Today we will review the Taste of Magic Kingdom VIP Tour, where guests are given a sneak peek at the food and beverage experience at Magic Kingdom. The tour debuted earlier this year, but Disney has since revamped the entire offering, including upgrades in the tour experience, food served on the tour, and even the route takes around Magic Kingdom. In our Taste of Magic Kingdom VIP Tour review, we’ll cover the logistics of the tour as well as help you decide if this tour is worth the $99 tendered.
Taste of Magic Kingdom VIP Tour Review
We’ll start with the logistics:
- Price: $99 per person, plus tax (valid admission is required for each park and not included in the price of this experience)
- Dates: This experience is currently offered on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
- Reservations: Book online – or call (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463
The tour includes some standard disclaimers, but some of the more notable ones included:
- All Guests will be required to sign a waiver upon arrival in order to participate in the tour.
- Guests must be at least 16 years of age to participate in this experience.
- Tour members exhibiting symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, sore throat with fever, persistent sneezing, coughing or a runny nose and/or discharge from eyes, nose or mouth that cannot be controlled by medication or jaundice (yellow skin or eyes) are prohibited from participating in the tour.
- Proper attire is required: heels, open-ended shoes not permitted; clog-type shoes must have a closed heel. Sensible walking shoes are strongly recommended. Short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts are recommended.
The above disclaimers and requirements are mostly due to the nature of the tour and the fact that you’ll be walking through working kitchens. While you won’t touch any food in the kitchens, Disney takes food preparation and safety very seriously, so make sure you aren’t sick and have closed toed shoes.
Finally, here’s how Disney describes the tour. We’ll check back on the various elements promised to see how it all stacks up.
Checking In and Getting Started
We’ll walk you through the tour now, offering our thoughts along the way. You’ll start by checking in at Tony’s Town Square. While other tours start at the “tour check-in desk” in Town Square Theater, this is the only tour that actually utilizes the Tony’s Town Square desk for check-in. Make sure that you check-in at least 10-15 minutes before the tour start time, as you’ll be funneled into the front porch area of the restaurant for a Mickey Cinnamon Bun as well as tea and coffee before the tour starts at 9am.
In our introduction, we mentioned that Disney has revamped the offering since it’s lukewarm reception back in February. One such spot where a change was made was with the introduction of “whisper” units, which is what Disney calls the listening devices that guests wear on their ear to hear the guide from a distance. It’s a standard piece of many of the tours around Walt Disney World, so why it wasn’t initially offered is a bit of a head-scratcher. Either way, it is now standard on the Taste of Magic Kingdom Food Tour, so that’s a smart change.
Our tour begins with a quick overview from the VIP Tour Guides on not only what the tour will cover, but also a little introduction as each of the guests tells the group what their name is and their favorite Disney food or Disney food memory. It’s a fun little way to get things started and it was great to hear some of the memories from other guests of foods of yesteryear that made an impact on them.
After stuffing our backpack with as many $5.50 smartwater bottles as we could, we were walked just outside of Tony’s Town Square Restaurant for a quick historical rundown of the venue. One of the things stressed by the tour guides is that we would learn and taste items from Disney’s culinary past, present, and future. We learned that Tony’s Town Square Restaurant was an opening day restaurant and it was known by a different name back then – Town Square Cafe. In the opening decade of Magic Kingdom, Town Square Cafe would be sponsored by Oscar Mayer. We were told that the star menu item was the Wieners A La Oscar, which featured twin Oscar Mayer wiener with baked beans and coleslaw. It would have cost you $1.15 in 1971 money, which would be $7.28 in 2019 money. Of course, something like that would likely run you closer to $15 in the Magic Kingdom of today.
Back to the tour, our guides did make it a point of noting that all of the pastas and dishes offered in Tony’s Town Square today are made fresh for guests as the location proves to be a popular Magic Kingdom dining option.
Our group was then walked into our first of many backstage areas. Being able to tour a backstage area is a fun part of any tour and access not available to the average guest. In this case, our first backstage area was the Main Street bypass, which is open to guests in high attendance times and every single Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party as seen below.
On our tour, it was technically backstage despite looking the same (minus Halloween decor), and thus no photos were allowed. We’ll utilize Google Earth to demonstrate the backstage areas that we accessed where it makes sense. As you can see below, the Main Street bypass runs next to Main Street USA and it’s here that we were told of the importance of the Tomorrowland Terrace kitchen. Tomorrowland Terrace is the building seen to the right of the bypass in the upper right side of the image. As you can see, it’s a large building that is actually considered one of the most important kitchens at Magic Kingdom. From Casey’s Corner hot dogs to specialty treats offered during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, this kitchen is the origin spot for a lot of what you might snack on during the day at Magic Kingdom.
