I just returned from another amazing trip to Walt Disney World, and while there, I did something I’ve never done during any of my prior trips – a tour! Having heard about how magical tours like Wild Africa Trek and Backstage Magic are, I always assumed any tours that I would be interested in seeing would be beyond my price range. But as it turns out, there are a few of them under $50/person. For this trip, I decided to try out one of those less expensive tours, Walt Disney: Marceline to Magic Kingdom.
Unlike reservations for hotels, dining, and FastPass+, tours cannot be booked online. So less than a week before the trip, I called the tour reservations line (407-939-8687) hoping that they still had availability. Fortunately, they had room in the 8:00AM tour. The cast member on the other line then provided me with basic information about the tour. I will discuss some of these in detail later and whether they were true, but here is a summary of the information she provided:
Topic: How Walt Disney’s childhood and later life influenced the development of Magic Kingdom
Cost: $35-$49 due at time of booking (Annual Pass and Disney Vacation Club discounts may be available)
Length & Location: Three-hour walking tour around Magic Kingdom
Cancellation Policy: Must cancel three or more days beforehand to receive a full refund
Wheelchair accessibility: Yes, but in order to experience attractions, must be able to transfer
- Arrive to entrance no later than 7:30 AM and check in at Town Square Theater by 7:45 AM
- Parking lot opens at 7:00 AM, so consider a Taxi
- Bring Photo ID (and proof for discount if using Annual Pass or Disney Vacation Club discounts)
- Must have separate park ticket
- Bring confirmation number as it won’t be listed in My Disney Experience
Kids: Age 12 and over allowed, though not necessarily recommended, and those under 18 must be accompanied by paying adult
Dress: Wear comfortable shoes and prepare for weather (poncho, sunscreen, etc.)
Photos: Cameras and cell phones not permitted
Weather: Tour will occur rain or shine
Disclaimer: Tour is subject to change
She also asked for basic information from me:
- Payment method and billing information
- Number on annual pass for discount
- E-mail address
- Names of those attending
- Celebrations (if any)
And now for the fun part – taking the tour! The first step in the plan was getting to the Magic Kingdom in time for the tour. The Cast Member on the phone never mentioned taking Disney transportation and actually suggested a taxi. For whatever reason, most Cast Members still seem to say that Disney transportation starts an hour before the park opens. With an 8:00 AM tour or breakfast reservation at a park that opens at 9:00 AM, that would obviously be a problem. However, buses actually start much earlier than that, typically by 6:30 AM or 6:45 AM for a 9:00 AM open at Magic Kingdom. So you could easily use the Disney buses to arrive on time. In this case, however, I knew that with a three-hour tour, I would need some breakfast beforehand. Since I wouldn’t be able to get food at my hotel until 7:00 AM, I decided to take an Uber to The Contemporary, where I could grab breakfast and then walk to Magic Kingdom.
Panic set in while I watched my Uber driver (through the app) drive all over the place before coming to get me. Later, I found out his previous customer forgot their wallet, so he was driving them back and forth after already accepting my trip (fun fact, you can cancel an Uber trip without penalty in the first two to five minutes depending on the city). Another wave of panic hit me when we got lost on the way to The Contemporary. What should have been a 10-minute drive had turned into a 40-minute ordeal, and while that probably won’t be the case for you, I highly recommend leaving yourself extra time just in case. I was told they will not join you with the rest of your tour group if you arrive late.
With a hot cup of tea and blueberry muffin in hand from the lobby of The Contemporary, I bolted for Magic Kingdom. Upon arriving at the park entrance, I was relieved to see they still hadn’t started letting people into the park. Passing through security without issue, I walked over to the early entry line for breakfast and tours. If you have breakfast reservations, they can scan your MagicBand to confirm. However, like the Cast Member who booked my reservation said, the tours didn’t work that way. For tours, the Cast Member asks for your name and the name of your tour and then checks for your name in a stack of papers on their clipboard. She did not ask for my confirmation number.
And now, dear readers, this was panic moment number three – my name wasn’t on her list! She even let me look at it, and sure enough, I wasn’t there. And unfortunately, since it’s all done outside of My Disney Experience, I didn’t even have an official e-mail to show her. Worried that the Cast Member had booked the wrong day for me, I asked if there was someone who could look at the confirmation number that I was given over the phone. I was directed to another line, but while I was waiting there, the initial Cast Member said I was good to go.
In complete and total confusion, I joined the crowd of people waiting to enter the park. After only a minute or two, we were allowed to enter under the railroad platform and into Magic Kingdom. Knowing that the Cast Member on the phone said I had to check in by 7:45 AM at Tony’s Town Square, I went straight there. Sure enough, they had me on their list! I did not need to show identification, but your mileage may vary. There was a minor mix up with the name tags, but thankfully that was easily corrected. Even better, I must have gone through all of my bad luck before the tour started because the rest of the tour experience was completely wonderful.
We were given a device to help us hear our tour guide, a name tag, and a bottle of water. Around 8:00 AM, our tour guide led us outside to teach us how to set up the headset. When everyone was ready, our group of eight slowly made our way up Main Street, U.S.A. while the guide talked about Walt’s early life. Throughout our tour, she told all sorts of fun stories about Walt and his interactions with his family and Imagineers.
If you want to avoid any spoilers, skip down 3 paragraphs to the bold font where I say it’s okay to read again
When we arrived at the hub, we headed towards Liberty Square, and that’s when our guide first requested that we not take pictures. Since that part of the park wasn’t open to guests yet, she said we might see things that weren’t authentic to the time period. She touched on the history of The Hall of Presidents before moving on to discuss The Haunted Mansion. As we walked through the queue for The Haunted Mansion, we learned all about the Imagineers involved in the development of the attraction. There are also so many ‘easter eggs’ hidden in the queue that I was completely fascinated for close to an hour. When the attraction officially opened for the day, we were at the very front of the line. Our guide provided commentary throughout the attraction, and then we got to go behind the scenes to see how some of the special effects work. Yet again, we were warned to refrain from taking any pictures.
At this point, we were half way through the tour (9:30 AM), and it was time for a restroom break at the best bathrooms in Magic Kingdom – the Tangled themed ones. Our guide briefly discussed some of the nearby attractions like It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Prince Charming Regal Carousel before taking us through Cinderella Castle to see the mosaic art. We then talked about Winnie the Pooh and even got to experience The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh using the FastPass+ line.
As we made our way around towards Tomorrowland, our guide explained the original vision for Tomorrowland and then the re-theming in the early 1990’s. We heard more about Walt’s belief that future technology would vastly improve life as we knew it, and we even learned a little about Walt’s vision for an experimental prototype community of tomorrow (EPCOT). To end the tour, we took a trip on Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress with our guide once again providing commentary on the attraction.
Okay to read after this point
Overall, I loved the tour and would do it again even if it was all the same information. I probably wouldn’t recommend it for those visiting Walt Disney World for the first time because it eats up such a large portion of early morning touring time. However, for someone who has visited a few times, it’s a great introduction into the history of Walt Disney and Walt Disney World. Just keep in mind that the tour is subject to change, so you may not experience the same attractions as me. Our tour guide was incredible, and the stories she told were perfect for both entertainment value and just learning more about the place we all love and the people who created it. Now, if only Disney could get it to link to My Disney Experience and spare me a heart attack next time, then it would be absolutely perfect.
Have any of you experienced Walt Disney: Marceline to Magic Kingdom tour? If so, what did you think? Do you think you’ll try it in the future? If you have the opportunity, I definitely recommend it!