Universal Studios vs Disney World  

Universal Studios vs Disney World in Orlando Florida. Comprison park views

When searching for the reigning champion of Orlando theme park attractions, the battle of Universal Studios vs Disney World is entirely subjective. In this article we delve into the similarities and key differences of these iconic, world-class theme parks.

Located just 9 miles apart in Orlando, both Universal Studios and Disney World promise to deliver awe-struck wonder and escapism. Although both feature theme parks, water parks, shopping and dining districts, and effortlessly manage to cater to thrill rides, year-round entertainment, and unforgettable family experiences, there is a distinct charm to each.

Disney World leans towards a more relaxed family atmosphere that’s set in a world of classic childhood fantasy and nostalgia, whilst Universal excels in its ride experiences and leans towards a world conjured up from blockbuster movies and immersive entertainment. The answer to which park is best ultimately depends on your preferences and what appeals to you and your family. 

Which park is the bigger?

Encompassing 43 square miles, the sprawling kingdom of Disney World equates to the size of San Francisco and easily dwarfs Universal Studios in size. 

With this metropolis of fun and amusement to explore, it’s easy to be wowed by its grandeur. It’s size, though, does mean there’s a lot of ground to cover at Disney World. 

On the flip side, Universal Orlando Resort takes a more compact approach. It currently boasts three major theme parks spread over 1.31 square miles of fun. The smaller footprint means you can move around the resort with ease, and it’s renowned for being quite walkable. If you don’t fancy the walk, then jump on board the Hogwarts Express, from Hogsmeade station. It promises a spellbinding way to move between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Alongside their theme parks, each offers epic water parks; with Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon at Disney and Volcano Bay at Universal. Both parks also offer night time shows and holiday celebrations, making it the perfect destination for year-round entertainment.

Whether you prefer Disney’s vast kingdom or Universal’s cozy theme park trio, it’s safe to say Orlando has got you covered!

Cinderella's castle at Magic Kingdom is the most popular park when it comes to the battle of the parks Disney World vs Universal Studios

Which park receives the most visitors? 

With over 17 million visitors in 2022, Magic Kingdom at Disney World was the most visited amusement park not only in Orlando but in the world! With Islands of Adventure water park at Universal Studio the 2nd most popular amusement attraction for 2022, it’s safe to say Universal is here to stay as a competitor when it comes to the popularity stakes (source: Statista).

Universal Studios Walt Disney World
21.8 million in 2022 49.25 million in 2022

Which park has more rides?

Undeniably, Walt Disney World has the most number of rides. With 173 rides to choose from, Disney World offers an unparalleled selection of park ride attractions, compared to the 32 rides found across Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Nevertheless, its collection of thrilling theme park rides at Universal means a more action-packed experience for older children and teens. 

Thrill-seekers should know that of their rides, Disney World boasts 8 roller coasters, whilst Universal Studios offers 6. If you think about the size of Disney World in comparison to Universal, then the latter theme park offers more adrenaline-fuelled fun per square mile than Disney!

Expedition Everest theme park ride is the tallest one when it comes to comparing Universal Studios vs Disney World

Which park has the tallest ride?

When it comes to the tallest rides, there’s a close race between Walt Disney World and Universal Studios – with Disney World claiming the win. 

Reaching a height of about 199 feet, Expedition Everest is the tallest attraction on Disney property. This title is claimed (by only 6 inches) ahead of Disney’s other close contender, the infamous Tower of Terror, which features a 13-story drop.

If you’re heading to Universal Studios, then its Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster, complete with 167-foot drop, this ride is guaranteed to fuel the adrenaline too. 

With all these thrilling, world-class rides promising to take your park trip to new heights, fans looking to “elevate” their Orlando vacation need not travel far!

Tallest Rollercoaster ride

Theme Park

#1 Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Animal Kingdom, Disney World


#2 Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit

 Universal Studios


Which park has the scariest rides?

When it comes to scare factor, Universal Studios Orlando is the clear winner. With six high-speed thrill coasters centered around the movies, the park boasts a frightfully fun offering. The scariest of these rides has to be the Jurassic World VelociCoaster. 

