The Ultimate Disneyland Bucket List

Max out your day at the Anaheim theme park with cool cocktails, secret entrances, after parties, and more.

When planning a trip to Disneyland or California Adventure, the focus is usually on the roller coaster and rides, maybe a fireworks spectacular or parade, depending on the time of year. But there’s so much more to these iconic theme parks, and it would take a lifetime, a heap of cash, and a slew of special friends with excellent access to conquer everything before you finally take that proverbial bite of Snow White’s poisoned apple. The good news is you’ve still got plenty of time, and we’ve got the perfect bucket list to make sure each trip to Walt’s kingdom is better than the last.

From intel on secret menu items and hidden passageways to double-dare worthy items, we’ve put together a bevy of brilliant ideas to make these magical parks an entirely new playground for your ongoing explorations.

Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

1. Pull the rope outside Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular

As you wait in line outside the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show, you may spot a well with a sign on it which reads: “Warning: Do Not Pull Rope.” Give into temptation and give it a tug anyway. You’ll see why.

Flickr/Loren Javier

2. Take the secret entrance into the Haunted Mansion

Referred to as the “servant’s entrance” by cast members, this secret passageway takes guests from the side of the house straight to the hallway and the ride’s “doom buggies.” If you can’t locate it, politely pull aside an employee to get the deets and don’t forget to say “Pretty please.”

Flickr/Sarah Browning

3. Uncover secret messages inside Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

Within the walls of the Sleeping Beauty Castle resides a lesser-known attraction filled with secrets. Dimly-lit hallways reveal projected scenes from the movie, while under-the-radar offerings beg for you to uncover them, like finding the wooden door that releases the sound of a beast laughing, scratching, and banging when the handle is pulled.

4. Learn how to draw like an animator

Despite its listing in the park map, this cool Disneyland attraction continues to be missed by the masses. Animation Academy mini-classes are offered throughout the day—totally free of charge. The classes involve an animator showing you the step-by-step process of how to draw a Disney character. You’ll receive a paper, pencil, and a writing surface to hone your skills.

On select nights, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park separately host ticketed parties once the park closes to the general public. The parties are themed, and you can dress up accordingly. Expect curated food and drink to fit the theme, live music, parades, fireworks, and more. But the best part is that certain rides remain open, which means much shorter lines.

6. Find the hidden Cheshire Cat

You’ll have to time it right, since it’s not a given the cat will make an appearance on your visit, but if you look at the mirror in Fantasyland’s Mad Hatter shop on the right day, you might just see a grinning cat looking back at you. Be patient and look for several minutes or longer, and you may just notice the Cheshire Cat appears—if only for a moment. The trick is to find the right mirror. Hint: look for the caterpillar!

7. Go on your birthday

Pick up a Celebration Button to indulge in ego-fueled birthday love all day long. The festive personalized button grants you access to overzealous cast members excitedly celebrating you as you peruse the park. You can also score a free dessert at many Disney restaurants (and maybe a glass of champagne!).


8. Order a secret cocktail at Lamplight Lounge

Lamplight Lounge (formerly Cove Bar) has offered secret menu items for years. Order the Mickey’s Fun Wheel for a strong, Instagram-worthy concoction. The drink, one of five off-menu delights at the moment, is Disney’s version of an Adios MF: vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and blue Curacao, plus lemonade, and a few other splashes.

Lilly Belle

9. Upgrade your train trip around the park

On certain occasions, the Lilly Belle—Mrs. Walt Disney's private car for entertaining guests back in the day—takes VIPs around the park. If you time service and your special connections right, you can get a chance to board the 1928 train car, where you’ll learn intimate history and see special artifacts like Walt Disney’s “smoking jacket.” It’s rumored the Grand Circle Tour offers the chance to board the parlor car, along with a BTS look at the Disneyland Railroad.

Flickr/Loren Javier

10. Spot Buff, Max, and Melvin in Winnie the Pooh's nightmare

A timepiece from the glory of old Disneyland, this mounted bison, buck, and bull moose were MCs of the Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland that ran from '72 until two days before 9/11. The toddler-friendly Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride took its place, but this animatronic trio survived. Look for 'em as you leave the Heffalumps & Woozles honey room.

