The Disney Parks offer a wide variety of special tours for guests. Especially at Walt Disney World, where you can have experiences like snorkeling with sea creatures at Epcot, get a closer look at elephants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, take a historic look at Magic Kingdom, or even go behind-the-scenes all over the resort. But are these tours worth the additional cost? My answer is an emphatic “Yes!” …but not for everyone.
If you’re a first-time visitor to a Disney Park, I wouldn’t suggest taking one of these tours. There is plenty of content around you to experience on your first trip, so there’s no need to take up chunks of your day with tours before you’ve had the chance to experience it all on your own. If you’re with a large group of varying ages that doesn’t like the idea of separating, then a tour might not be for you either—especially if you have younger guests in your party.
But if you’re someone who has visited the Disney Parks multiple times and is looking for additional entertainment and education, then a Disney Parks tour is the perfect add-on for your vacation. In addition to offering a lot of tours based on different subject matters and interests, they also vary considerably in cost, offering options for all sorts of budgets. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the cost of the tour does not include theme park admission, which you will need to purchase (or have via Annual Pass, etc.) separately in most cases.
I’ve taken quite a few of the tours myself and have never been disappointed. If you’re a casual Disney fan who doesn’t know a lot about its history, you’re sure to learn a lot. Even if you’re a big Disney fan who has read all the books and seen all of the documentaries on the subject, you’ll still learn some good information and, often, be taken places guests normally can’t visit.
Let me share with you some of my favorite moments from tours I’ve taken, but please keep in mind that tour itineraries can often change for various reasons. Just because I’m sharing my personal tour experiences, your tour may not visit the same locations.
At Walt Disney World, Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour gives you a comprehensive look at Magic Kingdom, even taking you under the park into the Utilidors.
I especially loved being able to go under the stage at The American Adventure in Epcot on The UnDISCOVERed Future World tour. This audio-animatronic stage production has always blown my mind, so getting to see the machinery that makes it all happen up close was a dream come true.
Every Disney Park fan wants to walk through an attraction, and at The Land Pavilion’s Behind the Seeds tour, you not only get to see the agriculture up close, but will also see guests riding by in their boats on Living with the Land as you walk through.
If you’re an animal lover, you’ll definitely want to check out the many tour options at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The granddaddy of all tours available at Walt Disney World is the seven-hour-long Backstage Magic tour, which takes you backstage at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the costume department, and more. This truly is a full-day adventure, so, as I mentioned at the beginning, you probably don’t want to take a full day out of your vacation if it’s your first time visiting.
The Disneyland Resort does offer a couple of tours as well, which I’ve enjoyed. When I took the “Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps” guided tour, I was able to visit the Dream Suite above Pirates of the Caribbean. Now that that particular suite no longer exists, guests often get to visit Walt’s apartment above the Main Street firehouse instead.
Many guests make annual visits to the Disney Parks around the holidays for that extra touch of magic. If you’d like an extra, extra touch of magic, check out one of the holiday tours offered.
Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes free tours are offered at Disney resorts including Aulani: A Disney Resort & Spa in Hawaii, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and more. Disney Vacation Club members even get free access to a special Soarin’ behind-the-scenes tour at Disney California Adventure. I loved this tour where I got to watch the attraction in action, literally standing behind the screen—and you can’t beat the cost if you have access. These schedules and locations can often change so just be sure to do your homework in advance.
If you’ve ever thought about taking a Disney tour, hop on your vacation destination’s website and check out what they have to offer. You’re sure to find a tour that interests you and fits within your budget. I can’t recommend them enough, as these tours have created some of my favorite Disney memories.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com.