My husband and I were lucky enough to enjoy the Keys to the Kingdom tour in Magic Kingdom earlier this year. This is one of many special tours Disney World offers throughout the year. Like all Disney tours, they are available at an additional cost and must be scheduled in advance. This tour in particular is only available for guests age 16 and up. Guests should be in good health as the tour is quite a bit of walking over a 5 hour period.
Tours are offered 3 times daily with start times at 8:30, 9:00, and 9:30 am and are approximately 5 hours in length. Cost is $79 per adult. There are discounts for Disney Visa Card holders, DVC members, and Annual Passholders. If you qualify for one of these discounts, you must mention it at time of booking. Payment is due at the time of booking as well and is refundable if cancelled more than 24 hours in advance from the date of your experience.
We chose the 9:30 am tour as it was the day after our late evening arrival and wanted enough time to sleep in. We checked in at Guest Services in the Town Square at Magic Kingdom and were given a name tag, earpiece, bottle of water, and asked to choose an item off the lunch menu. Lunch was scheduled for us at Columbia Harbour House (more on this later – it was the first time we had eaten here!)
Right around 9:30, we were greeted by our Guest Services tour guide who was chipper and knowledgable. We were told about the 4 keys to Walt Disney World – its foundation: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency. We started our tour down Main Street USA looking at some of the various small details and learning how the layout and buildings play tricks on your eyes to make it feel like a magical experience as you see the castle for the very first time. Many of the larger details pointed out to us were things that I have learned over the years from reading about Disney or from seeking out special tips and hints but I did learn a few new things about the names on the windows along Main Street USA. I also learned some additional history of the creation of Walt Disney World. I’ll leave as much of this under wraps for those that want to keep the magic or to savor the experience for themselves. I’d guess we spent the first 45 minutes of the tour along Main Street getting history and details of the creation of Walt Disney World and Magic Kingdom.
Once we exited Main Street, we walked toward Adventureland and shown the attention to how all of the plants and trees start to change. Our next stop was to take a backstage look at the Jungle Cruise. Instead of the skippers corny jokes, we are given the history of the attraction and some more of the hidden treasures. It was a great look at how the ride was created, Walt’s original plan for the attraction, and what it has become today.
After exiting the attraction, we took a seat at the ever open at Tortuga Tavern in the shade which was a nice break on a hot day and got more history of Walt’s life and how both Disneyland and Walt Disney World came out of his brilliant mind. Interesting backstory, but a lot more detail than I think the tour needed. (I’ve read that sometimes the tour also gets to Experience Pirates of the Caribbean but it was closed for refurbishment at the time we on our tour).
We got to experience our first time backstage here (we were given a quick bathroom break – there are many along this tour which is nice for someone like me that drinks a lot of water around the theme parks!) We walked to the left of Splash Mountain over the train tracks and got to see many of the parade floats. This might have been my favorite part of the tour – I LOVE Magic Kingdom parades. The location they house all of the floats is massive! I wouldn’t have guessed there were so many – but they keep the ones for Christmas and Halloween as well as the 2 daily parades AND the Move It, Shake It Street Party all on one location. We got some fun information from a cast member that works with the floats and drives them about how truly difficult that job is and what safety precautions they go through on a regular basis. It takes quite a bit to work your way up to drive some of those huge floats. Did you know that some of them don’t even have sight lines and rely solely on cameras? CRAZY!
After we returned on stage, we walked from Frontierland to Liberty Square and some additional unique details of the time periods were pointed out to us (like Main Street, I learned some new and unique things). Then, it was time for LUNCH which worked out perfectly, because I was starving!
We were seated in a little private area upstairs at Columbia Harbour House. Our meals were set by a place card for us and under the place card was our very own “Key” to the Kingdom pin! Lunch was tasty and fresh. Each person at our table had something different and enjoyed it. I’d go back there for for a quick service meal in the future!
After lunch, we were off to our second attraction of the day – Haunted Mansion. Our guide gave us some information about the Mansion’s exterior and it’s playful nature (some new things I didn’t know about one of my favorite WDW attractions!) We were given instructions of a few things to look for during our experience – did you know that the gravedigger in Haunted Mansion and the man scurrying up the pole in Jungle Cruise have the same “face”? It’s true! Next time you visit, do both of those attractions in the same day and compare! That’s a little teaser – I don’t want to give away all of the secrets of the tour.
The tour stops in Liberty Square and we head back toward Main Street USA with a few comments about the castle – no Fantasyland or Tomorrowland on this tour. THIS was the moment I had been waiting for – going down into the Utilidors – the underground tunnels of Magic Kingdom. I can say, like most, I was very underwhelmed! I was hoping to see characters getting prepped or Mickey without his head on, but nothing! It was just many cast members scurrying around us, prep areas, and a few walls with photos and some unique plaques which look like they got added specifically for this tour. The most interesting thing for me was the cast member pin trade station. It’s a little both that cast members who participate in pin trading, can swap out the pins that guests don’t want for more desirable ones. If I were a betting woman, the ones in good condition get recycled into the “mystery pins” bag. VERY SMART Disney – you win again!!
After we came back on stage, we concluded our tour. Was it interesting? Yes! Did I feel like it ruined any of the Magic of Magic Kingdom? Not at all! It was a lot more history and factual based that I expected it to be. Some of the knowledge was repeat info I had learned over my years of research and traveling. This tour is NOT for a first timer in Disney World. It’s best suited for seasoned veterans who are looking for a unique look at the Magic Kingdom. I don’t think I would do the same tour again, but it was interesting enough to make me want more for a future tour! Next time, hopefully in cooler weather! Would I recommend this tour to a friend or family member? YES! As I mentioned, it’s best suited for someone who already knows Magic Kingdom well (you don’t want your first ride on The Jungle Cruise to ruin all of the magic!!)
Have you taken Keys to the Kingdom tour? What are your thoughts? What is your favorite Disney tour? I’d love hear from you!!