Unfortunately for us, the Taste of Magic Kingdom Food Tour does not enter this kitchen. It’s a bit of an oversight in our opinion, because a lot of the early and later parts of the tour spiel do reference this kitchen.
Speaking of Casey’s Corner, this would be our next spot. We were told a bit about the history of the location starting out as the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner. Our guides spoke a bit about the strong partnership between Disney and the Coca-Cola company throughout the years. Of course, there is one Disney park that serves Pepsi instead of Coke products. Do you know which one it is?
We got to walk through the Casey’s Corner kitchen, which is probably smaller than some of your own! All of the kitchens were considered backstage, so no photos were allowed. We each lined up in a single file line and took the maybe 10 steps it took to walk the whole kitchen and exit into The Emporium. As noted earlier, the way that Casey’s Corner is able to get away with such a small kitchen is that the hot dogs and ingredients are actually made in the Tomorrowland Terrace kitchen and brought over via the Utilidoors, or underground tunnels, that run beneath Magic Kingdom.
Our next stop would likely be considered the highlight of the tour – the Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen. This is one of our favorite restaurants at Magic Kingdom, and the one with the most up-to-date kitchen. While none of the kitchens we walked through felt old, this one was “recently” remodeled before Skipper Canteen opened.
This was the kitchen that we spent the most time in, maybe about 3 to 5 minutes. We were told how the Skipper Canteen kitchen is actually much more than initially meets the eye. The kitchen is actually just a small part of a larger kitchen that serves The Diamond Horseshoe, Skipper Canteen, Adventureland Food Carts, Liberty Tree Tavern, and Captain’s Quarters (the Club 33 location for Magic Kingdom). They talked about the upgrades made to the kitchen, most notably the digital ordering system that helps the chefs perfectly time the meals. As we exited the kitchen, our guides pointed out a hallway that led to the other parts of the kitchen. We didn’t get to walk through those parts, but it was nice to be able to see how expansive the complex really is.
After our relatively brief time in the kitchen, we were then given some more backstory on the restaurant, including a call out to the fun S.E.A. Room, which is a once-secret meeting place for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. You enter the room via a secret bookshelf by pulling on The Jungle Book. Of course, this is a themed door, so there was no actual pulling on the book to access the room. A bonus to the tour is access to the entire restaurant for photography. Skipper Canteen doesn’t open until 11:30am daily, so this was one of the few locations we were able to enjoy to ourselves (the other being Casey’s Corner). This served as a bathroom break area too, which gave us about 10 minutes of wandering time.
For our Skipper Canteen stop, we were really impressed with the plated food. On our plate was a really tasty presentation of the Curried Vegetable Crew Stew and Orinoco Ida’s Cachapas, accompanied by the Punch Line Punch. This was a wonderful dish that actually had a bit of spice to it. The dish can be seen below, but the tour didn’t debut with this dish. When it debuted, guests were not offered what essentially became a meal. Instead, they were given a spring roll from the Adventureland cart. This is a marked improvement from “version one” of the tour.
As part of our stop in Skipper Canteen, we encountered our first Q&A of the day with a chef that works at the location – Chef Rebecca. She spoke a bit about her background with the company and even shared a really cool tidbit about her time at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness (REVIEW). At Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, the music that is sung on stage is actually piped into the kitchen and is used by the chefs to correctly time their cooking and plating!
Next up was Aloha Isle, home of the famous (and tasty) Dole Whip. While at Aloha Isle, we were able to enjoy a small portion of the Dole Whip (sans Pineapple juice), while our guides talked about the fact that Disney snacks are heavily influenced by social media these days. When considering new snacks, chefs consider the Instagram-ability of the food. An example given was the Hei Hei Cone (REVIEW) that featured a layer of strawberry soft-serve on top of a layer of Dole Whip. Our guides talked a bit about the fact that the treat had to evolve a bit since its inception due to the fact that the eyes and sour candy “comb” were so hard to consistently produce. When an image of a treat goes out on social media, guests then expect to be served a similar version and the Hei Hei Cone was too difficult to find consistency with, which is why the character portion of the treat was dropped, and now you can get a simple raspberry float.
