By Jayship Earth
The Keys To The Kingdom is a 4 and a half to 5 hour walking tour of the Magic Kingdom. During that time, guests will learn the history of both Walt Disney and his theme parks, go behind the scenes of several attractions and pay a visit to the famous utilidors. The tour is great way for even the most seasoned park visitor to gain a new appreciation for the park, and get a view of how the magic is created.
Guests meet 15 minutes prior to their tour time at the Chamber of Commerce on Main Street to check in. I recommend taking the first tour of the day, which typically starts before the park opens. Simply to walk around a nearly deserted Main Street for a while and get some amazing photos. At the Chamber of Commerce, you will receive a name-tag and can enjoy complimentary water. Soon your tour group, usually no larger than 20 people, will meet your plaid-adorned tour guide. Guests will also wear an ear piece that is tuned to the guide’s microphone, so that you will always hear them above the theme park crowd.
I have taken the tour twice and enjoyed it immensely both times. Every tour is unique, but there are some general themes and itineraries that are usually followed. The tour begins on Main Street, where you learn how Walt went from Chicago to Hollywood to creating the world’s most famous theme park. You’ll hear the stories behind the windows of Main Street and the creation of the castle. Over the next few hours you’ll travel to several lands of the Magic Kingdom and get a closer look at many classic attractions. Your guide will typically take you to the front of the line ( or even through the side entrance) of any number of attractions, such as the Jungle Cruise, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion.
Midway through the day, the tour will pause for lunch at the Columbia Harbor House. Lunch is included in the tour price, and the lunch selection you made at the start of the tour is waiting for you in a private room on the second floor. The second half of the tour usually travels backstage at this point. Again, every itinerary is different, but on one occasion we took a look at the parade floats in their depots and took a tour of the costuming department. Finally, the group travels beneath the Magic Kingdom to the famous utilidors. There you can see the vast network of tunnels that run beneath the park and learn how everything “on-stage” runs so smoothly.
I highly recommend the tour. While some may fear knowing too much about the park may ruin the magic, most will find they will have a deeper appreciation of how creative and complex it is to run the happiest place on earth. All the guides have a true passion for the subject matter and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. It will be a struggle to remember all the copious amounts of fun facts you learn, as you annoy your friends and family with “Did you know…” while walking through the park on future trips.
The Keys to the Kingdom tour is offered daily at the Magic Kingdom, and starts at 8:30, 9:00 and 9:30 am. As of January 2014, the cost is $79, but Disney Visa Card holders are eligible to a 20% discount. Due to the behind the scenes/ backstage nature of the tour, guests must be 16 years old to attend, as to not spoil the magic to younger guests. It is a walking tour, so guests should make sure they can be on their feet for that long, and the tour goes rain or shine. Lastly, no photography or video is allowed during the tour and Magic Kingdom Admission is NOT included in the price of the tour.