What a magical week it has been! I’ve been blogging all about my time at Walt Disney World, and have enjoyed reflecting on all the fun.
Today, I’m going to share all about my experience with the Keys to the Kingdom Tour! This post will contain spoilers about some of the behind-the-scenes work that makes the magic happen, so if you don’t want to know those, come back tomorrow.
The Keys to the Kingdom tour is one of the many enhancements you can add to your Walt Disney World trip, and since I’ve been there several times I thought the tour would be a fun way to mix it up! Epcot and Animal Kingdom offer special tours, too, but I selected this one because I was intrigued to get a peek behind the so-called curtain.
All the tours start in the morning and run about five hours, and include lunch. They start every half hour beginning at 8:00 a.m., with the last one running at 10:00 a.m.. My start time was 8:30 a.m. and since the park opened at 9:00 a.m., it meant I got to enter the park ahead of the crowds!
I arrived to Magic Kingdom a little before 8:00 a.m., and checked in at a special entrance, and was allowed to enter right at 8:00 a.m.. Having the 8:30 a.m. start time meant that I had a chance to snap pictures on Main Street and of the Castle and get a coffee at Starbucks.
I checked in for the tour, selected my lunch order, and was given a special headset that would allow me to hear the guide without him having to yell. Then, I met up with my group, which was 20 adults.
Our tour guide, Gene, was amazing and started sharing interesting facts right away. He pointed out a Hidden Mickey in the roof of the train station. Can you see it??
We made our way down Main Street, and Gene described the Magic Kingdom like it was a movie and Main Street was the opening credits. Each of the buildings on Main Street has business names printed on the windows, and those names are all people who helped make the Magic Kingdom and Walt Disney World a reality.
He also shared some interesting facts about the perspectives of Main Street – the street is wider at the entrance and gets narrower the closer you get to the castle. The buildings all appear to be 3 stories, but the second and third stories are actually 7/8th and 5/8ths of a story respectively.
We stepped onto a little side street, and Gene pointed out that one of the windows was cracked. The window was printed with “Piano Lessons” and you could hear the faint sound of piano music. Of course, that wasn’t actually happening, but that attention to detail was so cool!
The final building on Main Street before the castle features Walt Disney’s name, and that’s where the designers, or Imagineers, felt Walt would’ve wanted his office, so he could look out at the Castle. Walt passed away in 1966, five years before the park opened.
At the end of Main Street, we made our way into Adventureland and Gene pointed out the subtle change in landscaping from the manicured hedges of Main Street to the more wild landscaping of Adventureland. In Adventureland, we had the opportunity to ride Jungle Cruise, which was one of Walt’s concepts that the Imagineers brought to life.
While on Jungle Cruise, Gene pointed out several interesting facts:
- The water that the cruise travels through looks to be a murky brown but is in fact safe drinking water that is dyed brown.
- Walt originally wanted to use live animals, but with no way to care for them or provide them with a full natural habitat, the idea was dismissed…but the idea for Animal Kingdom was born!
After Jungle Cruise, we got to go “behind the curtain,” so to speak, to the backstage. Gene said that the cast members refer to the areas that guests can see as the stage, and the areas for cast members as backstage. We got to see where they store the floats for the parades and meet some of the engineers who work on the floats daily to ensure they’re on-stage ready each afternoon.
We also learned that each park has a specially commissioned paint color to “hide” the buildings they don’t want guests to see. In the Magic Kingdom it’s called “go away green,” and in Epcot it’s called “bye bye blue.” These colors are used to paint the exterior buildings so they don’t catch your eye when you’re in the park. Gene pointed them out a few times, and magically, they work! The buildings were very hard to see.
Next, we strolled through Frontierland, where Gene again pointed out the subtle shift in landscaping to a more desert-like scene. He talked about the amazing attention to detail – things were designed to intentionally look worn and this is the only spot in the park with wooden-planked sidewalks, mimicking an old West town.
While in Frontierland, we stopped at Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn Cafe, where we enjoyed a break and lunch.
After lunch, we made our way through Liberty Square, where Gene pointed out the unique colonial architecture and Walt’s Liberty Tree. The Liberty Tree is the largest tree ever transplanted onto Walt Disney World property. Thirteen unique lanterns hang on the branches of the tree to honor the thirteen original colonies. You can read a more detailed history of the tree here.
Next, we headed to the Haunted Mansion, where we got to enter through the cast member entrance and hop on the ride. Gene shared some great tricks to the ride, including the use of mirrors to bring the ghosts to life, and the plethora of hidden Mickeys and a hidden Donald Duck! If you’ve ridden the ride, or plan to, check down the long hallway with the floating candelabra. There’s a red chair in that hall that has a Donald Duck stitched into the fabric!
After our ride through the Haunted Mansion, we made our way to Fantasyland. Gene pointed out more hidden Mickeys, and then it was time to make our way into the Utilador. The Utilador is the underground tunnel system that connects all the areas of the Magic Kingdom. Walt imagined the idea after realizing that the cast members at Disneyland didn’t have a way to get quickly from one end of the park to the other without having to navigate through crowds of people. The Utilador solves that problem! No pictures were allowed in the Utilador, but a few facts I found interesting.
- The Magic Kingdom is actually the second story of the park. The Utilador was built at ground level, and the park was built above that.
- There’s music playing throughout, but it’s not Disney music. There’s a cast member’s radio station that plays soft, soothing rock music and a DJ that makes important announcements for cast members.
- The corridors are color coded to indicate which area of the park you’re in – Fantasyland is pink and purple, Main Street is red and yellow, etc..
We walked through most of the Utilador corridors until we found ourselves underneath the Town Hall, which is where we started. We climbed the stairs and exited the Utilador.
Then, Gene did a quick wrap up and thanked us for coming and we were done!
It was such a great morning and I’m so glad I did the tour. I highly recommend it!
Tomorrow, I’ll be wrapping up my Walt Disney World blog posts with a look at the rest of my time in the Magic Kingdom . See you then!