The Orlando area has become one of the busiest vacation spots in the world. The battle between Disney vs. Universal for your vacation money has led to an incredible increase in travel to the Orlando area. What things do you need to know when choosing between Disney vs. Universal for your Orlando vacation?


Visitors heading to Orlando often wonder which theme park resort is better for their group. Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort offer many great ways for groups to have fun during their theme park vacation. So, which is better, Universal Orlando Resort or Walt Disney World Resort? Both major theme park resorts offer on-site hotels, waterparks, and theme parks full of attractions to enjoy.

Of course, several critical differences exist for Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort guests to consider. This guide strives to break down the key differences between these two theme park resorts.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Congratulations for Planning

An Orlando area vacation requires significant planning to maximize your experience. There will be unexpected barriers that occur during your Orlando area vacation. However, by reading resources like this and consulting with your travel advisor, you will find yourself light years ahead of 95% of guests visiting Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. Proper planning places you ahead of most theme park guests. Most guests who visit Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort do very little planning, leading to many misconceptions.

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Common Misconceptions about Disney Vs. Universal

wizarding world

As we have spent more time in the Orlando area theme parks for “work” over the last year or two, we have heard so many conversations full of misinformation about Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. Some of it comes from guests. In fact, sometimes, it comes from employees of the Orlando area theme parks.

We cannot tell you how often we have heard guests looking for the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area inside Universal Studios Florida theme park at Universal Orlando Resort. Sadly, for that large number of guests, the Star Wars-themed land resides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.

In contrast, guests on the Disney Monorail occasionally ask for directions to Hogwarts Castle from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter movies and books. We feel for them when they discover that the Wizarding World-themed area can be found many miles away within the city limits of Orlando at Universal Orlando Resort.

The first thing to make sure you know when planning your vacation to the Orlando area involves knowing that Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort are competitors, not the same theme park operation. Based on some ticket media sold to international visitors, this confusion about the two theme parks being the same comes up more than one would think. Those lack of knowledge errors can end up being costly.

However, some misconceptions make sense. For example, we often must explain the Marvel theme park intellectual property rights issue to fellow theme park media colleagues. In case you do not know, Universal Orlando Resort owns the theme park rights to most of the Marvel characters. This means even though Disney owns the Marvel media rights, Universal Orlando Resort remains the home of the Marvel characters in the Florida theme parks.

Examples, like Marvel theme park rights, cause many guests to be confused regarding the differences between Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. This makes the battle between Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World challenging for your vacation time and money.

Common Misconception: Are Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort the Same Company?

In simple terms, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort are competitors like McDonald’s, and Wendy’s are competitors. These two major theme park resorts function as very different operations doing very different things.

These two theme park resorts technically are not even in the same city. Universal Orlando Resort resides in the actual city limits of Orlando. In contrast, Walt Disney World resides outside the city limits of Orlando. These two theme park resorts are around ten miles apart from each other.

Second Common Misconception: Is Universal Studios Florida Part of Walt Disney World?

During our visits to Universal Orlando Resort, we often see and hear guests confused based on their ticket media about the entrance to the two Universal Orlando Resort theme parks and water park. Your Pixie Vacations and Universal Family Vacation travel advisors can help you with this potential issue.

This issue becomes more confusing since Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort have “studios” theme parks.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World opened in 1989. In contrast, Universal Studios Florida opened in 1990. These two theme parks competed to open before each other during this time. These theme parks share many characteristics. However, they function as two entirely different theme park operations. Still, we understand how people can get confused. Yet, Universal Studios Florida is not a part of Walt Disney World in any way.

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Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World consists of:

  • Four theme parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Two water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon (though you should not expect them to open at the same time)
  • Disney Springs dining and entertainment complex
  • Vast array of Walt Disney World-owned hotels

As you might expect, Walt Disney World functions as part of the Disney Company. The Disney Company runs media operations such as ABC, Disney+, and ESPN.

