Uncovering Hidden Gems and Secret Experiences at Disney World

in Disney, Disney Parks, Walt Disney World

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Beyond all those renowned callouts and popular highlights everyone knows about are all the lesser-known hidden gems of Walt Disney World.

You don’t have to be a seasoned pro to recite all the well-known attributes of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The world-famous Disney World Parks and each one’s anchoring attractions are, after all, among the primary reasons why so many folks decide to vacation here. But what if we were to reveal some of the under-the-radar experiences to pursue here, along with fun and fascinating Disney Park secrets that go virtually unnoticed by most Guests? From secret spots in Disney Parks to unique activities and endeavors most folks don’t even know about, here at Inside the Magic, we’ve compiled this survey of the hidden gems throughout Walt Disney World to take note of.

Hidden Mickeys

Among the several known facts about Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide is the ongoing tradition of incorporating Hidden Mickeys (classic Mickey Mouse silhouette head and ears) into the framework, background, or wherever. Be on the lookout, and you’ll uncover Hidden Mickeys carefully placed in unassuming spots at every Disney designation, from Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California, to Disney Cruise Line ships and even at independently operating Disney Vacation Club Resorts. Disney World certainly has its vast and versatile collective of Hidden Mickeys worth finding, and doing so can be an added fun folly to partake of during your next visit.

Relate: These Are the Best Hidden Mickeys at Disney World

Secret Sights and Sounds Along Main Street, U.S.A.

You probably already guessed that the Magic Kingdom is a treasure trove of Disney Park hidden secrets. But what isn’t immediately apparent is that Main Street, U.S.A., alone has so many unassuming sights and sounds that only the most observant visitors can rightfully appreciate. For instance, have you ever noticed the names on some of the shop windows? They’re all tributes to actual people who once played a significant role in Disney History in some way. Also, during those quieter times, if you listen closely while passing by certain alleyways, you may just hear subtle noises coming through windows in accordance with the “businesses” being advertised. But one of the best-kept secrets of all is an old phone inside the Chapeau store that so many folks overlook as a wall prop. The reality is that anyone can pick it up and listen in on a most interesting old-timey conversation as it unfolds.

Windows on Main Street
Credit: World of Walt

Tributes to Former Attractions

Because Disney World has been around for five decades, it goes without saying that we’ve seen our fair share of attractions come and go through the years. But even though some of our favorite former attractions are no longer with us, it doesn’t mean their past references are non-existent. Some of the best Disney Park Easter Eggs present today are actually tributes to several discontinued rides and experiences. One example includes a painting of Mr. Toad in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction that replaced it. There’s also a grave marker of Mr. Toad at the Haunted Mansion. When you ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, you’ll hear a line about “Paging Mr. Tom Morrow” and a directive to contact Mr. Johnson to confirm a flight to the moon. This is a multifaceted reference to the aforementioned characters and the discontinued Flight to the Moon attraction. EPCOT’s former Horizons attraction gets referenced several times throughout Disney World too. There are just so many callouts that we couldn’t possibly name them all. But it’s fun, particularly for older folks who get them all, to make a game out of uncovering each one.

Related: Don’t Miss These Tributes to Former Attractions in Walt Disney World

Artifact Spotting

Disney World is also home to an impressive array of historical artifacts. A stop at Walt Disney Presents, easily one of the most underrated Disney Park spots in Hollywood Studios, will reveal many marvels and even personal effects from Walt Disney’s lifetime and beyond, all in one museum-like location.

Other discretely placed artifacts throughout Disney World include the buggy outside the Haunted Mansion, which was once used in The Sons of Katie Elder film from 1965, and the Dragon Calliope at Fort Wilderness Resort’s Tri-Circle-D Ranch, which once played a role in the Mickey Mouse Club Circus Parade at Disneyland in the 1950s. There are several others besides these, so be on the lookout!

Buggy outside of the Haunted Mansion
Credit: Me and the Mouse Travel

Electrical Water Pageant

While in-Park parades snag the most attention, there’s also an almost-secret, longtime lighted water procession to note, which takes place nightly. Surprisingly few Guests even know about it, though, except those staying within the Magic Kingdom Resort Area with views overlooking Seven Seas Lagoon. It’s a whimsical electrical lighted water pageant featuring sea creatures and other quaint moving images set to a tinny tune—a simplistic little pleasure worth appreciating.

