Disney World or Universal Studios?

As soon as you get to Orlando for vacation you realize that there are a lot of choices for parks;  4 Disney Parks and 2 Universal Studios.  Which one is the right choice?
We recently went to Florida and visited Disney World (Ebcot Center) and both Universal Studios; I thought I would add my 2 cents.

In front of Ebcot center

Initial Impression

DW: As soon as you step in the gates to Disney World there is a certain feeling of awe that lasts the duration of the visit.  The layout, the sites, and the entire visual and audio experience is very other worldly and keeps you consistently interested.  I felt everything was done with the utmost attention to detail and taste.
Disney seems to take pride in everyone being part of the magic, and so the employees at Disney World were all smiling and pleasant.  For instance the people who take your pictures as you walk into the park were not pushy, in fact, they took our picture with our own camera for us.
US: I looove roller coasters so I was excited for Universal Studios, however after experiencing the other worldliness of Disney I was disappointed to feel like I was going into just another amusement park.  Rock and roll music clanged as throngs of thrill seekers piled into Universal Studios.  The park was very well done but the feeling was very comparable to a 6 flags etc… 
Employees from the outset were clearly just working their day job.  To use the same example of the photographers, here you clearly wanted to avoid them, as they seemed pushy.
Rating for Initial Impression
DW – 9.5 – Great attention to detail, aw inspiring, beautiful sites.
US – 6 –  A big and well done amusement park.

Rides and Activities

DW: Rides and activities are very well done, although they may not be as intense as a roller coaster, they are definitely interesting, enlightening and well done.  Some of my favorite rides were “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”, a great 4-D experience very well done,  “Soarin’” – A Hang glider simulation.  “Space Ship Earth” – A ride through civilization with a funny and personal video at the end.  The attendants were also “into” the job and added to the experience. 
US: The 4-D and experience rides were not as well done as DW, but US did have roller coasters, of which “Incredible Hulk,” and “Dueling Dragons” were my favorite.  US is divided into 2 parks (separate ticket required) and only one of them has roller coasters.  I also liked the “Jurassic Park” ride which features incredible moving Dinosaur models, which of course are attacking you!  The “Simpsons” ride was the best simulation / 4-D ride and was very well done.
Rating for Rides and ActivitiesCIMG7312
DW – 8 – While the rides were not as thrilling, they were often more interesting, and gave a fresh, new and often educational experience.  Many of the rides and activities left me with a lasting sense of “that was really neat.”  The rides here also had no sense of being cheap, they all seemed to have cost an absolute fortune and spared no expense.
US – 7 – The experience rides and simulations were not quite as well done, and sometimes appeared a bit cheap.  There were do higher thrills then DW but it was just another level of experience.


Pricing

Both parks ran about 60 – 80 bucks a ticket.  I felt that DW was a great deal because many of the attractions such as the music, and amazing fireworks display were at no additional charge.  It is expensive but for the price you get a lot at DW. 
DW is the better value for pricing.


Food

US had some nice choices including the big turkey leg (one of my favorites), as well as some restaurants that were better than fast food.  DW had snack stops, as well as fine dining that could run 20 – 50 dollars per plate.
DW has more food choice although no Turkey legs ;(


Highlights etc…

Ambiance and crowd in Disney World is different from other parks.  People go there as families with the mindset of a wholesome family event.  This was different from the other amusement parks that attracted groups of thrill seekers.  The awing (?) ambiance of the park keeps the feeling very nice.
Note – While the park ambiance was nice and even “wholesome” it was actually NOT hokey or Barnyish (although they do have a Barney ride).  I can’t say this wouldn’t be true in other parts of Disney World that are perhaps more targeted at kids.
Epcot center has a portion of the park where each area is built to look like a foreign country.  The experience is completed by DW hiring natives from each country who run that portion of the park.  They come directly from their country to work at DW for 1 – 2 years, so they are the real deal.  It was interesting for Kalli and I to see Morocco, Germany, and England from this point of view.  Morocco’s area really gave us a nostalgic feeling, except the vendors were much much less aggressive :)

These international areas also had authentic restaurants and cuisine, as well as rides or display’s to learn about their country.  We ate in China and it was very good.  Each area also played music or displayed other traditions and had shop areas that would be very similar to the country’s own shops.

Final Suggestion

For both parks lines can be very long.  DW has an option to use a “fast lane” which allows you to come back a couple hours later and skip the line.  This was very nice, and saved us a lot of line time.
US has an upgrade option for $30 per passenger that gives you an “express” pass.  This allows you to bypass the line.  There’s just something wonderful about passing people waiting!

CIMG7304 CIMG7309  CIMG7288 CIMG7293 CIMG7285 CIMG7181 CIMG7299 CIMG7193

The Winner

It’s probably obvious by now, but Disney World is the place to go if you are in Orlando and having to choose between the 2.
I love rides, but a if you want a roller coaster experience you can get that in your own state, 6 flags, Worlds of Fun etc…  Disney offers a unique experience that has no equal in other amusement parks.  The ambiance, and setup of the park is incredible and very tastefully done.  Only after I had fully soaked up the DW experience would I consider coming to Orlando to go for Universal Studios.
Both parks are a blast, but DW offers an experience that deserves your time if you are going on a 1 – 4 day vacation.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment below.














Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 361 awesome articles for us.

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