What sets Universal Orlando apart from Walt Disney World
Our family started taking our kids to Walt Disney World at a very young age. My mom decided that she wanted to take my family because it’s an American rite of passage to go to Disney World. Our oldest daughter at the time was four and our youngest daughter was only 9 months old. I laugh now looking back because my wife and I looked forward to going about as much as a trip to the dentist. But long story short we fell in love and for several years we went at least once a year. When we adopted our son, in his first year home we continued the tradition and he traveled to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and went on a Disney Cruise. But as you can expect, our kids grew and wanted to try new things. As teenagers, my girls both visited Universal due to band and being invited by friends. Our middle child, Payton, eventually started campaigning for us all to go as a family.
So when our family finally pulled the trigger on trying out Universal we were apprehensive to say the least. It was like stepping into a completely different world. Everything felt different and it took a while to find a rhythm. I imagine there are a lot of families like us that have gone to Disney for years and maybe have debated going to Universal but have been reluctant on pulling the trigger. I thought I’d write this blog and provide our perspective on Universal as a Disney lover that has come to be obsessed with Universal too.
What sets Universal apart from Disney:
- Universal Express Pass: The biggest advantage in my opinion for Universal is its fast pass system called Universal Express Pass. It’s ten times simpler than Disney’s Genie Plus and has far less restrictions. You automatically get Universal’s Unlimited Express Pass when you stay at one of the following Universal Resorts: Hard Rock Hotel, Loew’s Portofino Bay, and Loew’s Royal Pacific. But even if you stay elsewhere the Express Pass can be added prior to your visit or even as you enter one of the parks. It may appear costly but its worth every penny. Every single ride in both parks utilizes the Express Pass system except Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. What that means to you is that you will get to jump in front of the line on every single ride accept one. Each ride has a special entrance for Express Pass holders. On average I’d say you’re expected wait is less than 15 minutes and some rides you walk right on even in the busiest times of year. The other major advantage to Universal’s Express Pass is if you love a ride, you can literally get off and go right back through the express line and ride it again. Unlike Disney there is no limitations or scheduling involved (which can cause a lot of headaches when it comes to planning out your day.) For my teenager that loves roller coasters, that has literally meant riding one of her favorite roller coasters, Hulk, six times in a row within a 45 minute period.
- Thrill Rides: Which leads me to the second major advantage that Universal has over Disney, it’s rollercoasters and thrill rides. As your kids get older, Small World and Peter Pan just don’t cut it when it comes to thrill level. Universal has Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Doctor Doom’s Fearfall, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts just to name a few. Disney is doing everything they can to address this discrepancy but at this point my teenager far and away loves the thrills that Universal provides and the fact she can ride them as many times as she likes.
- Harry Potter: If you or your family have any interest in Harry Potter books and movies, Universal is a bucket list type experience. Universal knocked it out of the park with their Harry Potter immersive lands. It’s like literally stepping into the books and movies. The rides connected to the Wizarding World are also some of the best. There is so much positive to say about the Wizarding World and all to see that I’ll address it in another blog, but this is a major feather in Universal’s cap. In fact, it can be argued that Disney created Galaxy Edge, Toy Story Land and Pandora in attempt to try and compete with the success that Universal tapped in to when they created the Wizarding World.
- Easy To Navigate: There are a ton more things I could point out about Universal but the last advantage I’ll close with is Universal park’s proximity to each other. Universal’s Island of Adventure, Universal Studios, and City Walk are all within walking distance of each other. Universal’s Park to Park add on creates an amazing experience that Disney’s Park Hopper just can’t compete with mainly due to their parks’ geography and fast pass limitations. My family has come to love this benefit at Universal. We can literally ride a couple rides at each park, step out and grab a meal at one of the numerous dining experiences at City Walk, turn around and visit the other park and not break a sweat. You can also ride the Hogwarts Express from park to park and visit Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade in the same day. This advantage along with Universal’s Express pass makes for a stress-free day that puts Disney’s Park Hopper and Genie system to shame. You don’t have to wake up early to plan out which park and which rides you hope to get done in a day. With Universal you just get up and go which teenagers, young kids and parents alike have come to enjoy.
Don’t get me wrong Walt Disney World still is a magical place that holds a special place in our family’s heart. But Universal Orlando has quickly become just as special to us and given us another destination to make memories. Stay tuned for future Blogs where I’ll be discussing Universal’s rides in more depth as well as pointing out some of Disney’s advantages over Universal. In the meantime, be sure to reach out to The Dream Planner to plan your next Disney or Universal trip. Our team is ready to plan your next amazing trip!