11. Earn a Disney Coast to Coast medal

This accomplishment takes major time and money investment and some serious training if you aren't already a runner. But if you complete half-marathons at both Disneyland and Disney World in the same year, you earn a special "Partners" medal. At the very least, do a 5K or 10K walk inside and outside the park; whatever the route, you'll still see sides of the place you didn't know existed.

Flickr/Inside the Magic

12. Dine at Club 33

It's almost become a cliché to boast about having eaten here, but for almost half a century this has been the best way to lord your Disney elitism over envious friends—in large part because the initial membership costs $25,000, while you’ll have to pay $10,000 annually thereafter. The food is very good, not exactly great. Crashing the exclusivity of it all, including movie props and costumes only located inside, is what makes it a must.

Again: good luck. Disney's private home away from home looks down upon the Main St roundabout from atop the nearby fire station (the light is always left on, in tribute). It's typically only seen via V-VIP tours—and even then it isn't always included, or approached for more than a glimpse. It’s still something of a mecca for those who think the innovator might someday be cryogenically unfrozen and reside here once more.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
Flickr/Thomas Hawk

14. Go to hell

After checking off all the other original Fantasyland rides (Snow White, Pinocchio), make Mr. Toad's Wild Ride the last stop, where you will get hit by a train while breaking out of prison and wind up in Satan's Playground, the end. It's not only one of the few remaining attractions from the 1955 opening but it's now only found at Disneyland—the one in Florida was closed in 1998 to make way for Winnie the Pooh.

15. See the Candlelight Processional

This December gathering is basically a mass cast-member choir parading down Main Street, faux-candles in hands, making their way to the circular center, where hymns follow and a celebrity—whether Disney related (Dick Van Dyke, Kurt Russell) or not (Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald)—retells the story of Christmas. A lovely tradition that dates back to 1958. But be warned: sometimes it rains and if that happens, it isn't rescheduled.

Flickr/Jackie Nell

16. Steer the Mark Twain Riverboat

Again, if you ask the right cast member very nicely, you could get escorted to the wheelhouse of this iconic ship, where you’ll be allowed to "steer" the boat (it's on a track) and blow its mighty whistle. Don't forget to add your name to the guest book, which lists thousands of other honorary drivers dating back to when the park opened.

17. Locate Eeyore in the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

The always interminably long line for the Indiana Jones Adventure ride, as well as the crash course itself, resides over part of what used to be the parking lot closest to the main entrance. In order to maintain its longstanding tradition of tucking Easter eggs away throughout the park (see also: hidden Mickeys later in this list), Disney engineers kept one of the signs from the original Eeyore lot visible as you shuffle through the movie-room portion of the queue.

18. Spring for the deluxe World of Color dining experience

Secure a primo spot for what's surely the most inspired sight at Disney West by going all out with a pricey dinner. It won’t be the chateaubriand of your dreams, but it won't suck, either. And the show is undeniably spectacular.

Flickr/Andy Castro

19. Unlock the secret point-spikers in Toy Story Midway Mania

Ever wonder how the monthly high scores for this 3D shoot/smash/toss-'em-up contest are always in the hundreds of thousands, even millions, yet you can't crack 50k? That's because those shooters/smashers/tossers know all the spots to blast to make higher point values appear. Like popping the rising balloon comets three times during Rex & Trixie's Dino Darts portion, which will cause more comets to zip in from the sides and explode in the middle.

Unsplash/Leila Bandringa

20. Bar crawl the entire resort

There will never be alcohol openly served inside the Magic Kingdom, per Walt's orders; only in Club 33 can you get a proper drink. But there are more than two dozen other places to imbibe on Disney property, from the Alfresco Tasting Terrace in California Adventure to the Uva Bar in the heart of Downtown Disney. Might be difficult to hit all of them in a single day, given the exclusivity of a few (see: 1901 Lounge), but try to hit at least 10 and then see how Splash Mountain feels.

21. Find all the Hidden Mickeys

There are more than 100 Mickeys hidden throughout the park, from manhole covers in Toontown to a silhouette of one in the Big Ben clock tower on Peter Pan's Flight. You've got the rest of your life to find the rest.

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Alexa Erickson is a contributor to Thrillist.
Ben Wener is the former pop music critic at The Orange County Register and has written for The Hollywood Reporter, Consequence of Sound, and more. Find him on Twitter and Instagram.