Keys to the Kingdom is one the tours I’ve heard of many times but never figured I would participate in, because it’s $99 per person. Plus your park admission. Yeah. 💸💸💸
Plus, I like to experience the, well, magic of the Magic Kingdom as it is. I don’t want to see the warehouses or trash chutes or tractors and all of the ordinary, non-magical backstage area stuff.
But I went on the five-hour walking tour and I liked it. It’s going to be ideal for some people, but for others, that money might be better spent elsewhere.
Warning: there’s no photography permitted on this tour, so this post will be light on the images.
Getting Into the Park
Current Magic Kingdom opening time is 9:00 AM. Our tour started at 8:30 and we were due to check in at Town Square Theatre no later than 8:15 AM.
How does that work? Well, those with tour or dining reservations are allowed into the park earlier than general guests. Look for the “Event Entrance” sign and line up there – usually, it’s to the far right in the turnstile area. You will be required to provide verification via Magic Band or printed confirmation, so be ready.
We parked in Hook at 7:20 AM, walked to the resort monorail, and arrived at the park by 7:42.
When you check in at Town Square Theatre, you’ll get your nametag, earpiece pack, and order your lunch. You’ll also have the opportunity to grab a chilled bottle of water. DO IT.
I was a little worried about how I would hear our guide and how we’d all stay together in the busy park, but Disney already thought of that: the guide has a mic and each tour participant gets an earpiece with adjustable volume. Awesome. Being able to adjust my own volume based on changing noise levels was a huge gift!
There were 20 people in our group. We started out in Town Square and moved down Main Street, and honestly, this was my least favorite part of the tour. And I love these areas! It felt a little like a new employee orientation, and I’m too crabby for that pre-10:00 AM on a Saturday. This part of the tour also covered a lot of topics Disney enthusiasts or frequent park visitors will likely already know, like the four keys, scale and design, window Easter eggs, and so forth.
From there, we moved to the castle hub, and then to Adventureland. This is were I started to enjoy the tour a lot more, as we learned about why the park is laid out as it is as well as the history behind and some “how it works” information on the land’s classic attractions. I loved learning about Jungle Cruise Skippers and the long process of creating the Enchanted Tiki Room birds.
Then, it was on to backstage! I’ve obviously never been backstage, so this was an interesting experience! First stop was the float facility, where parade floats are housed. This segment is often touted to “kill the magic,” but I found it enhanced the magic to see just how much technology and hard work from talented cast members go into the events we see “on stage.”
Next, we walked through Frontierland, learned about The Country Bears, and even had two of them follow us to the border of Liberty Square. They inconspicuously joined the group, and it took a few minutes for our guide to notice. I’m not even a Country Bears fan, but this was hilarious and adorable: the perfect example of the magical little things that can happen during a day in Disney World.
And finally: lunch on the Tomorrowland Terrace! I ordered the spicy chicken sandwich, which reminded me of an old favorite from the long-gone Studio Catering Company at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Lunch options included the spicy chicken sandwich, a burger, bahn mi, and a salad. The sandwiches were served with chips, and drinks were bottled as opposed to fountain. Cast Members had everything prepared for us, so all we had to do was find our place cards, sit down, and eat!
From there, we visited Liberty Square again, where we learned about the Haunted Mansion’s design, creators, and fun facts. Then it was a quick trip through Fantasyland and down to the tunnels… or, as the Disney Enthusiasts of the Internet like to call them, “the utilidoors.” (side note: I’ve never actually heard a cast member use that term)
The tunnels are an underground network of offices, walkways, mini roads, and so forth. It was definitely interesting to see how efficiently you can move supplies and staff this way, but I admit I fail to see the fascination. If you’ve ever worked in a hotel, this was a lot like being in the back hallways or banquet kitchens. They’re concrete and utilitarian, and I suspect those who expect otherwise might be disappointed. I did love seeing the character costumes and experiencing just how rapidly you could move from Fantasyland to Town Square, though.
We ended our tour back in Town Square, outside of Tony’s, where our guide gave us one more opportunity for Q&A.
