If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about what lies beneath the surface at Walt Disney World (literally and figuratively), you’ve come to the right place! Here are 12 impressive facts you probably didn’t know about Walt Disney World. We hope that knowing them will make your next Disney trip even more magical!
1. Tree of Life
This Animal Kingdom icon isn’t a real tree – it’s a work of art that took more than a year to create. Which isn’t surprising, considering it stands 145 feet tall, with more than 300 distinct animal carvings. It’s 50 feet wide at its base, and contains a whopping 8000 branches and over 100,000 artificial leaves! Each of these foot-long leaves was recently removed to have LED lighting added in preparation for longer, night-time hours at the park. What a job!
2. Moroccan Work of Art
Morocco is the only World Showcase pavilion in Epcot that is funded by the respective country’s government. If you’ve seen the exquisitely worked tiles and carvings decorating this gorgeous pavilion, you won’t be surprised to learn that they were created by Moroccan artisans, who continue to regularly visit Epcot to do any touch-ups needed.
If you have the money, you can actually rent a variety of locations within Walt Disney World for your own private party or dinner event. Imagine celebrating a family event with a private tour at Kilimanjaro Safaris, or a birthday dessert party on the terrace of Tower of Terror! Prices vary greatly based on the type of package you want (and whether you want the attraction to remain in operation during your party!), but don’t be surprised if this privilege runs you thousands of dollars.
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4. Underground Tunnels at Magic Kingdom
If you’ve ever wondered why you never see cast members taking out the garbage, or restaurants receiving food deliveries at the Magic Kingdom, it’s because these less-than-glamorous activities take place in the Utilidors, a system of underground tunnels beneath the park. This is where cast members carry out important park functions out of sight of guests, to make the “show” area above seem even more magical! There are backstage tours available where you can visit these Utilidors yourself, and appreciate WDW (literally) on a whole new level!
5. World-Class Stats
Walt Disney World employs a lot of people. Called “cast members” rather than “employees”, they possess coveted positions that are extremely hard to get. There were 5,500 cast members at the Magic Kingdom when it opened in 1971, but there are a few more now. WDW now employs over 70, 000 people, making WDW the largest single-site employer in the entire United States.
6. A Lot of Land
Approximately 40 square miles of Florida swampland were purchased by Walt Disney back in the 1960s. Only about 35% of WDW’s more than 27,000 acres has actually been developed and converted into theme parks to date. Walt originally paid $5,000,000 for the land on which WDW now stands, or about $185 per acre. We’re pretty sure it’s worth a little more than that now.
7. Two Theme Parks in One
Epcot is an acronym that stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. Walt’s vision of a futuristic working community never materialized, and after his death, Imagineers were torn between a futuristic theme park, and a World’s Fair theme park. They decided to use both, combining them into one theme park, which is how the Epcot we know today came to be.
8. Flag Magic
When you walk down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, you’ll notice a lot of American flags. Or – are they? Actual American flags must be raised, lowered, and flown at half-mast, which would be impractical for the number of flags in the park. So most flags on Main Street USA are purposely missing a star or a stripe, which means they are not considered true American flags, and can therefore be left up permanently.
9. Beastly Kingdom
If you’ve ever wondered why DinoLand USA exists in a park that otherwise features living animals, wonder no more! Originally, Animal Kingdom was designed to involve mythological creatures as well as existing and extinct animals, but this section of the park (to be called “Beastly Kingdom”) was never built. If you keep your eyes peeled, though, you may spot remnants of the park-that-never-was in the fantastical creatures featured on Animal Kingdom’s parking lot signs, and also in its logo.
10. Star Tours: The Combinations Continue
How many different ride scenes have you had on Star Tours: The Adventure Continues? There are actually an astonishing 54 distinct possible ride experiences for this attraction, made up of different combinations of scenes. It would take an exhausting four hours of non-stop riding in order to see each and every potential combination!
11. Soaring Heights
Walt Disney World’s Expedition Everest holds some impressive records. It’s the tallest artificial mountain in the world, and it’s also the tallest attraction at Walt Disney World (it beats out Tower of Terror by a mere 6 inches!). It stands at 199.5 meters tall, and if it were any taller, it would need to have a flashing light on it, as per the Federal Aviation Authority’s requirements! Fun fact: although the ride is themed after the Himalayas, the mountain isn’t a replica of Mount Everest – it’s actually called Forbidden Mountain.
12. Royal Suite of Dreams
There is a luxurious suite of rooms high within Cinderella Castle – but don’t get your hopes up about staying here! The suite was initially built as an apartment for Walt Disney and his family, but he didn’t live long enough to use it. It now serves as a prize for lucky contest winners, but it’s impossible to buy your way in. You can, however, get a look at the royal suite, in all of its extravagant glory, online.