35 Astonishing Facts About Disney World Only Insiders Know
The most magical place on earth is also one of the most fascinating.
Ever since Walt Disney World, in Florida, welcomed its first visitors in 1965, it’s embedded itself in the American consciousness in ways few other institutions ever have. But Disney’s success was no accident. The park struck big because of its unrelenting emphasis on its visitors and their experiences—and maybe just a tiny bit of pixie dust.
Still, when your resort welcomes some 20 million visitors each year, that’s a whole bunch of experiences to manage. And naturally, there’s a ton of stuff going on behind the scenes. From its hidden underground tunnels that only a select few will ever see to its 30,000 guest rooms that would take 68 years to stay in, Disney World has a lot going on that most guests never see—or know about.
Read on for 35 amazing facts about America’s favorite theme park. Oh, and if you’re worried: We promise, no matter how much you know, it won’t ruin the magic.
Walt Disney World employs more people than every other Disney park combined.
If you added up the number of employees at every other Disney property worldwide—Disneyland Resort in California, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, and Shanghai Disney Resort—you’d still fall around 5,000 people short of the 70,000 folks who work at Walt Disney World in Florida.
What’s more, each of the park’s employees—from its costumed princesses to its front-desk clerks—are lovingly referred to as “cast members.” And with that many people putting on the show each day, Walt Disney World is the largest single-site employer in the United States.
No structure at Disney World stands taller than 200 feet.
The Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom each stand exactly 199-feet tall. That’s no coincidence, either. Buildings taller than 200-feet are required to flash aviation lights. And, of course, that would ruin some of the magic.
Admission used to cost the same price as a bottle of water does today.
When Disney’s Magic Kingdom first opened in October 1971, admission set guests back just $3.50; adjusted for inflation, that’s about $21. Unfortunately, prices have skyrocketed, and a one-day pass now costs around $109.
Disney World has a secret underground trash system.
To remove trash from the park, the Magic Kingdom uses an automated vacuum collection (AVAC) system that functions in the park’s vast underground utilidors, or underground tunnels. To use the system, custodians remove trash and dump it into special processors. From there, it’s brought underground and pushed along at 60 miles per hour to a central location where it is processed, compressed, and transferred to a landfill or recycling center.
There’s a whole other world of tunnels below guests’ feet.
In addition to the AVAC system, Disney’s utilidors are also home to a mammoth network of underground tunnels that help cast members navigate the park. The tunnel walls are color-coded so cast members can easily know where they are. And if they take a wrong turn, that’s fine, as most of them get around on golf cart-like battery-operated vehicles (although an ambulance could drive through the utilidor system in case of an emergency). Guests on the Keys to the Kingdom tour are the only ones permitted in the tunnels.
It’d take you 52 years to get through the amount of laundry Disney World does in a single day.
Keeping thousands of cast members squeaky clean takes work—and most of it is done by the folks at the Disney World Laundry. Each day, cast members there do around 285,000 pounds of laundry. If you broke that down to one load of laundry a day, it’d take you 52 years to get through.
There aren’t any bathrooms in Liberty Square.
The Disney Imagineers took the historical accuracy of the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square seriously. To maintain the essence of the colonial time period, Liberty Square was built without any restrooms. (Magic Kingdom itself boasts 23 public ones!) However, a sneaky loophole allowed for bathrooms to be installed at the Columbia Harbour House and the Liberty Tree Tavern, since they are technically not located in Liberty Square.
There’s a reason why rainwater never falls off Epcot’s Spaceship Earth.
Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth was designed so that when it rains, no water ever pours off the 16-million-ton sphere. Instead, the water travels through a passage in the ball and is funneled into the park’s World Showcase Lagoon. How’s that for recycling?
Disney World has one of the tallest and most powerful fountains in the world.