List of attractions we experienced:
- – Jungle Cruise
- – Enchanted Tiki Room
- – Haunted Mansion
List of Lands we visited:
- – Town Square
- – Main Street
- – Adventureland
- – Frontierland
- – Liberty Square
- – Fantasyland
We did not tour Tomorrowland, which surprised me a little. Our only time there was lunch at Tomorrowland Terrace.
We stopped at each major restroom, but there were no opportunities to purchase drinks or snacks. So, one more time: definitely grab the bottle of water they offer at check in.
Disney’s website mentions that featured areas and attractions may vary. I also think tours may start in different areas so as not to overlap, because I saw another tour group that left before ours arrive at the parade shed as we were leaving.
- Comfortable shoes
- Rain gear
- Plenty of SPF, including lip balm
- Sunglasses and possibly a hat
- To eat a good breakfast
- Seeing the Jungle Cruise rhino backstage for repair
- Watching cast members test out Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather’s parade gear
- Seeing just how much water Splash Mountain contains
- Our tour guide’s wonderful, terrible puns (Hi, Annie!)
- Princess costumes in the tunnels
You’ll love this tour if: you’re a Disney enthusiast who likes to know the stories behind little details, you want to learn more about Walt and Roy and the journey involving The Florida Project, and you want to see a few backstage areas.
Skip this if: you already know most of those details or don’t care about them or if you’d rather make your way around the park on your own time.
Keys to the Kingdom Tour
- Photography is not permitted on this tour
- Guests must be 16 or older
- $99 per person
- Tours start every 30 minutes from 8:00 AM to 9:30 AM
- They accept walk-ups based on availability, but I definitely recommend reserving this ahead of time!
View dates here.
Call to book: 407-WDW-TOUR
Have you been on a Keys to the Kingdom tour? What did you think?
You guys, I went to the Magic Kingdom on Christmas Eve. And I lived to tell about it. More on that in a moment, but first:
As promised in my previous post, I have an update on the holiday-related shows, parades and festivities:
Please note: showtimes vary based on the day of the week and are subject to change. Please refer to your printed times guide (available near the park entrance), the My Disney Experience app, or this handy online calendar for exact and up-do-date showtimes. Based on the current schedule, all Christmas shows end on Saturday, December 31.
- Showings of Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire still occur throughout the day (usually starting around 10:00 AM and ending shortly before A Frozen Holiday Wish)
- Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration starts after dark and has several showings each evening
- Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade runs twice per day (12:00 PM and 3:30 PM)
- A Frozen Holiday Wish happens once per evening. Time varies depending on the day of the week, but it’s usually in the 6:15 range – shortly after the last Move it, Shake it parade.
- Wishes has been earlier than usual – 9:00 PM. Once Upon a Time happens at 9:30 PM.
- A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas generally has several showings from late afternoon to evening (last show is generally around 9:30 PM)
- You can see snow during the stage shows, but there’s no snow on Main Street this year.
So yes, back to my Christmas Eve adventure at the Magic Kingdom. I was nervous. I’ve heard horror stories. When I got there around 3:00 PM, though, I was pleasantly surprised! Crowds weren’t bad. My monorail car was near empty. The Villians lots weren’t even filled past Zurg. I spent about half the normal amount of time in line at Starbucks, and then I sat peacefully at a table on the Tomorrowland Terrace and people-watched for a bit. It was nice.
Once the sun set, though, oh dear lawd. People were everywhere. It became difficult to get around. It wasn’t exactly shoulder-to-shoulder, crammed in like sardines, but it was close. Getting from one side of the hub to the other was a stressful endeavor. And sadly, people didn’t seem to be filled with the Christmas spirit. There was lots of rudeness and carelessness – people cramming their way in front of other people for shows, leaving heaps of garbage everywhere, etc. Physically, emotionally, and intellectually draining. Not my favorite environment at all. It was a huge relief to finally get home. Three days later, I still feel tension in my neck and shoulders. Yikes!
