The day began with breakfast on the Serengeti, and ended with a spectacular fireworks display over Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon. In between, I went on a Kilimanjaro Safari in the Animal Kingdom, blasted off on a stretch-limo Rock n’ Roll Roller Coaster and faced down ghosts in the Tower of Terror. And still there was time enough for the three-hour French Regional Lunch and a blueberry facial at Disney’s Senses Spa. What’s the secret to a day jam-packed with wonder and magic, and blissfully free of the stresses typical of theme parks? Three words: Disney VIP Tour.
Disney VIP Tour
Disney VIP Tour Services are pricey–$315-$380 per hour, 6-hour minimum–but it’s the same price whether for one person or a group of 10. If you can afford the expense, it’s well worth it to zoom to the front of long lines at popular attractions and to be driven between theme parks so that no time is lost between thrilling rides. Best of all, a VIP tour guide tailors the experience to the individual–whether that’s locating the best seats in theaters, the most thrilling rides, or figuring out how to make every member of a group happy.
When I first met Ava Aguayo, I told her about my spa and lunch reservations and we discussed what could be done around those limitations. I mentioned that I wanted to check out some of the booths at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, but I didn’t think that we would have time for rides. Boy, was I wrong! Not only did we go on my favorite rides–despite being set far apart at three different theme parks–we also arrived on time for reservations, and I never felt rushed.
It was exciting to see parts of Disney World usually closed off to visitors. To get to Ava’s car, we passed through Cast-Member Only entrances to the back of Epcot buildings and Hollywood Studio rides and even saw the metallic globe that would later appear at Epcot’s IllumiNations fireworks show. Sadly, no photos were allowed. But what I most appreciated about my day was getting to ask Ava for her recommendations of the best educational Disney experiences. Here they are, in no particular order.
Best Educational Disney Experiences
- Disney Youth Programs – A wide variety of field trips, celebrations, and educational programming are available to groups of 10 or more, and also to individuals on select dates.
- Behind the Seeds – 1-hour walking tour behind the scenes of Epcot’s Living with the Land attraction explores the future of agriculture. (Photos and review: Educational Disney Trip.) $16 Child, $20 Adult.
- Keys to Kingdom Tour – 5-hour walking tour explores hidden secrets and history of the Magic Kingdom, includes rare access to the “Utilidor” that allow people and supplies to travel through the park unseen by visitors. $79, must be 16 or older.
- UnDISCOVERed Future World Tour – 4-hour walking tour reveals the vision behind Walt Disney’s utopian Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT.) $64, must be 16 or older.
- Wild Africa Trek – 3-hour safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park offers close encounters with African wildlife. $189-$249, must be 8 or older, minimum 48 inches.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris – See lions and elephants on 18-minute expedition aboard open-air vehicle through African savannah. Free, all ages, any heights, FASTPASS available, Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
- Pangami Forest Exploration Trail – Hike through a tropical forest where you will encounter native African wildlife including gorillas, hippos and exotic birds. Free, all ages, Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
- Flights of Wonder – Meet exotic birds in a 25-minute inspirational outdoor show introducing as many as 20 species. Free, subject to availability, check the Times Guide at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park for schedule and showtimes.
- Carousel of Progress – Originally created by Walt Disney for the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, the 21-minute Audio-Animatronics stage show celebrates evolution of technology throughout the 20th century and today. Free, all ages, located in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.
- PeopleMover – 10-minute tour via emission-free magnetic tram offers glimpse at environmentally-safe transportation as well as behind-the-scenes look at Tommorowland attractions such as Space Mountain. Free, all ages, located in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland.
- Agent P Adventure – Become a secret agent and go undercover in an interactive quest through Epcot’s World Showcase involving a state-of-the-art F.O.N.E. and Disney’s Phineas and Ferb. Free, each mission lasts 30-45 minutes.
- Spaceship Earth – Explore the history of communications inside Epcot’s iconic geosphere. (Photos and review: Educational Disney Trip.) Free, all ages.
- Journey into Imagination – Learn bout the 5 senses—sound, sight, smell, touch and taste—on a musical trip with Figment. Free, all ages, Epcot’s Future World.
- One Man’s Dream – 15-minute film and treasure trove of props from the Disney vault bring to life the story of Walt Disney. Free, all ages, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mickey Avenue.
- Magic of Disney Animation – 9-minute film and interactive hands on exhibit presents the basics of creating animated characters. Free, all ages, Disney’s Hollywood Studios Animation Courtyard.
- Flower & Garden Festival – Learn tips and techniques at themed flower and garden displays. March 8 – May 14, 2014, most events included with EPCOT admission.
- Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – Culinary demonstrations and beverage seminars, as well as food booths, concerts, and very special meals such as the French Regional Lunch. Many events included with EPCOT admission, some require reservations and additional fee.
Many thanks to Disney Golden Oak for hosting my stay and providing a VIP Tour.
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Sandra Foyt | Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @SandraFoyt.