As one of the newest additions to Universal Orlando’s line-up, the VelociCoaster is an adrenaline-pumping experience that’s inspired by the Jurassic World franchise, and not for the faint of heart. Even the most seasoned coaster enthusiasts are in for a wild and unforgettable ride. This launched roller coaster, located at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, will leave you breathless as it plunges riders from a heart-pounding height of 140 feet, hurtling through the air at mind-boggling speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, in just 2 heart-pounding seconds!

After you’ve recovered from this “roarsome” experience, why not take on Universal’s other top scary rides, which include “The Incredible Hulk Coaster” and height-defying “Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit”.

View of one of the scariest rollercoasters in Orlando, the Incredible Hulk at Universal Studios

Which park has the best rides for toddlers and preschoolers?

Both Walt Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando offer magical experiences for toddlers and preschoolers. When it comes to the best toddler rides at Disney World, little ones can immerse themselves in the enchanting world of Fantasyland, with classics like “It’s a Small World” and “Peter Pan’s Flight.” They’ll also get the opportunity to meet beloved characters at Disney’s fantastic range of character dining experiences and parades.

On the other side of the coin, Universal Studios Orlando is equally captivating, with attractions like “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Shrek 4-D” promising interactive fun for young ones. Plus, Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure is a whimsical wonderland featuring “The Cat in the Hat” ride and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”

In the end, the choice for which park is best for toddlers and preschoolers depends on your child’s own preferences. Disney World offers more character interactions and storytelling, while Universal Studios Orlando features more immersive 3D rides. Both parks create unforgettable memories, so you can’t go wrong with either. Enjoy the magic with your little ones!

Which park is cheapest?

Rates vary, but both parks offer affordable 1-day theme park base tickets – with Disney World’s Animal Kingdom tending to have the cheapest 1-day base tickets. These 1-day base tickets invite you to explore one designated park for the day. This is a great option if you’re with younger kids, are budget conscious, or are short on time or are new to Disney or Universal, and don’t want to be overwhelmed by too many parks in one day.

Although Disney World has one of the cheapest 1-day theme park base tickets at Animal Kingdom, they also have the most expensive – with the 1-day base ticket costs for Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom exceeding that of Universal. Universal Studios tends to sit in the mid-range for ticket prices. Both parks offer multi-day and park-to-park ticketing choices, so you’ll find endless options to suit a diverse range of budgets and travel itineraries.

The cheapest Disney World 1-day base dated tickets are usually for Animal Kingdom and range from $118.41 for adults (aged 10+) and from $112.98 for kids aged 3-9. The 2nd cheapest Disney World 1-day base dated tickets tends to be for EPCOT and costs from $129.27 for adults (aged 10+) and from $123.84 kids aged 3-9. The most expensive Disney World 1-day base dated tickets tend to be for Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, with costs ranging from $140.14 for adults (aged 10+) and from $134.70 for kids aged 3-9. 

In comparison, the cheapest Universal 1-day base date tickets range from $129.91 for Adults (aged 10+) and from $124.45 for kids aged 3-9. 

Our dedicated concierge team is here to arrange your park tickets, so before you book your tickets, contact them for preferential park rates, special park deals and more!

Battle of the Castles: Universal Studios vs Disney World

At both Disney and Universal, majestic castles are the heart of enchantment and adventure. So, which castle is best? Arguably both promise pure magic and intrigue. Their styles set them apart and for that, there can be no clear winner. 

Battle of the Castles

Height Access 

Hogwart’s Castle


 Open to everyone with a valid park ticket

Cinderella’s Castle


Limited – only open to diners of Cinderella’s Royal Table or guests of the coveted Cinderella Castle Suite

Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle, Magic Kingdom

Disney’s iconic Cinderella’s Castle, standing at 189 feet, graces the entrance of Magic Kingdom and serves as an eternal symbol of Disney World magic. Although its grandeur is visible to all, the castle itself is an exclusive realm for those dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table, where guests enjoy a high-end dining experience. The nearby Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offers makeovers for young ones, transforming them into princesses and knights. Moreover, the elusive Cinderella Castle Suite, an opulent accommodation inside the castle, is a rare gem, accessible only by invitation or contest win.

