Millions of visitors trek to some of the most famous landmarks and attractions across the United States each year. But few of them know about the secrets hidden beneath the surface. Here are a few of our favorites.
While millions of tourists visit the Happiest Place on Earth every year, very few of them get the chance to enter an exclusive club, hidden in New Orleans Square. Club 33 is not open to the public, and is instead an exclusive membership club, with access only permitted to those with Club Membership.
Club 33 was founded by the Disneys as a private lounge to host celebrities, politicians, and other public figures. Today, individuals can purchase access to the hidden lounge for a lofty price tag, but Club 33 remains the most exclusive Disney restaurant in the world.
Club 33 is situated above the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Those lucky enough to gain access use their special membership card to buzz themselves in, where they enter a reception area filled with antique furniture and decorations, some of which were picked out by Walt Disney himself. There is an open courtyard, two restaurants, an elevator, a bar, and various props from Disney movies.
While Club 33 has grown in notoriety since its initial formation as a room exclusively for Walt Disney and his guests, the accessibility remains so exclusive that most Pirates of the Caribbean riders remain completely unaware of what they are standing underneath.
2. Mount Rushmore
Keystone, South Dakota
Mount Rushmore’s famous four presidential heads celebrate important figures in America’s history. But during the 14-year construction of the sculptures, Gutzon Borglum, the artist in charge of executing the project, began to worry that someday, as society evolved and civilizations fell, people would no longer know the history of the faces in the mountains.
In order to prevent this, he decided to build a hidden chamber, right behind Lincoln’s face, and fill it with information about the history of the country, the presidents featured on the mountain, and the sculpture itself.
Borglum began the process of creating the room, but after his death in 1941, the plans were abandoned, and the attraction opened to the public with the hidden room closed off to the public. However, in 1998, monument officials decided to try to complete the initial goal of the space and filled the vault with porcelain panels, inscribed with the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and other important records and documents.
The hidden room remains too difficult for tourists to access, so the room stays closed off, remaining a secret only Abraham Lincoln’s sculpted head knows.
3. Grand Central Station
New York City
Hundreds of thousands of commuters pass through New York’s Grand Central Station every day, but much fewer make their way to the Annex and reserve a court for some tennis.
This space has been both a recording studio and an art gallery, but in the 1960s, the third floor was turned into an athletic club, filled with clay courts. However, when the club suffered financial troubles, it was re-purchased in the ’80s and closed to the general public and transformed into an exclusive and expensive lounge.
After the owners once again changed in 2009, the courts were reopened to the public, and are now available for rent to anyone who wants to get some tennis in. But its hidden location and years of exclusivity work to keep this piece of trivia fairly unknown.
4. Statue Of Liberty
New York City
The Statue of Liberty is one of the country’s most iconic symbols, and as a result, millions of tourists make the journey to the monument every year. Tourists can book tickets to climb on the pedestal or the crown, and years ago they could have climbed the torch as well.
There is a secret platform in the statue’s famous torch, but it has been closed off to the public for more than 100 years. However, in an effort to replicate the real thing, the National Park Service hosts a camera on EarthCam with a view from the torch.
5. The Supreme Court
Much of the Supreme Court Building is what anyone would expect — libraries, courtrooms, and offices — but the fifth floor has a surprising addition. Nicknamed “the highest court in the land,” a basketball court sits at the top of the building.
The room was originally intended for storage, but one Justice used it for tennis, and eventually, it turned into the basketball court we know today. Justices, clerks, and librarians are known to climb to the top and play a game.
6. Space Needle
The signature landmark in Seattle was built for the World’s Fair in 1962, but the millions of visitors who have ridden to the top for almost 60 years are probably not aware of what used to be there.
A massive flame, 40 to 50 feet high, once burned atop the structure, giving it the nickname the needle of flame. The idea was to promote the use of natural gas during the World’s Fair. This potentially dangerous idea was extinguished shortly after the fair ended.
As a side note, fans of the 1960s cartoon The Jetsons might remember the building where George Jetson and his family lived. Animator Iwao Takamoto revealed decades later that the inspiration for the home was the Space Needle.
7. Hoover Dam
Boulder City, Nevada
Built in the 1930s to tame the Colorado River, the five-year project created Lake Mead, one of the most popular recreation areas for Las Vegas residents. But while most water skiers and boaters enjoy the surface, they are unaware of what lies below.
Wreck Alley, a series of boat wrecks, remains fairly well preserved. Among the highlights is the Southern Cross, a 37-foot wooden sailboat.
There is also a plane on the bottom of the lake, thanks to a pilot who attempted a water landing in 1949 that went awry.