For many years, Disneyland's "A Walk in Walt's Footsteps" tour has been a once in a lifetime experience for guests at the Happiest Place on Earth. The title is especially fitting since Disneyland is the only park that Walt Disney personally stepped foot in. Over the years, the tour has changed and I recently experienced it in its current form on February 21st, now retitled "Walk in Walt's Disneyland Footsteps."
Your tour begins with check-in at Tour Guide Gardens. This three-and-a-half hour tour includes lunch and you place your order before the tour begins. Being a group tour with one guide, everyone is given a name tag, audio device and headphones. Our tour guide was Dakota, who started the tour in Town Square on Main Street.
If you've ever read a biography on Walt Disney or know the history of Disneyland, then you won't learn anything new here. The tour is really best designed for an average day guest who hasn't spent a lifetime obsessing over the parks. But if you're a Disneyland know-it-all like me, there are still a few reasons to take the tour. One of the first stops is the Main Street Fire Dept., which features Walt Disney's apartment on the second floor. The tour no longer goes inside, but our guide stopped to point out the lit lamp in the window.
Throughout the tour, audio clips of Walt Disney from various episodes of the Disneyland television series are played. Standing in the exact spot where Walt dedicated Disneyland on July 17th, 1955 while listening to his speech was a really nice touch and more moments like this are scattered throughout the tour.
Two attractions are included with the tour. Currently, you get to skip the line for Alice in Wonderland and The Haunted Mansion. Wonderland felt like an odd inclusion as Walt wasn't particularly fond of the film and the ride felt out of place in the tour's narrative. Before Haunted Mansion, you get to listen to audio of Walt explaining the "Museum of the Weird" attraction. It was nice to experience the stretch room with about half the usual capacity, but that didn't stop guests on the tour from quoting the attraction's spiel or taking flash pictures of the Hatbox Ghost (insert eye roll here).
Since the railroad is currently closed to make way for Star Wars Land, Dakota lead us to the New Orlean's Square station where we sat aboard one of the parked locomotives while he talked about Walt's love of trains. After meandering through Adventureland, the tour stopped for a five-minute "refreshment break."
The tour then led across the hub into Tomorrowland to highlight the Matterhorn, Autopia and It's a Small World. Leading back to the Hub, Dakota shared Walt's final dream of E.P.C.O.T. This concluded the Walt narrative portion of the tour. I was surprised that the tour doesn't tell a linear story and bounces back and forth on the Disney timeline on your way around the park. For example, you experience The Haunted Mansion well before learning about the 1964 World's Fair. I'm curious if the tour was designed with better flow, but has to follow a different footpath due to Star Wars Land construction.
We were then brought to our reserved tables at Jolly Holiday Bakery for the lunch we had pre-ordered. I got the roast beef sandwich with a fruit cup and Matterhorn macaroon. Because we attended a special Annual Passholder exclusive version of the tour, we also got a bonus sugar cookie to celebrate AP Days.
After lunch came the coup de grace of the experience, a tour of the Dream Suite that was created for the Year of a Million Dreams. This space was originally meant to be living quarters where Walt could entertain VIP guests and invite them to stay overnight in the park, but, after his death, the original plans weren't realized until 2007. The suite takes inspiration from original Dorthea Redmond concept sketches for the suite mixed with influences from the park itself. We entered the suite through a hidden elevator on the Adventureland side of the Pirates of the Caribbean queue.
Sadly, photos were not allowed inside the Dream Suite until the very end with one photo opportunity in front of the fireplace (for more photos, check out this post from the Laughing Place archives). Each room features a "Kiss Goodnight" and guests staying in the suite are allowed to press the button a maximum of three times during their stay. We got to explore every room in the Dream Suite, but my favorite was known as the "kids room," which is inspired by Frontierland. The shelves lining the permitter of the room feature antiques that pay homage to the history of the land, but the kiss goodnight is that the train comes to life and interacts with the objects it passes.
As we exited the Dream Suite, our tour was over. However, there were a few parting gifts which were distributed during lunch. One is a hinged pin on a card commemorating the tour which features Walt's dedication plaque. The other gift was exclusive to the AP version of the tour, four lithographs representing the artwork on the four buttons that were available weekly to Passholders for AP Days.
After the tour, we crossed the esplanade to Disney California Adventure to check out the AP Days festivities. In Stage 17, the set of the Olaf experience from Frozen Fun is still standing and has been used to entertain AP's. Button distribution, water, popcorn, pin trading, coloring, animated shorts and character meet and greets can be experienced inside. Blue Sky Cellar offers slightly less fun, with buttons, fliers and a video from Disneyland's Ambassador's thanking AP's for supporting the parks.
The tour currently costs $109 per person, but Annual Passholders, Disney Visa cardholders and Disney Vacation Club members can save 15% off the price. I'm glad that I finally took the tour and the highlight was definitely the trip through the Dream Suite. In addition, it saved us about an hour that we could have spent in line between the two included attractions and the convenience of having lunch waiting for you at a reserved table with Sleeping Beauty Castle in sight was a nice touch.