present was a bit different - the petrified tree that sits by the Rivers of America. Lillian was quite disappointed in the present until Walt revealed to her that the tree contained opals. Part of the tree was also used to make a jewelry box for Lillian.
We then went back to New Orleans Square, to the restricted back entrance of the Disney Gallery in the courtyard between Le Bat En Rouge and Pieces of Eight. The stairs in that courtyard were to have been the official entrance to the apartment - the stairs above Pirates of the Caribbean that serve as the entrance now were put in much later. At the bottom of the original stairs is a hidden callbox where visitors could announce themselves. Once we were in the Disney Gallery, R talked about the layout of what was supposed to been the apartment. The big room to the far right if you entered through the regular entrance (the room next to the hallway with all the framed artwork) was to have been the dining room. There was a connecting door to the kitchen of Club 33. The room adjacent to the outside patio was to have been Walt and Lillian's bedroom. The story goes that Lillian was particularly fond of often rearranging furniture, so Walt had asked the designers to include many electrical outlets on each wall so no matter how Lillian rearranged the room, he would have somewhere to plug in his desk reading lamp.
This was the conclusion of the tour, and the patio area had been closed to regular visitors and set up for our lunch. Each table could accommodate four people, and our lunch orders were labeled with our names.
Lunch is served.
In addition to the sandwich or salad and choice of beverage, we also each received a mini-cheesecake. I had the turkey and bacon sandwich which was quite good, and there was also a side of grapes. While the cheesecake is very good, it's actually quite a bit of dessert after the sandwich and fruit. Bags were provided for those who wanted to take any of their leftovers with them, and many people took their cheesecake with them untouched. I could see how it could be inconvenient to carry the cheesecake with you as you spent the rest of the day in the park, especially since the cheesecake wouldn't keep well being carried around on a warm day. We ended up putting ours in one of the lockers on Main Street, and it's handy that the locker area is air conditioned. While I enjoyed having the cheesecake over the next two days, I probably would have preferred a smaller serving or some cookies or brownies, but if the dessert is supposed to be one of Walt's favorites, they're probably restricted as to what they can offer.
As part of the tour, we also received a commemorative pin. The pin given out this year is different than in previous years in celebration of Disneyland's 50th birthday.
The commemorative pin given out last year.
This year's commemorative pin.
Even though we had taken the tour less than a year ago, I still really enjoyed this second tour. When we had originally decided to take the tour last October, we weren't quite sure how much we'd enjoy it. We are big Disney fans and know some of the trivia associated with the park, so we weren't sure how interesting we'd find the tour, but we were happy to discover that while we knew some of the stories told during the course of the tour, we still found out a lot of information we didn't know. On this second tour, we again heard stories that we already knew, but we again learned some things we hadn't known. We had decided to take the tour this second time because we thought there might have been some changes in honor of Disneyland's 50th birthday, and I'd probably be interested in taking this tour every couple years. I would recommend this tour except for those who are extremely knowledgeable about park history and trivia, who might find the tour boring since they wouldn't necessarily be learning anything different.
I had liked our tour guide the first time, but while he was interesting and very knowledgeable, the one drawback was that he was a bit soft spoken. Our tour that time only had 8 people on the tour, with 2 of the people being friends who were on the tour with us. Even with that small size group, there were times when it was a bit hard to hear him talking, so one of our friends missed out on some of the things he was telling us. That had been the reason for my trepidation when I realized that we were on a tour with a full group. However, R turned out to be a wonderful tour guide. He had a voice that was strong enough to project to the entire group, and he made sure that everyone was able to hear him when he was talking, often stopping to make sure the entire group had arrived at a destination before starting to talk. There were several times when he had quite a challenge making himself heard, as when we were in the fire station and one of Disneyland's many bands made their way over to our location, stopping to play just outside the fire station, and when Mickey was making his climb up the Matterhorn, with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy talking during that time as R was trying to explain about the Disney family crest on the castle. In those and other instances, R still made himself heard about the competing noise. He was also very excited and animated when he told his stories and that definitely added to our enjoyment of the tour. We had taken the new 50th anniversary tour, called "From Imagination to Celebration", back in May, and they had been experimenting with listening devices handed out to each guest that would pick up the tour guide through a microphone, and I thought that would be convenient for all of the tours, especially when you have a large group, to make sure everyone can hear what the tour guide is saying. It wasn't really necessary for R's tour as he made sure he was heard, but for someone who wasn't as good at projecting, the listening devices would definitely be a good idea.
The tour is generally offered daily in the morning, and sometimes, there's an afternoon tour as well, but check with Disneyland to confirm if and when the tour is offered on the day you'd like to attend. They do take walk-ups if there is room on the tour, but to guarantee that you can take your tour on the day and time you'd prefer, a reservation is the way to go. Reservations can be made at the Guided Tour building or by calling (714) 781-4400. I recommend the earlier tour because it's not as warm out, and the park might be less crowded. Keep in mind that it is a 3 1/2 hour walking tour, so be sure you have comfortable attire, and having a hat on sunny days is also a good idea as you're spending almost all of the tour outdoors. I don't know if the tour is run if it's raining, but if so, an umbrella would definitely be handy. Guests in wheelchairs and children in strollers can be accommodated as well, though small children might get restless during the tour. One of the other guests on our tour was a child of about 2 years, and the child's grandfather spent much of the tour entertaining the child, and while the grandfather didn't seem to mind, he missed out on some of what R was saying and even had to leave Club 33's lobby early when the child started to fuss. The normal price of the tour is $49 (in addition to the park admission price), but both times we went, we bought tickets at the discounted price of $39, the first time through an annual passholder special discount and the second time through a Disney Visa cardholder special discount.
Here is a link to the official Disneyland page about this tour.
To read about the Club 33 special event breakfast on January 30, 2005 which includes extensive pictures and one video, please click here.
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