Orlando is the theme park capital of North America. You have Sea World, Lego Land, Aquatica, and of course Universal Studios and Disney World. Universal Studios, which is comprised of two parks, and Disney are the most prominent. There is a healthy competition between Universal and Disney, however they are two completely different experiences. Each park brings its own flavor, theme, cast of characters, and benefits. Universal may have a few different options which you can’t find anywhere on Disney property, however they are few and far between. With newer parks, comes a lack of history, nostalgia, and an added cost. We’ll break down why Disney is the better choice than Universal for most. At the end though, it really comes down to if you prefer to hang out with Harry Potter or Mickey Mouse.
7) More Park Options – Disney comes complete with four theme parks, two water parks, a few dozen hotels, and a slew of golf courses, and finally Downtown Disney for shopping, dining, and other activities. Universal Studios has two theme parks, four or five hotels, a partner water park in Aquatica, and the Universal City Walk. At the end of the day, Disney has something for anyone at any budget.
6) History & Nostalgia – Anytime you visit any theme park, your experience is really only as good as you allow it to be. Disney World has a smorgasbord of historic attractions, locations, and tours that really take you into the “good stuff” which makes Disney what it is today. Universal Studios does have a VIP Tour, but it is strictly movie related. Having said this, you truly feel like you are in a theme park in Universal Studios, rather than in a completely separate world while visiting Disney.
5) Need for Speed – Ever since Disney rolled out the Fast Pass, guests have been forever thankful. Universal does something that (in my opinion) is much better in some cases with the Universal Express Unlimited. But it comes with a price, an expensive one. Universal offers the Universal Express Unlimited where you can ride any attraction (outside of a few which are easily the most popular), as many times as you’d like, with no wait. However it almost costs as much as the ticket PER PARK, to do so. Now I do enjoy being able to pick my Fast Pass attractions with the ones that are of relevance to me and my party, but I also enjoy there is no extra cost associated with it, and no stipulations on which rides I can and can’t ride.
4) Technology – Universal Studios just recently updated their iPhone app and it has improved drastically from former versions. However, you can’t manage your rides/experiences from it as you can with Disney. Now some folks enjoy just going with the flow and not being tied to experiencing attractions on a set schedule. People like me for instance, love every second of it. Disney allows you to manage your rides and fast passes with pretty accurate wait times. I’ve found the Universal ones to be a bit inaccurate at times.
3) Family Fun – If you are traveling with young children, you’d be hard pressed to find many rides at Universal that would be age/height appropriate for them. While Universal has the best rides down in Orlando. I’m sorry Disney fans, it is the truth. Don’t believe me? Go ride the Hulk, Mummy, and Rip Rock-It Roller Coaster and get back to me. But, they aren’t best suited for your two year old who wants to see Anna and Elsa. I would say for pre-teens and adults and you want an escape with thrill rides for a few hours, you could do a lot worse than Universal. However, for a family based vacation with younger kids, Disney has far more attractions that are family friendly.
2) Price, Price, Baby – Everyone wants to save a dollar or two when heading on vacation. It is human nature and considering some of the costs associated with it, I don’t blame them. To visit Universal Studios, as a couple for one day, with Unlimited Fast Pass will cost you around $400! That isn’t including food, drinks, parking, etc. With Disney, you are paying somewhere around $250-$300, which typically includes your parking and dining plans etc. Again, for the value you are getting much more with Disney being able to technically visit four parks in one day. If your feet can handle that, God bless.
1) Mickey Mouse – There are a few times in life you really can remember vividly, and meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time is one of them. The experience while on a Disney property meeting all the characters you and your kids watched on TV growing up is second to none. I’m sure most would agree they’d rather meet and hang out with Minnie Mouse than Marge Simpson right? The mystique behind ‘The Mouse’ and everything that goes along with Disney truly does trump anything any other theme park in the world has to offer.
Before anyone thinks this is a piece bashing Universal, let me make one thing clear. I LOVE Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I’m one of the biggest Harry Potter fans out there and I make sure I visit Universal every time I make it down to Orlando. I even mentioned their thrill rides are the best in the business. However, Disney is just a completely different experience from the minute you step foot on property until you ride the tram back to your vehicle. If you are a family or couple looking to get away and experience a magical few days with each other, Disney is the place to go. However, if you are a thrill seeker and need something to incorporate some extra excitement into your vacation, you could do a lot worse than Universal Studios.
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