When Walt Disney was designing Disneyland, he wanted guests to feel like they were taking part in a living, breathing, interactive movie for which they had to purchase multiple tickets. As part of this strategy, he designed Disneyland's entrance with red stone on the ground and a pair of entrance tunnels that were originally supposed to sport large curtains that would open and close like the curtains in front of a movie screen.
This all changed when a site worker, watching the installation of red paving and curtains, said to Disney, "Oh, I get it! Red ground like blood, and curtains like, 'It's curtains for you!'" It was too late to change the pavement, but Disney immediately had the curtains removed (they can now be seen at the entrance to the Main Street Cinema).
The two tunnels through the berm beneath the railroad remain, of course, leaving Disneyland visitors with two choices after passing through the turnstiles -- the left tunnel or the right tunnel. (Technically there is a third option, just milling around in the front courtyard all day, but it is seldom chosen). There has been a great amount of debate over which tunnel is optimal for entering the park, with discussions among annual pass holders in particular sometimes ending in a visit from security and a side trip to "Mickey's hoosegow."
By tradition, the tunnels are referred to by their position as seen by a guest standing just inside the turnstiles and facing the Mickey Mouse floral arrangement. The left-hand tunnel is, for example, to a guest's left at this point, and this tunnel is called the left tunnel at all times, even when guests are exiting the park. This occasionally causes confusion, as non-passholders are often unaware that they have to go to the right to exit via the left tunnel.
The arguments for choosing one tunnel over another at time of entry can be broken down into four main categories -- aesthetics, convenience, superstition and tradition, and miscellaneous -- and are summarized in the table below.
Argument for the Left-Hand Tunnel
Argument for the Right-Hand Tunnel
Main Street vehicles are more often moving toward guests as they enter. City Hall and the Fire Station beyond can be seen almost immediately.
A better, more direct view of City Hall and of Main Street itself. View is not dominated by the over-commercial Emporium.
Perceived by maintenance to receive more traffic and therefore better maintained.
Receives less traffic and therefore in better condition.
Better smell due to the proximity of the Town Square popcorn cart.
Better smell because it is farther from where the train rests when stopped at Main Street Station.
The subject of which tunnel is more convenient to a restroom is the subject of much debate. Most guests consider the left-hand tunnel to be closer to a restroom because the City Hall restrooms are so obvious. However, the restrooms behind the Bank of Main Street are much closer to the tunnel itself, although not as nice as those at City Hall. On the other hand, most guests will have to walk further to reach the right tunnel. If time is of the essence, the average walking distance to the Bank restrooms is 1.5 feet less than that to the City Hall restrooms, giving them a slight edge.
Less likely to be used by low-income tourists staying at budget hotels (an appeal for snobby passholders only).
Less crowded because guests arriving from the hotels and Mickey and Friends parking lots have a tendency to use the left tunnel.
Farther from stroller rental so there is less wheeled traffic.
Handy for parents because it's closer to stroller rental.
At one time storage lockers were located adjacent to the Emporium, directly across from the left tunnel. This convenience no longer exists.
Storage lockers are located mid-Main Street on the right-hand side, making them slightly more convenient to the right tunnel.
Convenient to City Hall, where guests may pick up a map, ask for a birthday sticker, demand special treatment, or start the day off with a complaint.
Convenient to the bank and the first ATM since the one just outside the gate.
Farther from the security office, so you're less likely to be nabbed for running to get a good rope-drop position.
Closer to the Opera House and Mr. Lincoln (or his -- dare we say it? -- replacement).
Costumed characters are more likely to be encountered in front of the Opera House or hat shop than anywhere on the left side of Main Street.
Superstition and tradition
Many guests continue to use the tunnel that their families used when they were children. Such guests may whine (and, in some cases, cry) when forced to use the "wrong" tunnel.
Practitioners of feng shui generally both exit and enter through the tunnel on their left side. Such practitioners are often derided by park guests because, to "maintain energy balance" they insist on taking as long exiting a ride as they took waiting to get on it.
In 1978, an old woman was attempting to stagger back to her car after a particularly severe reaction to the Haunted Mansion. She had a heart attack in the left tunnel and died. Her ghost haunts it to this day.
It is said that Walt Disney always entered the park through the left tunnel because it was closer to his private apartment in the Fire Station.
It is said that Walt Disney was left handed, and since left-handed people use the right side of their brain the most, the right tunnel should be preferred in his honor.
Some guests always enter through the left tunnel and exit through the right tunnel, making sure that they never cross the same piece of pavement during their stay and thereby helping prevent uneven wear on the park.
There is a superstition among high school students visiting Disneyland for Grad Nite that anyone who enters Disneyland through the left tunnel is gay. Scientific research does not support this conclusion.
Arguments for which tunnel to exit the park from are just as varied as those for which tunnel to enter from, but they are beyond the scope of this discussion. We suggest that you examine the evidence and come to a personal decision with the assistance of your family, fellow guests, and tax advisor.
Note: All the furor over which tunnel to use occasionally gets on Disneyland management's nerves. This is why when Disney California Adventure was designed, it was decided that there would be just one big opening with nothing interesting anywhere nearby. An unintended side effect of this strategy is that the large, open entrance makes it look like nobody's visiting the park, when in point of fact it is absolutely crammed all the time.