Electrical Water Pageant
Credit: Disney

Related: Where to Watch the Electrical Water Pageant at Disney World

Secret Dining Spots

In the shadow of Disney World’s more overt dining offerings are all those lesser-known hidden gem restaurants. These include unassuming lounge designations that adjoin more popular table-service establishments as well as less-utilized, somewhat hidden self-seating dining room locations at bustling quick-service venues. Some examples of the former include Nomad Lounge at Animal Kingdom Park, Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar in EPCOT, the Steak 71 Lounge at the Contemporary Resort, and Enzo’s Hideaway in Disney Springs. A few of those hidden dining room spots include the upstairs seating area at Columbia Harbour House (Magic Kingdom Park), the uppermost level and balcony at Pinocchio Village Haus (Magic Kingdom Park), upstairs at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café (Magic Kingdom Park), and the patio at PizzeRizzo (Hollywood Studios).

Related: Upstairs Dining Locations at Disney That No One Talks About

Club Cool

While you can get complimentary water at any quick-service location, this Coca-Cola retail shop in EPCOT actually lets you try unlimited flavor flights of international sodas from around the world. It’s a great way to replenish your energy levels while trying out new tastes, free of charge.

Behind the Seeds Tour

You’ve probably heard of Disney World’s various VIP Tour offerings. But this experience at EPCOT’s Land Pavilion is one of the best low-cost options, at just $35 a person. It’s also one of the shortest tours, spanning just an hour. Not only that, but you’ll get to learn firsthand insider facts about the greenhouse growing methods at work within EPCOT and how what is grown here is actually used in restaurants like The Garden Grill, right upstairs. Because you will be on the other side of the Living with the Land attraction as it progresses, you will see Guests as they ride by waving.

EPCOT Seas Adventures

EPCOT’s living coral reef, housed within the Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion, is an example of a Disney hidden gem that’s also one of several hidden gems in Florida. One can spend hours here tackling all the more apparent endeavors but for those looking to make a unique splash, take note of two EPCOT Seas Adventures experiences awaiting your fancy. One suggestion is the Dolphins in Depth program, which spans two hours for $199 a person. The experience includes both land and sea follies and does not require participants to be SCUBA certified. The second option DiveQuest, however, is restricted to SCUBA-certified individuals and entails just that. This experience also spans two hours for $219 a person.

DiveQuest at EPCOT
Credit: Disney

Surfing Programs

Did you know that Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park hosts both Open Surf and Private Surf options you can sign up for? Times in which such are offered include mornings at 6:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. and 30 minutes following public Park closure for the evening. Click here to learn more about both options.

Surfing program at Disney World
Credit: Inside the Magic

Cake Decorating

Amorette’s Patisserie at Disney Springs provides a unique opportunity to decorate your rendition of their iconic Mickey Mouse Dome Cakes. Led by a professional pastry chef, these experiences take place on select mornings before the shop opens. The cost is $199 a person with one reservation serving to accommodate up to two Guests working on a single cake.

Related: Did You Know You Can Decorate Your Very Own Cake at This Disney Springs Location?

Animation Experience

The Conservation Station at Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park boasts many unique hands-on activities. But one of its more recent additions—and one that’s still somewhat underrated—is the Animation Experience. Presented as open 25-minute classes taking place at various times throughout the day, it provides any Guest (of any experience level) the chance to learn how to draw a featured animal character from Disney Animation.

Starlight Safari at Animal Kingdom Lodge

While many know about Kilimanjaro Safaris over at Animal Kingdom Park, fewer are aware of the Starlight Safaris you can take over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. And the fact that this is an after-dark excursion makes it even more alluring for those looking to try something wildly new. Prices for Starlight Safaris range from $75.65 to $89 per person, depending on age (tax not included). Click here to learn more.

Nighttime zebra spotting on Starlight Safari
Credit: Disney

There are, of course, innumerable other hidden gem experiences and Disney World secrets we could go on naming, but these top 13 suggestions are excellent to start with. Are there any particular highlights we left off the list that you feel we need to mention? Tell us about them in the comments below.

in Disney, Disney Parks, Walt Disney World

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