By Nick

Monday 1/23/17 

I woke up very early and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was excited for our 8 am Keys to the Kingdom Tour!

Because we were told to be early, I had us at the bus stop by 6:45am. Not only was a bus there waiting, but we had it all to ourselves. And, unlike every other time we’d caught a bus to the Magic Kingdom from the Boardwalk, it did not stop at the Swan and Dolphin, so we arrived at about 5 after 7, where we were told the gates wouldn’t open until 7:30!

We took a walk to the Contemporary and back, just to kill time, and returned to the front gates just as the security guards started checking bags. After about 15 minutes of waiting underneath the train station, we were walking into a relatively empty Magic Kingdom.

We checked in at the Town Square Theater, got name badges, were given headsets, and made our lunch selections.

At 8am we were brought outside where we met our guide, Dana. We were told no photos were allowed as we would be going backstage at several points.

If you plan on taking this tour and want to be surprised, read no further. In other words:

Spoilers ahead!

The tour lasted about 5 hours. After taking a tour up Main Street, learning about some of the names on the windows, we entered Adventureland and rode the Jungle Cruise and learned some interesting facts about this Disneyland original, rode the Haunted Mansion, got to see the floats backstage, and spent time walking through the utilidors beneath the Magic Kingdom, our favorite part. But, if you are a Disneyphile, most of the information you’ll hear throughout the tour is probably already known to you.

Lunch was included. I was at first disappointed it wasn’t at Columbia Harbour House, but really enjoyed my meal at Tomorrowland Terrace.

I feel it was worth it for the cost. Without a discount, it is $99. We saved 15% with our Annual Pass.

We returned to the Boardwalk Resort, and found a very nice surprise in our room! Cookies!

A nice card was included. Barbie said, “I wonder…” went to the fridge, and, yep, milk!

We have no proof, because the card simply reads “Welcome to the Boardwalk Villas, we hope your stay is magical.” and isn’t signed, but believe this was the Cast Member Barbie had given a button to the day before (see part 2) repaying her kindness.

 

After splitting a cookie, we went to Epcot to meet with our friend Marilyn. I made a stop at the Rose and Crown on the way, and got a Black and Tan.

 

Barbie and I also stopped at the Masterpiece Kitchen food booth, part of Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts (see part 1) and had the Smoked Salmon Tartare and Wild Mushroom Risotto. Both were ok. Perhaps my palate isn’t refined enough, but I found many of the Salmon dishes flavors overpowered each other, and couldn’t find a taste combination that I found truly satisfactory. Plus, and I am not usually one to nitpick about prices, these 2 relatively small portions were $12 (salmon) and $9!

 

 

 

After meeting Marilyn, the 3 of us walked over to the Odyssey, where we all got the Trio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts, and I had the Neapolitan Beer Flight, consisting of a chocolate stout, vanilla porter, and a strawberry ale. Delicious!

We finished our snacks and made our way to the front of the park to say hello to our friend Kathy, a Cast Member at Epcot’s main entry.

Kathy, me, Barbie and Marilyn

Marylin planned on seeing the Broadway Concert Series at the America Gardens Theater, so the 3 of us started walking back to World Showcase, when I spotted 2 more friends walking in the same direction!

 

 Kelly and Karen

We said our goodbyes to Marylin and talked a little while with Karen and Kelly before Barbie and I started back towards the Boardwalk.

On the way out of International Gateway we heard our names being called! Readers of the blog and listeners of The Disney Exchange Podcast had spotted us and wanted to say hello!

 Sheila and Warren
As we were speaking with Sheila and Warren, another friend, Kory and his friend Andrea walked by, so we spoke with them for awhile also! Kory, I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of us!

We got back to the room early and called it a night.