Our guides also talked about the fact that the only authentic and true Dole Whips can be found in two locations worldwide – Disney Parks and the Dole Plantation in Hawaii. A final parting fact made us all feel a bit better about eating the Dole Whip, and that’s that a standard Dole Whip is only 90 calories. Eat up!
Our next stop stayed with the Adventureland theme and we took a stroll over to Tortuga Tavern for another classic Disney snack – the Turkey Leg. After a hearty “Arrrrgh” from all of the guests on the tour, the side windows were flung open at Tortuga Tavern and the somewhat divisive snack was served, pre-sliced, in cups. Luckily it also came with a water bottle, much needed considering the snack is literally bathed in brine. Brine is defined as “water strongly impregnated with salt”, and it was. It’s a terrible snack, but wouldn’t be the worst of the tour. Stay tuned.
I mean, how often do you get the chance to photograph a Turkey Leg on an actual plate? Living the dream.
Our guides talked about the many myths surrounding Turkey Legs, including dispelling the theory that the legs are actually that of an Emu. Of course, that’s not true and the real explanation is that you’ve been buying female turkeys for Thanksgiving, and Disney uses male turkeys for their larger legs. The smoking process is what makes the turkey legs taste more like ham. That is, when you’re not overwhelmed by the salt.
Our guides also told us that consuming a turkey leg is one of two banned experiences for VIP Tour Guides, the other is riding Kali River Rapids. Apparently there is no way to gracefully eat a turkey leg and no way to dry off from Kali River Rapids.
As we were leaving, our guides talked a bit about the history of the restaurant, which included pointing out the original sign for El Pirata Y El Perico in the rafters.
As we made our way through Frontierland, our guides actually pointed out the churro stand as we were walking by. No, we weren’t going to eat a churro, but they took the opportunity to talk about the history of the churro. While this in and of itself might not be terribly interesting, it was another example of the Whisper device adding to the experience. After our tour, we talked with the guides for a bit and they expressed how happy they were to have the devices and the ability to improve the tour during what use to be dead times walking from location to location.
Our next stop would be a new one for “version two” of the tour – The Diamond Horseshoe. We stopped here in lieu of stopping at a popcorn stand, and it was probably for the better.
This would be another opportunity to get off of your feet and enjoy a half-salad. More specifically, we had half of the Colony Salad from Liberty Tree Tavern. Remember, it shares a kitchen with the Adventureland complex, including Skipper Canteen and Club 33. The salad contained Grilled Chicken, Washington Apples, Sweet Pecans, Applewood-smoked Cheddar, Dried Cranberries, and Honey-Shallot Vinaigrette. We actually really enjoyed the salad! It’s a wonderful mix of textures and flavors, but what puts it over the top as a good dish is the honey-shallot vinaigrette.
After our visit to The Diamond Horseshoe, we made our way to our next backstage area, the Be Our Guest catwalk near the entrance to the Utilidoors. Here’s a Google Earth view of the area, with Be Our Guest Restaurant represented as the green building on the left. There actually might not be a better spot in all of Magic Kingdom that so clearly represents the fact that the guest areas of Magic Kingdom are on the second floor of the theme park. We literally walk from a guest area (seen in the photo below in the top, as red walkway), and straight onto a second floor catwalk.
A wider look shows off just how massive Be Our Guest is! Only a portion of the complex is Enchanted Tales with Belle. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to enter the Be Our Guest kitchen as it’s an extremely busy restaurant from the first breakfast plated to the last dinner ordered. In the image below, you can see the entire catwalk length that we walked, which also offered decent views of it’s a small world and The Haunted Mansion show buildings as seen in the second image.
While we were backstage, our guides talked about the recycling programs that are in place for the Disney culinary team. There are two types of food product that Disney recycles.
The first is food that has been made by Disney chefs but don’t make it to the guest, for whatever reason. These food products account for 60 million meals per year and are donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida where they are then distributed to various partners including churches, schools, and more.
The second type of food product is scraps or byproduct. The scraps are converted into energy via a partnership between Disney and Harvest Power. Enough power is generated to power 4,000 homes per year. That power is put back into the parks and used to power attractions, restaurants, and more. Another byproduct is cooking oils, which is used to power the Disney bus fleet.
Anyway, that’s probably a bit more information than was necessary for this review, but it gave our guides enough time to prepare our next treat – The Grey Stuff from the Be Our Guest Restaurant.
