OPINION: Universal Studios vs. Disney – which is the better theme park?

Whether you are a child or an adult, finding fun, exciting, and memorable things to do in your daily life is part and parcel to happiness. As children, we daydreamed of living in fantasy universes such as Harry Potter, Pokemon, Transformers, Star Wars, GI Joe, and even the Super Mario Bros Universe. Movies, Books, TV shows, and Games inspired our imagination and made us dream of bigger and better things. These tales and universes helped mold us into the adults we would eventually come to be.

Despite growing up and becoming adults, there is still a sense of wonder and imagination that we all still long for. Because of this, we share tales from our childhood and some of our favorite things with our children or our friend’s children. We help to pass on these universes to the next generation and one of the best ways is by immersing them into the things we love.

In the early 80s and 90s, most children would say, I want to go to Disney World. As the world has become more expensive and interests change, you now hear adults and children saying, I want to go to Universal Studios. So why has there been such a change or shift?

Disney Decline?

When looking back at what both Disney and Universal have done over the last twenty years, you can see that Universal has looked to mold its theme park experience toward the Millennial/Gen X generation vs the Gen X/Millenials generation.

Outside of building the Star Wars World in Disneyland and Disney World, there have been very few changes that are massively impactful. Controversially, Disney changed the Tower of Terror to the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: MISSION BREAKOUT at Disneyland.

Although Disney may own Marvel, Star Wars, and 20 Century Fox, they have failed to institute these franchises into the park in a significant way; this is partially due to licensing agreements that Universal made with those franchises before Disney’s acquisition.

When we last visited Disneyland in Anaheim, most of the franchises that were showcased were from older franchises.

Yes, the Star Wars Land and Avengers Campus were there, but the wait time in order to access these rides was exceptionally long and was not guaranteed due to rides breaking down. Only the Tower of Terror (GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: MISSION BREAKOUT) was consistent.

The Avengers campus felt pretty empty and underutilized when going through the area and seemed more focused on selling Marvel merchandise than providing an actual experience. Disney World’s Animal Kingdom does feature a Pandora themed world and ride for guests to check out but we have not had the opportunity to check it out.

As for Disneyland’s Galaxy Edge theme park, you could get on the rides but these also had long wait times and there was no guarantee that the ride wouldn’t break down. Most of the food and drinks within the section were identical to the rest of the park outside of the Blue Milk.

Guests could also design their own lightsabers and droids; this was a fun interactive experience however, the lightsaber cost more than well-produced lightsabers out there and a lower quality.

Now this isn’t to say that Disney parks aren’t worth the visit. In fact, if you want an interactive experience going to Disney is always a great time but it is a little bit pricey. The Disney World Annual Pass costs $1,449 before tax; meanwhile, the single-day ticket costs $109 with deals dropping it down to $89 if having an extended stay.

This is just the entry cost, next you have to throw in the hotel cost, travel expenses, and food costs. By the end of that vacation, you could have easily spent 1k to 10k depending on the size of your family. Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t go to Disney, but it is worth keeping in mind when comparing it to other options in the area such as Universal Studios and Busch Gardens.

Universal Studios

Speaking on price alone, Universal Studios is in a similar boat when it comes to park ticket costs. A single-day ticket can cost about $119 (price can vary) and a multiday pass can be as low as $74 per day; meanwhile, the season pass is exceptionally cheaper ranging from $425 to $905. In order to avoid blackout dates, you would need to go with at least the Universal Annual Pass for $630.

Yes, again that is just the entry cost, however, there are much more affordable options for hotels in the surrounding area; outside of the Orlando parks, there is a variety of food options for guests to enjoy if they do not feel like eating in the park. Although the feast for four in Hogwarts was good, it was a bit pricey but filling.

Outside of entry costs and hotel expenses, you have to look at everything Universal Studios has down with the Universal Studios Theme Park, Islands of Adventure, and eventually the Universal Epic Universe in comparison to Disney. In the last twenty years, Universal Studios has continuously updated the park to make it more modern and appealing.

The Lost Continent portion of the park with Dueling Dragons was divided in order to create the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade/Hogwarts. The Lost Continent has become more of a hub for guests to get between DR. Seuss Land and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter; additionally, guests can take the Hogwarts Express over to Universal Studios from the Lost Continent.

Outside of the addition of two Harry Potter-themed areas (Islands of Adventure and Universal), Universal Studios has updated the Jurrasic Park World, retained Marvel’s Super Hero Island, Created Springfield USA (Simpson’s Land) (Departing in 2028), and built the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. These attractions have modernized the park and kept it feeling fresh while keeping some of the beloved ones such as E.T. Adventure, Men in Black Alien Attack, and Revenge of the Mummy.

Like Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, walking or commuting between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is fairly simple. Commuting between the Disney World Parks can be a bit more of a challenge; it will be interesting to see how the addition of the Universal Epic Universe changes the experience.

Looking at the map and zoning permits, we can see that the Universal Epic Universe will not be directly connected to the two other parks and will be a 13-minute drive down the road getting closer to Disney World. Will Universal have a shuttle or train to go down there from the main park?

The opening of Super Nintendo World and the other four themed areas will draw some down to the Universal Epic Universe but without a direct mode of travel could be off-putting to some with limited vacation time.

Super Nintendo World Universal Studios Orlando

Disney or Universal

When comparing the two parks it ultimately comes down to what you are looking for. If money isn’t a massive factor, are you looking more for a thrill-seeking experience or a visual experience? If you are looking for a visual experience, Disney World is often the way to go. If you are looking for more thrill rides and more pop-culture-themed attractions, Universal Studios is the way to go. The addition of Super Nintendo World and the other Universes should give thrill seekers even more of a reason to check out Universal.

Universal Studios has the cheaper package costs and the hotels in the area are a bit more accommodating. Yes, you can find hotels for about $150 a night at Disney but they are further away from the park and will require you to rent a car, catch a shuttle, or rideshare. The closer Disney hotels can cost a good chunk of change so plan your family trip accordingly.

Which of these two theme parks would you like to check out? Does the opening of Super Nintendo World excite you? Does the Universal Epic Universe opening make you want to check it out more than Disney or just seem like an extra thing to check out while down in Orlando? Let us know which you’d check out. Also, let us know if we should do a deeper comparison between the two in the future.

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Hardcore gaming enthusiast, cosplayer, streamer, Tall Anime lover (6ft 9), and a die-hard competitor. I have been a Pop-Culture Journalist since 2011 specializing in shooters, Pokemon, and RPGs.

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