Disneyland is known for its awesome roller coasters and legendary dark rides, but there are so many awesome things to discover that are somewhat under the radar. One of my favorite things to do in both Disneyland and California Adventure is visit “walkthrough” attractions. These are trails, galleries, or buildings to explore on your own, with no line and sometimes no right or wrong order to touring. Generally speaking, they don’t draw in crowds, so they’re like tiny oases full of hidden magic.
The following is my list of the Top 5 Walkthrough Attractions at the Disneyland Resort. If you’ve never been to any before, I highly recommend you incorporate at least a few into your touring plan!
This attraction is unique in that it changes regularly; each exhibit last for a few months, sometimes a year if it’s really popular. The front of the gallery features the temporary exhibit, and the back end of the gallery has a huge model of Disneyland in 1955. Some exhibits are more engaging than others, but there’s an excellent chance you’ll learn or see something new each time you visit.
Did you know you can visit the Beast’s Library? Disney Animation is one of California Adventure’s largest buildings, but you’ve probably breezed right by without a second thought.
Disney Animation is a series of galleries and activity rooms. Head down into the Sorcerer’s Workshop (at the end of the ramp), and you’ll find yourself in Merlin’s drawing room. You can sketch your own animations, learn tricks of the trade, or talk to Snow White’s magic mirror. If you pass into the next room, you’ll arrive in one of the most magical rooms in either park…Beast’s Library. Take a seat in front of an enchanted book, watch the petals fall from the rose, and look out! The beast may dim the lights and scratch his portrait when you least expect it.
I must admit, I skipped this attraction for years…from the outside, it doesn’t look like much. But the Challenge Trail is actually remarkably detailed, peaceful, and fun! Little kids can earn explorer badges by finding different landmarks and trying various activities, including camp shows and the zip line. But the whole family can wander through the fort, explore the nature trails, and take the spirit test inside the caves. The Challenge Trail is definitely a hidden gem within California Adventure.
If you want a higher vantage point for some park photos, there’s nothing quite like Tarzan’s Treehouse. The treehouse is actually several different smaller treehouse, connected by bridges and walkways. The various rooms retell the story of Tarzan, complete with your favorite characters and cool sound effects and music. As you walk from room to room, you’ll be able to see New Orleans Square and Frontierland, and you’ll get a unique look at the buildings that separate Frontierland and Adventureland. In the Treehouse, you get to walk through a classic Disney movie and take a behind-the-scenes peek at the park at the same time.
This is one of my absolute favorite attractions in Disneyland, if not the entire resort. This walkthrough has been in the park since the 50s (though it has been updated a few times), and it’s as charming as it is gorgeous. When you enter the castle, you travel through stone hallways, aligned with magic windows. Each window has an illuminated manuscript (a medieval book) that describes part of the film. When you look into the window, you’ll see a diorama depicting that portion of the story. And as you walk through the castle, the halls themselves have secrets. Look closely to spot Maleficent’s shadow peering from a corner, or her guards marching past a small doorway!