In contrast, Universal Orlando Resort consists of:

  • Two theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure
  • Volcano Bay, a water park,
  • Eight hotels
  • Universal CityWalk Orlando, its entertainment and dining district

Universal Orlando Resort enjoys being owned by NBCUniversal. NBCUniversal functions as part of the Comcast Company. Besides internet technology, this group operates Peacock and NBC television networks. As you can see, Universal is not part of Disney. The battle between Disney and Universal happens in various levels of media, not just regarding theme parks.

Be Careful Calling It Universal Studios Orlando

Best Universal Orlando Rides

Photo by Jon Self

Though it may not seem like a big deal, using the improper term “Universal Studios Orlando” leads to many issues for Orlando vacation participants. The use of this term can lead to poor ticket media purchases.

Some guests purchase incorrect ticket media for a day at Universal Orlando Resort based on this improper term. The typical online usage of the words “Universal Studios Orlando” leads directly to some of these issues.

The title “Universal Studios Orlando” directly relates to nothing. No such place exists. Though this phrase appears online, no theme park property goes by that name. Remember, Universal Orlando Resort’s theme parks are Universal Studios Florida and Universal Islands of Adventure.  The entire resort is called Universal Orlando Resort.

Regularly, we hear reports of guests showing up with tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood (which is in California), thinking they bought tickets to a Hollywood-themed studio park in Orlando. In many cases, the term “Universal Studios Orlando” confuses these guests. Though this term should not lead to this confusion, the term continues to do so, according to guest service reports. Once again, only a tiny portion of Orlando area theme park guests consult sources like this before visiting the theme parks.

With Disney’s Hollywood Studios entertaining guests over at Walt Disney World, the levels of confusion grow exponentially. We realize this sounds odd to some. Yet, ticket errors continue based on team members’ reports at Universal Orlando Resort. For the record, the tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood only work in California. We would not want you to fall victim to this vacation pitfall.

Also, people sometimes buy tickets for one day at Universal Studios Florida theme park, thinking they can also visit Universal Islands of Adventure. This does not work, leading to guests’ frustration.

When chatting with these guests at guest services, often the issue relates to thinking Universal Studios Orlando is the actual name of the entire resort. Universal Parks and Resorts branded its theme parks poorly through many previous less-than-ideal ownership groups. This poor branding leads to some of the confusion. When you purchase ticket media to Universal Orlando Resort or Walt Disney World, please know the relevant details before you arrive. Your travel advisor can help you with that.

What are the Main Differences Between Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort?

choosing between Disney vs. universal

Both theme park resorts offer an incredible place to enjoy a thrilling vacation. However, Walt Disney World operates very differently from Universal Orlando Resort. Some of these differences count as slight.

For example, Walt Disney World refers to employees as “Cast Members.” Universal Orlando Resort calls them “Team Members.” Universal Orlando Resort identifies their levels of dining as quick-service and full-service. In contrast, Walt Disney World officially calls this counter-service and table service. Numerous terminology differences exist between the two theme park resorts.

However, both theme park resorts have positives and negatives. The differences should be explored to determine which works better for your group in this Walt Disney World Resort battle vs. Universal Orlando Resort. Covering all the differences between these incredible theme park resorts would take days. The rest of this resource intends to help guests evaluate the most essential pros and cons for their next Orlando area theme park adventure.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Size of Theme Park Resorts

Walt Disney World offers more theme parks, dining options, entertainment outside the theme park, hotels, and just more to do. The land owned by Walt Disney World dwarves the area used by Universal Orlando Resort. This disparity will reduce some when Universal’s Epic Universe theme park opens in 2025, but not much.

Still, Walt Disney World takes up more geographical space than many cities. In fact, Walt Disney World covers more than 40 square miles. Thus, guests desiring to move from one section of Walt Disney World to another must plan for the time it will take. Walt Disney World offers an extensive free transportation system. Still, the time needed to navigate travel can be an hour or more, depending on the chosen location. Guests sometimes express surprise that walking between sections of Walt Disney World is impractical.

In contrast, Universal Orlando Resort’s current property resides on less than two square miles. With the addition of Universal’s Epic Universe in 2025, Universal Orlando Resort will almost double in size. Yet, this space remains insignificant compared to Walt Disney World’s massive land area.

