Monday, March 7, 2011

Keys to the Kingdom

The only picture I have from the tour.
With my backstage guest pass!

For James' birthday, I took him to Bistro de Paris, and that review will be coming in the future on this blog.  For my birthday, however, I didn't want a dinner.  I wanted to go on Keys to the Kingdom.  After going on the Around the World on a Segway Tour back in August, I was itching for another behind the scenes tour.  I was stuck between trying another Segway tour and going on Keys, but after asking a ton of people, I finally settled on this one.  And I'm very glad I did.

On the informational side, Keys to the Kingdom is a four and a half to five hour tour in the Magic Kingdom, and it includes lunch (but more on that later).  Tours are offered at 8:30, 9:00, and 9:30 am, and the cost is $78.81 per person including tax.  Everyone participating in the tour must already have admission into the park, and you must be 16 years or older.  And that's that.

Our tour started with us entering the turnstiles at approximately 8:45 for our 9:00 am tour.  If you've never been in the Magic Kingdom before park opening, this would be the perfect time to take some pictures.  We had a Crystal Palace breakfast earlier in the week, though, so we didn't need to.  The tour meets at package pickup, where you get a nametag, a backstage guest pass (see photo), some complementary water or coffee, and you get to pick what you'll want for lunch later in the day.  Lunch is at Columbia Harbor House, and you can choose from the entire adult's menu.

Once everyone arrives for the tour, your tour guide gives everyone a headset in which you can hear his or her (in our case her) voice.  That way, she can walk in front of you, and you can still hear her.  Our guide's name was Kate, and she was the youngest Keys to the Kingdom tour guide at just 21 years old.  She was totally awesome and knowledgeable, and after the tour, we left a rave review at Guest Services.

Our tour started on Main Street, where first you learn the four "Keys to the Kingdom": efficiency, safety, courtesy, and show.  These keys are all over Main Street, from the fact that the sloping of the street makes the castle look bigger (show) to the fact that the sidewalk is a different color from the street, so people can peripherally see that there's a step up or down (safety).  We learned a little bit about how Walt Disney World came to be, and we learned a little about some of the different people on the Main Street Windows.  One of my favorite facts about Main Street is that almost all of the "two story" buildings are actually only a story and a half and use forced perspective.  In fact, the only building that is really two stories is Exposition Hall (if I remember correctly) because it has to hide the Contemporary.

Next, we headed up Main Street to Walt Disney's window, where he gets to see Cinderella castle every day.  And then we headed over to the castle itself and the Partner's statue.  We learned that Walt's statue is a little taller than he actually was because he always believed that the "perfect man" was a little taller.  We learned how the castle is the "big weenie" of the park.  We learned about how our guide sometimes works in the castle suite.  And then we headed on down to Adventureland.

The first attraction we rode was Jungle Cruise, where our guide confided that she secretly always wanted to be a skipper.  We learned some facts and saw some hidden Mickey's, and soon we were headed down to Frontierland.  It was at this point that we hit our first backstage location: the parade float storage facility.  We got to see the floats charging, and our guide told us that the Spectro floats are still stored in there while MSEP takes its place.  We also got to see the backside of Splash Mountain, and we learned that during the dip in Pirates, you are actually going down under the Railroad.

After this backstage area, we learned about Frontierland and then Liberty Square.  Did you know that there are no bathrooms in Liberty Square?  It is the 18th century after all, and there's no indoor plumbing.  The bathrooms in Liberty Tree Tavern are actually in Frontierland, and the bathrooms in Columbia Harbor House are in Fantasyland.  This is where we got to eat our lunch, which honestly I wasn't thrilled with.  I'm not a huge fan of Columbia Harbor House since I don't eat fish, and I'm not a huge fan of chicken.  I had some kind of BLT salad, and it was alright, but I wish I could've had a burger or something.

After lunch, we rode my favorite attraction of all time: the Haunted Mansion.  We even got to enter through a cast member entrance.  Very cool!  We learned about some facts and hidden Mickeys in there, and soon we were headed across the bridge over to the bathrooms near Crystal Palace.  It was here that we went to our next backstage area: the Utilidors.  Although the Utilidors are called tunnels, they are not underground at all.  They are essentially just hallways, but it was still really cool to go down there.  We learned about the inner workings of the park, including the fact that the Magic Kingdom was trying to correct all the mistakes made in Disneyland.  We walked through and saw different things, and we watched a short video down there.

When we "surfaced," we were near Tomorrowland, and we got to see the backstage room where all the balloons are filled with air.  It may sound lame, but I thought it was pretty cool!  Our tour ended back on Main Street where we began, and unfortunately we had to return our backstage passes.  As I said, our tour guide was great, and we filled out a guest appreciation card at Guest Services.  This tour was so interesting, and if you are at all interested in the workings of the Magic Kingdom, I highly recommend it.  The price is extremely reasonable when you consider the length of the tour and the lunch that's included.  I didn't feel that the magic was ruined at all, as some people fear.  In fact, I felt even more magic when I realized all the work that Walt, Roy, and everyone that built Walt Disney World put in and all the work that the cast members still put in today.  I recommend this tour to anyone.  (And if you're interested in the things that I saw that I won't put on here in case of any younger eyes, ask me on Twitter!)

Have you ever been on Keys to the Kingdom?  What did you think of it?  Let me know your thoughts on this tour, whether or not you've been on it, in a comment, on Twitter (@discollegeblog), or on Facebook!


  1. We went on Keys to the Kingdom in 2002 and it was awesome. I would love to do it again because there was so much information to absorb.

    I love that the pathway up to the Magic Kingdom is red because they wanted to "roll our the red carpet" for the guests.

    The biggest thing I learned is that NOTHING is on accident. Everything is so well thought out and planned with one or more purposes in mind. Truly magical!


  2. It was totally magical! I would definitely do it again if I were you; I say it's been long enough to warrant another one!

  3. I haven't been on the Keys tour. I sure would love to, though! Maybe when the kids meet that 16 y o age requirement. I also would love to do the snorkeling tour in Epcot.

  4. In the mean time, there's a tour for younger children in the Magic Kingdom!

  5. That sounds so wonderful! I really want to do this tour someday.

  6. great review! I'd love to do it one day... it's on my bucket list! :)

  7. I really enjoyed your review. I'm doing Keys to the Kingdom next month and I'm really looking forward to it.

    Like you, the backstage tours reinforce my love of Disney Magic. In fact, it was the Backstage Magic tour that changed me from and Disney fan to a Disney fanatic!

  8. Jessica, I highly recommend it! So worth the money!

    Beth, you so should!

    Dennis, you will have a blast! I would love to do Backstage Magic, but unfortunately it's out of my price range right now.