Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando Resort. Mickey Mouse. Harry Potter. The debate has raged since both entered the studios theme park scene in Orlando, and is hotter than ever with both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida having opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter sections that have captured the attention of theme park fans and vacationers alike. In this battle royale between Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort, TWO THEME PARK RESORT COMPLEXES ENTER, ONLY ONE WILL LEAVE.
Okay, actually, not really. The point of this post is not to engage in the typical fanboy arguing over which is better. That would be a fool’s errand. Chances are that you already have your favorite (and based on the skew of this site, I’m guessing I know which one that is for most of you), and no amount of impassioned text here is going to change anyone’s mind who is already entrenched in their belief. I will say that any supposed rivalry is mostly an artificial creation of theme park fans, and not something that actually exists between the parks themselves. Disney’s public position has been that “that a rising tide lifts all boats” and that a stronger Universal is beneficial to Disney. In other words, if you’ve ever thought that a visit to Universal Orlando would be tantamount to “betraying” Walt Disney World, banish the thought from your mind. Besides, these are for-profit, publicly-traded companies, not family members. You can’t “betray” them.
None of this changes the fact that a bit of a rivalry does exist among theme park fans, and given that this post is on an unofficial Disney fan blog, you might very well be able to guess where our preferences lie. It would be nearly impossible for me to write an unbiased post pitting the two resort complexes in some kind of head to head battle. Instead, this post is written to compare and contrast Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, to give those of you who haven’t recently visited both an idea of how you might want to allocate your vacation time in Orlando. Hopefully it’s reasonably fair in doing that. Ultimately, I think the two resort complexes are better as complementary destinations rather than competitive ones, so I don’t have much interest in that “battle,” anyway.
Since returning from my first visit to Universal Orlando Resort in over a decade, I’ve already received a number of questions about whether Universal is “worth it?” That’s an incredibly loaded and subjective question, but I feel like this type of comparison post (with Walt Disney World as a baseline of sorts) is probably the best way to go about answering it. Given the sources of these questions, this post is going to assume some knowledge of Walt Disney World, so if you’re a first-time visitor planning your Orlando theme park vacation, you might need to supplement this post with our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
The fact is, each complex brings a lot to the table, and has its strengths and weaknesses. For many of you, Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando might work well in tandem, and it might make a lot of sense for you to spend some time at each resort complex. For others of you, only one may hold any appeal due to your party’s demographics, advantages of staying on-site at one or the other, cost, or for a variety of other reasons.
We will cover all of that in this post, as we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of each… (more…)