Guests must plan more when navigating the larger Walt Disney World property. When deciding between Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, one should consider that. Since Universal Orlando Resort covers a far smaller space, you can reasonably walk to almost the entire resort property. The ability to walk easily to anywhere on the property until Universal’s Epic Universe opens gives an enormous advantage. Even when that new theme park opens in 2025, traversing Universal Orlando Resort will be far easier than at Walt Disney World.

Based on the smaller land area covered by Universal Orlando Resort, the free bus and water taxi transportation works very efficiently and covers short distances compared to Walt Disney World. Also, with a central parking garage near Universal CityWalk Orlando, guests will always take a short walk or quick shuttle bus trips to anywhere on the property.

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Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Theme Park Attractions

choosing between Disney vs. universal

Guests visit theme parks primarily for the incredible state-of-the-art attractions. The theme park attractions carry considerable weight when deciding between Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort. Both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort offer remarkable theme park attractions. However, each company excels at different styles of attractions. For the theme park consumer, this allows a wide variety of choices. For some intergenerational groups, a few days at both places creates the best of both. However, that may not be practical based on added expense and time.

A common explanation differentiating between Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort sounds like this: Universal Orlando Resort offers more screen-based attractions and thrills. Whereas Walt Disney World provides more practical sets with fewer screens and fewer high thrills attractions, making it better for the entire family. In fairness, this makes a good starting point for the discussion. However, that starting point only tells a portion of the story. Also, it does not match the current pattern of attractions being built by both theme park resorts.

Looking for Thrills?

In recent years, Walt Disney World added more thrilling screen-based attractions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Avatar: Flight of Passage. Also, with Tron Lighcycle / Run opening earlier this year, this long-awaited roller coaster brings some thrills and many screen-based elements to enjoy at Magic Kingdom.

In recent years, Universal Orlando Resort added two new attractions at Universal Islands of Adventure, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure and Jurassic World Velocicoaster. Each attraction presents guests with more practical elements and fewer screens.

Also, both new Universal Orlando Resort coasters could easily be argued to be more thrilling than anything at Walt Disney World, except maybe Rock N’ Roller Coaster. Still, we enjoy the Universal Orlando roller coasters far more than the Walt Disney World variety. With more thrill rides at Universal Orlando, younger kids and non-thrill seekers will have fewer options. Still, the thrill-seeking crowd finds far more options at Universal Orlando Resort.

Potential Motion Sickness

Forbidden Journey queue

Motion sickness issues for guests have increased at Walt Disney World with recent attraction additions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Nevertheless, Universal Orlando Resort theme park attractions offer more thrills, which leads to higher chances of motion sickness. For example, the attractions Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and The Simpsons Ride are the most common motion sickness-inducing attractions. If you are prone to motion sickness, consult your medical professional on the best way to experience any theme park attraction. Still, Universal Orlando Resort brings more thrills and spills, as they say.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: What About Ride Lockers?

The arrival of the Tron Lightcycle / Run attraction marks the first time a Walt Disney World attraction forced riders to place many of their belongings in free-ride lockers. However, Universal Orlando Resort has been doing this much longer. Universal Orlando Resort provides free small lockers for riders for many of its attractions. When experienced Walt Disney World fans visit Universal Orlando Resort, they often complain about having to place items in lockers. Also, since Walt Disney World guests often bring large bags, the frustration grows since those bags will not fit in the small free lockers at Universal Orlando Resort. Larger lockers will cost $2 per use at Universal Orlando Resort.

Also, if you wish to film the attractions at Universal Orlando Resort, we have some bad news. Only some Universal Orlando Resort attractions allow filming while on the attraction. Metal detectors at three attractions make this impossible for those attractions. Still, guests officially may only film during an attraction at some Universal Orlando Resort offerings.

Universal Orlando Resort team members have been known to stop attractions due to people attempting to film the experience. In contrast, Walt Disney World allows filming during most of its attractions.