Cinderella's Castle at Disney World at night with fireworks behind. Universal Studios vs Disney World.

Universal’s Hogwarts Castle, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade

In comparison, Universal’s 150-foot-tall Hogwarts Castle is the centerpiece of Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Unlike Cinderella’s Castle, Hogwarts welcomes visitors into its enchanting world. Guests can explore the corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, including iconic locations like Dumbledore’s office, the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and the Gryffindor common room. Inside the castle lies one of the park’s most thrilling experiences, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” a 4D motion-simulator ride that takes guests on a magical adventure atop an enchanted bench with a highly sophisticated robotic arm. 

The choice between these iconic park castles ultimately depends on your family’s taste for enchantment and immersive experiences. The most inclusive-feeling castle experience though has to be at Universal’s Hogwarts Castle – where all visitors are invited to roam the castle in spell-binding awe.

An orchestra performing in front of Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal Studios vs Disney World.

Which park has the most restaurants?

When it comes to the most number of park restaurants, Disney World takes the crown – with an impressive 104 reservation restaurants peppered across its four magical theme parks. 

In comparison, Universal Studios serves a modest selection of four table-service restaurants, which are spread evenly between its two parks. While Universal does also boast numerous quick-service eateries throughout its grounds, there’s a special allure to sit-down dining and if this is your dream dish, then Disney park visitors have the opportunity to savor more choice.

Total park restaurantsTable-service restaurants

Quick-service restaurants

Disney World63


Universal Studios



Disney World restaurants 

For a culinary highlight, Disney World’s best restaurant, Takumi-Tei, stands out not only for its exceptional food but also for its refined service and unforgettable ambiance. It’s a dining experience that will leave you spellbound. And for a more budget-friendly option at Epcot, Via Napoli is a favorite with families, who are tempted here by its authentic Italian cuisine.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Hollywood Brown Derby offers an air-conditioned haven and a delightful dining experience. Meanwhile, the Magic Kingdom boasts the Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen, a unique eatery perfect for adventurous eaters looking to step away from typical theme park fare.

In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tusker House Restaurant gets our nod, offering safari-themed character dining and a chance to see characters in captivating costumes. And for quick service at its finest, don’t miss Satuli Canteen next to Avatar Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom. Finally, for a truly fancy affair, Victoria & Albert’s in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa offers an award-winning, upscale dining experience suitable for special celebrations, provided you adhere to the strict dress code.

For park fans in search of the ultimate Disney World character dining experiences, check out our latest blog to help plan your trip.

Disney Springs adds to Disney World’s culinary diversity with a collection of 14 quick-service and table-service restaurants, each offering its unique flavors and atmosphere. In contrast, Universal’s table-service options are primarily located in CityWalk – with 10 world-food restaurants to sample and enjoy.

Disney World restaurants. A family enjoy a fun and immersive meal at EPCOT Disney.

Universal Studios restaurants

If you’re on Universal Studios ‘terra firma’, then you’ll have a delectable array of dining options to choose from that will tantalize your taste buds. In Islands of Adventure, Mythos Restaurant, nestled across from Poseidon’s Fury in The Lost Continent, serves a fusion of Mediterranean, Asian, and American cuisine, ensuring a quality dining experience. For a diverse culinary journey, head to Confisco Grille in Port of Entry, where you can savor a variety of Asian, Mediterranean, Greek, and more flavors. 

At Universal Studios Florida, Finnegan’s Bar & Grill takes you on a delicious trip to a traditional Irish-American pub, while Lombard’s Seafood Grille in San Francisco offers waterfront dining with a history of serving delectable cuisine since the park’s inception. For those looking to conjure up a tasty dining experience at the “Wizarding World of Harry Potter”, then alight at the Three Broomsticks Restaurant in Hogsmeade, which promise a delectable, themed British dining experience! 

If you’re a Marvel fan, then don’t miss the Marvel Character Dining at Cafe 4 in Marvel Super Hero Island. To top it all off, CityWalk boasts 10 world-food restaurants, including a tempting chocolate and savory feast emporium, adding to the delightful dining choices that are on hand to accompany your Universal Studios adventure.

