Walt Disney World vs Universal Studios: Who has the edge? May 27, 2015

Two of the best known and most popular theme parks: Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.  Each twenty minutes from each other and both have some of the best attractions in the world.   I recently vacationed in Florida and went to both of them and am about to tell you which one has the edge.

Walt Disney World:

Shown above is the famous castle at Magic Kingdom.

For those not familiar with Disney World, it is compromised of 4 theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.  Each has it’s own exciting riding and shows as well as iconic buildings that make the theme parks unique.  Magic Kingdom has the castle, Epcot has the dome, Animal Kingdom has the tree of life and Hollywood Studios has the Tower of Terror.  Hollywood Studies used to have the Magic Hat, but it was recently removed.

Disney also has two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.  Typhoon Lagoon has a huge “ocean” area in the middle which generates massive waves for the crowd. Other than the huge “ocean” area, both Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach have water rides typical to those of any water park.

Along with those iconic buildings each has famous rides. Magic Kingdom has well known rides such as Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.  Epcot has Test Track, Soarin’ and also includes the World Showcase.  Hollywood Studios has Hollywood Tower Hotel better known as the Tower of Terror.  It also has Rockin’ Roller Coaster as well as Star Wars Weekends.  Animal Kingdom, while currently expanding and making improvements, has Everest as well as a Jungle Safari.

Each theme park at Disney World has it’s own ticket price, but one can purchase a hopper which allows the visitor to go to more then one of the Disney theme parks in a day without having to pay the full price for both parks.

Disney World has its fair share of shows and parades that are suitable for everyone of all ages.

One of the best aspects of Disney World, that I just got into on my most recent trip, is pin trading.  Pin trading, like the name states, is where visitors trade pins.  One can trade pins with other visitors or with cast members.  The majority of cast members have lanyards which contain a variety of different pins.  If a visitor requests to trade one of his or her pins with a cast member’s pin, the cast member cannot refuse.  It definitely makes the Disney experience a lot more interactive and enjoyable.  It would make it even more enjoyable if the visitor sets a goal for themselves.  Pick a favorite character or try to find a set of certain pins to collect. It makes pin trading feel like a treasure hunt.  For example, I was collecting Donald Duck pins because he was my favorite character. Another reason to trade with cast members is that Disney gives its cast members “Hidden Mickey Pins”.  These are pins that cannot be bought in any store at Disney.The only way to obtain these pins is trading for them.

Universal Studios:

Universal Studios has two theme parks: Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.  These are two separate theme parks, but like Disney have a “hopper” which allows a visitor to jump between parks in the same day without having to pay the full price for both.

Both theme parks of Universal have its own iconic rides, but recently have been focusing on the Harry Potter universe in both of its theme parks.  Islands of Adventure has Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey while Universal Studios Florida has Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.  Great rides but lesser known in both of the parks are The Incredible Hulk Coaster, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, and Jurassic Park River Adventure in Islands of Adventure and Transformers: The Ride-3D, Revenge of the Mummy and Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  Universal also has a Harry Potter train which takes a visitor with a hopper from one park to the next.

Like Disney, Universal Studios also has parades and shows suitable for all ages and has a water park called Wet ‘n Wild.

Comparison:

It’s hard to do a comparison between these two powerhouses.  Disney clearly has more to do, especially if the visitor has the hopper.  I’m going to do comparisons for different types of people as to who should attend which theme park.

For the roller coaster lover:

There are numerous roller coasters at both Disney World and Hollywood Studios.  Hollywood Studios has The Incredible Hulk, Escape from Gringots, The Rockit, Dueling Dragons,Flight of the Hippogriff and the Mummy.

On the other hand, Disney World has Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, and Expedition Everest.

As one can tell, even though Disney World has more attractions, Universal has more roller coasters.  However, Disney has the best roller coaster with Rockin’ Roller Coaster.

In the battle of the roller coasters, Universal gets the edge.  Even though Disney has the best roller coaster, Universal has a lot more high flying, exciting roller coasters for the visitors who lover riding them.

For the family that has a buy two days get one free deal:

As mentioned prior, Disney has a lot more theme parks.  Universal is fun, but after a couple of days feels repetitive.  Disney World has so much that cannot be accomplished in even three days at the parks, especially if one gets into pin trading.

The edge goes to Disney World if a family wants to spend more then two days with the same company.

For the visitor that cannot do the intense rides:

Universal won in the roller coaster challenge, and there is a good reason for that.  Universal has many intense rides for those who love to fly high and get jerked around.  Unfortunately for those who cannot ride these rides, it leaves something to be desired.

My mother is one of the visitors who cannot get on the high intense rides, and it feels like the entire time we are at Universal, she is sitting around waiting for us to get off of rides.

Disney World, thanks in part to its many shows and less intense attractions, has much to do even for those who have conditions that forbid them from riding jerky, intense rides.

Disney World gets the edge here again.

Harry Potter vs Star Wars

This section is really for the fan boys and girls. Obviously your Harry Potter fan is going to say Universal’s Harry Potter is better than Disney World’s Star wars and vice versa for the Star Wars fan.  Luckily, I happen to be a huge fan of both.

Disney had a Star Wars ride before it acquired the rights to LucasFilm and the Star Wars franchise.  After acquiring Star Wars, Disney has had Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios where visitors can meet their favorite Jedi and Sith Legends, or see a Star Wars show.

When Universal decided to create a Harry Potter attraction, they went all in. In both theme parks there is an entire section dedicated to Harry Potter.  Universal has created its own Harry Potter World that can immerse fans into the Harry Potter Universe.

Disney hasn’t had as much time to develop a whole area dedicated to Star Wars like Universal has with Harry Potter.  I have heard rumors that one of Disney’s next goals is to create a huge area in Hollywood Studios for Star Wars, but since this hasn’t happened yet, I have to go off of what I’ve seen.  This is why I always date my blog posts because something else could come out at a later date. At which time, I will post a new blog updating my opinion.

At this point in time, Universal’s Harry Potter Universe gets the edge.

Activities:

This section is for things to do outside of the typical rides at the amusement park.  Like I mentioned earlier, Disney has pin trading which makes being there a lot more interactive.  The shows and parades Disney puts on are spectacular and give a lot for people to do and watch.

Even though Universal doesn’t have pin trading, they have interactive wands.  A visitor can purchase an interactive wand from Harry Potter World and give it a flick over motion activated items to have those items move or do something.

The edge here is Disney’s. The pin trading makes going to the parks as though it was a treasure hunt. It also switches things up and makes going to the park for day two or three a different experience than day one.  Universal doesn’t have a change of pace to make each day more exciting or different.

Food

There are many food choices in both theme parks. Disney’s Epcot has the world showcase in which a visitor can eat “around the world”. Epcot has many different food choices from more common cuisines like Italian and Mexican to more exotic such as Moroccan.

Don’t count out Universal just yet. Islands of Adventure has Mythos which was voted the best theme park restaurant from 2003-2009.  It also has places that Harry Potter fans will know well such as the Leaky Cauldron.

Disney wins this category.  The sheer amount of options gives everyone something to enjoy, especially in Epcot.

Verdict

It’s hard to compete with “The Happiest Place on Earth” and it’s easy to see why. Disney World has amusements for the whole family while Universal gears towards a specific group of people.  Disney World is also more interactive and feels less repetitive as the days go on.

Ultimately,if you’re on vacation and have the time and money, I say check both out and make a determination.  If you don’t have the money or the time, my recommendation is Disney World.

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