At Universal Orlando Resort, eight attractions offer ride lockers since guests cannot take their bags with them on those attractions. Also, three attractions have metal detectors, so you cannot take any items onto the attraction. Of note, Jurassic World Velocicoaster (like Tron Lightcycle / Run) utilizes a double-sided locker system that allows you to take your belongings through most of the queue.  We have a word of warning. If you expect to bypass these security measures, please think again. Guests have constantly been turned away at Universal Orlando Resort due to attempts to circumvent these measures.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Ride Height Requirements

choosing between Disney vs. universal

With a higher percentage of thrill rides, Universal Orlando Resort has more and higher height restrictions for its attractions. For example, height restrictions still exist even in the Seuss Landing area of Islands of Adventure, with the kid-friendly attractions themed to Dr. Seuss’ works. Very young children will even be limited regarding some attractions in this area.

Many attractions at Universal Orlando require riders to be at least four feet tall. The Incredible Hulk Coaster in Marvel Super Heros Island at Universal Islands of Adventure demands that riders be four and a half feet tall. If anyone in your group fails to reach those height requirements, you must plan for who will stay with non-riders. Fortunately, the rider swap system works well at Universal Orlando Resort.

When comparing Universal vs. Disney, Walt Disney World attractions have lower and fewer height restrictions. Thus, Walt Disney World offers far more attractions that everyone in your group can enjoy together. If your group consists of smaller children or people opposed to thrill rides, Walt Disney World will be more accessible regarding height restrictions.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal Ride: Vehicle Restraints

Even those of us who love Universal Orlando find some frustration with the ride restraints used there. A significant downside of thrilling attractions involves the ride restraints. For example, the coaster manufacturers that Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort use vary regarding safety restraints for riders. All the attractions achieve the proper amount of safety. However, guests of specific sizes and shapes will not fit certain attractions to accomplish these safety levels.

Depending on the style of restraints, the issue for some potential riders may relate to being too tall, too large of thighs, chest size, and shoulder width. Sadly, more thrilling attractions demand tighter restraints. As Walt Disney World guests learned with Tron Lightcycle / Run, just because you fit on one ride does not equal fitting comfortably on another. Even though particular rows and seats exist with some accommodation for larger guests, some guests find out too late that they will not fit.

As a rule, Universal Orlando Resort attractions have more restrictive ride restraints than Walt Disney World attractions. Some of this directly connects to the need for riders to be more secure due to inversions on the coasters. However, Universal Orlando Resort rides often employ tighter restraints than comparable rides at Walt Disney World. If you visit Universal Orlando, you can find the ride test seats for each attraction before entering the queue if you have concerns about your body shape being accommodated at the desired attraction.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Water Rides

The water rides at these two theme parks show a difference in the personality of the two resorts. Universal Orlando Resort likes its water-based attractions. For example, Universal Islands of Adventure theme park provides guests with three exciting water rides: Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges. For the most part, at least two of these water ride attractions will be running year-round.

More importantly, you will get wet on the Universal Orlando Resort versions. In fact, on some of the Universal Orlando Resort water rides, you will get drenched. The Universal Orlando Resort water rides are more intense. Yet, on some of them, you will feel like you fell into a lake.

Over at Walt Disney World, the water rides play a less thrilling role. Kali River Rapids and the former Splash Mountain, soon to be Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, will not be as thrilling or get you as wet as the Universal Orlando Resort water rides.

Finally, regarding the difference in attractions, Universal Orlando Resort excels at themed thrill rides. Walt Disney World specializes in more family-friendly storytelling with its attractions. However, both offer thrills and family-friendly attractions at their theme parks.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Food and Beverage Differences

choosing between Disney vs. universal

For many guests, the dining experience plays a vital role in their theme park vacation. Comparing Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort regarding food and beverage can be a challenge. The two theme park resorts offer many different styles of cuisine.

However, based on the resort’s size and number of hotels, Walt Disney World’s number of restaurants makes the number at Universal Orlando Resort look small.   If you crave a specific type of cuisine, Walt Disney World sells it. Universal Orlando Resort might not.

Generally, the newer built or recently refurbished quick service dining locations at Universal Orlando Resort offer the best value and quality for theme park dining. However, like Walt Disney World, some of the quick service locations at Universal Orlando Resort rank as very poor, like Richter’s Burger at Universal Studios Florida, for example.

