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Playing the Part

Immersive entertainment experiences continue to be added to the already impressive lineup of street-style shows in the Magic Kingdom.

In Captain Jack Sparrow's Pirate Tutorial (Adventureland), the great Captain himself, along with his mate Mack, take on a pint-size crew of pirates in training, teaching them the art of swordplay and other silly swashbuckling fun. Upon completion, the little pirates are sworn in as official swashbucklers as they say the pirate's oath and become honorary buccaneers and part of Captain Jack's crew.

During the Move It Shake It Celebrate It Parade (Main Street, U.S.A.), guests are invited to join in and dance down Main Street right along with their favorite Disney characters, floats, and stilt walkers during this high-energy street celebration.

Behind the Scenes: Special Tours in Walt Disney World

In addition to the greenhouse tour in Epcot's Land pavilion, the Disney parks offer a number of walking tours and learning programs (keep in mind that not all are listed). The tours are subject to change, but those listed here represent a sampling of the most recent ones available at press time. Times, days, and prices also change. It's best to call ahead to Disney's tour line (tel. 407/939-8687) to make reservations or get additional information. Tip: Custom Guided Tours (tel. 407/560-4033) are available at $175 per hour with a 6-hour minimum.

  • Epcot's Seas Aqua Tour lends you a wet suit and then takes you on a 2 1/2-hour journey that includes a 30-minute swim in the 5.7-million gallon Seas with Nemo & Friends Aquarium, home to some 65 marine species. The tour includes a souvenir T-shirt, refreshments, and group photo. The cost is $140, park admission is not required, and it's open to guests 8 and older (those 12 and younger must be accompanied by a participating adult). It's offered daily at 12:30pm.
  • The Family Magic Tour explores the nooks and crannies of the Magic Kingdom in the form of a 2-hour scavenger hunt. You meet and greet characters at the end. It costs $34 per adult or child 3 and older. You must also buy admission tickets to the park and book in advance. If you have young kids and want to do a special tour, this is the one to take. It begins daily at 10am outside City Hall.
  • The 3-hour Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour (ages 10 and up) is a fun one for locomotive buffs. A pair of veteran conductors gives you insight, which other guests don't get, into the history and present operations of the little engines that could. It's offered Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 7:30am; the cost is $49 per person, plus park admission.

The following tours are for those 16 and older:

  • The 4 1/2- to 5-hour Keys to the Kingdom Tour provides an orientation to the Magic Kingdom and a glimpse into the high-tech systems behind the magic. It's $70 (mandatory park admission not included) and includes lunch at Colombia Harbor House. Tours are held daily at 8:30, 9, and 9:30am.
  • At the top of the price chain ($224 per person) is Backstage Magic, a 7-hour, self-propelled bus tour through areas of Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, and Disney's Hollywood Studios that aren't seen by mainstream guests. The 10am tour (Mon-Fri only) is limited to 20 adults, and you might have trouble getting a date unless you book early. Some will find this one isn't worth the price, but if you have a brain that must know how things work or simply want to know more than your family or friends, you might find it's worth the cost. You'll see WDW mechanics and engineers repairing and building animatronic beings from it's a small world and other attractions. You'll peek over the shoulders of cast members who watch closed-circuit TVs to make sure visitors are surviving the harrowing rides. And at the Magic Kingdom, you'll venture into the tunnels used for work areas as well as corridors for the cast to get from one area to the others without fighting tourist crowds. It's not unusual for tour takers to see Snow White enjoying a Snickers bar, find Cinderella having her locks touched up at an underground salon, or view woodworkers as they restore the hard maple muscles of the carousel horses. Park admission isn't required. Lunch is included.
  • Backstage Safari at Animal Kingdom ($72 per person, plus park admission) offers a 3-hour look at the park's veterinary hospital as well as lessons in conservation, animal nutrition, and medicine (Mon and Wed-Fri). Note: You won't see many animals.
  • Yuletide Fantasy, available from November 30 to December 24 (Mon-Sat) each year, gives visitors a 3 1/2-hour front-row look at how Disney creates a winter wonderland to get visitors in the holiday spirit. It costs $84 per person, and theme-park admission isn't required.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Adventurous guests (with plenty of pocket change) can now book a trek through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, navigate the bushwalk, cross the rope bridges hanging precariously above the Safi River (all the while tethered to a safety line -- the bridge, of course, is actually well secured), hang over the cliffs above pools filled with hippo and crocodiles, and experience, first hand, remote areas of the reserve via open-air vehicle. The adventure ends at a private safari camp elevated above the savanna for optimal wildlife viewing, with a sampling of African fare and refreshing beverages ready and waiting. Limited to 12 guests, the Wild Africa Trek currently costs $129 per person (though expect this to increase as time goes on). Call Disney's tour line (tel. 407/939-8687) to make reservations or get additional information.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.