Backstage Magic is unlike any other trip you may ever take and a must for anyone who truly loves all things Disney. Any of several experiences on the tour would be enough to make a person want to go back again, but taken as a package, this is one fantastic trip that you'll never forget.
Backstage Magic is best for those who love Disney and Disney theme parks or for anyone who wonders how things are done. Minimum age is four with a suggested minimum of six, but we think it's better for those ten and older. You know your kids best, but this is not a trip for children with a short attention span or for little ones who wouldn't understand what they're seeing.
First and most important: Resist all temptation to read other blogs and discussion boards about this tour. Some writers want to tell all, ruining surprises not mentioned in your advance itinerary. These spoilers diminish the magic, and you'll just have a lot more fun if you don't know every little thing.
About the price: It may seem high at first glance, but much is included: 5 nights in top-notch hotels, Disneyland park tickets, most meals (including character breakfasts), and airport transfers if you fly in. In fact, a Disneyland package for two, for the same number of hotel and park days, would cost you about half of the total tour cost.
Also important: No matter how much money you spent, most mere mortals just couldn't arrange this trip on our own, visiting nearly a dozen places that aren't open to the general public.
What You Need to Know
Backstage Magic is a six-day, five-night tour. You will spend four full days touring Hollywood and Disneyland. The tour spends a little over two days in Hollywood and the rest at the Disneyland Resort. It's a guided tour, which frees you from doing anything except showing up and having fun.
As of early 2018, the tour included a behind-the-scenes visit to the Jim Henson Company Studios, a tour of the Walt Disney Studios, the Walt Disney Archives, and Walt Disney Imagineering. There may (or may not) be a surprise visit to an unannounced Disney location.
At the Disneyland Resort, you will take a VIP tour of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. You may also get to be the first people in one of the parks at the resort, getting in while the streets are still empty. The places you will get to visit change from time to time, and you can visit the Adventures by Disney website, where you can download their current itinerary.
Tips for Backstage Magic
- You'll be doing lots of walking. Forget about looking cute; you need to be comfortable. Dress is California casual everywhere.
- Don't be shy. If you speak up and volunteer, you get to do more fun things.
- If you're a late sleeper, early starts can be hard (7:00 a.m. several days). There's not much to do about that except to know it's going to happen.
The first day is about getting started, with much of it taken up just getting there. After a short motor coach tour down Sunset Boulevard and through Beverly Hills, you'll visit Henson Studios. A statue of a tuxedo-clad Kermit the Frog stands above the gates as a tribute to Chaplin's character, The Little Tramp.
It's hard to say what's the most exciting thing at this place: The Muppets, the Creature Shop™, where those fantastic animated puppets are made, from start to finish, the sound studio where "We Are the World" was recorded, or the history that goes back to the days when Charlie Chaplin built his movie studio in a cluster of fairy-tale-cute cottages.
Making Disney Magic
Disney Studios is much like any other film studio, with big sound stages full of sets for television programs and movies. Because of space constraints, some Disney productions are filmed at other studios and what you'll get to see depends on whether the stages are busy. You will also get to visit the Disney Archives.
Disney Imagineering works Inside an unassuming-looking building in Orange County, where your group may enjoy an audio demonstration, get a peek at a project under development, or a look at the scale models (maquettes) of many characters from Disney theme parks and films.
Disneyland Like a VIP
When you visit the Disneyland Resort on your own, you may notice those forbidding "Cast Members Only" signs that keep you from seeing what goes on behind the scenes. With Adventures by Disney, you'll walk right past them chuckling to yourself, feeling like the kid who climbed over the fence to see the baseball game.
You may get a chance to stand on Main Street USA before any other visitors get in (including those who are participating in Magic Mornings). You may even hear the announcement that all vehicles need to leave the park for an on-time opening.
Disney doesn't provide details about the exact current itinerary for your Disneyland day, and that's just fine. The less you know what to expect, the more delighted you can by the surprises.
Behind the Scenes at California Adventure
After an early entry into California Adventure, you'll go behind the scenes again. You might also get to go behind the big screen at Soarin' to find out how it's all done. An afternoon with no scheduled activities will be welcome, and you might have VIP Fastpasses to burn. And a goodbye dinner with a special guest or tow.
For a fan of Disney magic, this tour is the trip of a lifetime. You'll get to see things you would never see any other way and have someone else take care of all your travel logistics. You'll meet some other fun Disney fans who will share your enthusiasm, too.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, TripSavvy believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.