If I had to pick one Disney tour that packs the most punch in the shortest amount of time for the least amount of money, it would be Epcot’s UnDISCOVERed Future World tour hands down. I saw more on this 4-hour tour than on the 7-hour Backstage Magic.
On a Monday in early April, I battled my way through the throngs of families with Princess Storybook Dining breakfast reservations at Akershus to get early entry into Epcot. The UnDISCOVERed Future World tour is only offered at 9am on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays. Since the park usually doesn’t open until 9am those days, tour guests may enter early through the far left turnstiles in order to check in at Guest Relations 15 minutes early. As I’ve mentioned before, I recommend going even earlier and sneaking in a few empty park photos.
After checking in and picking up my headset (only MK’s classy tour department offers up coffee and bottled water), I joined my fellow tour mates waiting outside. There were 9 of us, including 2 other singles. Like any backstage tour, guests must be at least 16 years old – but at 27, I was clearly the youngest person other than our guide.
Since this tour covered a ton of information & I don’t want to completely spoil it, I am not going talk about every stop and fact we learned in this review. Even with my detailed notes and copious photo-taking, I have forgotten far more than I can remember.
Speaking of photos… When you call to book UnDISCOVERed Future World, the phone agent warns you that bags and cameras are not allowed on this backstage tour. No storage is provided for tour guests, but you could get a locker at the front of the park (but the tour doesn’t end near the lockers). I threw caution into the wind and showed up with my large dSLR camera and tote bag anyways. The guide warned us about not taking photos backstage, but none of us were chastised for bringing bags or cameras. Since there are actually a few restricted area photo ops on the tour, it would be a shame to leave your camera at the hotel
On with the actual review…
We started out by introducing ourselves, where we were from and our favorite Future World attraction. Most of us chose by-gone attractions (mine was the original Journey into Imagination), and the guide did a good job of targeting his spiel to our interests as much as possible throughout the tour.
We stood under Spaceship Earth and talked about its construction and various incarnations as well as the surrounding landscaping. One of the most interesting aspects of the tour to me was noticing all the little details in the landscaping and sidewalks around Future World, which I’ve always considered to be a desolate, cement eyesore.
From there we meandered into Guest Relations, through both sides of Innoventions, by the Fountain of Nations, inside Station Cool and finally over to the Seas Pavilion. While everything seemed to go quickly, this tour was fully accessible. Our group included an individual in a wheel chair and one who required a slower walking pace. The few times we encountered stairs, there was always an elevator handy, and it never felt like we were waiting for the group to catch up.
In the Seas Pavilion, we went upstairs to a private area looking into the aquarium that used to be a sponsor’s lounge. Currently, the area can be rented out for weddings and private functions. We even ran into a group of kids participating in an educational program there. We were allowed to take photos, but most of mine didn’t turn out due to the darkness. We also had a restroom break up in the lounge, so everyone could see the nautical bathrooms. It felt like we had a restroom break every hour on this tour.
Since it was still early in the day, we also popped into the Coral Reef restaurant to check out the view from there. We got to see Epcot divers feeding the sharks with long poles; our guide said they only got fed once a week. So if you’re interested in seeing the feeding, you might want to checkout the aquarium on a Monday around 10am. Side note: A friend’s biologist dad explain to me once why some sharks in captivity have humped backs. Captive sharks are often overfed and because they don’t get fat the same way as humans, their backs curve to accommodate the extra growth.
After the Seas, we headed over to the Land Pavilion. While I love Soarin’ and Living with the Land, I never noticed all the subtle theming of this area before. Flowing cement lava forms the sidewalks leading up to the volcano-shaped pavilion. Guests have to work their way uphill past mosaics representing Earth’s strata and into an oasis which is decorated to reflect the four seasons. Here we had another break before being backdoored onto Soarin’. A $55 tour which includes 4 hours of trivia, backstage access, entrance to private lounges & a ride on Soarin’ without a wait? Best. Tour. Ever.
Now, I have a friend who did the tour before, and her guide narrated Soarin’ using the headsets. I was looking forward to this – but our guide just gave us a few quick facts before loading us on the ride. My same friend did the tour again this May, and her guide didn’t do the narration either. It may just depend on your guide or the narration has disappeared from the tour all together.
While I’m talking about tour differences… This tour seems to have more variation than any other tour I’ve taken or read about. Some of the changes seem to be based on the guide. You also might run into a situation where private areas on the tour have been rented out or otherwise restricted for the day. I’m describing my tour in this review, but both of my friend’s tours had slightly different content. None of the variations seemed superior to the other, but it is worth keeping in mind if your heart is set on seeing a specific area. If you feel like your guide is going to skip something you’ve read about online, it can’t hurt to ask.
The best way to make sure you get value out of any Disney tour is to ask. Ask questions, ask about rumors, ask to take sneak peeks at areas nearby…the worse that can happen is your guide gives you a polite Disney no. After Soarin’, we went behind Canada and the Imagination Pavilion to see where they wash the 3-D glasses from all the parks. Several of my tour mates had heard that sometimes the tour went to the old ImageWorks area upstairs. So they asked the guide directly if we could go. Even though we were running behind schedule, our guide took us up to the top of the Imagination Pavilion. We couldn’t walk back into ImageWorks because he was concerned about safety, but we did get to peek in.
