There are two types of Walt Disney World fans: those who don’t want to know anything about how it works because it might spoil the magic, and those who try every chance they get to peek behind the scenes to figure out how Disney creates the magic. I happen to fall in the second camp—I love to see how everything works at Walt Disney World from the special effects on the attractions to the daily costuming of thousands of employees. Here are my top 10 picks to draw back the curtain and see behind the scenes at Walt Disney World.
10. Exit at a crowded time
Chances are if you are trying to exit Main Street in Magic Kingdom on a crowded evening just after the fireworks end you might get a chance to see behind the scenes—for just a brief moment. One of the crowd control methods is to let people take a path that you enter near the Plaza restaurant and exit near the Chapeau to help alleviate the crush of traffic traveling down Main Street. While not terribly impressive you do get to see some of the backstage prep areas for Main Street.
9. Rafiki’s Planet Watch
If you’ve wondered how the animals are tended to at Animal Kingdom, an early morning trip to Rafiki’s Planet watch might be just the thing for you. Often you can catch them doing minor surgeries and dental work on the park’s animal inhabitants behind a glass viewing area. No extra ticket required and you get to see how carefully the animals are cared for here.
8. Chef’s Table at Victoria & Alberts
Have you ever wondered how the Chefs at Walt Disney World come up with such delectable menus and prepare food for a busy dining room? If so, the Chef’s Table at Victoria and Albert’s can offer a nice behind-the-scenes glance at a working kitchen and some one-on-one time with one of Disney’s premiere Chefs. You will be treated to a multi-course feast for the senses designed just for you. This one doesn’t come cheap, but I’ve never heard anyone disappointed with their experience there.
7. Behind the Seeds Tour
This fun tour offers behind the scenes access to the greenhouses at the Land pavilion. For those who want to know more than what you learn on the boat ride about the agricultural research they conduct there, or the foods they are growing, this low cost tour is a great way to satisfy your green thumb’s curiosity (and it is open to all ages). Plus it’s kind-of cool to wave to the people on the boats from the other side (and you get to feed the fish). There is a fee for this tour, and advance reservations are recommended. If you want to know more check out this review: http://www.disneydining.com/behind-the-seeds-tour-review/
6. The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour
If you are a railroad aficionado, or you just love the train at Walt Disney World this early morning tour is a wonderful way to learn the history and tradition of the railroad that started with Walt Disney himself. On the tour you get to enter an empty Main Street (on our tour we even saw the overnight maintenance work still going on) way before any other guests. Then you take a ride on the railroad where you get to see the roundhouse and maintenance bays for the railroad, along with inspecting the engine first hand. It is a pretty awesome experience that I recommend for train and Disney fans alike. Advance reservations are required for this tour, and an additional fee is charged—call 407-WDW-TOUR.
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5. Marceline to Magic Kingdom Tour
I highly recommend this tour to Disney fan. It is open to anyone ages 12 and up, and it gives a fun look at what makes the Magic Kingdom so magical and how it is based on the life and interests of Walt Disney himself. Your guide gives you behind the scenes information throughout your tour (including while you are on attractions), and at one point you get to see something so incredibly cool behind the scenes that I have to leave it a secret for you. Reservations are required for this tour also, along with a fee, call 407-WDW-TOUR. More information can be found in this review: http://www.disneydining.com/walt-disney-marceline-magic-kingdom-tour-review/
4. Dining with an Imagineer
This is one incredible experience. Offered at a couple of different locations and dining times, Dining with an Imagineer gives you face time with one of Disney’s creative team that works in the parks. Each meal is different, so your Imagineer and his or her specialty will vary, but they all have great behind the scenes stories and information about the parks. The meal is only offered on certain days of the week, and the size of the group is limited to keep the experience intimate—so be sure to book as early as possible. More details can be found in this review: http://www.disneydining.com/dining-with-an-imagineer/
3. Wild Africa Trek
This is another amazing experience for animal lovers. Set around the Kilimanjaro Safari attraction and the Harambe Wildlife Preserve, this trek takes you behind the scenes and into the actual animal habitats. A private safari vehicle takes you through the rest of the preserve stopping along the way to allow you to stand and take pictures. Throughout you journey an animal expert shares information about the animals and the measures taken by Animal Kingdom specialists to help preserve the various endangered species. The Trek also includes a delicious African “snack” right out on the savanna (where you can wave to the passing vehicles on the attraction), and a CD of all of the photos taken by your guides. This is another behind the scenes experience that I can highly recommend from experience. It does require reservations and an additional fee. For a more in depth look at the experience check out this article: http://www.disneydining.com/wild-african-trek-in-animal-kingdom/
2. Keys to the Kingdom Tour
Want to spend a morning in the Magic Kingdom with a private tour guide going behind the scenes to see all kinds of cool stuff including the legendary Utilidors? Sign me up! My husband and I did this tour on our anniversary trip a couple of years ago and it was a pretty amazing experience to see how several things work in the Magic Kingdom (and very neat to go into the Utilidors—even briefly). You also go on a couple of attractions where your guide gives you more behind the scenes information, and it includes lunch! Like most of the tours, an additional fee and advance reservations are required. More information can be found here: http://www.disneydining.com/?s=keys+to+the+kingdom
1. Backstage Magic Tour
This is one behind the scenes look that I have not been able to experience yet—but it is top on my list to take my son next year when he turns 16 (the minimum age for this tour). This 7 hour tour visits all four theme parks and lets you take a look behind the scenes at the amazing animatronics at the American Adventure in Epcot, the Utilidors at Magic Kingdom, and see how Tower of Terror creates its thrills at Hollywood Studios, plus a trip to costuming and central shops. Somewhere in there you fit in lunch at Wilderness Lodge. I can’t wait to go on this one! Again, reservations and a fee are required.
There you have it, 10 ways to get a peek behind the scenes at the magic of Walt Disney World. Do you prefer to let the magic happen, or would your rather know how it happens?