By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Harry Potter and the Battle of the Afternoons

By Dave Shute

The Battle of the Afternoons from yourfirstvisit.netSometime this summer—my bet is June 13, by the way, technically spring—On July 8th the second installment of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando will open at Universal Studios. The effect for Harry Potter fans will be to make Universal a two-day park.

For Disney World this has multiple implications, and its responses will likely try to address then all. The core issues for Disney are

  1. Harry Potter will draw incrementally more people to Orlando, so Disney’s task for these is to grab some of their time and money while they are in town
  2. Of the people who would have come to Orlando anyway, Disney’s task is to not lose too much from people spending time and money at Universal that they might otherwise have spent at Disney World

In this post, I’m gonna focus on the second issue, as it is widely misunderstood—and in particular the role of FastPass+ in it.

The best way to see the new and older Harry Potter is to get a two-day multi-park ticket, stay in a Universal hotel, and use Universal’s early entry to hit one area each morning, fitting Hogwarts Express rides back and forth in as well.

For younger kids, though, there’s not enough age-appropriate stuff to stay all day at Universal—and that’s where FastPass+ kick in.

In the olden days, the best way to see Disney World was to arrive before open, see a bunch of rides first thing, and then pull old-style FastPass+ over the rest of the day. Guests who arrived in the afternoon—e.g. after a visit to Universal—would see long lines stand-by lines and Fastpasses either gone or with very late return times. Nobody with Disney World experience would advise that such could be a great day.

But with FastPass+, you can book three great Disney World rides for the late afternoon/early evening and be able to see them with hardly any wait. So a day that begins at Universal and ends at Disney World can be a much better experience—one that would be recommended, rather than suggested as to be avoided.

This is the key point. With great late days available at Disney World, the competition is no longer about which park gets the only entry that day—competition is about how to spend the afternoon and evening. That’s a much easier competition for Disney to win with pre-teens and their families.

Note that Disney’s recent deals have had a lot of “buy this many nights and tickets, and get another ticket day free.” It’s been years since Disney World has had free tickets for so many deals—and the effect of these is to make another afternoon/evening at Disney World that much more doable.

And you can also see other stuff happening in late August and September that has the effect of making Disney World more attractive in the afternoons and evenings—one that’s clear, one that’s speculative, and one that’s probably me just making stuff up.

  • The clear one: Food and Wine is beginning a week earlier in 2014 than in prior years—adding that much more attractiveness to Epcot in the afternoons and evenings that week.
  • The speculative one: The Magic Kingdom has more and earlier 7p closes in September than in past years. The widespread guess is that this means that Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party will have more and earlier shows in 2014 than in the past—e.g. an earlier show may be September 1. Later in the month, there’s likely to be two more shows than in recent years. Add it up, and Magic Kingdom becomes more attractive in the evenings. (Confirmed.)
  • The made-up one: Disney’s Hollywood Studios has four straight nights in early September (the second through the fifth) with no Fantasmic scheduled. It’s been years since the last time that happened. Sensible people are guessing that this is because of a quick rehab to the Fantasmic operations. But I can’t help wondering if there might not be some special event planned those evenings to make HS more attractive those nights…perhaps a test of a villains party?

I’m probably wrong—as usual—on that last guess. But more broadly, Harry Potter is gonna happen, and it’s gonna have a real draw for some subsets of people who would otherwise attend Disney World. FastPass+–and some of the other items I’ve noted—make afternoons and evenings at Disney World much more attractive than they’d otherwise be, making its parks more competitive for the second half of a visitor’s day…

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1 Paul { 04.03.14 at 1:11 pm }

I’m planning a trip in October and I would love, love, love a Disney Villains Party! I so hope your speculation proves to be correct!

2 Dave { 04.04.14 at 2:00 pm }

Oh Paul, I wouldn’t bet on it! Just a dumb guess on my part…

3 Lara Gordon { 04.07.14 at 4:29 pm }

Hi Dave,
Can you only book fast pass+ for the late afternoon and early evening? We plan to get there early and leave the parks in the early afternoon with kids getting tired so was hoping to do great rides in the morning with low crowds and fast pass any from 11am -2pm?

4 Dave { 04.08.14 at 8:36 am }

Lara, you can do FP+ anytime the park is open. It’s best to avoid the first couple hours as lines are short enuf then that you can find great rides without FP+. Then as crowds build late morning use your FP+.