In the past, we would have made a blanket statement about the food at Universal Orlando Resort costing less than at Walt Disney World. Regarding table service dining, that continues to be true. Some of the best values around in terms of table service dining can be found at Universal Orlando Resort.


However, we have noticed that quick service prices and seasonal food and beverage items cost far more than before in comparison to Walt Disney World. Still, the general rule about Universal Orlando Resort’s food and beverages costing less than Walt Disney World’s offerings functions as a good guideline. Also, Universal Orlando Resort offers noticeable annual pass discounts on all food and beverage compared to minimal discounts at Walt Disney World for annual passholders.

Prices may be higher on food at Walt Disney World. Nevertheless, Walt Disney World contains some fantastic restaurants. Universal Orlando Resort provides nothing that compares to Morimoto Asia, California Grill, Victoria & Albert’s, Sanaa, and Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’. Also, Walt Disney World offers guests more variety in terms of lounges. Universal Orlando Resort has great lounges but not as many.

Both theme park resorts create grand food festivals. Universal Orlando Resort’s Mardi Gras and Holidays celebration food festival offers some value for guests. Still, Epcot at Walt Disney World reigns supreme with food festivals for most of the year.

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Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Character Dining

choosing betweeb Disney vs. universal

Walt Disney World wins the battle easily if you want character dining. Universal Orlando Resort offers very few character dining opportunities. Walt Disney World offers character dining at select resort hotels and inside theme parks.

At the time of writing, the only year-round character dining option on Universal Orlando Resort property is Marvel Character Dining.  This happens on select evenings at the Cafe 4 quick service location at Universal Islands of Adventure. The character interaction counts as fabulous at Marvel Character Dining, but the food quality falls below even Walt Disney World’s average standard for character dining.

Universal Orlando also offers a breakfast experience with The Grinch during the holiday season. That breakfast is very popular. Still, the character interactions at dining venues at Walt Disney World beat anything Universal Orlando does now.

Now, About the Need for Advanced Dining Reservations

Besides the usually higher price points for food and beverages at Walt Disney World, guests should be aware of another negative compared to Universal Orlando Resort regarding table service dining: the need for advanced dining reservations. This essential factor weighs heavily in Universal Orlando Resort’s favor if arguing for Universal Orlando vs. Walt Disney World.

Like many things at Walt Disney World, far more planning is required compared to Universal Orlando Resort. You will most likely need reservations to dine at a table-service restaurant on Walt Disney World property.

Advanced dining reservations at some top restaurants at Walt Disney World quickly disappear at the 60-day mark. Currently, the reservation booking window opens 60 days in advance. So, if you want to dine at Topolino’s Terrace, Ohana, Chef Mickey’s, or Space 220, you must be awake at 5:45 a.m. Florida time to book your reservations 60 days in advance.

Based on the advantage on-site hotel guests receive regarding table service reservations, your choices may be minimal for top restaurants, even 60 days in advance. Universal Orlando Resort offers a less stressful process for reservations by comparison.

Mobile Ordering

Both resorts have increased mobile ordering options for counter/quick service dining. When comparing Universal Orlando Resort vs. Walt Disney World regarding counter-service dining, Walt Disney World’s system works far better than the Universal Orlando Resort mobile ordering system. No matter which theme park resort you visit, make sure you have an updated version of their mobile app.

Butterbeer: Have You Tried it? You Should!


An iconic beverage should be mentioned before moving on to the next significant difference between Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World. Butterbeer, a non-alcoholic sweet treat, changed the theme park game in Orlando. This Wizarding World of Harry Potter beverage sold at Universal Orlando Resort creates long queues during busy days.

According to legend, the sale of this popular beverage paid for the construction of the Hogsmeade area in Islands of Adventure in just one year of sales. This beverage demands your attention if you are a Wizarding World fan or just a Muggle. The drink comes in cold, hot, and frozen varieties. Universal Orlando will sell you butterbeer ice cream, potted cream, and fudge if you prefer butterbeer in a more solid form. This beverage even comes in a vegan version.