In my previous post, I said I wasn’t sure if it was really worth it to attend a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party since you can see most of the shows as part of regular park operations once the parties end for the season. I changed my mind after my Christmas Eve experience. Now, I think if you can, you should absolutely attend a party. Crowds are much more intense once the parties end for the season, and the less-crowded party environment alone is worth the price to me. Plus you get the special music, pretty lighting, enchanting snowfall, and heaps of free cookies.
We finally made it to a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, woohoo! (We = my husband and me.)
Ordinarily, I take the day off so we can get there early (for Halloween parties, anyway – this was my first Christmas party). I wasn’t able to do that this year, though, and some last-minute work stuff kept me in the office longer than planned. Plus… Friday night traffic on I-4.
We finally made it into the park just as A Frozen Holiday Wish was beginning (8:15 PM). I LOVE this little show, but I was starving and had a ferocious headache. You can experience AFHW on non-party nights and I’ve seen it several times this season, so food was the priority. Now, though, I’m actually really sad we missed it. It’s such a perfect kickoff to a magical holiday evening!
We decided to grab dinner at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, which converted to Club Tinsel for the night. You can’t go wrong with a burger, fries, upbeat music, and dancing polar bears, right? Well, Cosmic Ray’s was packed. We waited for about 20 minutes and none of the lines budged. My husband wanted to try Friar’s Nook for Pot Roast Mac and Cheese (mmmm!), but it was closed. We ended up at Pinocchio’s Village Haus (because hanger), which was busy but still much calmer than Cosmic Ray’s.
That night’s party sold out. The park was busy but not intolerable. Cosmic Ray’s and the treat stations were the most crowded bits of the evening.
After dinner, we planned to snag some free hot chocolate and cookies from The Lunching Pad to enjoy while watching A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas. There are multiple free treat stations, and they each have something different! By the time we got to Tomorrowland, treat lines at The Lunching Pad were looooong and we didn’t have enough time to wait before the show started.
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas was delightful. I saw it last year and loved it; this year was just as charming. Stitch’s little face is just so cute! If you like Mike Wazowski and Buzz Lightyear, they make appearances in this show.
After ATTC, it was time for Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season! My favorite viewing spot is the area in front of Casey’s Corner. I don’t remember being especially thrilled with Holiday Wishes last year, but I really enjoyed it this year! The Christmas music and festive colors really helped me get into the spirit.
Next up: pin shopping! We headed to Big Top Souvenirs in Storybook Circus for party pins. I picked Elsa and Stitch. The passholder pin was still in stock, but I wasn’t thrilled with the design – gingerbread people – so I didn’t buy that one.
We were hoping to do the Santa Goofy and Donald Duck & Scrooge McDuck meet and greets. Donald and Scrooge were delightful, but Santa Goofy was on his break and then a looooong line developed. We had to rush to Town Square to catch the parade, which meant skipping Santa Goofy. 🙁
Next, we headed to Town Square to catch Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. I’m always in awe of the performers. I would have to be carried off 100 yards into the parade route, but they dance enthusiastically all the way from Frontierland to Town Square. The floats are intricate and SCENTED (Mr. EC loved the Clarabelle Cow gingerbread, while I favored the sweet piney scent from Kristoff’s float). There are even real horses! But my favorite part? Seeing the reactions of the little girl (3 or so?) sitting next to us. So. Cute. I love seeing people experience the magic of Disney!
Heaps upon heaps of people leave after the last parade (steps off in Frontierland at 11:00 PM). Just keep that in mind if you’re on Main Street or in Town Square!
And finally: Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration. I was not excited for this show. I’m sad to say I almost skipped it!
While we were waiting for the show, my husband dashed over to the Lunching Pad for hot chocolate and peppermint bark cookies. Bless him. Those cookies were delicious and I’m still thinking about them. Imagine chewy chocolate chip cookies with bits of peppermint bark baked in. Sweet, a tiny bit salty, chocolaty, and pepperminty. Oooh yeahhh. They even had that nice cooling quality, but not in a toothpastey way. I could’ve eaten dozens.
