It all started with … a mouse? Well, yes, but it also started with a family visit to a local carousel in Griffith Park, California. Sitting on a park bench, Walt imagined a special place a whole family could visit and enjoy together. A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps takes you step by step with a very hands-on Walt Disney as he envisioned and created a very magical new world, Disneyland.
Meeting up at the guided tour booth at the entrance to Main Street, U.S.A., you are greeted by your guide and welcomed into a small group of fellow guests. Groups are generally less than twenty people so you can stay tight and stick together as your guide walks you through some of Walt’s favorite areas. Everyone is fitted with an earpiece so the guide is able to walk with you, pointing things out and explaining the history and decision-making behind various areas.
You will spend time in Fantasyland as well as New Orleans Square, two areas Walt had huge involvement in. You can feel like a VIP as your guide walks you past lines of some of the most iconic attractions where you board immediately. On our tour, we experienced Alice in Wonderland and the Haunted Mansion and got a bit of history and trivia about these areas that added to the fun.
The tour usually visits one of two rarely seen areas in the park – Walt’s apartment above the firehouse on Main Street, or the family apartment – also known as the Dream Suite – which sits perched atop Pirates of the Caribbean overlooking the Rivers of America. The Dream Suite was our treat for the day, and it was more than I had imagined it might be.
Over the years, this area has been converted for different uses. Walt never actually got to stay here as he passed away before it was completed. It was designed for Walt’s family and also as a space to entertain his guests (in combination with Club 33). In the early 90’s, I remember walking through the rooms as it was set up as an art gallery of original drawings and Disney history. The Dream Suite now is quite a lavish and charming apartment complete with parlor, guest bedrooms, luxurious bathrooms, and enchanted details that will surprise and delight any guest. You will have to walk in Walt’s footsteps to see for yourself!
While the visit to the Dream Suite was definitely an amazing opportunity, the highlight of the tour for me personally was our last stop. A bit more backstory and one of Walt’s favorite songs playing through the earpieces left everyone in our group affected and moved, many to tears.
We ended with a special lunch (pre-selected before the tour began) with our tour mates at the Jolly Holiday Bakery (one of my favorite places to stop for a bite to eat). We had our final opportunities to ask questions and chat with each other and our guide. We were each handed a beautiful collectible pin to commemorate the tour. A perfect ending to an incredible tour.
This tour is great both for a first-time visit, giving you an introduction and details of Disneyland that most guests do not experience, and also as a moving journey for guests like myself who had literally visited Disneyland over a hundred times before ever taking a tour.
That old bench from Griffith Park now sits where you can see it inside the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction, and the old carousel? Still turning in Griffith Park!