My sister and I try to take a guided tour each time we visit a Disney park.
In 2009 we did the Segway tour in Disneyland’s California Adventure …
That was really a fun one because the entire tour took place before the park opened to the public. How else could they have everyone zooming around on Segways and not running people over?!
Unfortunately Segway tours in the parks themselves are no longer being offered, however there is still a Segway tour available in Fort Wilderness, the campground area of Disney World. But let’s face it, that’s just not the same thing at all.
In 2017 we did the World Showcase: DestiNations Discovered tour in EPCOT.
That time we had access to the World Showcase part of EPCOT before it opened to the public for the first couple of hours of our tour. You can read all about that tour here.
In 2013 we did the Keys to the Kingdom tour. That tour takes you into the underground service tunnels, or the Utilidor, beneath the Magic Kingdom.
Taking a guided tour used to be a great way to get into the park ahead of everyone else thus giving you a little time to get some great photos of a mostly empty main street.
I’ve always felt like there is something especially magical about having the park all to ourselves.
However, this time around the parks were all open early for extra magic hours every day including the Magic Kingdom which was open at 7 a.m. That pretty much meant that we didn’t get in ahead of anyone else for our 8 a.m. tour.
Nonetheless, the Marceline to Magic Kingdom tour that we did this trip was one of the most amazing tours we’ve done in the Magic Kingdom.
It was a 3 hour walking tour and cost $49 per person (and you must have a valid park ticket for the day as well). Honestly, it would have been a bargain at twice the price.
We signed in at Main Street’s Town Square Theater, were issued name tags and listening devices and were offered bottled water. We were a small group of only 8 people. Our guide, Darlene, began our tour by explaining that this wouldn’t be your typical guided tour where she simply told us about the park and answered questions. Instead she was going to tell us a story. The story of Walter Elias Disney.
As soon as Darlene began speaking I knew we were in for a treat. She was obviously a born story teller.
The story begins on Main Street. Darlene explained that although Walt Disney only lived in Marceline, Missouri for four years he always considered it his ‘home town’. Main Street was not modeled after the way the town of Marceline looked, but instead it was based on the way it always felt to Walt.
Walt wanted Main Street to feel like everyone’s home town, not just his own.
As we continued to walk towards Adventureland and the home of the Tiki birds, Darlene told us some great stories about the early days of Disneyland planning and the beginnings of audio animatronics, explaining just how innovative Walt and his Imagineers were.
Our tour next included a ride on the Haunted Mansion, followed by a top secret peak behind the scenes into the workings of the famous ballroom scene.
We were led into the basement of the building where we were able to see how the effect of ghosts enjoying a birthday ball is created. I won’t give any of those secrets away here, you’ll just have to take the tour yourselves if you want to know more.
Next we headed onto It’s a Small World as Darlene continued to tell us about Walt’s life and how he created Disney World as a place where families could have fun together. He didn’t want parents to just sit on benches watching their children on rides, he wanted them to ride together.
At the end of our tour, Darlene explained that she had dreamed of being a Disney tour guide since she was five years old. That was when she first met Walt Disney himself. You see, her dad was one of those early Imagineers. Her grandparents also worked for Disney.
She had been watching those Disney guides with their plaid skirts and riding crops and she knew that was what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her mom made her a plaid dress, and her dad fashioned a riding crop out of a tree branch and Darlene conducted her own tours of Tom Sawyer’s Island for other kids. Uncle Walt (as she called him) told her that as soon as she turned 18 he would give her an official job at Disneyland. Sadly, Walt died just two years later when Darlene was 7. But she still went on to work for Disney, and now she has an authentic plaid skirt and riding crop.
I can’t possibly tell the story as well as Darlene did, but I can tell you that there wasn’t a dry eye in the group by the end. It really felt like Darlene brought Walt Disney to life for us for those three hours. If you are heading to Disney World any time soon, I highly recommend taking this tour … although maybe not with kids. Kids would likely find it boring. In fact, kids who are 12 years old or more can participate, but even the official Disney description of the tour says it is better suited for adults. But if you’re looking for a unique way to see Walt Disney World, you should definitely consider taking this tour.
How about any of you? Have you ever taken a guided tour at a Disney park? If so, I’d love to hear about it!