I admit it, I am a theme park lover! I’ve been to Disney World Orlando and Universal Studios Orlando tons of times throughout my life- yes even as an adult! I went to both recently this past year, 2019, and I had so much fun. There are, of course, pros and cons to both parks, and I’ve weighed them both based on who I’m with, what the goal of the trip is, and how much I’m wanting to spend. I’m breaking down the parks below so you can make the best decision for your next Orlando theme park trip!
If you already know which parks you prefer, you can check out my adult’s guide to Disney World, and my adult’s guide to Universal Studios.
Disney World vs Universal Studios
Disney World vs Universal Studios: Tickets
Tickets to either park are not cheap. Theme park vacations are not for those looking to save money! However, they are worth it because each park is an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.
For Disney, ticket prices decrease the more days you spend in the parks. So, a 4-day park pass (one day/park) would be the most cost-effective around (at the time of this writing) $84/day.
A one day one park ticket starts at $109.
A one-day park ticket with a park-hopper option starts at: $169.
Universal Studios Tickets
Universal also has many packages to compare apples to apples, a 2-park, 4-day ticket will be about $83/day. You may visit multiple parks in one day with this pass!
A one day one park ticket starts at $119.
A one-day park ticket with a park-hopper option starts at: $174.
Which is Better: Disney World vs Universal Ticket Packages and Prices?
All in all, both of the parks are about the same. When comparing apples to apples, a single-day ticket is more expensive at Universal Studios, but when purchased in packages, it seems that Universal has a better deal per day.
Disney World vs Universal Studios: Parks
Disney World Park Rides
Disney World Orlando has four theme parks and two water parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, and Blizzard Beach. I have not visited the water parks, so this post will focus on the theme parks. Each of these parks is very different and brings a different facet to the parks! Magic Kingdom is the most recognizable park with the Cinderella castle at the forefront. It is the one that each of the Disney Land Parks around the world is modeled after. Magic Kingdom has the largest amount of rides and with that the most children.
Epcot is home to the Land, the Sea, and the World Showcase. It is the park with the best food and drink, but fewest rides. Hollywood Studios has some of the biggest rollercoasters, Andy’s Backyard, and the Indiana Jones show! It’s one of the smaller parks, but it’s also so much fun! Finally, Animal Kingdom is home to the new Avatar land, Pandora, live animals, Everest, which is one of my favorites, and the amazing Tree of Lights!
Universal Studios Orlando Park Rides
Universal Orlando has two theme parks and one water park: Islands of Adventures, Universal Studios, and Volcano Bay. I have not visited the water park, so this post will focus on the theme parks. Islands of Adventures is my preferred park with Marvel Superheros, The Magical World of Harry Potter- Hogsmeade and the newest ride, Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure, and Jurassic Park. This park is geared more towards adults and older kids except for Seusseland.
Universal Studios is home to The Magical World of Harry Potter- Diagon Alley, and many rides based on Universal movies such as Men in Black, Transformers, and Revenge of the Mummy.
Disney World vs Universal Studios Rides: Which is Better?
If you’re looking for bigger rides, Universal Studios has more large rides and rollercoasters, whereas Disney only has a couple of rollercoasters per park. On the other hand, Disney, in general, is larger and therefore has more rides.
Surely the lines depend on the time of year, weather, and parks in general, but the lines were much shorter in Universal Studios. However, the newer rides in all of the parks each had more than an hour wait up to more than two hours.
Disney World vs Universal Studios: Food and Drink
Disney World Food and Drink
Disney, however, has much better food. Epcot is known for the Food and Wine festivals hosted in the World Showcase, so you know you’ll be getting a great meal. In the other parks, I recommend looking for the specialty shops and restaurants, such as Casey’s Corner, the hot dog shop on Main Street in Magic Kingdom! If you’re looking to sip on an alcoholic drink all day, choose your parks carefully. Magic Kingdom only serves alcohol in sit down restaurants most of the time you’ll need a reservation for those. Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios have kiosks with drinks around the parks, but Epcot is the clear best choice for day drinking. It’s known for people attempting to ‘Drink Around the World”!
Universal Studios Food and Drink
I’ll be completely honest, I don’t ever expect park food to be great. Universal Studios meals are abysmal no matter what restaurant you walk into, but on the other hand, they have recognizable favorites like Ben and Jerry’s and Auntie Anne’s. Universal Studios more widely serves alcohol such as beer.
Which is Better: Disney World vs Universal Studios Food and Drink?
Disney is a clear winner in this category. There is an abundance of options in each of the parks and they range from quick grab and go snacks, to sit down restaurants. Plus they have the infamous Dole Whip! Epcot will be your best park for a variety of food and drinks. Mexico has the best margaritas and I love the grapefruit beer and pretzels (the Bavarian one, not the one shaped like Mickey’s head!) in Germany!
However, Universal does have alcoholic drinks more readily available, albeit fewer options.
Disney World vs Universal Studios: The Details
Disney World Details
Something I notice every time I visit Disney World is the details throughout the park. From the bumblebees on the caution tape of the Winnie the Pooh ride to hidden Mickeys, to cast members never breaking character. The magic is truly alive in Disney!
Universal Studios Details
Universal has definitely stepped up the park details more recently. I love the wand tricks in the Harry Potter World, and I think that the new Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure ride is incredible. The animatronics are fantastic!
One complaint I have is that their park workers are very different. While in line for a ride, I watched workers check their cell phones, joke around with each other, and talk about their shifts. It seems small, but it makes such a difference when it doesn’t happen elsewhere.
Which is Better: Disney World vs Universal Studios Details?
I think my answer here is clear. Disney has amazing cast members, and it shows in their performance, service, and acting skills!
Disney World vs Universal Studios: Firework Shows
Disney Firework Shows
Disney Firework shows are amazing. Animal Kingdom lights up the tree with color, light, and movie clips. Hollywood Studios created a magical dance to Star Wars music, Epcot’s fireworks are easily seen by everyone since they happen on the lake in the middle of the World Showcase, and I cannot tell you how obsessed I was with the Happily Ever After showcase on the Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom! They set fireworks, lights, and a show of movie clips projected onto the castle, and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.
Universal Studios Firework Shows
Universal Studios has a fun fireworks display on the lake featuring lights cinematic features on the water! It’s freaking awesome guys! I only wish we stayed to watch them on our most recent trip!
Which is Better: Disney World vs Universal Studios Firework Shows?
Honestly, see them all! I was completely enamored with the show on the castle in Magic Kingdom, and I’m so amazed at the water show at Universal Studios! This one is a total tie for me!
Disney World vs Universal Studios: Which is Best to Visit as an Adult?
I really enjoy both parks for different reasons. I am a huge Disney fan and also absolutely love Harry Potter, so it’s always a tough choice. It truly depends on your goal of the trip! If you want to ride bigger rides, drink a bit, walk onto rides, Universal Studios is your park. Disney is better suited for people who appreciate the details, don’t mind the kids, want to try different foods, and have more park options.