Starting today, Disney is offering a rare free tour for guests visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The tour is in a testing phase as Disney adjusts their offerings for the park’s 20th Anniversary this April. The tour is 30 minutes in length and takes guests to some backstage areas that are used to support the day-to-day operations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Here are our thoughts on the tour.

First off, it’s worth noting that this tour won’t be free forever. Disney has phased out their 3-hour Backstage Tales tour and is looking to replace it with some new offerings. As part of their testing, Disney is offering this tour for free and it covers two of four areas:

  • Veterinary Hospital
  • Animal Nutrition Center
  • Science Center
  • Invertebrate Building

For our tour, we covered the Veterinary Hospital and the Animal Nutrition Center.

To check in for the tour, guests need to visit the biofacts table at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. It’s the table to the left of the Doc McStuffins meet and greet.

Tours are currently leaving every hour, on the 45 minute mark. Each tour can accommodate 12 guests and there is no age limit.

After a brief introduction (including rules that prohibit photography and videography) we were through a backstage door and into the Veterinary Hospital. Any backstage tour is really cool for Disney fans looking for something new, but this tour had the added benefit of being an operational hospital. There was an animal being cared for during a routine checkup during our visit, which made the tour extra interesting due to the amount of care specialists moving in backstage areas.

Photo: Disney

Our tour guides took us past the room where the CT scans were occuring and into a secondary scanning room. I was surprised at how many specialty rooms there were. From the on-stage areas, you can only see a few rooms, but we probably saw at least double the amount of rooms in just the first 5 minutes of the tour.

The tour guides were very knowledgeable with regards to the equipment and procedures that have taken place over the years. They even shared a story about how they were able to be a little innovative when sedating a nile crocodile for a scan.

After we were done with the Veterinary Hospital, we made our way further backstage, to the Animal Nutrition Center. It’s here that over 4 tons of food is prepared daily for animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Lodge. An in-depth discussion about the care and precision that Cast Members take in preparing the food was authentically supplemented by the nearly overpowering scent of fish as yet another meal was being prepared. It was amazing to hear the way that the kitchen prepares the meals, including that Disney uses the same food vendors that supply park guests with quality meals across property.

Photo: Disney

Overall, we think it was an amazing tour. While it’s hard to review something that is free and in a test phase, we think it’s absolutely worth your time should you find yourself in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in the coming days. The Cast Members are extremely knowledgeable, oftentimes with firsthand experience in the areas they talk about. We could easily see this turning into a 1-2 hour tour that takes you to all four locations on offer. There was no end date given to us at the time of our tour, but we’ll be sure to update this post should the tour go to a paid option or be discontinued.