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Why Universal Studios in Orlando is giving Walt Disney World a run for their money

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic World VelociCoaster and Volcano Bay await you…

By Heather Malo

My favorite memory of Universal Studios Florida is trip I took with my Mom and little sister the year I graduated high school. We’d done our few days at Disney and took the last day to visit the “other” amusement park.

My Mom is a die hard I Love Lucy fan. At the time, Universal had a mega Lucy store with a tribute to the red headed icon. My Mom had planned this as our first stop of the day.

Unfortunately, my mother, in her youthful excitement, failed to notice the huge step down from the curb across the street from Lucy Mecca and fell, face first into the street… and in to the path of an oncoming tram. The tram driver was beeping his little tram horn (that sounded like a high-pitched hiccup) and flailing his arms about, trying to tell her to move.

My sister and I shook our heads and proceeded to turn around, pretending like we didn’t know the woman flailing in the street, about to be run over by a tram in front of the Lucy store.

Our love for our Mother quickly overcame our teenage humiliation and we were able to pull her to safety, where her scraped knees served as a of badge of honor for the rest of our vacation. 😊

It’s one of our fondest memories of our Mother.

But I digress.

The point I’m trying to make here is that youthful enthusiasm is not the sole province of Disney World. Even Moms get excited for Universal and with good reason.

And here’s why you should too:

1. It’s not Disney World

Universal Studios Florida doesn’t try to be. With fewer parks, more adult themed rides and competitive hotel pricing, Universal feels like the sophisticated stepsister you always admired and sort of wanted to be like. The parks (Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay) are less crowded and require far less advance scheming calculating planning, which equates to a less stressful pre-vacation period than Disney, which in turn makes a happier YOU. **PRO TIP** If you stay at one of the three Premier Resorts, you get the Universal Express Pass. That’s unlimited front of the line passes at participating rides (which is most of them!).

2. Two Words: Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a must see. Completely overseen by JK Rowling herself, every detail is true to the storyline and breathtaking in its scope. You can ride Hogwarts Express, visit Hogsmeade, check out Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure… all after you pick up a wand and grab a Butterbeer in Diagon Alley. And at the end of the day you can settle into a magical world we’ve all longed to be a part of.

3. Two more words: Virtual Lines

While Disney World fans have struggled to acclimate to the problematic virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance, Universal enthusiasts are old hats at the Virtual Line system. All the biggest and most popular rides are available through their Universal app and while spots do run out… it’s best to check back and refresh the app frequently when looking for that hard to find ride pass.

4. Speaking of Ride Passes…

Universal provides the Express Pass system. Most notably, this system doesn’t require you to get up at 6:00am 60 days before you visit the theme park in hopes of securing a reservation for the most popular rides. Anyone that’s planned a trip to Disney World in the past few years is familiar with the Fast Pass+ saga: tiered rides at different parks, that elusive 7 Dwarves Mine Train or Slinky Dog pass. Nothing says frustration like 7am on your Fast Pass+ day… and Universal gets that. So, they presented us with the Express Pass! These are paid add-ons to your park tickets that allow one or unlimited rides on the most popular attractions. Expresses passes can be purchased… but if you’re staying at choice Universal Resort hotels… they’re included in your resort package.

Both Universal and Disney have their place. Lately, Universal has been elbowing herself to the front the of the line by giving us a taste of safety, comfort and certain perks Disney hasn’t been able to compete with. So, don’t discount the amusement park across town… give her a chance to impress you. Because she can… and she will.

Questions? Need help planning your next Disney vacation? Check out our previous blog posts on or fill out our Trip Request form and one of our wonderful agents will be in touch! We’re here and ready to help you plan!

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