Beyond the rides, restaurants and shopping experiences at Walt Disney World lies a variety of backstage tours that can satisfy the curiosity of how Disney’s magic is brought to life. In our recent blog Traveling Without Kids, we touched on a few of these experiences that adults can enjoy but here we want to go in-depth on the top 10 special tours and experiences you might overlook and must check out if rides and attractions aren’t enough for your Disney vacation!
1. Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour: Undoubtedly one of the coolest and most popular park tours is the Keys to the Kingdom tour, which takes guests behind the scenes of the Magic Kingdom. If you don’t want the “Disney magic” to be spoiled, we probably wouldn’t suggest taking this tour; you’ll learn a lot about Disney secrets and history, how the parks are maintained, what goes on behind-the-scenes, and much more. You’ll even get to see backstage areas like the utilidors beneath the park, where many of the parks operations happen out of the sight of guests in order to preserve the magic. If you have the time and want to shell out some money to experience Disney life behind-the-scenes, this is one tour you’ll want to splurge on during your vacation.
- Where: Magic Kingdom Park
- Duration: 4 to 5 hours
- Cost: $79
- Ages: Guests must be age 16 and up
- Details: Park admission is required. Lunch is included at Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square. No cameras, cell phones or video equipment is permitted throughout the duration of the tour. Guests must check in 15 minutes prior to the start of the tour at Town Square Theater on Main Street U.S.A.
2. Disney’s The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains: Whether you’re a train enthusiast or just love learning about what goes in to creating Disney magic, The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains tour will satisfy your knowledge of steam trains and why they play an integral part of the Magic Kingdom. This rare opportunity takes guests behind the scenes with the opening crew as they prepare for railroad operations at Magic Kingdom. The tour is loaded with history surrounding Walt Disney’s fascination with steam trains and how the Magic Kingdom happened to acquire four old locomotives.
- Where: Magic Kingdom Park
- Duration: 3 hours
- Cost: $54
- Ages: 10 and up
- Details: Park admission is required. Photography is allowed and encouraged throughout most of this tour.
3. The UnDISCOVERed Future World: Take a trip through the backstage areas of Epcot’s Future World pavilions and learn the legacy of how Walt Disney’s vision of a futuristic utopia became the the inspiration behind the Future World area of Epcot. The tour is essentially Epcot’s version of “Keys to the Kingdom,” and will give you a first-hand look at park operations and backstage maintenance areas, as well as a visit to the corporate lounges of Spaceship Earth, Mission:SPACE, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Guests will also get to go behind-the-scenes of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth to learn how the nighttime spectacular is put together. If you love Epcot’s Future World, you’ll love learning the history of the park during this in-depth walking tour.
- Where: Epcot’s Future World
- Duration: 4-5 hours
- Cost: $59
- Ages: 16 and up, photo ID required
- Details: Park admission is required and guests on the tour must check in 15 minutes beforehand, inside Innoventions across from Storm Struck.
4. World Showcase: DestiNations Discovered: While the UnDISCOVERed Future World tour takes you behind-the-scenes of Epcot’s Future World, the DestiNations Discovered tour takes you on a 5-hour walking tour through Epcot’s 11 “countries” as you experience their unique architecture, culture and people. Learn what happens behind the scenes, and how the pavilions were created, watch cultural demonstrations, and enjoy an international dining experience at Morocco’s Restaurant Marrakesh, which is included with the tour. If you’re a World Showcase fanatic like us, this tour is worth paying extra for.
- Where: Epcot, World Showcase
- Duration: 5 hours
- Cost: $109
- Ages: Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
- Details: Park admission is required. Cameras are permitted, but your Storyteller will advise you not to take photos in the backstage areas. The experience is 5 hours long, so make sure to wear something comfortable.
5. Epcot Seas Adventures – Aqua Tour: Guests with a love of the ocean can explore an underwater world in The Seas’ 5.7 million gallon tank. The 2.5 hour Aqua Tour experience includes 30 minutes of actual snorkeling time; while you won’t be able to dive beneath the surface, an easy-to-use scuba-assisted snorkel unit will keep you afloat and supply you with piped air. Along with the snorkeling time, your tour guide will show you the massive infrastructure that filters and maintains the habitat, and they will teach you about the Caribbean coral reef and the beautiful creatures that call it home. You will also receive a complimentary photo of yourself suited up in your dive gear and a special Epcot Seas Adventures – Aqua Tour souvenir!
- Where: Epcot, The Seas With Nemo and Friends
- Duration: 2.5 hours (30 minutes snorkeling time)
- Cost: $145
- Age: Guests must be 8 years of age or older, and guests under 12 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older.
- Details: Park admission is required. All snorkeling equipment is provided, and no personal equipment is allowed other than a snorkel mask. Guests must bring a swimsuit. No cameras, video equipment or cell phones may be used while backstage, and no jewelry is allowed except a watch.
