There's one thing you may not have known you could do at Disneyland: You can go inside Sleeping Beauty's Castle. The iconic castle isn't just a backdrop for a selfie or a front for the fireworks; it's also a walk-through attraction. That doesn't mean simply walking over the drawbridge and through the arch into Fantasyland. There's actually a hidden attraction inside.
Few people know that you can walk through the castle's winding passageways to see 3-D models that tell the Sleeping Beauty story. As you travel through the castle, you'll encounter pages from the story. Each part of the tale is accompanied by a scene that illustrates it.
When you think about it, the Sleeping Beauty story is about a jealous, demonic witch who tries to kill a teenage girl out of jealousy. Setting aside the happy ending, it's a tale that's meant to be more scary than sappy.
In keeping with that, some of the effects are quite creepy, created using techniques that include extreme forced perspective, Pepper’s Ghost Illusion, and black light projection. The final scene includes Maleficent's transformation into a fire-breathing dragon.
History of Disneyland's Castle
The centerpiece of Disneyland has been there since the park opened, its design based Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany's Bavaria. In the beginning, it was very pale blue and light gray, but over the years, the palette has gradually evolved to pink and blue. The spires on top are covered with 22-karat gold leaf to give off just the right shine. For landmark anniversaries and the holidays, the castle always gets new decorations.
On Disneyland's opening day, knights on horseback appeared in front of the castle. They blew horns. The drawbridge lowered, and a sea of children ran through the gateway to Fantasyland for the first time. You can see what opening day looked like In an article from ABC television.
There was a walk-through in the castle in the early days, and another in 1977, but in 2001, it closed. And it stayed that way for seven years. For the fiftieth anniversary, Disney redid the attraction, this time using the same style that artist Eyvind Earle used for the movie.
The California castle is not the biggest in the Disney parks. In fact, it ties with the Hong Kong castle in for the smallest at 77 feet tall. It does have the distinction of being the first, its size tempered by Walt Disney's desire not to overwhelm his guests. The working drawbridge has been up only twice, before Disneyland's opening in 1955 and for the Fantasyland re-dedication in 1983.
Taking Photos of the Castle
Everyone dreams of taking that special photo or selfie in front of the castle, but things can get in the way. Like any other attraction at Disneyland, the castle sometimes closes for maintenance, renovation, or upgrades. To find out, check the Park Hours tab of the monthly calendar page to see what's being worked on.
Other things can get in the way of your photography, too. The entrances from both sides are blocked off about an hour before the evening fireworks, and people line up along the sidewalk in front to wait for the parades to happen.
But there's also good news and more hidden things to check out. If you are approaching the castle from Main Street USA, veer to the right, and you'll find a wishing well and Snow White's Grotto.
More About the Castle Attraction
If you are claustrophobic, you may not have fun at all. The passageways are narrow and dark. The walkthrough attraction also has lots of stairs and no elevator. If you’re unable to enter for any reason, you can watch a high-definition video walkthrough on the ground floor. Contact a Cast Member to get access.
You enter the attraction from the Fantasyland side of the castle. If you're facing the castle with Fantasyland behind you, the entrance is on the right.
Children who are afraid of the dark or easily scared may not like this attraction, especially when the evil Maleficent turns into a dragon.
Take your time to enjoy all the details and special effects.
You'll find Maleficent's henchmen in the Corridor of Goons. If you put your hands in the windows, you can see some extra special effects.
More Walk-Through Attractions at Disneyland
If you'd rather walk than ride, you'll find a lot of things to do in Disneyland. See parts of Disneyland that many other visitors miss, and explore ten walk-through attractions.