The Classic Monster Cafe at Universal Studios, Orlando. Universal Studios restaurants and dining options.

The best character dining experiences: Universal Studios vs Disney World

The answer really depends on the ages of your children and which characters you or your family are hoping to meet. Knowing which characters your little ones are mega fans of and booking beforehand will ensure you have the best dining experience imaginable. Universal Studios is better suited to older children, whilst Disney World is more suitable for younger children. With both parks offering imaginative and entertaining character dining experiences, all that remains is to read on for the details and say, “Bon appetit!”

The best Universal Studios character dining experiences

Universal Studios Orlando offers an enchanting character dining experience, where beloved characters come to life right at your table. Younger diners can savor a delightful meal while mingling with iconic figures from Universal’s Despicable Me, including Minions, Gru, and even the adorable Agnes. Or, for a Jurassic adventure, visit Islands of Adventure for the Raptor Encounter Breakfast with Blue, an unforgettable experience with a life-sized Velociraptor! These character dining options add an extra sprinkle of magic to your Universal Studios visit, making it a fantastic choice for families with young ones seeking an interactive and delightful mealtime with their favorite characters. Peppered with a welcome dose of seasonal character dining experiences too, such as the Grinch and friends character breakfast, you’ll find an unforgettable “meet-and-eat” at Universal!

Grinchmas at Universal Orlando. Character dining at Universal Studios. Universal Studios vs DIsney World character dining experiences.

The best Disney World character dining experiences

Alternatively, if your little ones crave some Disney magic, then the Walt Disney World’s character dining experiences promise to serve up an unforgettable family meal with cherished Disney characters. Among the top choices are Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella Castle, where you can dine with Disney princesses in a regal setting, and Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, a lively gathering with Mickey, Minnie, and friends. There’s also the delightful Garden Grill at Epcot, featuring Chip ‘n’ Dale, and Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where you can meet characters in their safari outfits. These character dining locations create unforgettable memories and add an extra dose of Disney magic to your visit, making them a must-try for families with young ones looking for an enchanting mealtime experience.

Whether you pick a Universal Studios character dining experience or a Disney World character dining experience, you’ll be guaranteed a meal to remember!

Minnie and Mickey offer a unique character dining experience at Disney World/ Universal Studios vs Disney World character dining experiences.

What can I expect from each park?

If it’s your first time at Disney World, then it’s safe to say you are in for a truly enchanting experience. Within Disney’s magical realm, you’ll find iconic destinations like Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios, along with two fantastic water parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, plus a vibrant Disney Springs shopping and dining district to experience.

In comparison, at Universal, you’ll discover Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay, a water theme park full of thrilling aquatic adventure! Universal Studios also has a Dreamworks-themed land opening in 2024 and a brand-new Epic Universe land, planned to be unveiled in 2025 – promising more high octane fun in the next coming years.

Which park is best for overall visitor experience?

When deciding between Disney and Universal, the question of which park is better for overall visitor experience often arises, and the answer is not a definitive one. This is because both Florida theme parks offer their own unique strengths when it comes to practical visitor experience. 

Disney introduced Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane to replace its FastPass, while Universal continues with Universal Express for expedited access. Universal enforces strict locker rules on many rides, restricting personal belongings. Disney, in contrast, allows storing bags at your feet on most rides. When it comes to accessing carefree amenities, Disney Springs is conveniently close to Disney World parks, while Universal CityWalk directly connects Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure – for hassle-free dining options. When it comes to parking, Disney has separate parking lots for each park, requiring tram rides or walks. Universal utilizes a centralized parking complex, reducing the distance to theme parks. 

Knowing what kind of park vibe you’re searching for will also help make your visitor experience the best it can be. Disney cast members aim for a warm and interactive guest experience, creating a welcoming atmosphere throughout the parks that is inclusive for young children. Tweens, teens and older kids will be more drawn to the cool personas of the team members and park characters at Universal Studios.

The choice between the two parks ultimately depends on your personal preferences and the type of visitor experience you’re seeking.

