As a former Cast Member, I thought I thought I pretty much knew all the ins and outs of Walt Disney World, particularly that of my second home, the Magic Kingdom. I spent close to six months working on Main Street USA and definitely saw a lot of behind the scenes magic each and every day; especially if you consider filling the dumpster behind The Confectionery behind the scenes magic.
I knew the stories behind a lot of the windows on Main Street, and I was a pro at navigating the utilidor, but I still thirsted for more behind the scenes knowledge! I have always wanted to experience one of the behind the scenes tours offered by Disney, and during my most recent trip in October, I signed up for the Keys to the Kingdom Tour.
I had always assumed that the behind the scenes tours were out of my price range and something for the super rich guests to experience. How could I, traveling on a budget, afford one of these? Well, simply, I actually looked up the price for the tour! The Keys to the Kingdom Tour costs $79.00 per person and includes lunch. I was so surprised at the cost of the tour, I booked it immediately! Now, I realize that this may not be cost effective for everyone, and that an extra $79.00 per person may not be do-able for all budget travelers, but for me, I was able to swing this price and was very happy.
So, what is the Keys to the Kingdom Tour? As describes on the Walt Disney World website, “An in-depth, 5-hour look at the most iconic theme park at Walt Disney World Resort.”
Okay, want a little more detail?
“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!
Yes, you read that right; a 5 hour walking tour. When I first told my boyfriend that I had signed us up for a 5 hour walking tour, he looked less than pleased. But really, the time flies by and the tour provides plenty of opportunities to pause and get out of the sun for a bit.
The Keys to Kingdom Tour starts promptly at 8am, before the park opens. When we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, we headed to the tour check-in area at the turnstiles. Here, a Cast Member checks your reservation so that you are able to gain access to the park before it opens for all guests. This is the same process you go through if you have early breakfast reservations. Next, we headed to the Town Square Theatre to officially check in with our tour guide. Here we received our name tags, headsets, and complimentary bottles of water. At this point, we were also asked to choose what we wanted to eat for lunch later that day so that it would be ready for us upon our arrival.
The tour kicked off a few moments before rope drop and we were able to watch the always amusing, “running of the guest.” As we made our way down Main Street, our tour guide explained the history and conception of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World and highlighted key windows on Main Street that help to show the history of the hard working Imagineers who made the park possible.
The name “Keys to the Kingdom” has a bit of a double meaning. As it implies, you are given access to many behind the scenes areas that are usually restricted to Cast Member’s only. However, Disney also operates on four main “keys” – Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency – to make sure that every guest has the best possible experience. The tour highlights how these keys of service work together to create one cohesive experience. Disney really does focus on safety as their number one concern, and during the tour, our guide pointed out several examples of this at work in subtle but effective ways.
After making our way down Main Street, we hung a left and headed into Adventureland. Here, we were able to ride The Jungle Cruise – but with our tour guide as our skipper! Instead of the usual puns and jokes, she told us about the history and workings of the attraction and how it was brought to life. In Adventureland, we were also able to go behind the scenes to see where the parade floats are housed when they aren’t in use and get some insider information about how everything is put together. Even though we were visiting in October, Cast Members were busy practicing for the upcoming Christmas parade.
We then made our way into Frontierland, and then to Liberty Square where we had lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Lunch was delicious and the air conditioning was a welcomed break. After lunch, we were able to cut the line and jump right into a Doom Buggy for a spin through The Haunted Mansion.
And then, it was time for the grand finale – the utilidor. Our guide took us below the streets of the Magic Kingdom to show us how Cast Members are able to quickly get from one area of the park to another without being seen. Being in those tunnels brought back so many memories for me! It was really great to experience it again.
We had such a great time on the tour! It is definitely something that I would recommend to anyone who wants a closer look at the Magic Kingdom. If you are interested in park history, insider trivia, and access to restricted areas of the parks, consider booking the Keys to the Kingdom Tour at Magic Kingdom!
If you could explore one behind the scenes area of the parks, which area would it be? Personally, I would to head to costuming and try on the Princess dresses!
Monica is an Alumna of the Disney College Program. When she is not walking down the middle of Main Street USA you can find her wandering the World Showcase, or enjoying a Dole Whip while racing to her favorite attractions. When she is forced to endure life outside of Walt Disney World, you can find her in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she lives and works. You can visit her Disney lifestyle blog here.