Maybe you think you have seen it all at WDW; the attractions, the restaurants, special events or simply for the magic. But perhaps you feel there is something missing from your Disney experience… and there is!
During our last several trips, Mary Ann and I have been including backstage and tour activities on our schedule. Yes, this does put a strain on the vacation budget, but we always try to find ways to enhance our resources between visits to include something special that makes the Disney vacation a deeper and more meaningful experience.
Some tours require theme park admission. Occasionally you can enter the park with your tour admission ticket, but in most cases you need to use a separate park ticket. You will need to provide a photo ID to identify your self during check-in. So Park Hoppers or good planning is required.
Ask about discounts. I use a Disney Visa card which has resulted in savings on the several tours we’ve booked. Other cards that can often be used are a DVC membership, Annual Pass, and AAA Diamond.
Check the restrictions. Most times its age; and although I’m not saying that tours are for adults only, but Disney (and other participants) expects certain decorum and maturity when they are paying extra for the privilege of participating. However, I’m sure there are insurance restrictions that come into play as well.
Set aside sufficient time. Some tours are only an hour or two. Others are from four to seven hours and could include multiple parks. This means a LOT OF WALKING so prepare the persons in your party.
Pre-purchase is required. For these hard-ticket backstage tours, you need to use a credit card with your reservation. You can normally cancel if needed and have your money returned, but it must be not more than 48 hours in advance of your reservation. And prices will change, so even the amounts I’m listing in this article could have changed by the time you read this.
Advance reservations are important. Tours have only a limited number of slots in a day, and for most of us, we only have specific days available during our trips. So although not the same urgency as ADRs, don’t wait until you get there to try and get into a slot. Most reserve 180 days out, although some are as low as 30.
Photography is not permitted during the backstage portions of tours. While you are in public areas, you have plenty of photo opportunities, but once you go backstage in any part of the tour, put away your camera and phone. And to book a tour, call 407/WDW-TOUR (407/939-8687). So let’s review a few some tours we’ve done, and then provide a summary of others offered at the “World”.
If you are able to participate in backstage tours we highly recommend them. One example that we’ve talked about before in A WORLD VIEW was our experience with the Segway Tours, one at Epcot and the other at Fort Wilderness. We had a wonderful time doing something we probably would never have done without being at Walt Disney World.
The Around the World at Epcot tour allows Guests the unique opportunity to see the wonders of World Showcase while riding aboard a technologically advanced gyroscopically stabilized 2-wheel Segway Personal Transporter. Beginners are welcome—the outdoor tour includes training and safety equipment. Guests must be at least 16 years of age or older. The cost is $99 a person and the tour lasts about 2 hours.
The Wilderness Back Trail Adventures offer tours of the stunning surroundings of Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort on a Segway X2 Personal Transporter. Experience Florida's natural beauty on a Segway. Hop on a Segway for Disney's Wilderness Back Trail Adventures, a nature tour like no other. You'll be cruising on your own Segway X2 Personal Transporter as you glide through the pristine Florida landscape in and around Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. No experience is necessary—training is provided before the tour. The cost of this tour is $90 per person and it is about 2 hours long.
The Simply Segway Tour is primarily an introduction to the machines. This program showcases the innovative Segway® Personal Transporter and offers you formal training and indoor riding time on the device that has truly revolutionized mobility and travel—at the Innoventions area in Epcot. The cost is $35 per person.
Keys to the Kingdom Tour
Mary Ann and I really enjoyed this tour, and we knew to be prepared for over four hours of walking around the Magic Kingdom. Your personal tour guide makes this experience a lot of fun, and for the regular “World” traveller, you do get to learn more about Walt Disney and the park than you would now know while just being “on stage”. And during this tour, you get to visit the secret “Utilidors” and go backstage. The cost is $74 per person, and lunch is included. Dress appropriately for the weather, since much of the tour is outdoors.
This approximately 4.5-hour walking tour explores the stories behind the remarkable creation and growth of Magic Kingdom theme park. Hear the intriguing story of Walt Disney and learn how his innovative ideas, revolutionary visions, creative philosophies and amazing accomplishments brought the Theme Park to life. The journey includes stops at backstage facilities and a variety of favorite attractions.
One unforgettable highlight is a trip below Magic Kingdom theme park into the service tunnels known as the Utilidors. This is one urban legend that is absolutely, and almost unbelievably, true—the Guest accessible areas of Magic Kingdom theme park are actually on the second floor of a massive structure. The first floor—called the Utilidors—allows Cast Members, deliveries and even trash to be unknowingly transported below Guests' feet as they wait in line for their favorite attraction.
The ultimate backstage tour is the all day (can be 8 hours) multi-park visit called Backstage Magic. It is one that we haven’t done yet, but from all accounts I’ve read, everyone loves it. It’s expensive at $224 per person but discounts are available.
