Since 1990, when Universal Studios opened in Orlando, there has been a rivalry—not necessarily between the two theme park giants, but between the visitors who frequent them and the ideas surrounding them. There are diehard Universal fans, and there are over-the-top Disney superfans (and we’re proud of it)! We can’t conceive of a better place to be than Disney World, and we thought it’d be interesting to look at 10 things that our beloved Disney World has that Universal doesn’t. Here they are, in no particular order.
10. Nearly 50 years of magic-making history
Walt Disney World was a brainchild of Walt’s and had been for years before it would be built. Disneyland opened in July of 1955, and it was more successful than Walt ever dreamed. In the early 1960s, Walt began preparations for “The Florida Project.” He even created bogus names for companies and bought up land in central Florida under their names—hundreds of acres or more at a time. Once it was discovered that the land was being purchased by Walt, the cost per acre for the land soared. Work began on Disney World, but sadly, in 1966, Walt was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away only a short time later in December of that year. His brother Roy continued to oversee Disney World’s progress, and the park opened on October 1, 1971—some 19 years before Universal. Now, nearly 50 years later, we still reflect on the parks’ history and how Walt Disney World came to be, and we revel in the joy that has been shared here since 1971.
9. More than 25 choices in resort hotels
The four theme parks at Disney World are only part of the experience. Disney offers Guests the choice of more than 25 resort hotels, and more are in the works, including Disney’s Riviera Resort and a Star Wars-themed resort. At Universal, there are only 7 on-site hotels from which to choose—and of course, not a single one has a Disney theme. The Disney theming is what makes many of the Disney Resort hotels so much fun!
8. The choice of two water parks
At Disney World, you can enjoy a day off from the four theme parks and visit one of two themed water parks. Choose between Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach—or visit both! Both water parks offer Guests amazing attractions, and there are even quick-service restaurants at both water parks. At Universal, there is only one water park, so Disney takes home the trophy on this one!
7. Star Wars
This is pretty straightforward. Disney World is home to a myriad of Star Wars-themed attractions, shows, rides and character encounters. Universal is not.
6. No fee to use the FastPass+ system
To help decrease the amount of time Guests have to wait in line for attractions, Disney World offers Guests the FastPass+ system, which allows a Guest to choose up to three attractions to enjoy per day at reserved times. When a Guest has a FastPass+ time for an attraction, he will have little to no wait in the FastPass+ queue for that ride. The service is free to use, and there are no fees accessed by Disney at any time for the service. At Universal, you must pay a fee to use the Express Pass option, and those fees can be as much as $70 per person, if you choose the unlimited Express Pass.
5. Lots of sprawling space
When Walt Disney began buying up swampland in central Florida, he did so with the intention of having enough land to continue to grow the Disney World Resort. And Walt once said that “there’s enough land here to hold all of the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine.” Today the resort encompasses a whopping 47 square miles—that’s larger than the city of San Francisco. Universal encompasses only 840 acres. To put that in perspective, Animal Kingdom alone takes up over 500 acres. Simply put, you’ve got more room to stretch your legs at Disney World than you do at Universal.
4. Immersive and imaginative storytelling
At Disney World, we love that each attraction tells a story. That’s what Imagineers pride themselves on—the art of storytelling. There are backstories to the major attractions, and even the smaller attractions tell a story. And you can go from Peter Pan’s Flight to It’s a Small World to Splash Mountain to the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, and even though the characters and stories are different, there’s a Disney feel to the rides that ties them together. At Universal, the rides are not nearly as immersive. Rest assured you’ll never see Optimus Prime hanging with Harry Potter.
The genius behind Disney World’s amazing interactive attractions, heart-pounding rides, new lands, shows and parades lies with a group of very talented and gifted engineers who are well-versed in the art of imagination. Walt called them Imagineers, and without these very creative individuals, Disney World wouldn’t be Disney World. It would be a little more like Universal, which—by the way—does not have Imagineers.
Walt Disney was once quoted as saying, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.” And no matter how many Disney characters there are—and there are hundreds—we have a special place in our hearts for Mickey. He is the icon of everything Disney, including the parks. Walt Disney World has Mickey. Universal does not have Mickey. Enough said.
1. Walt’s genius and inspiration
Perhaps the most important differentiation between Disney World and Universal Studios is the genius behind Disney World. Though Walt Disney passed away five years before Disney World was completed, touches of his creativity and incredible ability to bring magic to life are sprinkled throughout the parks. You can feel Walt’s creativity in such attractions as the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Jungle Cruise, the Haunted Mansion, the Hall of Presidents and more. Even attractions that were developed years after his death still have their beginnings with a man who wanted nothing more than for parents to be able to have experiences with their children, rather than to serve as only spectators. It’s amazing how that dream has materialized into what we know now as the Disney Parks—something that Universal simply cannot compare to.