Orlando is known for its theme parks but some are Team Disney while others are Team Universal. However, both parks have something great to offer.
If you only have time for one, we’ll help you determine which one is right for you based on which each excels at. But to be honest, we think you should see both!
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If you do want to do both, you can either rent a car to make the drive and park at the entrance or book a Mears taxi or rideshare. Keep in mind that you may have to pay for parking.
At Disney, you can stay in a lodge inspired by the one at Yellowstone or a hotel inspired by the Atlantic City boardwalk. At Universal, there’s a sleek modern skyscraper and a midcentury-inspired resort.
Disney has more resorts than Universal because of its sheer size including some luxury options. Many Disney resorts have the added perk of airport transportation. For guests of Universal, you’re on your own.
Based on choices, we side with Disney, but based on affordability, it’s Universal, as there are hotels under $100. We’ll call it a tie.
Once you’re at your desired park, how do you get around? Both Universal and Disney have systems in place to get between the parks, entertainment districts, and hotels.
At Universal, there’s a bus system that runs to Universal CityWalk, which serves as the entrance to the two main parks, and most hotels. The other hotels are serviced by a ferry system. They run frequently and are reliable.
Walt Disney World has multiple options for transportation between hotels and parks. The Monorail runs near the Magic Kingdom area and its neighboring hotels.
Buses connect nearly every hotel to the parks, Disney Springs, and the Transportation Center. Boats also go between hotels and parks. And the new Skyliner runs from Hollywood Studios to its area hotels.
But while there are plentiful options to get around, it can be difficult to get from point A to point B without excessive transfers. There are also few options if you want to walk from a hotel to a park, unlike at Universal. Wait times can also be long.
Disney is unrivaled in terms of transportation options. They win for this category, even though they are sometimes unreliable.
Food and Drink
Believe it or not, both theme parks have fantastic food. They both are more expensive than traditional restaurants, but you can enjoy flavors from around the world.
At Epcot especially, there is food from Mexico, China, Morocco, and Italy. Hollywood Studios has a world-class beer bar while the Magic Kingdom is home to the acclaimed Be Our Guest restaurant. That doesn’t include the restaurants at Disney Springs and the hotels.
Universal Orlando Resort also has great dining options. CityWalk has well-known chains like Voodoo Doughnuts and Cowfish along with restaurants only found here. Inside the parks, you can have everything from tacos to pasta to Butterbeer as well Mythos, the top-rated theme park restaurant in the world.
Both have incredible food. It’s a tie.
Let’s be honest: the reason we go to theme parks is for the rides! Both parks have something to offer all ages (and heights). You’ll find both thrilling rides and interactive shows and experiences based around your favorite movies.
Universal boasts the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and its themed rides as well as the Incredible Hulk coaster and Rip Ride Rockit.
Disney has the much-praised rides at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge along with the famous teacups, the Tower of Terror, and Space Mountain.
When it comes to roller coasters, Universal is the best, not just in Orlando but maybe anywhere. But Disney goes all out on its interactive experiences, bringing the films to life.
Both theme parks allow visitors the chance to get photos with their favorite characters. At Universal, it’s Scooby Doo and the gang, Betty Boop, and Hello Kitty. At Disney, it might be Chewbacca, Elsa, and even Mickey and Minny Mouse.
At Disney, you can book Fast Passes so that you don’t have to wait as long in line. At Universal, they’re usually just roaming around. Both parks also offer character dining.
For the wealth of characters offered, Disney wins at character experiences.
Things to Do For Kids
Most people will agree that when it comes to places that kids love, it’s got to be Disney. They love the characters, the kid-friendly rides, and the themed hotels.
At Universal, the activities for young kids are limited to one small area near the ET Ride in Universal Studios. Some of the rides are too scary for young visitors like The Mummy.
Disney wins this category for more kid options.
Things to Do for Adults
But adults can have fun too! Universal has great experiences for the young at heart including lively nightclubs at CityWalk, thrilling rides, and bars everywhere.
Disney has a more family-friendly atmosphere and is slowly adding more adult experiences. There are bars everywhere at Epcot and a few at Hollywood Studios. Disney Springs is also adult-friendly, especially after 10 pm.
Universal wins for adult experiences.
There’s always something going on at both Disney and Universal. Disney has the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween, and the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.
Universal has the spooky Halloween Horror Nights that isn’t for the faint of heart. The holidays bring other fun events like the Macy’s parade. They also have fun Mardi Gras festivities that are appropriate for all ages.
We’ll call this one a tie too because of the abundance of events year-round!
Tickets to Walt Disney World vary in price depending on how many parks you want to visit during your stay. They typically start at over $100 per person for one park.
You can get a one day ticket for $119 and a Universal 2-Day Park-to-Park Ticket – Plus Extra Day for $174. But there are some cheaper tickets sold online and through companies. AAA members also receive discounted tickets.
Both are expensive, enough to cover a vacation elsewhere, but well worth it.
While we love both theme parks, it’s up to you to decide which one you prefer for your next vacation.
Do you have a favorite? Let us know below.