The newest walking tour at Disneyland Park is Discover the Magic, adapted from a similar tour being offered at Walt Disney World in Florida, and designed for families with children ages 5 to 9.
Is the tour a good investment of time and money for your own family? My children and I recently spent a very busy afternoon romping all over the park on this tour to find out.
Basically, the idea of the tour is that a character in the park has lost a very special songbook that Pluto happened to dig up. The cast member tour guides (in our case, the fabulous Rick and Cherish) ask the children if they would like to solve the mystery. Well, when a five-foot-tall dog is on his knees begging for help, who can resist? Each page of the book is a clue to its owner, and the book leads participants all over the park for over three hours of interactive experiences until the owner of the book is ultimately found.
Tom points out some possible clues across the river. Photo by Adrienne Vincent Phoenix.
There are several fantastic aspects to this tour. The tour creators make sure the afternoon was very hands-on and fast moving. In one section of our tour, for example, everyone played musical instruments on the way to meet a character. In Adventureland, the kids found a treasure chest filled with pirate swords, hooks, and eye patches, plus a treasure map of Tom Sawyer Island.
Tour Guide Rick examines the treasure map. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
Everyone dressed up like fearsome pirates and commandeered a raft to Tom Sawyer Island, where Tom and Huck helped the kids find Hook's treasure. In Frontierland, bandanas were tied around necks and everyone galloped to find Woody and Jesse.
Another fun feature of the tour was all the personal character interaction built into the storyline. The tour is made to be flexible, depending on which characters are available on a particular day. We had a nice time talking with Snow White, Pluto, Tom and Huck, Mary Poppins (and two penguins!)who took a carousel ride with usand of course, Mickey Mouse.
Unfortunately, we missed a couple of characters because of crowds and poor timing, but overall, the tour was well organized so the characters could spend personal time with our group, if even for a few minutes.
It's a lovely day for a carousel ride with Mary and friends. Photo by Adrienne Vincent Phoenix.
The cast member tour guides were incredibly patient and good humored throughout the long, sultry afternoon. Rick patiently answered all my children's questions cheerfully (Why don't we just turn to the last page of the book so we know who the book belongs to? Why is Mickey making that movieit's already finished and I have it on DVD?), led us in many silly songs, and even brought my youngest a wet paper towel for her hot face. Cherish made sure no one was left behind, and kept children busy with eye spy games during the brief down times.
Rick lets the kids in on the location of some hidden Mickeys. Photo by Adrienne Vincent Phoenix.
Since the tour is brand new, some of the kinks are still being worked out. For example, we saw Jane at Tarzan's Treehouse, but did not have time for a chat. We missed Jesse and Woody while we were having our snack at Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante in Frontierland.
The kids expressed no disappointment with any aspect of the tourthey had the time of their lives.
The visit with Mickey Mouse at the end of the tour was a bit anti-climactic after the high excitement of Tom Sawyer Island and the treasure chest. I sort of expected a commemorative picture with Mickey we could pick up later at the photo shop, or a little thank-you certificate or pin from Mickeywe returned his book after all. The kids, however, expressed no disappointment with any aspect of the tourthey had the time of their lives.
Practicing a serviceable princess bow in case any royalty should cross our path. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
I would recommend this tour, especially for parents with kids who are frequent visitors to Disneyland and who would enjoy seeing the park from a different perspective. Being able to have personal time with characters, dress up, and have backdoor entrance access to on several attractions are things even frequent visitors to the park don't normally experience. Keep in mind that the tour, at nearly three hours, is fairly long, with a lot of walking. It was hot the day we went, so make sure you bring water and wear comfortable shoes.
Tour Guide Rick leads the group, as we create our own Parade of the Stars on Main Street. Photo by Adrienne Vincent Phoenix.
On the down side, the tour price might be a bit restrictive for larger families. The prices are $49 for the first two tickets and $39 for any additional tickets. This does not include a park admission. You do get a box lunch at Rancho del Zocalo and a small piece of treasure from the treasure chest you find. A family of six will spend a total of $254; no small potatoes for an afternoon's entertainment.
The good news is that now through Friday, July 2, Annual Passholders can get a $10 discount on each ticket, making the price a little less daunting, and a good choice for that very special splurge or little one's family birthday event.
My kids are already asking when we will take the tour again.
(Send an email to Lisa Perkis)
Lisa Perkis is a mom to two girls who also love Disneyland and have been annual passholders since they could toddle onto Peter Pan. Lisa has a degree in English literature, which naturally led to a career in early childhood education. She lives with her husband and children down the street from her girlhood home in North San Diego County. Some of her favorite Disneyland things are: A Christmas Fantasy Parade, pumpkin fudge, rope drop from the Camera Shop on Main Street, the Matterhorn, and freshly made candy canes from the Candy Palace.