This summer I went on my first Disney tour in any theme park. Yes, that’s right. After almost 2 decades of having a Disneyland Annual Pass, and being to Walt Disney World almost 10 times I hadn’t been on a tour. So, for my very first one I picked something that would appeal to the Disney historian in me: The Keys to the Kingdom tour. A little warning before proceeding – I won’t divulge all the trivia and backstage knowledge of the tour in this post because some want the magic to be kept. And know that I will be giving enough away that will kill some of that Disney magic. So read at your own risk!
Get The Show On the Road
It starts off on Main Street at the tour gathering next to City Hall. A bottle of water is offered, which is great to have for a heavy walking tour in the hot Florida sun, and ordering takes place for lunch at the Columbia Harbor House. It’s planned to be setup before the group arrives, which is a great feature of a lot of tours at the parks. By the way, lunches are often included in the price of the tour.
The tour starts with explaining a lot about Main Street. What I found fascinating was the idea behind why things are placed in certain ways at Magic Kingdom in particular. The train station serves as both a symbol and a curtain. The symbol is how Walt Disney arrived to California with Mickey Mouse as an idea. The curtain is that it hides the big draw, the star of the Magic Kingdom “show,” Cinderella Castle. The windows on Main Street with names of talents that have made the park serve as the credits for the “movie” of the Magic Kingdom. In all, it made it even more seem like we were in a film rather than real life.
One of the best explanations of the use of forced perspective was given on the tour. Each floor of the Main Street buildings isn’t full height, with the exception of the first floor. Sometimes the second story has offices, and is somewhat full height, but the measurements have to do with average height of a person. So, the top floor would make someone look like a 7 foot tall plus giant if they looked out the window!
No, I didn’t just hit random Caps Lock letters suddenly. The letters stand for what was the heart and soul of the tour – to show how Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency all take place in the Magic Kingdom. It’s a backbone to the way the park is run. None really trump the other. They all need to work together for a great experience.
An example that was given at the beginning was how air conditioning is blasted inside the buildings, but front doors are always open. How is that efficient? Well, first you have to look at the need for safety. The cool air provides safety for guests and performers and/or cast members. Then it’s just courteous to have that cooling for guests who are blasted with humidity outside. Then, the doors are open both for courtesy of easy access and show – which has people easily drawn in if they see an open door. And now to answer the efficiency: there’s an air curtain that is inside to help keep the cool air from not escaping easily.
It was fun to see how these all kept being together within the theme park and resort!
Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion
One of the attractions we got to ride was the Jungle Cruise. Though it was a full ride, we didn’t get the usual spiel from a skipper. Our tour guide conducted a behind the scenes look at the attraction, also serving to explain the history of many attractions at the resort. It was fun and unique, especially for someone who has been on the ride many times both in Florida and California. I got a kick out of some of the behind the scenes things were done, and enjoyed the look at how SCSE fits within a ride.
Haunted Mansion was another attraction we were able to ride during the tour. Both of these aren’t guarantees but are often done on this particular tour. There was mention of behind the scenes trivia before we got in. One bit that is seen outside is a Mr. Toad statue in the pet cemetery as homage to the former ride in Fantasyland. The way we got to load was an experience too. It was through a cast member corridor that is usually not taken by guests (I say usually as it is done on the tour). It was fun to have this little access, and worth the ride on just for it!
Just a small mention about lunch. I enjoyed the lunch, maybe because it was inside, but even the Harbor House had some trivia to be explained. Lunch was delicious. I had the chicken strips, and they were good. It was a nice little breather to a very on your feet tour. Getting to sit with the tour guide gave me a chance to ask some questions, but I tried to give her a break as well.
The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting For
One of the main reasons I took this tour was a chance to go backstage, and to the famed Utilidor of Magic Kingdom. Our first part backstage was along a parade entrance in Frontierland. This was done with explanation of what it means to be onstage and off. Though I had known roughly what this all meant, there were some details that were new to me.
Once we were backstage we ventured to the parade float building, where the most floats occupying the space were for the Main Street Electrical Parade. I’ve maybe seen these in pictures or one or two at D23 Expo, but not so many and in the daylight! It was great to see what they look like with lights off.
We eventually made our way to the Utilidor tunnel. The time spent down there was more than I had anticipated. And I loved the tour for that reason! What a great and unique experience! Without giving too much of the tour away, I liked the organization of it. Yes, that’s kind of nerdy, but really for an underground tunnel system you’ve got to know where you’re going. Though there wasn’t a lot of “Disney touch” down here, I think it still worked to have little bits of magic here and there. It is a business corridor, after all. Oh, and one thing that our tour guide pointed out that others may not: bread. There’s tons of bread down in the Utilidor. If you go on the tour, try to count how many times you see bread.
Well Worth The Walking
Though this is my first tour at a park, it was terrific! Though it may not be for everyone. First off is the amount of walking. It’s about a 6 hour tour, with most of the time standing or walking. The other thing to realize is that it’s a Disney magic killer and not an attraction heavy tour. What I mean is that even they point out that some don’t want to know what is behind the scenes with the parks. Some people want to be on vacation with the full fantasy in mind. This ruins some of that fantasy. And, as for attractions, you may not get to ride any! It’s more of a behind the scenes tour. Also, phones are greatly discouraged to be used on the tour because picture taking is not allowed 90% of the time.
But, this was all perfect for me. I’ve read many books, been to the parks many times, and talk about all this with friends a lot of my free time. I needed something different than what’s just in the average book. I needed to experience the park in a new way. This was an awesome tour for that reason! It was well worth taking and would highly recommend it to almost any Disney fan! Like I said before, those that love the fantasy world of Disney and want to keep that will not get a thrill from this tour. But, those that want in depth look at Magic Kingdom and its inner workings will have a blast!