5 Lara Gordon { 04.07.14 at 6:39 pm }

Sorry Dave,hopefully one last question for a while! I managed to get 14 of us in for lunch at Hollywood Studios at 50s Prime Time Cafe and also at Sci-Fi Diner. Which one would be the best for 7 adults, 7 kids (2, 3, 5, 5, 7 and 9 years)? I notice on your itinerary you do a snack at Sci-Fi Diner not a meal? (My Dad loves the heckle thing that they no doubt do at 50s cafe but would the kids love sitting in a car – or can you sit in a car to have a snack anyway?)

6 Lara Gordon { 04.08.14 at 6:47 pm }

Superb advice! And sorry can you also please let me know what you think on my question about 50s Prime Time Cafe vs Sci Fi above? I have reservations for both and will cancel one depending on what you think. 🙂

7 Dave { 04.09.14 at 10:07 am }

Lara, opinions vary on those two. Sci-Fi used to have the rep for worse food, but I hear from people I trust that its equivalent now. So I’d just pick base don which theming you prefer!

8 Lara { 04.10.14 at 5:06 am }

Oh Dave that is so hard! There is one night we don’t have dinner booked after our day of kids on Pirate Adventure (Grand Floridian) and then lunch at T-Rex in Downtown Disney. Is it worth a trip to Hollywood Studios at 5.30pm to do 50s Prime Time cafe? (That way we can do both Sci-Fi (for lunch on our day at HS) and 50s Prime Time cafe this day as too hard to decide and probably will never be back!)

9 Dave { 04.10.14 at 11:33 am }

Lara…to answer a question with a question…is Hoop Dee Doo Revue on your list? Crystal Palace? Chef Mickey’s? I’d do any of those befroe either of the HS options, and certainly not do both HS options without having those 3 covered first…

10 Wendy { 04.20.14 at 9:32 pm }

Hope this finds you well – I am writing this for my sister…after hearing about our trip – they are visiting, too!

Her family is traveling to Orlando during a road-trip. They will have three days at WDW and one at Harry Potter World…they think.

They are going to be in Orlando (staying in a time-share) July 26 – 31. Which days would be best for which parks?

I think they will do Epcot and Magic Kingdom – but I think they might skip the other two parks…the kids are 13, 14, 15, and 16 (kids from two families)…

I know that is this a crazy-hot and crazy-busy time, but it is what it is. They will be doing this trip a bit on a budget since they need to think about the other family’s situation. They are not planning any sit-down meals (they go to Disneyland often…) just to make it a bit more affordable. The other family is military, so they will get some deals, I think.

Any advice would be great! I hear they might even be able to get Fastpass +? Not sure how they would do that being off-site, but I hear that might be the case.



11 Dave { 04.21.14 at 1:51 pm }

Hi Wendy I’ve missed you! Most important, the military family can get GREAT deals–especially on tix–they can get up to 6, so may be able to cover part of the other family as well. Start here on

Second, theres less difference in the summer from day to day. AT WDW they should simply avoid EMH days–HS on the 26th, MK the 27th, HS and AK the 28th, Epcot the 29th, AKA the 30th, and MK the 31st.

Yes once they have their tix and have linked them via MDE< they have 30 days in advance to book FP+.Harry Potter is trickier. I expect the second installment at Universal Studios to have opened by then, and both will be just mobbed...and a two day park. The bets way to deal with th9is is to double book rooms at Universal--Cabana Bay, more affordable, is now open--as for the price of one room night they will get early entry on both check in and check out days. Although honestly, given the mobs from the new opening, my counsel would be to avoid Universal this summer and come back another time...

12 Wendy { 04.21.14 at 2:30 pm }

Thanks for this – I will pass it on…

As always, you are a great help,


13 Trista { 05.06.14 at 11:38 pm }

We are planning a trip to Orlando in October and would love to see the new HarryPotter area. Do you think the crowds to see the new area of HP will have died down yet? Or will it still be mobbed in October like it will be in June and July? When do you think things will be more “Status Quo” and less “Grand Opening”?

14 Dave { 05.07.14 at 12:33 pm }

Trista I expect it still to be packed then. The best play is to stay in a Universal hotel, which gives you early entry on both your check in and check-out days (and any days in between!) so you can see each half 60 minutes befroe the rest of the universe.

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