6. Epcot Seas Adventures – DiveQuest: If you are SCUBA-certified, take the plunge into the 5.7 million gallon tank for a unique look into the saltwater aquarium. You will get an undoubtedly amazing view of sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, eagle rays and more in a calm-seas, no-current environment with unlimited visibility. If you choose to take this tour, you’ll have to provide proof of certification such as a C-card, or verification from a certifying agency.
- Where: Epcot, The Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Duration: 3 hours (40 minutes snorkeling time)
- Cost: $179
- Age: Guests must be SCUBA-certified and 10 years of age or older. Guests 10 to 12 years of age must be accompanied by an adult 18 years of age or older.
- Details: Just like the Aqua Tour, guests are not allowed to use cameras, video equipment or cell phones backstage. No jewelry, except a watch, is allowed, and all diving equipment is provided. Guests may bring their own mask, and must wear a swimsuit.
7. Epcot Seas Adventures – Dolphins in Depth: If you love dolphins, this tour is for you. During this 3-hour Epcot experience, you’ll get to talk to expert trainers and researchers who work daily with The Seas’ bottlenose dolphins and you’ll get to interact with the dolphins in waist-deep water for 30 minutes of the tour. Learn about how the dolphins are cared for, and sit in on training and research sessions with marine mammal specialists. This tour does not require you to be SCUBA-certified but you will want to bring a swimsuit if you wish to enter the water.
- Where: Epcot, The Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Duration: 3 hours (30 minutes interacting with dolphins)
- Cost: $199
- Age: Guests must be 13 years of age or older. Guests under 18 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
- Details: You’ll have to bring a swimsuit, but wetsuits will be provided. No cameras, video equipment or cell phones may be used backstage and no jewelry of any kind is permitted.
8. Wild Africa Trek: This privately guided VIP tour takes you up close to the Animal Kingdom‘s exotic wildlife in a 3-hour safari that also includes first-class gourmet eats. Hike with animal experts into the Harabme Reserve and see the animals in a whole new way while you are clipped to a secured overhead track with a safety harness that allows you to overlook the edges to see crocodiles and hippos below. Make sure you’ve got the physical stamina and the comfort of heights, as you will be up high navigating small hills, foliage and unsteady rope bridges during this tour. You’ll end the tour at a private safari camp viewing the animals in the savanna from above, with knowledge and insight on the majestic animals, as well as on the general operation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
- Where: Animal Kingdom
- Duration: 3 hours
- Cost: $189 – $249 (varies by season)
- Age: Guests must be ages 8 and up, and at least 48 inches tall to participate.
- Details: Keep in mind that participants must be between 45 and 300 lbs with the harness gear on, which may prohibit some guests from participating. Cameras are allowed, but must be able to be fastened securely to the vest that will be provided.
9. Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage: Embark on a cruise through the Seven Seas Lagoon for a spectacular night on the water as you prepare for a fireworks finale. Starting at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, guests can enjoy a variety of snacks and drinks prior to hitting the high seas, and join the pirate crew as they crack jokes and test your Disney knowledge. This is mostly a character-based experience where you’ll get to meet the likes of Smee and Captain Hook, and even Peter Pan following the fireworks extravaganza on the water.
- Where: Disney’s Contemporary Resort & Seven Seas Lagoon
- Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours
- Cost: $41 for children , $69 for adults
- Age: Guests under 16 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. Payment is not required for children 2 and under but must be included in party size of the reservation.
- Details: Keep in mind that the fireworks and voyage may be changed or cancelled if there is inclement weather, but will continue in rainy or cold conditions. Guests must meet in the lobby of Disney’s Contemporary Resort 10 minutes before the event begins.
10. Backstage Magic: If you’re looking for the ultimate backstage tour of Walt Disney World, the Backstage Magic tour is it. Guests embarking on this 7-hour tour will get seldom-seen glimpse of life behind the scenes at Epcot and Magic Kingdom while learning about what really goes into creating the spectacular events and worlds at the parks. Explore The American Adventure and learn the engineering feats that went into its creation, navigate the utilidor tunnels of the Magic Kingdom where Disney cast members can traverse the park without being detected, observe the professionals who create the magnificent costumes worn by characters and performers, and learn details and secrets of the parks that you’ve never heard anywhere else. Included with the tour is a lunch at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, where guests can enjoy a family-style barbecue. This is a pricey tour, but the experience is worth it if you’re a Disney history buff and want a unique look into the operations of the parks.
- Where: Epcot, Magic Kingdom
- Duration: 7 hours
- Cost: $255
- Age: Guests must be 12 years of age or older
- Details: It’s recommended that you wear comfortable, close-toed shoes. No cameras, video recording or cell phones may be used while backstage.
If you’re headed to Walt Disney World Resort but want to experience a different side of the parks, spending a little extra on top of your park admission to experience one of these special tours can turn your normal Disney vacation into something to write home about! Guests can call (407) WDW-TOUR or (407) 939-8687 to make reservations for any of the tours we mentioned, but you’ll only find the best deals on general park admission at Tickets2You.com!