An Insider's guide to VIP and backstage tours at Walt Disney World
Published: September 29, 2010 at 10:01 AM
Many theme parks offer special, guided tours and experiences for an extra charge on top of your daily admission. Since there are so many tour opportunities out there, we can't cover them all in a single article, as we did for theme park dining plans last week.
So today, we're starting with the world's largest theme park resort: Walt Disney World in Florida. Here are the tours and VIP experiences currently being offered at Disney World. Prices are per person and do not include tax. Tours do not include park admission, so you'll need to buy a ticket to the park as well, for those that go inside the theme parks (does not include Backstage Magic and hotel-based tours).
Note that many tours have age restrictions, so if you see a price for children above a certain age and no price for younger kids, that means the tour is not available to them. For tours restricted to ages 16 and above, Disney might check ID, so come prepared.
This tour takes your behind the scenes to see how Disney designs, maintains and operates its theme parks. You'll visit the tunnels under the Magic Kingdom, backstage at Epcot and the central shops area. $224, 6-8 hours
Disney's Yuletide Fantasy
A guided tour of holiday decorations around the resort, including selected theme parks and hotels. $84 (ages 16 and up), 3 hours
Get a behind the scenes look at how Disney puts together its holiday light displays, including the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. The tour also includes a performance of the Candlelight Processional at Epcot. $199 (ages 16 and up), 4-5 hours
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Visit the backstage animal care facilities at Animal Kingdom, including the veterinary hospital. Keep in mind that the focus of this tour is the facilities, and not animal interactions. $72 (ages 16 and up), 3 hours
Wild by Design
This on-stage tour looks at how design and architecture within each themed land advance storytelling within Animal Kingdom. $60 (ages 14 and up), 3 hours
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Inspiration: Through Walt's Eyes
A tour of the studios theme park, with a focus on Walt and how he found inspiration for his film and theme park projects. $99 (ages 16 and up), 3 hours
Around the World at Epcot
This is the Segway tour of Epcot, which starts with training on riding the two-wheeled, stand-up "personal transporters." Then you'll take a guided tour of World Showcase on your Disney-provided Segway. $99 (ages 16 and up), 2 hours
Behind the Seeds
Go behind the scenes at The Land pavilion to tour the greenhouse and fish farm more up-close than you could on the Listen to the Land ride. $16 (ages 10 and up) $12 (ages 3-9 yrs), 1 hour
Disney's Dolphins in Depth
Learn more about and get in the water with the dolphins at Disney's The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion. (You don't need to swim; you'll be standing on a ledge in shallow water.) Includes souvenir photograph. $194 (ages 13 and up), 3 hours
Epcot Seas Aqua Tour
Swim in The Seas and see the fish, using a Scuba Assisted Snorkel unit. Includes souvenir photograph. $140 (ages 8 and up), 2-3 hours
Epcot Dive Quest
For certified divers only - a dive inside the main tank at The Seas with Nemo and Friends. $175 (ages 10 and up), 3 hours
Gardens of the World
Visit with Disney gardeners as you tour and learn more about the topiaries, flowers and landscaping around Epcot. This tour is offered only at certain times of the year. $69 (ages 16 and up), 3 hours
The Undiscovered Future World
Consider this Epcot's version of "Keys to the Kingdom." You'll tour backstage and learn about the development of Epcot, meeting some of the international students who work in World Showcase, as well. $55 (ages 16 and up), 3+ hours
Disney's Family Magic
Follow along in an interactive story adventure through the Magic Kingdom. $34, 1-3 hours
Disney's Keys to the Kingdom
This is Disney's most popular backstage tour, taking a behind the scenes look at several Disney attractions, as well as backstage support areas. No cameras or large bags permitted. $74 (ages 16 and up), 3+ hours
Disney's The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains
This tour begins before the park opens, and visits the backstage roundhouse for a look at how Disney's steam trains are maintained and operated. $49 (ages 10 and up), 3 hours
Mickey's Magical Milestones
A tour of the Magic Kingdom coupled with a history of Mickey Mouse. $25, 2 hours
Magic Kingdom Resorts
Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage
A pirate-themed boat ride from the Contemporary Resort for fireworks viewing on the Seven Seas Lagoon. $53.99, 1-3 hours
Wilderness Back Trail Adventure
A Segway tour in and around For Wilderness. $90 (ages 16 and up), 2 hours
The ultimate tour?
VIP Tour Services $175-$315 per hour, 6 hour minimum
If you didn't find exactly what you wanted among the tours above, Disney will customize a guided tour just for you.
To book any of these tours, call 407-WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687) or visit Disney's website.
If you've been on any of these tours, please share your experience in the comments. How did you like it? Would you recommend it? Would you go again?