While it’s hard to miss the Mark Twain, with its signature steam whistle, as you walk through the west side of Disneyland, many people don’t know it houses one of my favorite “hidden gem” experiences at Disneyland. Like most of the Disneyland’s hidden gems, this one is “hidden” in plain sight.
The Wheelhouse of the Mark Twain is a very unique way to experience a Disneyland Attraction: from the vantage of the ride operator! For most rides at Disneyland, you’re not allowed to peek behind the curtain and see a bit of how the attraction works. On the Mark Twain, the wheelhouse provides you with not only the opportunity to talk with the ride operator, but also to ‘drive’ the Twain.
The large captain’s wheel is at your disposal to drive the Twain whichever direction you want… (as long as that direction is on the Twain’s track). You do get to assist in the operation of the ride however. The steam whistle is used to communicate between the Twain and the Columbia (the Pirate ship) where each other are on the Rivers of America. The ride operator will ask you to give two blasts from the whistle to send a message to the Columbia that you’re clear of the dock (and they’re clear to approach).
After getting to enjoy a top deck view of the other guests, animals, and Indian Tribe around the Rivers of America, your trip will draw to a close as the approach the dock. As you approach, the ride operator will ask you if you’d care to sign the Twain’s Guestbook to commemorate your experience. They will also present you with your Pilot’s Certificate to show you officially commanded the Twain around the park.
So just how do you experience this unique trip around the Rivers of America? Well, it used to be fairly straightforward — whoever was the first up to the wheelhouse could ask the operator if they could join them. More recently, I’ve noticed that the cast will often choose a lucky family on the dock before even loading the Twain. The best way is to ask nicely one of the Cast Members if you can join them in the wheelhouse, and if you’re lucky, some magic will happen for you.
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