What better way to get in the holiday spirit than taking a backstage tour at Walt Disney World, especially one that is hosted by Adventures by Disney! This tour is one of the four tours that is guided by Adventures by Disney at Walt Disney World and is only available during the holiday season. You will go behind the scenes at two backstage locations and have a private cookie decorating experience at Amorette’s bakery shop in Disney Springs. Beware, I will be giving you the details of my three hour tour on November 14th this year, so if you don’t want any spoilers, stop reading now. Also, Disney reserves the right to change the tour elements at any time for any reason. The list price of the tour is $149 plus tax, but you can use your Disney Visa card to receive a 15% discount. Let’s get started on our Adventure!
Yuletide Fantasy Tour Need to Know
First logistics – the tour does not actually go into any Disney World park, so you don’t need a park ticket for this experience. The meeting location is at Epcot, on the right front side of the park near guest relations. You will not have to go into the park, but you will need to go through security. Please make sure to plan for travel time, either the bus transportation or driving and parking time.
My tour started at 9:00 am and the suggested arrival time was 8:45 am. Since I was driving, I allowed extra time for traffic and parking the car. I arrived at 8:30 am and was pleasantly surprised by how close to the entrance the parking was and then quickly disappointed to see the long lines at security. Remember, Epcot opens at 9:00 am and all the guests who have taken our advice are arriving before park open.
Once I made it in, I walked to the meet up area and was surprised to see how many of my fellow tour mates had already arrived. Our two tour guides (decked out in holiday attire) were all ready there and advising arrivals of the check-in procedures. We received badges on lanyards that have to been worn at all times.
Once it was 9:00 am we were escorted to our motor coach that would be our transportation for the tour. I want to point out that we had two people on the tour that needed a scooter and a motorized wheelchair and the motor coach was equipped to handle them. I remember the Disney vacation planner that I booked with did ask if anyone in my party would need assistance. Our tour had 30 participants, all anxious to see how Disney makes the magic!
Tour Guides for Yuletide Fantasy Tour
Second tour guides – I have been on more than 10 Disney tours over the years and hands down no matter how interesting the places you will visit are, the tour guides make or break the experience. Once again, Disney didn’t disappoint! I hope that I am not biased, but I feel that the Adventures by Disney guides are the best. We were lucky enough to have Tiffany and Diogo for our guides. They were both knowledgeable but much more importantly enthusiastic. They made sure to answer our questions, tell us personal stories, ask about our holiday traditions and provide us with drinks and snacks.
Yuletide Fantasy Tour Itinerary
Third lets get to the itinerary – The first stop was the Walt Disney World Holiday Services warehouse. In order to get a more personal experience, the tour is divided into two groups. We entered the massive warehouse to see where the holiday decorations are made and stored. Do you know that Disney employees 60 full time employees to take care of all the holiday decorations? Well they do, and with the help of an additional 200 outside contracted employees, they install and take down all the holiday decorations.
Visit the Holiday Services Building
Holiday Services is responsible for all four theme parks at Disney World, Disney Springs, all the Disney resorts, the Disney Cruise Line and the two Florida Disney Vacation Club locations! That’s a lot of holiday. It was fun to walk the aisles of the warehouse and see the boxes of decorations, some with the locations for them on the outside. They also have aisles full of materials to be used too, bins overflowing of all kinds of items, since the decorations can vary greatly depending on the theme they need to support. The entire side wall of the warehouse is called the “ball wall” can you just imagine the entire wall, floor to ceiling, with every color and size of Christmas balls? I could just imagine how much fun it would be to work in this department. We had the opportunity for a photo-op under some garland examples. The tour guides took our pictures since no cameras or photography is allowed backstage. We then made it to the actual work area where the decorations are worked on. The workstations had all kinds of aids to help work with the large items that they decorate.
How about some interesting statistics about the Holiday Services department:
- 8.5 million lights – with 350,000 of them on Cinderella’s Castle and they are now all LED
- 1700 decorated Christmas trees
- 15 miles of garland
- 1st Magic Kingdom tree was real
I think that I would be intimidated by the sheer size of all that decorating, especially since I have seen the size of the scale that they have to prepare. The decorations are always so beautiful and detailed and pure Disney magic. We had time to digest all that we had seen while we returned to the motor coach and drove to the Special Events Building.
Inside Disney World Floral Department
Now we got to see the Disney magic being prepared on a smaller scale. Did you know that Disney has a floral department on property that prepared arrangements for the resorts and also for guests special requests? As soon as we walked into the room, the smell of fresh flowers was overwhelming. The florist were busy on many projects and even a decorated Christmas tree for a guest’s hotel room. Yes, if you can afford the price, you can order all sorts of special items for your hotel room.
Side note, several floral service employees teach flower arranging classes at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts and they are well worth the price for the entertainment alone, not to mention the arrangement that you will take home.
Back to our trip – we then walked through to the adjoining area where workers were busy preparing gift baskets with all kinds of items. Disney Floral and Gifts even has its own website that allows you to chose items from flowers to welcome packages. If you don’t find what you are looking for you can use their custom gift builder to personalize your purchase.
I knew that these services were available, but I was surprised by the size of the operation and how many guests take advantage of these offerings. This building is also where all outside events are planned. Many times in the parks you will notice areas roped off that say private event – this is where that planning and preparation happens. They even have a costume department for requests at those events. I guess any request can be accommodated! We saw the outfits worn by the coachmen driving the Cinderella coaches for weddings.
Disney World Fine Arts Department
Next was with the Fine Arts Department to have our individual pictures taken, in case we needed a personal Christmas card this year. Spoiler alert, they had the printed pictures ready for us by the end of our tour to take home with us.
Amorette’s Cookie Decorating Lesson
Our last stop was at Disney Springs, where we entered Amorette’s through the back side of the main walkways. The bakery wasn’t opened to the public at this time and the tables were all set for us to each decorate a Christmas cookie. We had one of the chefs demonstrate the decorating for us as we did our own cookie.
They provided us with small boxes to take our cookies home with us. While I must say that the cookie decorating is a fun holiday tradition, I would have preferred a personal tour of the Disney Springs Tree Trail or a hotel stop to see there decorations and get the story behind the decorations on a three hour tour. The bakery has amazing items for sale and they allowed us to purchase any we wanted before we left to return to Epcot.
Upon our return to Epcot, we were given our printed Christmas picture from the Fine Arts department and an exclusive Yuletide Fantasy pin. We were also given an access code to Adventures by Disney photos that allowed us to download the pictures that our tour guides took. This is important since we weren’t allowed to use our cameras anywhere other than at Amorette’s.
Have you taken an Adventures by Disney tour at Walt Disney World, if you have let us know if you would recommend it.