When we’re talking about theme parks, it’s impossible for that conversation not to include Walt Disney World. It’s an absolutely massive resort with four parks and a couple dozen hotels, and just about anything else in the world you might want. Disney World brought the world to Orlando, and with it came a lot of potential competition. There are lots of great amusements in the area now, but none is giving the mouse quite the run for its money as Universal Orlando Resort.
Universal Parks & Resorts has built the only location that really rivals Disney when it comes to size and scope, but it has honestly done a lot more than that. With its two parks, Universal CityWalk and several hotels to pick from, Universal Orlando has something to offer everybody, including some things that Disney just doesn’t have. Here are five big ways that Universal Orlando Resort is actually better than Walt Disney World
Everything Is Easier To Get To At Universal Orlando
Walt Disney World, as noted earlier, is absolutely massive, and for the most part, that’s a selling feature. Nothing else has four separate and unique theme parks quite like Disney, but there is a downside to that size. Getting around it all can be a pain. With so much to do in so many places, you’ll find yourself spending a disappointing amount of time waiting for a bus to get you from wherever you are to where you want to be.
But Universal Orlando Resorts’ two theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, are right next to each other, and they’re connected to the Universal CityWalk as well, so everything is easy to get to. You can even travel from one Universal theme park to another via the Hogwarts Express. Wherever you want to be, you're not far away, and that just makes it a more convenient vacation.
Universal Islands Of Adventure Has The Best Roller Coasters
Not everybody who goes to theme parks is a fan of thrill rides; there are usually other amusement parks that make that sort of thing a specialty, but if you do love exciting rides like roller coasters, then you sort of need to visit Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It has two of the best roller coasters around, and they are better than what you'll find at Disney World.
Universal already had perhaps the best coaster in the state of Florida with Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. But then the resort upped the game even more with Velocicoaster. These are “must ride” attractions if you’re a coaster fan. Disney World has some cool coasters; Expedition Everest and the Rock 'N' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith are both awesome, but neither is quite as good as the top two at Universal, and you need to go to two different parks to ride them both.
Mardi Gras Is The Best Theme Park Party
Festivals have become a big part of how theme parks try to get guests not only to come to the parks, but come back again and again. At this point, Epcot is basically a permanent festival park, as there is some sort of multi-week event happening there all year long. But while Disney World may have the quantity of events, Universal Orlando may have the top quality event in the annual Mardi Gras celebration.
Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida has grown into an absolutely incredible event that is not to be missed. It has concerts, often with much bigger names than will show up at Epcot. The Mardi Gras parade has no equal at any Epcot event. And the food is at least as good, if not better than what you’ll find at the other park.
The More Affordable Universal Hotels Are Really Nice
If you’re going to a theme park on vacation, you need to stay somewhere. On the one hand, you want to stay somewhere nice, but if possible you don’t want to spend all your money on the room. Walt Disney World has more than two dozen hotels, and they run the gamut of prices and amenities. However, the long and the short of it is you get what you pay for. The really nice places (which they truly are) are really expensive, and the cheaper places honestly aren’t that great.
Universal Orlando Resort has a variety of hotel options as well. If you want to spend some cash for a really nice place, like the Portofino Bay, you can do that. But at the same time, you can get a less expensive place like one of the Endless Summer Resorts. You still get a nice room in a nice hotel and it won't cost you any more than a decent room in a non-resort town. You don’t have to choose between comfort and your wallet.
Halloween Horror Nights
Halloween is a big time of year at any theme park, and most of them are going to have special Halloween events. However, the one at Disney World is called the “Not So Scary” Halloween party for a reason. Much like the way the Haunted Mansion is light on the scares, it’s an event meant to let kids dress up and get candy, but it stays away from the real frights that a lot of people look for in the spooky season.
Universal Orlando Resort (and Universal Studios Hollywood for that matter) shines every October with Halloween Horror Nights. It creates multiple legitimately scary mazes based of some of your favorite TV shows and movies, with some original ideas thrown in for good measure. If you’re looking for real chills at Halloween, Universal will provide some where Disney just won’t.
Whether Universal Orlando Resort or Walt Disney World Resort is the “better” place will be a matter of taste to be sure, but don’t assume that just because one is bigger, it must be better. There’s a lot to offer from Universal, and with the new Epic Universe theme park under construction, it will be bigger itself before you know it.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.