In addition, some of the most immersive quick-service theme park restaurants exist in the two Wizarding World areas of Universal Orlando Resort. Walt Disney World offers nothing compared to the quality and popularity of butterbeer sold at those locations. We would mention blue and green milk in the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as an attempt to cash in on the butterbeer train, but those fail to measure up to the iconic butterbeer.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Shows, Entertainment, and Characters

Bourne show at Universal Studios

Bourne Stuntacular

Walt Disney World Resort excels at shows and nighttime spectaculars. Universal Orlando Resort offers quality end-of-the-park day spectaculars, like the Nighttime Light Show on Hogwarts Castle. Still, these cannot compete head-to-head with Walt Disney World fireworks and projection shows. Though Universal Orlando Resort’s “The Bourne Stuntacular” might be the best show at any Orlando area theme park, Walt Disney World Resort provides guests with far more shows and variety.

Walt Disney World provides numerous shows, even ones based on animatronics. With multiple nighttime fireworks shows, some daytime parades, and cavalcades, Walt Disney World offers more than just great rides.

In contrast, Universal Orlando Resort presents a more casual theme park adventure regarding characters and parades. When a parade happens at Universal Orlando Resort, guests will not need to line up hours in advance for a good viewing spot as opposed to Walt Disney World guests. The parades and nighttime spectaculars at Walt Disney World draw larger crowds. In addition, navigating your way around after a parade or fireworks display, for example, at Magic Kingdom, demands patience.

In contrast, Universal Orlando Resort creates less stress for guests regarding shows and characters. Also, Universal Orlando offers far more “streetmosphere” type characters. Also, characters like Marilyn Monroe, Betty Boop, and others appear at Universal Studios Florida. You will find more back-and-forth conversations possible with Universal Orlando Resort characters.

Also, the amusing Horror Make-Up Show might involve the line, “We do not have to be nice to children here,” depending on the script version they follow. Also, Universal Orlando Resort does not feature as many popular characters for young kids. Still, that has changed some with more use of the DreamWorks characters and two Minion-based attractions within Illumination’s Minion Land now.


choosing between disjey vs. universal

With the DreamWorks KidZone opening in 2024, many opportunities for kids (and adults) to enjoy characters like the Trolls, Kung Fu Panda, and more will exist.

Also, in terms of characters, Universal Orlando Resort presents guests with far more walk-around characters like Doc Brown from “Back to the Future” and “Beetlejuice.” The character experience involves far less stress at Universal Orlando. However, do not expect to see any Wizarding World of Harry Potter characters roaming around. Those likenesses do not appear at Universal Orlando Resort at all.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Seasonal Events

Universal’s Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval

As mentioned previously, both theme park resorts create seasonal food festivals. The Epcot food and beverage festivals happen most weeks of the year. Universal Orlando Resort focuses on Mardi Gras from February until mid-April and the holiday season from mid-November until the end of the year.

Orlando area theme parks love holiday events. These continue to generate significant revenue for the theme park resorts. The theme park Halloween season in the Orlando area starts as early as the second weekend of August. Walt Disney World highlights its Halloween season celebrations with Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. In contrast, Universal Orlando scares you with Halloween Horror Nights.

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As you might expect, the Disney version is far more family-friendly. In comparison, Universal recommends that no one under 13 attend their Halloween after-hours event. We love both spooky season after-hours events. As you might expect, the Universal Orlando Resort Halloween event is far more cost-effective.

Both theme park resorts decorate and celebrate Halloween during the day. Yet, both spooky seasonal events require purchasing after-hours tickets.

What About the Winter Holiday Season Events?

choosing between Disney vs, Universal

Christmas starts at some Orlando area theme parks as early as mid-October. For example, Universal Islands of Adventure theme park starts getting ready with decorations for Christmas or Grinchmas in October. The other theme parks fall in line beginning in November.

Walt Disney World Resort celebrates the holiday season in so many ways. If Disney can find a way to make something holiday-themed, they will. The signature event of their holiday season is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. However, Disney’s Jollywood Nights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios began this year as a special after-hours separately ticketed event.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas displays what the Disney Company does so well. The character interactions, parades, shows, and fireworks ring in the festive holiday season. Nevertheless, this incredible experience includes a sizable price tag. Guests must purchase a separately ticketed park admission for the after-hours events at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Grinch

The Holidays celebration at Universal Orlando Resort builds off the mean one himself, The Grinch. The Grinch brings his unique attitude to the holidays. Universal shows off with a nighttime parade featuring giant balloons, a special Grinch show, Grinch breakfast, and a Grinch meet & greet. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas also come alive with Christmas, too.

