My mom fell in love with Walt Disney World last May, and since then has returned three times, purchased an annual pass, and bought into the Disney Vacation Club. I think it would be accurate to say that she’s become a Disney fanatic. And I could not think of a better way for a new disney fanatic to spend a day than enjoying one of Walt Disney World’s fantastic tours.
Our first Disney tour was the Wanyama Safari tour, which is an amazing experience (and is followed by an even more amazing meal at Jiko). Because she enjoyed the safari tour so much, my mom wanted to do another tour on this trip. So I gave her my Passporter and told her to pick one out. I’m not sure why she focused on the Magic Kingdom–it’s her least favorite park–but her choice for this past trip was the five-hour Keys to the Kingdom tour. I’m happy to report that she made an excellent choice.
We arrived at the turnstiles at 8:00 in the morning for an 8:30 tour, having just missed the 8:00 rope drop. I thought that the park didn’t open until 9:00 and was looking forward to seeing Main Street without any people on it, but alas that was not to be. Either way, the park was pretty empty at that early hour.
Upon entering the park, we made our way to the Post Office, which is just inside the entry tunnels on the left side of the train station. We were each given a pin with our name printed on it and directed to choose a meal from the Columbia Harbor House menu for our lunch later that day. After a quick visit to the nearby restrooms, it was time to be on our way.
I’m not going to include all of our stops along the way–or give out any of the secrets I learned on the tour (yet–stay tuned to Mouse on the Mind for more interesting tidbits gleaned from Keys to the Kingdom) but I will tell you that it was more comprehensive and educational than I imagined it could be. What I will do is this: answer what I consider to be the most frequently asked questions about the Keys to the Kingdom Tour:
Keys to the Kingdom FAQ
How much walking is involved?
At the end of the tour, our guide showed us a map of where we had walked and informed us that from start to finish, we walked a total of 3.4 miles. I used this as an excuse to skip the resort treadmill that day!
Do you see the whole park?
Yes and no. While we did not go into Fantasyland or Tomorrowland, we saw more than the average guest will ever get to see. See next question.
Do you go to non-guest areas?
Yes! This is honestly one of the best parts of the tour. We went into three different backstage areas as well as below the park and into ‘the tunnels’–the underground city that exists under the Magic Kingdom. This city isn’t actually underground–it’s at ground level, and everything else is built above it. And while I found the tunnel part to be very interesting and clearly very special, the backstage areas held the most interest to me. Here, you get to see floats being prepped and ride vehicles being repaired. We even saw the afternoon parade move from backstage to ‘on stage’–which was perhaps my favorite part of the whole tour. The backstage portions of Keys to the Kingdom blur the line between the magic and the (still extremely impressive) reality of Walt Disney World.
How was lunch?
Actually, it was pretty good. I ordered the fried shrimp with a side of broccoli. The shrimp were tasty–and there was hot sauce on the condiment bar. That’s all I really ask for in life.
Tip: If you, like me, use your smart phone to take notes and photos, lunch is a great opportunity to charge up. There are outlets in the dining area of Columbia Harbor house, so be sure to bring your charger along with you.
Are there breaks on the tour?
Yes. Before every ride experience and before every backstage experience, we were given a restroom break. Some people used these to sit down for five minutes, some used them to ask the tour guide additional questions…and people like me used them to use the restroom!
Would this be a good tour for a first time visitor?
Probably not. I’d have a really hard time visiting the Magic Kingdom for the first time and not being able to run from ride to ride. Additionally, while I enjoyed seeing the backstage areas, I don’t know that I’d want to see them on my first visit. If you think you’ll only visit Disney World once in a lifetime, do this tour at the end of your trip after spending at least a day in the Magic Kingdom. (But also know that most people who visit Disney do return–so that ‘once in a lifetime’ trip may turn into a once a year trip!)
Do you go on any rides?
Yes! We rode The Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean with our ear pieces in (you wear a little microphone in your ear so that you can hear the guide without him having to yell in crowds) and were told lesser-known facts about each ride. We then rode The Haunted Mansion after a brief introduction to some of the ride’s secrets–we did not use the ear pieces on that ride, as it would not have been possible given the ride set up. But we did get to bypass the line and go in a super secret side entrance, and that was pretty awesome in and of itself.
Was it worth the time and the price?
Absolutely. Dollar for dollar and minute for minute, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do with my time and money. Keys to the Kingdom allowed me to look at the Magic Kingdom–and Disney in general–in a totally new light. The guide was enthusiastic without seeming over the top, and he was super knowledgeable too. I took pages and pages of notes, dozens of photos, and even got to chat with some of the other people on the tour. Yes, we were both exhausted at the end, but after an hour or so back at the resort pool, we were ready to go again. You’ll use up half of a day and around $80 per person to do this tour, but it is fully and completely worth it.
Have you been on the Keys to the Kingdom tour? Please share your experience in the comments below. Thinking about taking the Keys to the Kingdom tour? Please share your questions below and I’ll be sure to respond!