Anyway, back to Mickey’s Most Merriest! Thankfully I caved in my steadfast curmudgeon-ness, because it ended up being my top favorite part of the entire evening. The production was aces; it was like watching a mini broadway show on the castle stage. MMM was adorable, funny, heartwarming, and it featured some of THE BEST Christmas songs. My eyes might even have leaked a little. Pluto barks when the doorbell rings, all of the costumes are stunning, and the integration of pop culture elements was a lot of fun. My favorite part of the night, for sure.️
The last showing was at midnight, so as soon as it was over, it was time to go home!
Oftentimes, the shops along Main Street will stay open past closing time. For the Halloween and Christmas parties this year, they were rolling up the sidewalks at midnight! This is so odd to me, as there are still plenty of people around!
I stopped into Starbucks/Main Street Bakery on the way out – yay, still open! – to pick up a Frozen Holiday Wish cupcake, but they were all gone 🙁 The barista informed me that they are delicious and popular, so they sell quickly. I THINK this cupcake is similar to Anna’s Birthday Cupcake from Epcot, so let me know if you get to try it!
In all, I really enjoyed the party. The shows were my favorite part. We didn’t take advantage of the treat stations nearly enough due to our tight schedule. We also didn’t partake in any rides, but that’s something I can do anytime as a local and a pass holder. I’m a little disappointed we didn’t get a chance to do Jingle Cruise, but there’s still time in the season.
So, is it really worth $100 per person to experience a Christmas party? Honestly, I’m undecided. I think it depends on what’s most important to you. Will I go next year? Almost certainly. The shows and parade become part of daily operations after the last party, so if you’re local and don’t mind braving the crowds, you can see them that way. If you’re visiting before then and you can make it work with your budget, go for the party! Personally, I feel like the parties have a festive holiday vibe you don’t really find during standard operations.
Here’s what I would do differently:
- Take the day off. Get there at 4:00. Eat. Avoid stress and being hangry.
- Decide on character meet & greets and integrate the ones I want to experience into my plan.
- Try to visit every treat station. Visit the peppermint bark cookie station twice. 😉
- Spend more time on Main Street enjoying the music, lighting sequences, and snow
- Get a Frozen cupcake early in the evening
- Catch A Frozen Holiday Wish
And here’s what worked really well for us:
- The show schedule we followed (A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas at 9:20 PM, Holiday Wishes at 10:00 PM, Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at 11:00 PM, Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration at 12:00 AM)
- Catching the later Once Upon a Christmastime Parade (11:00 PM) and last Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration (12:00 AM)
Annnnd here’s what I recommend for you!
- Arrive early. Like, 4:00 early. The party and festivities officially start at 7; however, you can get in as early as 4:00. Do it. Get in, eat dinner, grab a times guide, and get your plans in order.
- Pick up a party guide on your way in. This will tell you where the treat stations are, which restaurants are open, which shops feature exclusive merchandise, show descriptions, and show times.
- Not all rides, shops, and dining outlets will be open. Refer to your party guide.
- Party-exclusive merchandise is not available in all shops. Again, refer to your party guide.
- The shows and parade are very much worth watching. Don’t miss them! I tend to favor the later parades and castle show, mainly because the crowds are thinner.
- There’s no Once Upon a Time on party nights.
- Treat stations have different varieties of cookies and beverages.
- If there’s a particular party-exclusive treat you want, get it early in the evening. Sometimes they sell out. 🙁
- If there’s exclusive merchandise you want, aim to attend a party earlier in the season.
- If you have PhotoPass, there are several fun enhanced photo opportunities throughout the park!
If you make it out to a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this season (there’s one more left!) I hope you have a wonderful time!
If you’re reading this after the parties have ended, the Christmas parade will usually replace the Festival of Fantasy parade during the day. A Frozen Holiday Wish and A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas will usually have a few have showings nightly. I’m not quite sure how Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire and Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration will be scheduled, but I’ll keep you posted!
Annnd if you’re reading this after the holiday season has ended, this info will still be handy to have for next year’s Halloween and Christmas parties!
Please feel free to leave any questions below and I’ll do my best to answer.