For those intrepid travelers who aren’t satisfied by simply riding the rides at their favorite theme parks, there’s a whole new way to experience Disney, SeaWorld, and more. While these behind-the-scene tours have been around for some time, they’re always changing and revealing new secrets (but never quite giving away all the magic, of course). Here are four theme parks that give you behind-the-scenes access.
See where everything originated on a five-day Southern California trip that includes flights, 11 meals, and a personal tour guide. Some of the coolest highlights include an exclusive tour of Walt Disney’s apartment located on the second floor of the Disneyland Fire Department building. Visit the charming studio of Jim Henson which was featured in the recent movie The Muppets, and see how Disney Imagineers create the theme parks and resort’s magic. You’ll also visit Hollywood for a walk along the Walk of Fame (and even see Walt’s star!). The package also includes two-day VIP experiences at Disneyland Parks and Disney California Adventure with special Disney FASTPASS service and reserved parade seating. From $2,709/per person
Ever wonder how Mickey Mouse travels from one side of the park to the other, or where crews design the parade floats and show stage sets? Or maybe you’re curious about why the grass always looks trimmed but you never see someone mowing it? You’ll find out on the Backstage Magic tour; during the seven-hour adventure, you explore the four theme parks and the secrets behind their daily operations. Navigate through the underground tunnels in the Magic Kingdom and visit the Creative Costuming department at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Though you’ll be in the tunnels, don’t expect to see a character traveling down there: Disney still wants to keep some of the process secret. Understandably, to keep the “magic” alive, you can’t take pictures. Also, depending on the day, the locations shown are subject to change. The tour provides water and a lunch at Whispering Canyon Café. From $229/per person
If you’re an animal-lover, this is the tour for you. Find out how the experts at SeaWorld Orlando care for their sea creatures on a 90-minute tour. The small group gets to interact with penguins, explore a hidden polar bear den, and pat a shark. Learn about and see how SeaWorld employees care for rescued manatees and sea turtles. That being said if you want to interact with sea creatures in the water, this tour isn’t for you. SeaWorld offers many other experiences like the Beluga Whales Interaction, where you get to swim with the whales (you can also arrange this for penguins, sea lions, dolphins, and wild arctic creatures). For any experience, you’ll want to book online to make sure everyone in your party gets a spot. $29; the park donates 10 percent to the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund
On this all-inclusive tour, a personal host escorts you around the park, telling you fun facts about LEGOs and the park. You’ll get an exclusive tour of the Model Shop with a builder and learn how the figures decorating the park are built and maintained. On this private tour you also get to see the newest models for the park being built. The package also treats you like a VIP with priority access on rides, lunch, refreshments, and a locker. From $445/person
Extra Tip: Going on a hot day? Add $100 to your package and receive additional access to the Water Park, complimentary towels and your own private cabana to relax at when your kids have the time of their lives.