Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom tour has returned to Magic Kingdom after being suspended since March 2020. The tour takes guests to backstage areas for a behind-the-scenes look at Magic Kingdom Park. In our Keys to the Kingdom tour review, we’ll discuss what you can expect during the tour and share some photos (where allowed).
Keys to the Kingdom Tour Review
- Price and Details
- Keys to the Kingdom Description
- Check-In and Arrival/Rules
- Keys to the Kingdom Tour First Half (Main Street USA, Jungle Cruise, Parade Warehouse)
- Is The Keys to the Kingdom Tour Right For Me?
- Keys to the Kingdom Second Half (Lunch, Haunted Mansion, Utilidors)
- Keys to the Kingdom Closing Thoughts
Price and Details
Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom tour is $114 per person, tax not included. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members qualify for a 15% discount. Advance reservations are highly recommended. Learn when advance reservations can be made. Same-day reservations can be made on a limited basis and are subject to availability.
The tour is a 5-hour walking tour exploring different areas of Magic Kingdom, including backstage areas. Separate theme park admission is required and NOT included in the price of the tour. In addition, you will also need to book a Disney Park Pass reservation. Your tour reservation is NOT a substitute for a Disney Park Pass.
Guests taking the Keys to the Kingdom tour must be 16 years of age or older.
Keys to the Kingdom Description
Here’s how Disney describes the Keys to the Kingdom tour:
Magic Kingdom to the Max
Unlock the fascinating history of Magic Kingdom park and gain backstage access to legendary hidden areas.
This 5-hour walking tour explores the creation and remarkable growth of one of the most beloved parks at Walt Disney World Resort! Explore secret locations you’ve always wondered about and get the inside scoop on some of your favorite attractions.
During your tour:
- Uncover the hidden secrets of classic attractions at Magic Kingdom park.
- Access the famed underground “Utilidor” tunnels that allow people and supplies to travel beneath the park unseen.
- Discover little-known facts, trivia and other exciting tidbits about the park.
- Enjoy a delicious lunch—included with your tour.
- Take home an exclusive keepsake!
Experience an Urban Legend
Enter the underground service tunnels to uncover a mystery that’s absolutely, almost unbelievably, true!
The Guest-accessible areas of Magic Kingdom park are actually on the second floor of a massive structure. The “tunnel” below, known as the Utilidor, allows Cast Members, deliveries, and even rubbish to be unknowingly transported below Guests’ feet as they wait in line for their favorite attractions. You’ve got to see the Utilidor for yourself!
Learn About the Man Behind the Mouse
Hear the intriguing story of Walt Disney and how his vision, innovation, and creativity brought the theme park to life. You’ll gain insight into Walt’s thought process as he was designing the park, learn fun trivia and little-known facts, discover hidden Mickeys and other often-overlooked details, and more.
Check-In and Arrival/Rules
Check-in for the Keys to the Kingdom tour is at the Town Square Theater inside of Magic Kingdom. Disney recommends that you check-in 15 minutes prior to the start of your tour reservation time. Our tour was the very first tour in nearly 700 days after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the theme parks and has caused many experiences to (very) slowly return.
We were on the 8am tour and check-in was available when the park opened at 7:45am. It’s probably worth noting that you really need to make transportation a priority to ensure that you make it to Magic Kingdom on time. The tour does not wait for late arrivals and while it may be possible to join the tour at a later point, it’s not guaranteed.
The transportation thing can certainly be a bit problematic, but busses and other forms of transportation are running early anyways to support Early Entry, so it’s not impossible to make it on time. For a couple different reasons, were ultimately going to suggest choosing a later Keys to the Kingdom time window, and allowing more time to get your morning started is one of the reasons. We’ll get into the other reasons as the article continues.
We arrived at the Magic Kingdom parking lot shortly before 7:15am and were held at the Transportation and Ticket Center security checkpoint until shortly before 7:30am. The Express Monorail to Magic Kingdom was not running, so the Resort Monorail or Ferry were the options to get to Magic Kingdom. We arrived with some time to spare before guests were allowed to enter the park at 7:44am. From there, it’s a short walk to Town Square Theater and the check-in area, which was utilizing the Tony’s Town Square Restaurant podium.