The fountain at Epcot Innoventions Plaza can shoot water 150 feet in the air. Keep in mind that the tallest fountain in the world, located in Busan, South Korea, shoots just 30-feet higher. If the Innoventions fountain released all of its shooters at once, it would emit 2,000 gallons of water.
Cinderella Castle can withstand pretty much anything Mother Nature throws at it.
There’s no doubt that the Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom is breathtaking. But looks can be deceiving—this castle is more like a fortress. Although the exterior appears to be made of stone, the shell of the building is actually made of fiberglass. That’s because the dreamy home was built to withstand hurricanes, and can fend off winds up to 125 miles per hour.
You’re never more than a few steps away from a trash can.
Walt Disney really did think of everything—including how annoying it is to have to carry around garbage. To keep guests happy and the parks clean, each space was designed so that visitors are never more than 30 steps away from a trash can.
It would take decades to stay in all of the guest rooms at Disney World.
Even at a rate of one guest room per night, it would take 68 years to stay in each of the 30,000 rooms at all of the Disney World hotels and resorts.
Mickey has more outfits than even your most fashion-forward friend.
Ever the style icon, Mickey Mouse has more in his closet than a bunch of red shorts and yellow shoes. In fact, he owns around 136 different outfits, including a tuxedo and a scuba suit. Minnie’s collection is slightly smaller; she has just around 100 outfits.
An estimated 1.65 million sunglasses have been lost at Disney World since it opened.
On average, around 210 pairs of sunglasses are turned in at the Disney World lost and found each day. The lost and found also collects around 6,000 cell phones, 3,500 cameras, and 18,000 hats each year.
Disney World visitors drink a lot of soda.
Each year, guests purchase more than 75 million Coca-Cola beverages. That’s compared to just 13 million bottles of water. Hydration is key, people!
You can get a free button when you visit the parks for a special occasion.
Whether you’re a first-time park visitor, it’s your birthday, or you’re celebrating another special event at Disney, you can get a complimentary celebration button if you put in the effort. All you have to do is stop by guest services or at the front desk at any of the Walt Disney Resorts to pick one up. Expect extra-special attention from cast members when you wear your button!
You can take a private tour of the Animal Kingdom at night.
Not all of the creatures in the Animal Kingdom love the daytime. To see the park’s nocturnal animals in their element, visitors can go on a thrilling nighttime safari. In addition to a trek through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve after-hours, the experience also includes a meal of African-inspired dishes paired with regional beer and wine.
You can ditch the expensive resorts and pitch a tent instead.
If you’re looking for a more rugged Disney experience, The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort have you covered. For around $55, visitors can pitch a tent on the park’s 750 acres of forest. If you’re lucky, you might spot some deer, rabbits, ducks, or armadillos.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park is bigger than Disneyland.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom spans 142 acres, while Disneyland in Anaheim, California, covers just 85 acres. Both sound teeny tiny when you consider that Disney World as a whole is some 25,600 acres—or the size of two Manhattan islands.
Disney World is actually its own city.
You might have thought Disney World was located in the City of Orlando, but it’s actually a part of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special taxing district that acts with the same authority and responsibility as a county government. Walt Disney helped organize the District himself, so he could leverage more control over the areas surrounding his theme park. And technically, Reedy Creek is comprised of two cities of its own, the City of Bay Lake and the City of Lake Buena Vista. The District has its own contracts for fire, law, and traffic protection, and boasts just a few dozen full-time residents—all of whom work for Disney.
Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Oak tree was transported to the park by a 100-ton crane.
The 130-year-old live oak tree was found on Disney property in 1990 and transferred eight miles to Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The tree weighs 38 tons and was only able to be relocated by drilling holes through the trunk, inserting steel pins, and lifting it with a crane. The process took months.
The Tree of Life at the Animal Kingdom was built over an oil rig.
The man-made tree was built over a retrofitted 14-story oil rig. The 145-foot creation is covered with more than 100,000 leaves that are each more than a foot long. The tree’s trunk is made of concrete, not wood.
