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Universal Orlando vs Disney World : Which is the best for you ?

To the point When visiting Orlando, Florida, how do you choose between Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort? Here's a comparison of the two theme parks.

Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney World in Orlando includes 4 theme parks, a water park and an entertainment complex:

  • Magic Kingdom
  • Hollywood Studios
  • Epcot
  • Animal Kingdom
  • Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
  • Disney Springs

Magic Kingdom is the world’s most popular and visited theme park, with 17 million visitors a year.

What other Disney parks are there around the world? See them in this article on the various Disney theme parks.

Disney Walt Resort

Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando includes 2 theme parks, a water park and an entertainment complex:

  • Islands of Adventure
  • Universal Studios Florida
  • Volcano Bay
  • City Walk

Islands of Adventure is Universal Orlando Resort’s most visited park, with 11 million visitors a year, and the 5th most visited park in the world.

Another park, Universal Epic Universe, will open in summer 2025, and will include the famous Super Nintendo World section.

All these parks have major differences.

Numbers aside, which is the best park to visit between Walt Disney World vs Universal Studios Orlando?

Universal Harry Potter

The price difference between Disney vs Universal

Ticket prices at Disney World and Universal Studios Florida depend on the park and the date of your visit. The more popular the date, the higher the ticket price.

Here’s the basic cost of a one-day park ticket at Disney World and Universal Orlando, for a person over 10 years old:

Disney World Orlando Universal
Between 109 and 184 USD Between 109 and 159 USD

Here is the cost of a ticket for two or more parks per day at Disney World and Universal Orlando, for a person over 10 years old:

Disney World Orlando Universal
Between 188 and 254 USD Between 164 and 214 USD

To avoid waiting lines, here are the additional options to be added to the price of each ticket:

Disney World Orlando Universal
Genie+: Between $18 and $35 USD per person, per day, depending on date and traffic.
Individual Lightning Lanes: Between 12 and 25 USD for certain rides, per person, per day, depending on date and traffic.
Unlimited Express Pass : Between 90 and 135 USD, per person, unlimited.
(but may be free depending on the hotel).

For both parks, the more days added to the package, the lower the cost per day.

Disney and Universal often offer special deals and vacation packages, especially during less busy periods. In fact, Disney’s popular meal plan will return on January 9, 2024.

Since transactions are in foreign currencies, we recommend you one of the 4 cards with no conversion fees in Canada. This avoids the 2.5% surcharge that most credit cards add for each of these transactions.

Is it cheaper at Disney World or Universal Studios Florida?

In general, Universal Orlando is less expensive, both for tickets and for food and souvenirs.

For example, here are the costs for a 3-night, 2-day stay during March Break 2024 at a Resort-affiliated Value hotel, including tickets:

Disney All-Star Movies Resort Universal Endless Summer Resort
USD 3,171 USD 2,403
hotel Disney

At Universal Orlando, a stay at one of the three Premium Hotels (the Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel and Portofino Bay Hotel) includes an Unlimited Express Pass for all room occupants. This can be very profitable and more than offsets the cost of the room.

What’s more, guests of these hotels and those who have purchased their tickets through a travel agent can enter the park an hour before anyone else. The equivalent at Disney World is 30 minutes before the rope drop.

Tickets for special seasonal events (like Halloween) also cost less at Universal Orlando.

hotel Universal

To lighten the bill with points, Disney gift cards can be purchased in Canada before visiting Disney parks in the United States.

Unfortunately, there is no Universal gift card available in stores across Canada.

Which characters are at Disney World and Universal Orlando?

Depending on your interests, the choice between the two parks will depend on the characters you want to see, your childhood memories and nostalgia :

Disney World Orlando Universal
Mickey Mouse and Minnie
Goofy, Donald Duck, Stitch, Ariel, Tiana, Dingo, Merida, Elsa, Olaf and Anna, Belle, Cinderella, Bambi, Snow White, Aladdin, Pocahontas and Wall-E.Star Wars franchise (BB-8, Darth Vader, Grogu, Han Solo)Pixar franchise (Flash McQueen, Tow Mater, Woody, Buzz Lightyear)Marvel franchise (Ant-Man, Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man)
Harry Potter
The Simpsons
Minions and Hello Kitty
Shrek and Princess Fiona
Curious George, Dr. Seuss, The Grinch, Cat in the Hat and The Lorax
Fast & Furious
Jurassic Park and Revenge of the Mummy
Kung-Fu Panda and the Madagascar gang
Simpsons Universal

Best park for young children and families

Disney World has the magic touch for the whole family, from young to old.

Universal Orlando’s parks, on the other hand, appeal to an older clientele, as they have many more rides with a minimum height requirement. This may prevent access for several young children.

On many popular rides at Universal Orlando, a child must be at least 102 centimeters (40 inches) tall to enter.

Best park for best rides

Disney World has the incredible Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, TRON, Avatar Flight of Passage, Expedition Everest, Space Mountain and Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Disney parks have a great capacity to create an immersive and magical experience.

Universal Orlando makes us scream with its Incredible Hulk, Jurassic Park Velocicoaster, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Revenge of the Mummy rides.

At Universal, there are plenty of thrill-seeking roller coasters and 3D simulators.

You can also marvel at almost touching the Millennium Falcon at Disney World or walk throughHogsmeade like Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.

Slinky Dog Dash

Best food park

In both parks, there are as many fast-food restaurants with fried food as there are elegant, distinguished restaurants.

Each offers a variety of restaurants with unique themes, providing an interesting culinary experience.

In fact, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival takes place every year for around 4 months. It’s a great opportunity to sample many of the world’s most renowned cuisines, all in one place.