Because the tour is pre-paid, you don’t have to pay during check-in. You’ll simply state your name, verbally agree to the printed face mask policy, and select what you’d like for the lunch portion of the tour. The face mask policy is the same as the rest of Walt Disney World – wear it indoors.
For lunch, we were told that our tour would be going to Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe. We were given a few options to choose from. About midway through your tour, you’ll be stopping for lunch, and choosing what you’d like to eat allows the Cast Members supporting the tour to have your lunch ready for you when your tour arrives so you don’t waste time.
When you check in, you’ll receive a nametag and a lanyard to be worn at all times. The lanyard contains the listening device that you will wear throughout the tour to hear your tour guide even over the chatter of 60,000 people around you.
One thing to note at the start is that there are no photos or video allowed while on the tour – even when you’re “on stage”. Technically, taking a photo in a guest area won’t get you kicked out, but our guide requested that no photos or video were taken throughout the tour, so we abided by the rules. (Note: Any photos in this article not of the check-in process are photos we have taken prior to, or following the tour. Not on the tour.) Of course, any backstage photos are strictly prohibited.
The logic behind the no photos rule became a tiny bit clearer as the tour progressed. For example, at one point we walked into Adventureland prior to rope drop. In this instance, we were clearly in an “on stage” area as we walked across the bridge and towards Jungle Cruise, but this was in a pre-opening time period, so it was technically an off-limits area to day guests. Our tour guide had to gently remind some guests on the tour that photos were not allowed, and this is an example of when the greyness of the tour came into play.
That said, we really enjoyed the way that VIP Tours (a different branch of the company than Magic Kingdom Guest Relations, which handles Keys to the Kingdom) handled the Taste of Magic Kingdom Tour. In that tour, photography was actually encouraged in all spaces that weren’t backstage. When we entered a backstage area, the guides made it very clear that photos weren’t allowed. As an example, at one point we’d be standing on the guest side of a counter, and then as we walked to the Cast Member side of the counter, our guides would make it clear that we were in a backstage area, and photos from that side of the counter were not allowed. Once we made it back into a guest area the guides would say that photos were allowed again. The Taste of Magic Kingdom Tour is not currently available, but you can read our full review below!
It’s cumbersome, but it makes more sense than saying that photos of a Main Street USA window aren’t allowed during the tour even though hundreds of guests were walking by the same window and the park was already open. Of course, when you’re doing your tour, you likely won’t be taking pictures for a photo-heavy blog, but it would be nice to even snap a photo of a Main Street USA window for your own memories after learning something that you may have never known before. Perhaps Disney will allow photos in the future…hopefully.
Keys to the Kingdom Tour First Half (Main Street USA, Jungle Cruise, Parade Warehouse)
Moving on! Our tour begins on Main Street USA and an overview of the guiding principles that are intended to govern Cast Member behavior and company direction: The Five Keys.
The Five Keys adds “Inclusion” to the historical Four Keys. To learn more about the Five Keys, check out our article below. Essentially, the tour begins with a brief introduction to the Five Keys because they will be referenced at various points throughout the tour to describe the reasoning behind certain operational choices or decisions.
From there, the tour continues with a discussion of different building techniques and cinematic choices made for the “first impression” moment of your day at Magic Kingdom. Your guide might cover topics like forced perspective or sightlines to show the care that went into creating Main Street USA. Every tour is different because every tour guide is different, but you should cover roughly the same topics as you progress. As billed, you’ll learn about the history of Magic Kingdom and some of the sneakiness that went into buying 43 square miles of swampland for an average of less than $200/acre.
After you’re done with Main Street USA, you’ll continue your adventure in…Adventureland. The tour will take you on your first ride of the day, but this Jungle Cruise expedition will be unlike anything you’ve experienced before. While a skipper will still be at the helm, it’s actually your tour guide that will talk about the history of the attraction and the attention to detail that still goes into the attraction today. Our guide did not focus much at all on the recent overhaul to the attraction, but one tidbit that we learned was that Little Red is actually the elephant found near Trader Sam’s Gift Shop in the new finale scene for the ride!