Disney World Resort is home to the largest sand-bottom pool in the world.
There’s nothing like feeling the warm sand under your feet at the beach. And at Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, you can feel like you’re really there. The 750,000-gallon pool is the largest sand-lined one in the world.
You can’t buy gum at Disney World.
In order to protect the park from unsightly globs of gum, Disney World stopped selling the stuff. It isn’t banned, but if guests want a piece they’ll have to bring their own.
Countless autograph books are sold at Disney World each year.
If you’re going to meet your favorite Disney characters, you might as well document the experience with an autograph. And as it turns out, Disney sells so many autograph books a year that if you stacked them on top of one another, the pile would be about 4,000-feet tall—the same height as 200 Cinderella Castles.
Real astronauts attended the opening of Space Mountain.
In 1975, Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain attraction officially welcomed visitors. Although the ride can’t actually take you to space, astronauts Scott Carpenter of Mercury 7, Gordon Cooper of Mercury 9 and Gemini 5, and Jim Irwin of Apollo 15 all attended the grand opening to commemorate the space-themed ride.
Twelve percent of Disney World is dedicated to greenery.
Disney World isn’t only about rides and restaurants. In fact, more than 12 percent of the park, or 4,000 acres, is taken up by gardens and other maintained landscapes. That’s around 3,000 football fields of greenery. To keep things fresh, each year horticulturalists plant some three million annual plants.
There are strategically designed barriers for the animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari.
The 18-minute safari ride allows visitors the chance to get up close and personal with animals that are seemingly roaming free. But have no fear, these creatures can’t run up and get you—or each other. Barriers such as water features and moats are added to the reserve to keep the animals in specific areas.
There are hundreds of real plants incorporated in the landscape of the Animal Kingdom’s Pandora—The World of Avatar.
The sights at Pandora—The World of Avatar, which opened in May of 2017, are so magical they might not seem real. In fact, there are 500 real trees and 10,000 shrubs included in the landscape. To add to the experience, there are glow-in-the-dark paths that are charged during the daytime and glow at night.
Disney visitors eat a ton of food.
Each year, Disney visitors consume seven million hamburgers, a half-million pounds of mac and cheese, one million pounds of watermelon, and two million pounds of ketchup. It takes 350 chefs to keep up with the demand.
There’s a T-Rex replica at the Animal Kingdom.
At DinoLand U.S.A. you can find Dino-Sue, an exact replica of the largest T-Rex skeleton ever found, a 13-foot tall, 40-foot-long beast that was discovered in South Dakota by archaeologist Sue Hendrickson. You can pose for a picture, but don’t expect to get all of Dino-Sue in the frame—after all, she’s the length of a four-story building!
The Disney World Railroad uses a train from the 1910s.
The Disney World Railroad in the Magic Kingdom offers a great photo opp—but it’s also worth noting that it’s a functional steam-powered train that carries 1.5 million passengers each year. The four trains were originally built between 1916 and 1928 and have been restored to run in tip-top shape.
Epcot was originally intended to be a model community.
Walt Disney had big plans for Disney World, and one of them was to create a controlled community at Epcot, which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. The seemingly dystopian plan was to select 20,000 people to live in the city, which would have shopping areas, residential properties, theaters, restaurants, and—most questionably—a climate-controlled setting. After Walt died, the project was seen as unrealistic, and it was scrapped.
The American flags at Disney World are fake.
Because real American flags must follow the national flag code, such as flying at half-mast during times of mourning, the ones at Disney were purposefully made to be missing a stripe or a star. That means the park doesn’t have to worry about flag etiquette—because its flags are technically pennants.
Disney World is one of the most well-trodden vacation spots of all time.
Worldwide, Disney World Parks draw an estimated 150 people each year, making them some of the most vacationed spots in the world. And with nearly 20.5 million visitors in 2017, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is the most visited theme park in the world.
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