We gathered outside of Gaston’s Tavern to enjoy a three or four-bite version of The Grey Stuff. Out of all of the treats, this was probably the one with the fewest amount of “fun facts” from our guides, largely because the recipe is kept a secret, even from them. If you want to try The Grey Stuff, it’s presented in a few different forms inside Be Our Guest Restaurant, including the new prix fixe dinner which we reviewed here.
Next up was a new stop for the “version two” portion of the Taste of Magic Kingdom Food Tour, the Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe kitchen. Previously, the tour would hand out the Mermaid Donut served at Prince Eric’s Village Market. Disney had realized that they were serving way too many sweets on the previous version of the tour and opted for a more balanced diet. Unfortunately, that meant that we were served the worst item of the tour, the Plant-based Sloppy Joe.
Once again, we were walked through the kitchen and behind the counter. Because the kitchen is completely surrounded by guest hallways, there is actually a staircase in the kitchen that Cast Members can take down to the Utilidoors to move around.
One completely unverified but interesting tidbit is that our guides said that Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe serves the second-most meals per year of any restaurant in the world, only bested by a McDonalds in Moscow. If it weren’t for the McDonalds in Moscow being open 24 hours per day, Cosmic Ray’s would reign supreme.
Finally, it was time for our last stop of the tour, Tomorrowland Terrace. Well, before we get to Tomorrowland Terrace, there was one last photo op available with a #DisneyVIPTours prop and assorted food props at the Purple Wall.
Our final food item was the only one we couldn’t take a photo of as it was an “in development” item. A version of a spring roll was served to us, but after reading reviews of “version one” of the tour, I’m not entirely convinced that this is really a new item. It honestly wasn’t anything special, pretty much a standard spring roll that you might find at the China Global Marketplace kiosk at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.
Overall, we enjoyed the tour. It’s probably better priced at $75, but the changes that have been made to the tour since its inception are a step in the right direction. Better communication, more kitchen tours, upgraded food, and adjusted routes make “version two” of the tour closer to “worth it”. I don’t know if anything that we had to eat was out of the ordinary, and the rough value of the items is displayed below to see what the true value of the tour was:
- Mickey Cinnamon Roll – $5
- smartwater – $5.50
- Skipper Canteen meal (cachapas and crew stew) – $12
- Dole Whip – $2
- Turkey Leg – $1.50
- Colony Salad – $9
- The Grey Stuff – $2
- Plant-based Sloppy Joe – $4
- Spring Roll – $8
In total, we probably consumed roughly $50 worth of food. I will say this about the “value”, you won’t leave hungry. The pace of the tour is intentional, without ever getting too quick. If you’re really worried about your ability to fill up, a couple of Mickey Cinnamon rolls at the start should fill you up.
As far as the content of the tour, this is where we had the toughest time determining value. In reality, we spent more time in kitchens during our free 30-minute Backstage Tales tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom than we did in the whole entire Taste of Magic Kingdom Food Tour combined. I wish we had spent more time in a kitchen, perhaps even getting the opportunity to see a meal being prepared or even a demonstration. There are so many interesting food items that are offered at Disney Parks that it would be well worth the $99 tendered to see a working kitchen. As it is presented today, if you see one stainless steel kitchen, you’ve seen them all. Ending the tour with a viewing of the reportedly hardworking Tomorrowland Terrace kitchen preparing some food items would have been ending it on a high note. Hopefully there will be a “version three” of the tour in the future.
One more thing I wanted to talk about is the tour size. According to our guides, the maximum on the tour is 30 guests. We were 17 guests total on our tour, which felt like a good number. Just like anything, the smaller the group size the better the experience. Doubling the number of people in our group would have been too much, even with the Whisper units. If Disney could cap the tour at 20 guests, that would probably be the maximum that we would be ok with touring with.
It’s kind of difficult to define who this tour is “for”. You don’t really have to be into food to enjoy it, and there really isn’t anything above and beyond to make this a “must do” for a hardcore Disney fan. This likely won’t be interesting enough to recommend to the average guest. If there was more time in the kitchens and a chance to watch a dish being made, I could probably recommend the tour at $75. I don’t know what Disney could do to this tour to make it worth $99 when the 5-hour Keys to the Kingdom Tour is the same price. Version two of this tour shows that Disney is open to feedback and change, let’s hope that they continue to evolve the tour to make this worthy of a recommendation in the future. As of right now, it’s a pass.
Thank you for reading our Taste of Magic Kingdom VIP Tour Review and let us know what your thoughts are or if we can answer any questions not addressed in the review.