Backstage Magic? Or a Universal Day?

Alright all! I’m looking for opinions on doing the Backstage Magic tour!! I’m doing a solo trip next fall, and I want to book myself a “special solo treat”. I was considering a day at Typhoon Lagoon, but I’m blind as a bat without my glasses, and wandering around a water park unable to see anything is…less than appealing. My other two choices are a day at Universal/IOA to enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or the Backstage Magic tour.

In true Liner fashion, I’ve made a pros/cons list. What it comes down to is, I’ve wanted to do the Backstage Magic tour for…15 years now? So, more than half of my life! I want to see the Animatronics at the American Adventure, and the Christmas warehouse!

However, I will be doing a trip with my best friend and his wife and kids in a couple of years, and I know that Universal will be a must-do. Control freak that I am, I would like to have the lay of the land before I go with them. And from everything I’ve heard, Universal is improving by leaps and bounds all of the time. I’m a big Harry Potter fan, and the WWoHP is supposed to be astounding. I know I can buy tickets with transfers to Universal from my Disney resort (Pop Century). If I do it, I’d probably also get the ExpressPass to maximize the time there, as it would only be one day. I’d also get a two-park ticket.

So, any thoughts or opinions? Which would you do, and why? Bonus points if you’ve done both. I know it’s pretty much comparing apples to kumquats, but any advice and thoughts are appreciated!

I did the Backstage Magic tour last March and was glad that I did. I’m reasonably well-read with regard to Disney parks and Disney family history, so I noticed some (though not all) of the “facts” the guides shared were a little dubious, but it delivered on the promise to give me access to areas of the park that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. I’ve you are interested in seeing a glimpse into what it takes to operate Walt Disney World, then it will be a worthwhile experience for you.

Since it’s a little hard to find out exactly what is part of the tour (and I suspect it changes from time to time), I’ll mention some of what we saw. We did not visit the Christmas shop, though we did go backstage at the American Adventure. You don’t see much, off to the side of the stage, but do get an idea of how big of an operation it is to raise and lower the sets from that show. We saw George Washington on his horse waiting to be lifted into place. We also stopped at the Studios to see Creative Costuming (walking around where you used to roll through on the Backlot Tour) and saw a Tower of Terror ride vehicle. We visited the parade building at Animal Kingdom for the Jammin’ Jungle Parade (though this has likely been replaced, since that parade is now extinct) and then to a horticulture area where they prepare topiaries. We ate lunch at Whispering Canyon Cafe, then walked around Central Shops before entering the Magic Kingdom for a short walk in the Utilidors. The tour ended with a viewing of the then brand new Festival of Fantasy parade from the reserved viewing area on Main Street.

I did the tour as part of a solo trip and found people to talk with throughout the day. Whether that’s better for you than visiting Universal is hard to say. The rides there will be more thrilling and the Harry Potter themed areas (I’ve only seen those at IoA) are impressive. Backstage Magic will be more informative and you may not have other opportunities to do that while you are working on your own schedule.

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I’ve already done Keys to the Kingdom and Undiscovered Future World. Have you done either of those? I’m trying to figure out if I’d be hearing a lot of the same information over again. I’m definitely interested in seeing what it takes to operate WDW! The massive scale on which they do everything is fascinating to me.

One complaint I’ve heard is that it feels like you spend forever on the bus. Would you agree? Also, I’m okay with eating at table service restaurants solo (that’s what books are for!), but I’m a little worried about having a family-style meal with strangers. Did you find that awkward? Did the tour involve going on any rides? I’ll have plenty of time to do that on my own, of course, but KTTK and Undiscovered Future World both included experiencing a couple of attractions after learning about their development.

I would opt for UOR - going solo you will have to opportunity of going at your own pace, taking more time with things that really interest you without the pressure of others nagging you to move on and being able to zip through other stuff without “excess baggage” slowing you down. That way when you return with your friends you will be able to tour at their pace without feeling “cheated” out of your own experience.

I have not been on any of the other tours in Disney World, though I have been tours backstage at Disneyland and DCA. Unfortunately, I can’t compare with the other Disney World offerings.

You are on a bus in between most places you visit on the tour, but I didn’t think that was too bad. Gave me time to check email, Facebook, etc without missing anything.

As for a meal with strangers, by the time lunch rolled around I had already talked with a few different people during the tour, so it wasn’t that bad. I generally would not seek out others in a situation like that, but once I sat down most of the conversation was about the Disney parks, so it was an area where we were all comfortable talking. We covered the normal topics, like where are you staying?, how many times have you been?, and such. It was a little like when you’re paired off with another family when eating at Biergarten and end up chatting.

We did not go on any rides, though we did stop to watch the parade in the Magic Kingdom. We were in the American Adventure building in the morning, before World Showcase was open, as they were starting a test of the show, and also in the maintenance building where one of the Tower of Terror vehicles in stored. That was as close as we were to any of the attractions.

That’s a really good point. I also know that I’ll need a break from being with them for at least one day, and doing Backstage Magic on that trip would be a fantastic excuse. Love my friends, love their kiddos (my tiny little best friends!), but there’s a reason I no longer live with 'em!

Nice, thanks for all the info.

@theredhead I have only done the KTTK tour but will be doing the Backstage Magic tour this April and can report on the similarities and or differences for you. As far as US studios, It is amazing. If you are going for HP do not waste you money on the express pass, HP is not included and as far as the rest of the park goes in the fall it is not really needed. Take care (depending on when in the fall you are going ) not to go on a HHN unless you are planning to attend that. It makes the parks close even earlier! Have fun

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I would love to hear your experiences with Backstage Magic, thanks for the offer. The primary reason for UOR would be to visit the Harry Potter areas, but I also love roller coasters, so those would definitely be part of my day. I’m also in the process of pre-planning a trip for Christmas 2018 (I know, I’m insane), which would be with friends and would include at least one UOR day, possibly two. I’m a control freak, so I kind of want to get the lay of the land before going with them. It’s a tough choice, but the fun kind.

Happy to report back Tour date is April 20th. I was at UOR in Sept '14 and Nov’14. Lots of fun.I would probably do that over the tour if I had to make a choice. Make sure you get a ticket that allows entry to both parks (to ride the HEX) and do not buy the express pass until you scope out the crowds. Like I said HP does not use the pass and none of the other attractions had lines that would have been worth the expense- that is over the 7 days I spent there- No lines. Planning 2018 is NOT insane-it’s fun

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@theredhead As promised a report on the Backstage Magic Tour. It was interesting but did not blow me away. I think I was expecting the same professionalism and enthusiasm that I experience with the KTTK tour and it just wasn’t so. There is a little overlap with the information of KTTK but not much. Given the choice between Backstage Magic and HP at UOR, HP wins hands down in my opinion. Hope this helps


Awesome, thanks for the info. I’m sure I’ll still be debating it until a few weeks before my trip, haha. I’m so indecisive!