After you’re done with Jungle Cruise, you won’t leave Adventureland just yet as there is a whole entire history of Audio-Animatronics to learn outside of the Enchanted Tiki Room. You won’t ride or experience another attraction for a few hours, so the learning is done outside of the entrance to the attraction. A similar discussion will happen near Pirates of the Caribbean before leaving Adventureland for Frontierland.
A “surprise and delight” moment is next on the schedule as you’ll head backstage to the parade warehouse. You’ll make your way down the parade route next to Splash Mountain as you head “backstage” for the first time on the tour. Again, there was a bit of a grey area as we made our way into Adventureland for Jungle Cruise before that land was open to guests (Early Entry or otherwise), but this was the first time when it was immensely clear that you were heading backstage and that phones (cameras, etc) would be required to stay in your pocket.
As you’d expect, you get to see parade floats, and we even got to be the very first guests to see the two floats for the upcoming “Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcades”. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the Festival of Fantasy Parade floats, but we know that a later tour was able to see the floats. Here’s a look at the area that you’ll be able to experience. There are two parade buildings and the parade route runs between the large Pirates of the Caribbean show building on the left and the Splash Mountain show building on the right.
This brings us to our second point why a later Keys to the Kingdom tour window might be better than an earlier timeframe. During our 8am time window, we arrived backstage at the parade warehouse with no activity beyond some testing of the new parade floats. There were no characters or performers and the area was rather dead beyond the stray construction vehicle for the ongoing Splash Mountain refurbishment. That’s not to say that it was boring, but we might have enjoyed a bit more activity given how often the Magic Kingdom cavalcades are performed.
In our case, it was simply a matter of arriving too early – before any of the cavalcades began or were even being prepared. During a later tour, not only was the Festival of Fantasy Parade warehouse accessible (not sure why it wasn’t for our tour), but guests in a later tour were able to see the hard work that goes into preparing a cavalcade to go on stage.
Is The Keys to the Kingdom Tour Right For Me?
This is probably a good time to talk a bit about who this tour is for. We’ll continue to talk about the next parts of the tour in a bit, but it is critical that you understand what this tour is, what it isn’t, and figure out if the Keys to the Kingdom Tour is the right tour for you.
Let’s be clear: the Keys to the Kingdom Tour has the potential to ruin the magic for you. That said, if you’re reading this review or even considering a tour that takes you through the underground tunnels of Magic Kingdom, you’re probably already looking to pull back the curtain a bit. This tour definitely does pull back the curtain and you’ll see things that you really shouldn’t see. Seeing Mickey Mouse putting on his (her) head or watching Tinker Bell being lifted onto a treasure chest via scissor lift is something that we all know happens, but might not want to see. Walking through a tunnel next to “Cinderella” wearing the latest Spirit Jersey off of shopDisney while Single Ladies from Beyonce plays in the background is quite the departure from the normal way the classic character is presented. It is probably wrong to say that the “magic” is ruined so much as it is presented in a completely different light.
If you are a super Disney fan and you’re looking for something completely different than what you’ve done before, the Keys to the Kingdom Tour is a wonderful option. It’s not prohibitively expensive and delivers on the promise of pulling back the curtain to show you a side of Magic Kingdom that you haven’t seen before. If you’re ok with the concept of “magic” being ruined, this is a wonderful tour to see the inner workings of the world’s busiest theme park. The tour presents Magic Kingdom as a utilitarian entity as much as it attempts to keep the magic alive. Saying that it “ruins” the magic is perhaps a bit extreme, but it’s also extreme to see a rather magic-less tunnel where trash rattles by in a pipe every 20 minutes. There is a magic at Walt Disney World, and it’s not in the latest Dole Whip flavor. We’ll explain what we mean at the end of this article, but for now, let’s get back to the tour.
Keys to the Kingdom Second Half (Lunch, Haunted Mansion, Utilidors)
After taking a lap through the backstage parade area between Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain, you’ll conveniently find yourself next to Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe in Frontierland. There’s nothing too special about lunch beside a dedicated room for the tour. It’s not a special room, per se, but it is at least a sectioned-off area where your food will be waiting for you. Because COVID-19 protocols are still observed indoors, you’ll have your own private table for the members of your immediate traveling party. The food isn’t outstanding by any means, but it will get you refueled in about 20 minutes and back on the streets of Frontierland as you head towards Liberty Square.