The best theme park restaurant is at Universal Orlando, with Mythos. For a Butterbeer from the world of Harry Potter, it’s also only available at Universal Orlando.

At Disney World, the best are the pineapple Dole Whip ice cream and the huge Turkey Leg are classics. The best restaurant in all 4 parks is Takumi-Tei, for its experience and refined service.

Mythos Universal

Best park with waiting in the shade

Universal Orlando has the most rides where the queue is sheltered or indoors.

Personally, I found it much easier to tolerate 35 degrees in full sun at Universal Orlando than a cloudy 30 degrees in the middle of August at Disney World.

Best park with locker system

Universal Orlando is the most demanding in terms of putting personal belongings in a locker before boarding a ride. This is free of charge, but the lockers may be too small for a larger backpack.

In fact, security to enter the Hulk ride is particularly tight, with a metal detector at the entrance. Due to the nature of the ride, this is necessary to avoid injuring people on the ride and passers-by walking underneath.

At Disney World, the only ride that works like this is for TRON. The locker is large enough for a backpack.

In both parks, the entrance ticket (and MagicBand for Disney World) is required to open the locker.

Best park for planning and crowd calendar

Walt Disney World has a much heavier mental burden to manage.

Organizing vacations, with Genie+ to be purchased every day after midnight, Lightning Lanes to be reserved every 2 hours, individual Lightning Lanes to be paid for, MagicBand+ to be linked, obligation to go to the 2nd park of the day only after 2 p.m., restaurant reservations 60 days in advance, knowing the means of transport to travel between the four parks, or the Virtual Queue at 7 a.m. sharp every morning require complex gymnastics.

At Universal Orlando, there’s no need to rush through all these steps before and during the day of your visit.

To plan the least crowded days in both parks, consult the Undercover Tourist calendar (crowd calendar).

Genie Disney

Best park for atmosphere

The Disney parks have a magical, fairytale, family atmosphere. Customer service is excellent, the premises are impeccable and they have a very sharp eye for detail. The most magical park is Magic Kingdom, and the family photo in front of Cinderella’s famous castle is a classic.

Universal Studios parks have a more modern, mature and urban feel. They’re all about action, adrenalin and more intense experiences.

Fairfield Inn & Suites near Universal Studios-26

Best park for Halloween

From August 1 each year, pumpkins and Halloween decorations take over the Disney parks, especially Magic Kingdom.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Disney features parades, fireworks and encounters with costumed characters.

Universal Studios is famous for its scary haunted houses and Halloween Horror Nights. You’ll be able to enjoy terrifying experiences in professional settings, so you can live Halloween to the fullest. So professional that they look extremely real! This may be too intense for young children or sensitive people.

Best park for Christmas

Both parks are transformed into winter wonderlands over Christmas. Everything is so dazzling with illuminations, giant Christmas trees and glittering decorations.

At Universal Studios, you can extend the Christmas spirit by visiting the spectacular The Wizarding World of Harry Potter section, with its winter decorations, fireworks and shows.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is celebrated every year in November and December. Parades, decorations and special events are grandiose.

Best entertainment complex

Disney Springs is the larger of the two, and also hosts a Cirque du Soleil show.

Disney World Orlando Universal

The delicious and very popular Gideons Bakehouse cookies

The excellent Morimoto Asia and The Polite Pig restaurants

The famous Voodoo Doughnut

The Cheeseburgooshi from Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar

CityWalk is smaller, but home to a multitude of exciting restaurants and boutiques.

But since it’s free to get in, you might as well do both if you can!

Universal City Walk

Magic Kindgom or Harry Potter?

So… who’s the winner between Universal vs Disney?

For those accompanying young children or multi-generational groups, Walt Disney World is much more accommodating. They also have more opportunities for entertainment with parades, shows and fireworks in the evening.

While thrill-seekers and those looking for a simple day out will be very happy at Universal Orlando. The biggest Harry Potter fans will have no choice but to go to Universal Orlando to drink a wonderful Butterbeer to get the adrenalin flowing between two rides.

That said, anyone can easily find something to suit them with these two complementary parks.

Read on for our articles on all things Disney:

Is Universal Studio owned by or part of Disney?

No ! So they’re competitors, two completely different companies and two completely different entertainment complexes.

Which is the biggest park between Disney World and Universal Orlando?

Disney World. Altogether, Walt Disney World Resort is the world’s largest theme park, the equivalent of twice the size of Manhattan Island. Universal Orlando is 32 times smaller.

How many days does it take to visit Disney World and Universal Orlando?

To visit Universal Orlando, 2 to 3 days are needed to fully experience both parks.
To visit Disney World, it takes around 7 days to see everything in the four parks.

How much does a ticket to Walt Disney World cost?

A day ticket costs between US$109 and US$184.

How much does a ticket to Universal Orlando cost?

A day ticket costs between US$109 and US$159.

What's the difference between the 2 Walt Disney World parks and Disneyland?

Walt Disney World is located in Orlando, Florida.

Disneyland is located in Anaheim (a suburb of Los Angeles), California.

What's the difference between Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Studios Orlando?

Universal Studios Hollywood is located in Universal City (a suburb of Los Angeles), California. Universal Studios Orlando is located in Orlando, Florida.

Which is the best and most beautiful Disney park in the world?

Tokyo Disney Sea is the most beautiful Disney in the world.

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!
Caroline Tremblay
I'm Caroline, a loyalty program specialist! I use my points to travel more often and at a lower price with my spouse and our two children. I'm passionate about writing about the latest rewards news and how to put more points in your pocket.

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