What’s the Difference Between Disney World and Universal Studios?

A common question I hear from those taking the trip to Orlando to visit Walt Disney World is, “Should I see Universal as well?” It’s a good question and my answer would vary depending on who was asking me.

First, it’s imperative to know that if you’ve never done Disney, you’re going to need at least four days to see all the parks. I would actually recommend at least five, but understandably, not everyone can spare that much time out of their schedules. With four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping village, and more, it’s hard to fit everything you want to do into your first trip. However, if you’re not certain that you want to do all that Disney has to offer, you may want to make time in your schedule to see Universal as well.

If you’re staying on property and take regular shuttle service to the parks and various other attractions that Disney has to offer, you’re going to have to find a different mode of transportation in order to get to the Universal Theme Parks. I will say that, for the time you are outside of the Disney Resort, it is a bit like stepping out of the bubble that Disney creates for its guests. There’s a sequestered effect that comes from staying at Disney. It’s as if you are in a separate world and can be quite disorienting when being at the park for awhile. For that reason, I would suggest doing Universal first.

So, how are Disney and Universal different? To begin, Universal sits right at the edge of Orlando and includes two theme parks: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. There is also a shopping and nightlife center, similar to Disney’s Pleasure Island and Downtown Disney, called Citywalk. Universal also has three on-site resort properties, Portofino Bay Resort, The Hard Rock Hotel, and The Royal Pacific Resort.

Universal Studios, a sister park to Universal Studios Hollywood where you can tour the actual film lots, is situated as an amusement park/film lot. While there are film production facilities on the lot, most of Universal’s film production is completed in Hollywood.

Among the large soundstages that comprise Universal Studios are movie themed attractions. The current complaint about this area of the Universal resort is that the rides and attractions are based on films that didn’t have quite the staying power of films such as Star Wars and , as such, the attractions have become outdated. Recently, Universal removed one of its staple attractions, Kongfrontation, and replaced it with Revenge of the Mummy, a thrill ride based on the Mummy series of films by Stephen Sommers.

Other attractions within the Universal Studios Theme park include Back to the Future, a simulation ride based on the popular 80’s film series, The E.T. Adventure, a ride, similar to Peter Pan’s Flight at the Magic Kingdom, which allows you to ride with E.T. (through the courtesy of “bikes”) through the stars and to his home planet. Jaws, a boat ride based on the film series that made Spielberg famous, takes guests on a boat ride where they encounter the great white shark.

Universal’s other theme park, Islands of Adventure is Universal’s newest theme park. Broken up into sections much like Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Adventure has more to offer those that seek thrill rides. With “lands” based on the works of Dr. Seuss, Marvel Comics, and Jurassic Park, the park surely has something for everything. One of the most innovative attractions at Universal, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, combines 3-D cinema and simulation technology in a dark ride setting. It is certainly a unique ride and there’s nothing quite like it at any theme park.

Many people ask me, “Is Universal or Disney better?” For an all inclusive vacation destination, Disney is miles above Universal. However, if you have extra days in your schedule, Universal is a definite must see. For many people, doing both parks in one day is completely feasible. So, if you love a good thrill ride, take an extra day in your schedule near the beginning of your trip to see Universal.

See ya real soon!