[From Disney Web Site] Discover some of the secrets behind the magic of Walt Disney World Resort! Get an in-depth look at the creative and technical operations used behind the scenes to bring innovative special effects, world-class entertainment and elaborate attractions to life. At Epcot, we'll reveal some of the exquisite details that make The American Adventure one of our most popular attractions. You'll see Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom theme park in a whole new light after your guide leads you through a hidden world—the legendary underground "Utilidor" tunnel system. From artistic accents to eye-catching designs, nearly everything that surrounds you at Walt Disney World Resort is created and maintained by the artisans of Central Shops whose masterpieces transport you to Fantasyland and beyond. Take a break with a family-style lunch at the Whispering Canyon Café inside Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Then, see how horticulture and landscape design play a starring role in creating an endless variety of uniquely themed environments at the Walt Disney World Nursery & Tree Farm. Head to Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park and see how Walt Disney Imagineers combined cutting-edge design with breakthrough technology to create the thrilling Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Here, as in every corner of Walt Disney World Resort, wardrobe is an integral part of the magic, so you'll learn how the Creative Costuming team outfits the performers in Disney parades and shows. Finally, wrap up a most wonderful day at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park with an up-close look at Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade.
For my wife, Mary Ann who loves anything related to animals, The Backstage Safari was a real treat. For me, the personalized Kilimanjaro Safari ride that was part of this experience was my highlight. And for three hours plus you get to learn how Disney cares for the wide range of wildlife they house in the parks. You get to go backstage, visit with the elephants and Rhino and even a Komodo Dragon. You view preparation, animal housing areas and The Veterinary Hospital. The current cost is $72 a person.
[From Disney Website] Do you love animals? Are you curious how Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park looks after more than 1,700 animals representing 250 different species? Find out how on this behind-the-scenes walking tour that offers a revealing look at the new and creative ways Disney's wildlife specialists meet the unique challenges of animal care and behavior—all while running a lushly landscaped Disney Theme Park and promoting wildlife conservation. Get up close to a variety of spectacular and majestic animals in their backstage habitats. Talk with animal keepers as you visit the Animal Nutrition Center, explore the state-of-the-art veterinary hospital and discover other backstage facilities. Learn the story of how every day 3 tons of food is prepared, distributed and fed to the animal residents of Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park
Here is a summary of other tours other than the above, at Walt Disney World.
Tour: Disney's Family Magic Tour
This daily tour in the Magic Kingdom is 2 hours long and open to all ages. Magic Kingdom admission required (extra); this is a primer for first-time visitors with children, a skip (literally) through the magical lands. The cost is $34 per person.
Tour: Disney's the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour
This 3-hour program is open to persons 10 years and older. Magic Kingdom admission required (extra); no cameras; it's an inside look at the Walt Disney World Railroad and an opportunity to learn about Walt Disney's love of steam trains; see how the trains are prepared for their daily operation. The cost is $49.
Tour: Mickey’s Magical Milestones Tours
For guests at least 10 years of age and older, this is a 2-hour tour. Mickey's Magical Milestones Tour is a 2-hour journey through Magic Kingdom theme park that focuses on the creation and illustrious career of Mickey Mouse. Guests are treated to select attractions, and a few very special old friends may make an appearance. The cost per person is $25.
Tour: Epcot DiveQuest
A 3 hour program located in The Seas with Nemo & Friends in Epcot is for persons age 10 and older. Scuba certification card required; parent/legal guardian must sign waiver for minors ages 10-17 and must dive with minors ages 10-16; bring swimsuit (locker room provided); diving gear provided; no theme park admission required. The cost is $175 per person.
Tour: Epcot Seas Aqua Tour
Also in The Seas with Nemo & Friends, this program is 2 ½ hours and offered to persons age 8 and older. Parent/legal guardian must sign waiver for minors aged 8-17 and must participate with minors ages 8-
12; no theme park admission required; non-scuba-certified guests have an in-the-water experience with the animals using scuba-assisted snorkeling equipment (provided); swimsuit required; no observers permitted backstage. The cost is $140 per person.
Tour: Disney's Holiday D-Lights
A tour throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, open to persons 16 and older. It is 4 ½ hour long and offered as part of the holiday season. Discover how the twinkle of holiday magic is created for celebrations like The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights and Candlelight Processional; each guest will receive an exclusive limited-edition keepsake pin; no theme park admission required. The cost is $199 per person.
Tour: Disney's Yuletide Fantasy
This is a another program for the Christmas season and covers the Walt Disney World Resort. A 3 ½ hour program, it is open to persons 16 years and older. No theme park admission required; visits resorts and theme parks to see how holiday traditions are woven into decorations that turn Walt Disney World Resort into a winter wonderland. The cost is $84 per person.
Tour: Inspiration: Through Walt's Eyes
Located throughout the Walt Disney World Resort, this is a 3 hour program for guest age 16 and older. Explore the events and milestones in Walt Disney's life that inspired many of the fine details and experiences found throughout Walt Disney World Resort; each guest will receive an exclusive pin; no theme park admission required. Cost is $99 per person.
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