Discovering the history of the most magical theme park in the world on a 5-hour VIP Walking Tour
There are plenty of ways to find out about the inner workings of Walt Disney World. From the various leadership books written by former employees of The Walt Disney Company to insider tips and training tools authored by those outside of the organization, the implementation of Walt’s ideas into the way the Magic Kingdom is run today is fairly well known.
Maybe you’re like us, where there’s no limit to the knowledge about the Mouse that you don’t want to know. You find podcasts about trip reviews, buy books from Amazon that bring to light your desire to know how the Haunted Mansion is designed…or you stop by websites like StepsToMagic.com for trip planning ideas about making your next vacation to Orlando as epic as possible!
We have found that some of the best “behind the scenes” experiences, while you’re actually in Walt Disney World, are the numerous Tours that provide you the opportunity to ask questions that most cast members wouldn’t be able to answer in their day-to-day roles. These offerings run from the Behind the Seeds tour at the Land Pavilion @ EPCOT (1-hour, $20 look into the greenhouses and production facility within Living with the Land) to the Backstage Magic Tour (7-hour, $249 tour of all four parks)…and many options in between!
The most popular, best value and overall top rated tour on Disney property in our opinion is the Keys to the Kingdom Tour at the Magic Kingdom.
I’m going to start with the tips before going into our review.
- Book Early – the best part about the tours is that you’re able to make your booking up to 180 days out. We waited until a month before, just to solidify our ADR reservations and knowing when we were going to be doing our Universal day, as you don’t really want to miss out on the tour if they run out of spots.
- Take the Early Tour – The best time is by far 8 am, as you’re able to finish the tour before the heat takes effect. You also don’t run into the other groups, which could happen due to the size of the tours and a number of questions they have.
- Come Prepared – Ask questions. There are no stupid questions AND the tour guides go through an in-depth training process in order to lead these tours…so have fun and ask things that you never thought you’d be able to ask!
- Don’t go on the tour in order to ride attractions – Yes, you get to ride a couple attractions (Jungle Cruise & Haunted Mansion), but the goal is to experience the Magic Kingdom through a new set of eyes.
- Wear comfy shoes – It’s a walking tour folks! You’ll be walking into locations that you usually don’t get to…on a couple different floors;)
Another important tip is that the Keys to the Kingdom, just like most experiences, toursare not purchased through your online account or MyDisneyExperience App. You call through to the reservation hotline (407) WDW-TOUR and use your credit card to purchase the tour. You’re not provided a receipt or anything except for a reference number. We went through Disney support to get an email confirmation, as we didn’t want any last minute surprises.
Now the review of a tour is always a difficult thing to write, as I don’t want to spoil anything. Honestly, it’s important to know what to expect..without knowing “what to expect” (if you know what I mean).
Let’s look into the things that you’ll need to know, and other things that you may want to know.
Jill and I went on the 8 am tour on a weekday, with a group of 10 other guys who had varying level of interests. Some were former cast members (like myself), and others were Disney Vacation Club members…and there was even a couple who had booked this on their second day of their first trip to WDW!
The tour begins at the Town Square Theatre, where you check into a cast member who has a list of all the participants for the tours of the day. The goal is to arrive 15-minutes prior to the tour, but if you get their early…there’s nothing wrong with getting a little breakfast at the Confectionary or Starbucks;) After you’ve checked in, they’ll provide you with your Tour package, which consisted of a black pack which you hang around your neck that has a card that states that you’re on a VIP Tour (for those backstage moments when cast members need to know that you’re supposed to be there) and an ear piece that you wear while on route. This earpiece is a huge part of the experience, as there are times when you’re right next to your guide…and others when you’re right next to a speaker that’s playing atmospheric music.
You’re also given a menu so that you’re able to make your lunch order. This will allow the cast members at the restaurant to have everything ready for your group without having to wait.
The tour guide is a member of the Guest Relations team, and has gone through enough training to know the in’s and out’s of the Magic Kingdom, which means that they are knowledgeable about the craft of leading groups around the route without giving too much away to the regular guests who may be at the park for their first time. They’ll also be very up-front about the questions that you’re able to ask “on-stage” versus “backstage”. Topics that are best left for backstage will actually be addressed when asked and instructed that we’ll cover it the next time we’re out of sight of guests not on the tour.
Please note that you’re not able to have any technology out during the tour. This means your phones, cameras, and go-pros (yes, this is a regular thing) have to be stored during the tour. This is due to the content that the tour provides, the locations that you visit and the fact that you’re on the tour to experience everything that the guide has to offer…not to be focused on the lens.
You spend the next 5-hours on your adventure!
One of the highlights of the tour is the lunch, which is in a special VIP section of the Columbia Harbour House quick service restaurant. The food is the regular items from the menu, with an added bonus…you get to eat with your tour guide! This is such a great opportunity to learn about how long your guide has been working for Disney, what they like about Guest Relations and the Keys to the Kingdom Tour itself…and most importantly…how they came to be giving the tour.
After lunch, you go right back into the tour, with a few more stops before ending at the Fire Station on Main Street. With the final story and the traditional warm wishes for a magical time at the Happiest Place on Earth, your guide bids you farewell and you go on your way…with a nice little souvenir to remember the time that you learned about the Keys To the Kingdom!
I will not cover the exact topics of the tour, but DisneyWorld.com highlights:
The Magic Kingdom to the Max
Unlock the fascinating history of Magic Kingdom park and gain backstage access to legendary hidden areas.
This 5-hour walking tour explores the creation and remarkable growth of one of the most beloved parks at Walt Disney World Resort! Explore secret locations you’ve always wondered about and get the inside scoop on some of your favorite attractions.
During your tour:
- Uncover the hidden secrets of classic attractions at Magic Kingdom Park.
- Access the famed underground “Utilidor” tunnels that allow people and supplies to travel beneath the park unseen.
- Discover little-known facts, trivia and other exciting tidbits about the park.
- Enjoy a delicious lunch—included with your tour.
- Take home an exclusive keepsake!
Know Before You Go
View important information including recommended attire, Guest restrictions, and cancellation policies.
- Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour is an outdoor walking tour, so check the weather forecast and dress appropriately.
- For more information or to make a reservation, please call (407) WDW-TOUR. Guests under 18 years of age must have parent or guardian permission to call.
- No cameras, video equipment or cell phones may be used throughout the duration of the tour. Photography is strictly prohibited.
- Locations and attractions visited on your tour are subject to change without notice.
- Guests must be 16 years of age or older and have a valid photo I.D.
- Please check in at Town Square Theater 15 minutes prior to the start of your tour. You will forfeit the entire price of your tour if you no-show or cancel within 2 days of your reservation.
- Same-day bookings are on a walk-up basis only, based on availability.
- Lunch is included.
- Annual Passholders, Disney Chase Visa Cardmembers and Disney Vacation Club Members qualify for a 15% discount.
Have you ever taken the Keys to the Magic Kingdom tour? What were your thoughts?