Battle of the Theme Parks: Disney vs. Universal

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Battle of the Theme Parks: Disney vs. Universal

Home to some of the most impressive theme parks in the world, Orlando, Florida’s attractions draw in millions of tourists every year. But the two headliners are, without a doubt, Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando, due to their record-breaking rides, costumed-characters and special-effect filled shows.

If you’re dying to visit both but don’t have the time or funds to visit more than one, you have a tough decision to make. If you’re the opposite and would rather skip the crowds but feel like you should probably see what all the hype is about at least once in your lifetime, one is enough.

No matter which category you fall into, the question is, which park is the one? Take a look at this comparison of the two theme park giants, and know that you can’t go wrong with either choice.

The Deal

Saving time and money is important when it comes to planning a vacation, so ideally the park you choose is located near other parks of interest and offers discounted packages that include multiple attractions.

Universal Studios
Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are side-by-side, connected by Universal CityWalk, a strip of entertainment options including stores and restaurants. While Islands of Adventure is technically part of Universal, admission to each park is separate. There are a variety of ticket packages available on Universal’s website that get you savings if you bundle parks together or book multiple days. For instance, a one-day park admission is $147 for adults, but if you book tickets for two days, the total price is $194.99, less than $98 per day.

It’s worth noting that both Universal parks have parts of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter within them. Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios and the town of Hogsmeade is set up in Islands of Adventure. Both are among the biggest new attractions in the area, as everyone is rushing to hop on the Hogwarts Express.

Walt Disney World
Disney has four main parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Each has their own theme. Magic Kingdom is home to all the Disney classics, catering to children or the young at heart. Epcot boasts the world showcase, where older crowds gather to drink around the world. Hollywood Studios, formerly known as MGM Studios, is all about movies and rivals Universal Studios in terms of cinematic tributes. Animal Kingdom has a live African safari available as well a Lion King production. If you add the park hopper option to your ticket, you will be able to peruse any of the four parks during your stay for an additional $40. Tickets start at $99 per day per park, and drop to as low as $55 per day for those who book five or more days.

The Accommodations

Need a place to crash after all that park hopping excitement? Keep the fun going by staying on-site.

Universal Studios
Universal has four hotels on-site, three in the deluxe price range and one categorized as moderate. While Universal may not offer as many budget-friendly hotels, there is one undeniable bonus to staying in a Universal property—every guest gets a complimentary Universal Express Pass included with their stay, which allows you to skip the lines at the park.

Walt Disney World
Disney offers over 25 Disney Resort hotel locations on Walt Disney World property, which spans over 27,000 acres and includes theme parks, hotels and downtown Disney. The benefits of staying on Disney property include free transportation to and from the parks, as well as in between them. Disney has an elaborate transportation system built into their complex, which allows you to commute by ferry, bus or monorail. Another great benefit? Extended park hours that allow you to get in early and beat the crowds.

The Lines

Speaking of express passes, there’s no better way to make use of your time at either park than by planning in advance and bypassing as many lines as possible.

Universal Studios
As mentioned, Universal has an Express Pass, which means that for an additional $35, you can skip all the lines in the park. Depending on the season, this option could be well worth the splurge.

Walt Disney World
Disney does not offer the same type of deal. Instead, they have a Fast Pass system, which allows you to pick three ride lines to skip, and you have to arrive at that ride during a set time to gain access. The most popular rides book fast, however, so plan ahead.