Disney vs. Universal
Let’s start off with the similarities:
Both are resorts with multiple theme parks
Walt Disney World has Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Universal Orlando Resort has Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Volcano Bay, and Epic Universe (coming soon!) This can get a little confusing because both resorts have a studio-themed park. At both Disney World and Universal Orlando, you can buy tickets for each theme park or a Park Hopper. With a Park Hopper pass at Disney World, you can hop from one park to another. At Universal, it is a two or three park ticket.
Each has its own outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment district
Walt Disney World has Disney Springs while Universal has CityWalk. Each of these districts has amazing restaurants, shops, clubs, and movie theater complexes. CityWalk has a miniature golf course within its district, while Disney’s mini-golf courses are located at the Swan and Dolphin Resort and Blizzard Beach Waterpark. However, Disney Springs does have bowling, tethered balloon rides, boat rentals, and a few other things to do.
Disney World guests who stay at Disney Resorts receive perks such as discounted magic bands and first access to FastPass+ which is the option of shorter lines (although FastPass is currently suspended). Advance dining reservations and extra magic hours are also a perk for Disney Resort guests.
Guests staying at Universal Orlando Resort hotels get to take advantage of shorter lines by getting free Express Passes. Non-hotel guests will need to buy Express Passes in addition to their general admission tickets if they also want to take advantage of shorter lines. There are different levels of the Express Pass.
Saving on tickets
When it comes to having a budget for your Walt Disney World tickets and Universal Studios tickets, they both have similar incentives. The reality is that the more tickets you buy, the less it will cost you in each park. When you buy a 1 Day 1 Park ticket, the price might elevate. However, prices will vary on the season and the day you choose to go to the parks.
Both parks offer unique experiences, however, they both offer incredible journeys that the whole family can enjoy. From thrilling roller coasters to toddler rides and playgrounds, both parks have something for everyone for your Orlando vacation.
And now the differences:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is ONLY at Universal Studios
Many tourists assume that Harry Potter can be found at Disney, however, Diagon Alley is found at Universal Studios while Hogsmeade is found at Islands of Adventure. You can enjoy each area, but you will need a two-park ticket if you want to go ride the Hogwarts Express from Diagon Alley from one park to Hogsmeade in the other park.
Theme Park Characters
SpongeBob, the Minions, Scooby-Doo, The Simpsons, the Cat in the Hat, the Madagascar gang, SpiderMan, and other Marvel heroes can be found at Universal Orlando Resort. Characters from the worlds of Pixar, Star Wars, Disney, and Disney princesses can be found inside the Disney parks.
“But doesn’t Disney own Marvel and The Simpsons?!” Yes, however, Universal had a long-term agreement in place before Disney bought them, so Spidey and the other Marvel superheroes can only be found at Islands of Adventure. The Simpsons are found at Universal Studios.
Since the two theme parks are competitors there is no shared transportation between the Universal parks and the Disney World parks. You can, however, take an independent shuttle to Universal if you’re staying at a Disney-owned hotel, and you can get to Disney from a Universal hotel in the same way. An Uber or Lyft that you may also do the trick.
Theme park sizes
When it comes to the size of these parks, generally we wouldn’t think it is that important. However, theme park size is essential in knowing what type of vacation you will take. Universal Orlando Resort consists of 3 parks: Universal Studios, Island of Adventure, and Volcano Bay (a waterpark) and resides on 840 acres. On the other hand, Disney World is almost twice the size of Manhattan, with 25,000 acres! Animal Kingdom the largest while Magic Kingdom is the smallest in size.
That Nostalgic feeling
Disney World vacations tend to bring up childhood memories and revolve around Mickey Mouse and Disney Princesses along with a passing of the baton of a cherished experience to the next generation. That same feeling of nostalgia may not be as strong while in Universal Studios, but experiencing the recreated epic movies like Harry Potter or Jurrasic World certainly does come close.