Orlando, Florida, is one of the most popular tourist destinations for those looking to get away. It is considered the “theme park capital of the world”, after all.
And while many guests are still flocking to Disney World to visit all four parks, Universal Orlando has continued to grow in popularity. We’re covering all the reasons our readers have shared on why some guests are choosing to split a stay, or go all in on a Universal vacation instead of a Disney trip.
Here’s Why Some People Are Choosing Universal Over Disney
It’s no secret that a Disney World vacation is costly, and when you break down the numbers, a family trip to Universal Orlando is generally cheaper. In fact, we laid out the price of a vacation for a family of four and found that you can save up to about $2,200 if you choose to plan a 5-day vacation to Universal over Disney World.
Yes, the tickets are cheaper (there are only two parks compared to four), but even the cost of hotels is less than staying on Disney property. For example, the price of a premier hotel at Universal is comparable to Disney’s larger Value Resorts like Disney’s Art of Animation. And when you stay at a premier hotel, you’ll also receive a free Express Pass per person, meaning you can skip the line on many attractions.
For those looking for a more budget-friendly vacation, Universal has Disney World beat.
Beyond the cost of the vacation, Universal Orlando also has many more thrill rides compared to Disney World. Disney is a family theme park so most of its rides are created for guests of all ages to enjoy, whereas at Universal you’ll find some bigger rides that are suited to an older audience.
Some of the thrill rides include The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, and the newest addition, VelociCoaster.
Now, Disney World does have a few thrill rides in its parks, like Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but guests who want to spend their day screaming on coasters tend to head to Universal over Disney since there are far more.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Beyond thrill rides, one of the biggest things that Universal has over Disney World is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have their own immersive Harry Potter land, and if you’re a big fan of the franchise then these are a must-see.
They are filled with lots of iconic moments from the movies and books that you can experience yourself, so you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the story. You can ride through Hogwarts, drink Butterbeer, practice your magic skills with a wand, go through the wand choosing ceremony, and SO much more.
Ability to Skip Lines
For those who are looking to be able to do the most in one day without having to wait in long lines, Universal Orlando just might be the better option right now. Why? Well, after almost 18 months of no FastPass+, Disney World retired the program and introduced two new paid ways to “skip the line” at select popular attractions. And, while the ability to bypass the wait is back, Universal Orlando has Disney beat for some fans.
Disney’s new system is comparable to Universal’s Express Pass in that only select attractions are included in each of the two new services (Disney Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selection), but the prices and perks are pretty different.
The Express Pass at Universal isn’t free and can cost as little as $70 per person up to around $200 per person during peak times. But, if you’re staying at a Premier (at Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, and Portofino Bay Hotel) Resort then the express pass is complimentary.
Disney Genie+ and Individual Attraction Selections on the other hand are two separate costs with Genie+ being $15 per person, per day and Individual Attraction Selections ranging from $7 to $15 or more depending on when you’re visiting. So, if you’re maximizing your chances of spending less time in line, then you can end up paying up to $45 per person at Disney World. And, there are no cases where you can get either for free like you do when staying at select Universal hotels.
Another Universal benefit is that there’s no specific return time for rides and there’s no limit on how many rides you can use it on (or how many times you use it on one ride). So you can spend less time waiting and more time riding when you visit Universal. Whereas at Disney World, guests can only “skip the line” once at each attraction and have a specific 1-hour return time. Just keep in mind that not all Universal rides have an Express Pass line.
Beloved Franchises You Can’t Find Anywhere Else
And while Disney World is where you’ll find Mickey Mouse, princesses, and other Disney and Pixar characters, Universal Orlando is also home to some beloved franchises. Of course, there’s Harry Potter, but there’s also Seuss Landing, which is themed after Dr. Seuss books…
…attractions and meet and greets with characters from Jurassic Park…
…an entire area dedicated to The Simpsons (which, ironically, is a program that belongs to Disney)…
…and more! If you’re a fan of these other franchises, Universal is the better option because you won’t find them at Disney World!
Universal also hosts a variety of special events throughout the year that are much different than the ones you can experience at Disney World. For example, in the springtime, Mardi Gras kicks off in Universal Studios and you can find special parades that guests can be part of, specialty food, and even live performances from bands (much like EPCOT’s Eat to the Beat series for the Food & Wine Festival).
The event is filled with haunted houses, scare zones, and more, so you’ll likely find yourself scared at this one!
Earlier we talked about many of the different franchises you can find in Universal Orlando, and one of the bigger ones that draw fans’ attention is Marvel!
Before Disney owned Marvel they were in a partnership with Universal so you can find an entire island dedicated to your favorite comic superheroes. There are attractions, meet and greets, shows, and even dining with some of the characters.
And you won’t be able to experience Marvel like this at Disney World (even though Disney now owns the franchise) because there’s a contract between Universal and Disney that makes it so the characters that are in Universal cannot appear in a park east of the Mississippi. Yup, that’s right.
You Can See Everything in a Day
Universal is also a great option for families who are planning a shorter vacation because it’s much smaller with only two parks (and one water park). Plus, you can easily walk between the two dry parks or take the Hogwarts Express so you usually can get everything that you want to get done in one day.
And Universal tends to have lower crowds than Disney, so lines can be shorter, and the parks can be quicker to navigate.
Lastly, Universal Orlando has its own area that is comparable to Disney Springs called CityWalk. However, it is much more geared toward adults, so many people may opt to head there instead of Disney.
CityWalk is open until 2AM daily, and you’ll find things like a piano bar, an Irish pub, Margaritaville, and more late-night entertainment. Plus, if you need more evidence that the goal is to attract an adult crowd here, there’s even a tattoo parlor!
For those with a sweet tooth, you can find the popular VooDoo Donut shop here, which draws a lot of attention from fans looking for crazy over-the-top donut flavors.
There are a lot of different reasons that park-goers may opt to visit Universal Orlando over Disney World and if you need help deciding which one is best for you, you can watch our video below!
Join the AllEars.net Newsletter to stay on top of ALL the breaking Disney News! You'll also get access to AllEars tips, reviews, trivia, and MORE! Click here to Subscribe!
Which do you prefer — Disney World or Universal Orlando? Let us know in the comments!