While we try not to talk too much about the factoids shared on the tour, we simply can’t ignore what is perhaps the most historic tree on the property. The Liberty Tree in Liberty Square was our next stop and a wonderful time to talk about Imagineer Bill Evans and the monumental effort required to bring the Liberty Tree to Magic Kingdom.
The Liberty Tree in Magic Kingdom is a Southern Live Oak and was hand-picked by Walt Disney himself. Of course, Walt didn’t live long enough to see crews even break ground on Magic Kingdom, but Bill Evans made sure that they used the exact tree that Walt wanted for Liberty Square. That same tree, now more than 150 years old, still stands in Liberty Square and is even the logo for the Walt Disney World Horticulture team!
From the Liberty Tree, we walked towards Haunted Mansion where our guide shared some details about the special effects used to create illusions in the attraction. For a seasoned Walt Disney World fan, you probably won’t learn too many new things, but at least you will be able to skip the line to ride Haunted Mansion. Not only do you skip standby, but you skip Lightning Lane too! Your group will enter through the Servant’s Quarters hallway into the foyer and eventually the stretching room. Unlike Jungle Cruise where you get a special spiel thanks to your guide taking control of the microphone, the ride on Haunted Mansion is a standard ride.
Following your ride on Haunted Mansion, it’s time for the moment that Disney knows you’ve been waiting for – a trip down into the Utilidors. These legendary tunnels run underneath just about every corner of Magic Kingdom and you get to walk quite a bit of the tunnel system (much more than we had expected). On our tour, we entered the Utilidors via the Fantasy Faire gift shop in Fantasyland and exited on Main Street USA behind The Confectionery. We made multiple twists and turns and saw everything from pargos to princesses. The rattle of trash could be heard occasionally, and there was quite a bit of merchandise traveling around to hopefully make its way to a home in Iowa.
This old publicity photo from Disney shows the exact route that you’ll walk underneath Cinderella Castle. Of course, some things have changed over the years, but this photo really captures the essence of the machine of the Utilidors. One thing that hasn’t changed is the elevator in the upper left of the image – it takes Cast Members (and Cinderella) right up to Cinderella Castle. See the low ceiling that Mickey and Minnie are getting ready to walk under? That’s the underside of the moat for Cinderella Castle.
You’ll spend anywhere from 35-45 minutes in the Utilidors, and you’ll be able to see some of the historical photos and artifacts that Cast Members walk by every day. Our tour ended with a focus on Roy Disney and the hard work that he put into the final months of his life to get Walt Disney World opened to the public.
Keys to the Kingdom Closing Thoughts
Earlier in the article, we teased that the Keys to the Kingdom tour reveals the true magic of Walt Disney World. Seeing the backstage areas, off-the-clock princesses, and secret tunnels shows that Magic Kingdom is simply a collection of metal and paint. I can’t stress enough how lifeless the park is without the real magic of Walt Disney World – the Cast Members. It sounds cliche until you really see just how stark a contrast there is behind a backstage area and the hustle and bustle of Magic Kingdom. If Disney were to ever lose the magic, it wouldn’t be because the latest IP is ruining EPCOT, it would be because the company is no longer able to inspire its own Cast Members to go out and make magic every day.
It’s kind of hard for us to come to a final conclusion on the Keys to the Kingdom tour. This tour likely appeals to die-hard Disney Parks fans and the vast majority of the spoken content on the tour will likely repeat what those types of fans have already learned on their own, the real value in the tour is the access you get to otherwise off-limits areas.
For $114, you’re paying for backstage access to the parade warehouse building and the Utilidors. That’s not bad, but we would’ve loved to have seen one more backstage area to really make the tour feel well-rounded. For example, in the Marceline to Magic Kingdom Tour we were able to see the Haunted Mansion ballroom scene like never before. We didn’t get a backstage look at attractions operations, and that void was felt in the tour.
All that said, we felt that the price was fair and while the tour is long, it was worth it. We can certainly recommend the Keys to the Kingdom Tour if it sounds interesting to you!
As always, keep checking back with us here at BlogMickey.com as we continue to bring you the latest news, photos, and info from around the Disney Parks!