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Premium Experiences at Disney World

- Tours and Special Experiences

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As if there weren't enough to do at Disney World (with four giant theme parks, two water parks, the Downtown Disney entertainment zone, and more) guests at the theme parks can ramp things up a notch by signing up -- and paying extra-- for premium experiences. These include special tours, and separate-ticket parties... Activities vary, but share certain advantages:
  • The high quality, creativity, and extra touches expected from Disney
  • Access to areas not available to regular guests
  • The chance to enjoy popular attractions without the usual crowds
  • The chance to make holiday memories (for example at Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party)
  • Novelty appeal, that especially draws visitors who've visited the theme parks multiple times
Below are a few suggestions for premium experiences. (Note that these special tours and activities may change over time-- check the Disney World website for the latest offerings.)

Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park: Wild Africa Trek & More

Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Wild Africa Trek, photo © Teresa Plowright. Click for larger image.
The Wild Africa Trek is a premium choice among the several special tours and experiences offered at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and while this 3-hour tour comes with a substantial price tag, reviews often comment that it's well worth the price. Highlights include crossing a long rope bridge in a beautiful part of Animal Kingdom only accessible to tour guests; viewing hippos from a special perch; a tour through the Kilimanjaro Safaris area with knowledgeable guides and spontaneous stops for animal-viewing; and a relaxing African-inspired meal at a viewing pavilion.

Easier on the budget and also three hours long are the Backstage Safari ($72*), which shows guests some of the unique ways in which theme park staff take care of the many animal inhabitants in the Animal Kingdom, and Wild by Design ($60*), a tour for ages 14 and up that tells how Disney's Imagineers transformed the existing Florida wetlands into this beautiful park with its African and Asian habitats.

Magic Kingdom: Parties for Halloween and the Holiday Season

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party are both separate-ticket events held on multiple nights in September/October and November/December respectively. These special evenings are a great way to enjoy the Magic Kingdom with a party atmosphere and special themed events, plus the added appeal of riding the most popular attractions with no line-ups or crowds.

Tours in the Magic Kingdom and Other Parks

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Seas Aqua Tour, photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
The Magic Kingdom also offers a number of special tours, usually in the price range of $35 to $70 per person:  Disney's Family Magic Tour, for instance, takes guests on a 2-hour guided quest to save the Magic Kingdom theme park from a Disney villain; Disney's Keys to the Kingdom Tour showcases the history of Disney World, with backstage access. Kids age 3 and up might sign up for the The Pirates League and become buccaneers or kids might simply get a haircut to remember at the Harmony Barbershop. There's also a Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage that has a sail on the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Epcot too has special tours, some of them underwater in the 5.7-million-gallon saltwater tank inside The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion. Scuba-certified guests (age 10 and up) can do a dive ($175); other guests age 8 and up can do a Seas Aqua Tour (see photo) and swim or go snorkelling with an air supply. Guests 16 and up can do a Segway tour of the World Showcase area of Epcot. And for nostalgia fans: the UnDISCOVERed Future World tour ($55, ages 16 and up) shows Walt's desire to improve the world which was at the basis of the Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) theme park.

Multiple Park Tours

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World.
Backstage Magic is a costlier 7-hour tour ($229) for ages 16 and up that takes guests behind the scenes to see how Disney magic gets made in Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, and Disney's Hollywood Studios. A Yuletide Fantasy, for ages 16 and up, looks at how Disneyland transforms for the holiday season in each of the theme parks.

VIP Tour Guide Services

Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort.
All the parks offer the opportunity for guests to arrange a personalized custom tour (which will also bypass lineups.) Expect to pay top dollar for the VIP treatment, though!

*Prices change. Always check destination web sites for updates!
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