Universal Orlando Resort’s holiday celebration also includes, on select evenings, concerts by Mannheim Steamroller. Many experienced Universal Orlando visitors also love to visit the Holiday Tribute Store. This merchandise location functions as a highly themed store and walk-through attraction.

The best part of Universal Orlando Resort’s holiday celebration relates to the cost. Almost all the holiday activities are included with standard park admission. So, unlike at Walt Disney World, guests do not need a special after-hours ticket to embrace the complete holiday experience. Universal Orlando Resort does offer some upcharge opportunities. However, almost everything is included with park admission.

If you have the chance to visit during the holiday season, you have plenty of choices of ways to celebrate. Your group must decide what fits your budget and preferences best when deciding between Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Hotels

Sapphire Falls Resort Rooms

Walt Disney World Resort operates three times as many hotels as Universal Orlando Resort. Generally, Walt Disney World hotels offer more elaborate themes. However, in partnership with Loews, the Universal Orlando Resort hotels cost less for the similar quality of hotels at Walt Disney World. Also, all the Universal Orlando Resort hotels sell Starbucks coffee in their lobbies if you must have a coffee before tackling the parks and want to avoid long queues for your morning coffee within the parks.

When planning a Universal Orlando Resort vacation, all eight of its hotels have easy-to-use free transportation to the theme parks. Most are within reasonable walking distance of the Universal Orlando Resort theme parks.

However, Walt Disney World covers so much more land area; only a few Disney-owned hotels are close enough to walk to any of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks. Walt Disney World is a great vacation option, but staying at a Universal Orlando Resort hotel gives guests easy access to the entire Universal Resort.

For more about each hotel, we created a resource about why we love the eight Universal Orlando Resort hotels. Also, the three top Premier level hotels offer “Express Pass” to their guests. Express pass also allows guests to enter a shorter queue to most attractions anytime they want without having to pre-schedule like the Genie+ system at Walt Disney World.

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Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Water Parks

Volcano Bay Water Park Rides

Walt Disney World Resort has two water parks on its property, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Since 2020, only one water park has been open at a time. Both Walt Disney World water parks offer above-average theming and quality attractions. Both Walt Disney World water parks cost less to attend than Volcano Bay over at Universal Orlando Resort.

Speaking of Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando Resort built a state-of-the-art water park. Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort costs more than Disney water parks. Still, it offers a unique “Tapu Tapu” system that allows guests to schedule rides at the water park’s attractions, similar to a virtual queue. So, in this case, the Universal Orlando Resort’s water park demands more planning to enjoy in comparison to the Walt Disney World versions.

Also, guests staying off-property will face a few challenges getting to Volcano Bay. They should plan for extra time when planning to attend Volcano Bay water park. However, some on-site Universal Orlando Resort hotel guests can walk to Volcano Bay. For example, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort sells Volcano Bay view rooms close to Volcano Bay.

The Walt Disney World water parks ironically cost less and require less planning. However, if you are staying on-site at Universal Orlando Resort, Volcano Bay is an excellent addition to your vacation.

Choosing Between Disney vs. Universal: Which Do You Choose?

choosing between Disney vs. universal

Both theme park resorts offer an incredible vacation experience. Deciding between Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort comes down to your group’s preferences and needs. If you are looking for a more cost-effective, thrill-inducing, less stressful, butterbeer-filled vacation, then Universal Orlando Resort might be up your Diagon Alley. However, if you have kids under 48 inches tall, and prefer less thrilling but highly themed attractions with more variety, then Walt Disney World makes a great choice for you. Of course, we love both theme and park resorts. Your best solution may be to schedule two vacations, one at Walt Disney World and one at Universal Orlando Resort. Of course, the travel experts at Universal Family Vacations and Pixie Vacations can help you plan your vacation at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading. We wish you fun planning and enjoying your Orlando area vacation.

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