Next, we headed over backstage at Ellen’s Energy Adventure. Here we actually got to take photos with the pterodactyls (pictured above in the header) that were removed from the ride to make room for the hideous Ellen figure during the 1996 refurb. Our guide also whipped out a Small World doll hand from his messenger bag for us to hold. I’m sure he was telling us fascinating information about the material used for the dolls and the dinosaurs, but we were all too creeped out by the disembodied hand to listen.
After that, we all went up to Hewlett Packard lounge upstairs in Mission: SPACE. Any HP employees and their guests (as well as volunteer groups at Disney) can use the lounge while they are in the park. The lounge overlooks the Mission: SPACE queue from a window I never bothered to notice before when I was in line. I stole a couple crazy delicious Werther’s candies (have you had their CaraMelts or Caramel Mousse ones?!) and played a game on the digital labyrinth machine while everyone else took yet another restroom break. I didn’t take any photos since it didn’t seem kosher, but if you’re interested you can see some pictures here.
With a few Werther’s for the road, we headed backstage underneath Test Track. While we didn’t go inside a backstage area of Test Track, standing with our hands on the support beams while cars whizzed overhead at 60 mph was pretty awesome. Did you know the cars never come off the track? They use cranes to perform any maintenance, and each of the 29 cars uses enough energy to power the entire Magic Kingdom.
After walking through Epcot’s costuming area, we met in a trailer with a representative from Epcot’s International Program – which is responsible for organizing all the international Cast Members that work in World Showcase and throughout the rest of Walt Disney World. By this time, I had sustained a serious sunburn (while wearing SPF 50 sunblock) and was sick of standing. Our guide did the best he could to talk to us indoors and near seating, but Epcot isn’t very shady. Sitting in a trailer with a water cooler for 20 minutes was a very welcomed respite.
The tour was coming to an end. Our last stop was outside the marina that houses the Illuminations floats. I had only just seen Illuminations for the first time that week (shocker, I know), so I was not the die hard fan that many in the Disney community are. For at least one of my tour mates, seeing this marina was the highlight of the tour.
Our guide then lead us through a backdoor into a shop in the China Pavilion, where we all turned in our headsets and were handed our commemorative tour pin. We also learned that we were eligible to get 20% off lunch in China if we just showed our tour name badge. Also, we could come back that night for special Illuminations viewing from a roped-off area in front of Italy. I already had other plans for the evening and had no interest in eating in China, so I didn’t end up using either perk. I do know that the guide worked with one woman to see if she could use her Illuminations viewing privilege another night during her trip.
All in all, I really recommend the UnDISCOVERed Future World tour. It is definitely one of the best values out there with the most information and access packed into a single tour. I only paid $46.86 using my Disney VISA Card discount. Even at the full price of $55 (plus tax), I consider it a deal compared to the signature tours at other parks (Keys to the Kingdom, Backstage Safari).
If you do decide to try this tour out, please wear sunscreen and very comfortable shoes no matter what time of year you go. Like I said, it is very sunny in Epcot, and you rarely in one place long enough to sit down.
I definitely recommend this tour for any true Disney or Epcot fan. Even the Epcot afficienados in my group learned a thing or two they didn’t know.
I also recommend this tour for non-Disney folks. The people in my group who weren’t Disney-obsessed seemed to enjoy themselves a lot. Since Future World is not focused on Disney characters, the tour appeals to fans of history, nature & technology that might not be all that into theme parks.
This is also a good tour for people who don’t plan too far ahead. Even during Spring Break, my tour was just over half full. I learned from our guide that there are a lot of no-shows for this tour because it is offered as a part of some vacation packages, and guests don’t even know what the tour is or that it is included in their trip. You still need to sign up ahead by calling (407) WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687) to book.
Since guests must be at least 16 years old, this is not a tour for families with kids. If you want a tour for the whole family, check out some of Disney’s less restrictive offerings here.
Like most tours, I do not recommend this tour for anyone looking to maximize their time in the park. If you’ve never been to Epcot before or base the success of your day on the number of rides under your belt, this is not for you. My tour lasted until 1:15pm, and we only rode Soarin’. With a early headstart and a good touring strategy (you know I love Touring Plans), you can get a lot more done without the tour.
I just want to wrap up by giving UnDISCOVERed Future World the highest compliment I can give a Walt Disney World tour: I would do it again in a heartbeat. My friend has already been twice, and she recommends it to others. I still have a lot more tours to do before I start on repeats, but I look forward to the day when I can justify another round. I’ve already forgotten enough for it to all seem new again.
*Since this tour already had so much information, my group did not ask many questions. For this reason, I am not doing a Q&A post for UnDISCOVERed Future World. I do have a very long list of trivia that I may share in the future, if only because the tour has so much information overload that I could never fully spoil it for anyone.
*If you want to learn more about the UnDISCOVERed Future World tour, be sure to check out our tour page here. In addition to finding tour restrictions and discounts, we’ve included links to reviews and podcasts from other websites so you check out other people’s opinions on this tour.
*Agree or disagree with this review? Have any specific questions about this tour? Just let us know by posting in the comments below.