The Disney World vs Universal Studios atmosphere

When looking to compare the atmosphere of Disney World with that of Universal Studios you will find a myriad of contrasts. Disney World embraces an uplifting atmosphere of fairytale magic and wonder, with endless influences and theming from world-famous Disney characters and Pixar film characters, as well as a strong intergalactic feel from its Star Wars franchise. 

In comparison, Universal Studios embraces a more evocative if not thrilling atmosphere, from its themes inspired by Hollywood’s most iconic action movies and superheroes of the 20th and 21st century, including Jurassic Park, the Incredible Hulk and the iconic Marvel family. Universal is also the go-to HQ for all things magic, with its incredible fully-immersive experiences and rides spread across its two “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” lands.

Universal Studios sightseer. Visitor experience at Universal. Universal Studios vs Disney World.

How else does a Disney World experience differ from a Universal Studios experience?

The answer is, in every way imaginable! From the iconic park castles, park size, entertainment, ride theming and thrill factor to the practical visitor experience felt in their line skipping assistance, locker system, parking and customer service support, Disney World and Universal Studios both offer a very distinct flavor. Their unique appeal spans all ages, but there is an emphasis on younger children at Disney and tween – teenager and young adults at Universal. Both Orlando theme parks are a haven for big kids too, so there really is something for everyone.

Which park has the best characters? 

That depends on the fan club! Younger visitors will naturally gravitate towards Disney World, whilst older children keen to keep their street cred in vacation photos and their social media platforms tend to go for the Universal Studios characters.

Theme Park

Popular Character Meets

Universal Studios

Despicable Me family, including Minions, Gru, and Agnes, Jurassic Park’s Raptor “Blue”, The Grinch and friends,

Harry Potter and friends, The Incredible Hulk and Marvel family, Pixar movie characters

Walt Disney World

Mickey, Minnie, and friends, Chip n’ Dale, Winne the Pooh and friends, Disney Princesses, the Prince, Beast, Mary Poppins,

Darth Vader, BB-8, Chewbacca, Rey, Mr and Mrs Incredible, Woody and Toy Story friends, Stitch, Aladdin and Jasmin,

Indiana Jones, Captain Jack Sparrow, evil Disney Stepmothers & Villains

Universal Studios character meets

Universal Studios Orlando offers an array of character encounters for families, although older children and teenagers may prefer the more diverse range of characters here. From the iconic Minions in “Despicable Me” to the mischievous Shrek and Donkey, you can meet your favorite animated stars. Your little ones can have a blast meeting the colorful cast of Seuss Landing, including The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and the Grinch himself. Plus, for fans of classic monsters, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Mummy, and the Bride of Frankenstein offer spooktacular photo ops. Marvel enthusiasts can also get up close and personal with superheroes like Spider-Man, Captain America, and Wolverine. Whether you’re seeking laughter or a touch of superhero excitement, Universal Studios Orlando’s character encounters promise unforgettable moments for everyone in the family.

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem universal orlando. Character meets at Universal Studios.

Disney World character meets

At Disney World, character meets are a magical part of the experience for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re meeting Mickey and Minnie Mouse, or classic princesses like Cinderella and Belle, these enchanting encounters bring your favorite Disney characters to life. For toddlers and pre-schoolers, the charm of characters like Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore in the Hundred Acre Wood adds a touch of wonder to their day. The lovable pals from “Frozen,” Anna and Elsa, are another must-see for little ones. In Fantasyland, you’ll discover the delightful world of “Beauty and the Beast,” where Belle and Gaston are ready for photos and hugs. Disney World provides a captivating array of character meets, making it an ideal choice for young children to experience the magic of Disney first hand.

Minnie Mouse in a character dining experience at Walt Disney World. One of the top character meets when it comes to Universal Studios vs DIsney World.

Planning your Disney World and Universal Studios Packages’

Whichever park wins your personal Universal Studios vs Disney World battle, the choice of where to stay is much easier. All of our Orlando villas are close to both parks and benefit from access to incredible resort amenities. Our dedicated Travel Planners are on hand to help you find the perfect home for your Disney and Universal getaway.