Plans to visit Orlando in the upcoming future? Most families traveling to the City Beautiful make arrangements to visit Walt Disney World, with four theme parks, two water parks, shopping at Disney Springs, and world-class restaurants. But, you shouldn’t skip out on seeing more than the Mouse. Orlando locals even prefer Universal Orlando Resort over Walt Disney World any day.
1. Universal Orlando Resort Costs Substantially Less Than Disney
Even during Florida’s high tourism seasons, Universal Orlando Resort tickets can be as much as 50% cheaper than Walt Disney World tickets. Visitors can purchase a three-day park pass with park-hopping ability at Universal Orlando and receive free two days—totaling $59 per day per ticket. With Walt Disney World’s theme park tickets, you’re paying for all five days at $124 per day with a park-hopper option.
If you visit Orlando often or are also a local, even the annual park passes at Universal Orlando resort cost less and offer more perks. A Universal Annual Preferred Pass is $399, with no blackout dates, free parking, discounted food & merchandise, and park-to-park access year-round. For almost the same perks at Walt Disney World, you’d need to purchase the Disney Incredi-Pass for $1,299 and still pay for parking.
A step below that would be the Disney Sorcerer Pass, and you must purchase it as a Florida resident or Disney Vacation Club owner. The Disney Sorcerer Pass is still double the Universal Orlando Annual Preferred Pass price, and blackout dates apply for special events and peak seasons.
2. Park-hop, Shop, Eat and Catch a Concert Without Getting in the Car
With two theme parks side-by-side and Universal Orlando City Walk in between them, getting from one Universal Orlando Resort Park to another is just a few steps (or even a ride!) away. Head to CityWalk in the morning and enjoy a unique and delicious donut from VooDoo Donuts, make your way through Diagon Alley at Universal, then hop on the Hogwarts Express to end up in the Islands of Adventure.
When the parks close at dusk, you can even catch a concert at the Hard Rock Orlando in the evening. All without getting in the car or taking a shuttle bus.
While Disney has gondolas and a monorail system to transport guests from parks to resorts, this can still take up a substantial amount of time in your day when you could enjoy more rides, bites to eat, or entertainment.
3. Universal Orlando Resort Has More Thrill Rides
Before Hollywood Studios, MGM was the only place you could go on a rollercoaster in Walt Disney World with thrilling loops and corkscrew curves. A few fast rides and thrills are now scattered across the five theme parks, but nothing compared to the rollercoasters at Universal Orlando Resort. For adults and teens, this might even be a more exhilarating experience.
Hollywood Rip Ride Rock-it is an interactive ride that lets guests pick their favorite song to listen to while they are catapulted 167 feet into the air. Of course, the Incredible Hulk Coaster is a long-time favorite for Marvel fans and thrill-seekers. It’s the second fast roller coaster on Universal Orlando Resort property and lasts up to two minutes.
The newest addition, VelociCoaster, includes four upside-down loops and a 100-foot-long “zero-gravity stall” that will make your stomach drop. It’s themed after the rebooted Jurassic World movies and has been a major attraction for visitors since its opening.
4. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
This is a point all on its own. Universal Orlando Resort is most known for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The immersive section of the park makes visitors feel as if they are really in Diagon Alley, with Ollivander’s Wand Shop (there’s even an interactive experience for a guest in the crowd to pick their wand), Gringott’s, and Knockturn Alley for visitors that prefer the Dark Arts.
There are two signature rides within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. You can ride both easily by transporting from park to park on the Hogwarts Express (you must have a park-hopper pass to ride).
Guests say that this experience at Universal Orlando Resort is an unforgettable treat. When you’re done riding on the twists and turns of the thrilling rides, a cold Butterbeer from The Three Broomsticks will delight you with its sweet butter syrup and cream soda concoction.
5. More Teen-friendly and Adult-friendly Pop Culture
There will likely be a day and time that your kids will outgrow their interest in beloved Disney characters and movies. We all love the nostalgia of Disney movies, and visiting Disney World is a treat for most. However, fairy princesses and pixie dust may not be for everyone, especially the teens in your travel party.
Universal Orlando Resort has beloved franchises to delight kids, teens, and adults. With Jurassic World, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Marvel, Krustyland, and more, you might have a more well-rounded experience.
6. Universal Resort Orlando’s Fantastic Seasonal Events
Mardi Gras, Halloween Horror Nights, and Grinchmas make up several months of exceptional experiences unique to Universal Orlando Resort. Plan your trip around some of these exciting seasonal events to make your trip all the more special.
Mardi Gras generally lasts from February to April and includes your ticket or annual pass. Catch an authentic New Orleans Mardi Gras parade daily with beads, colorful costumes, mesmerizing floats, and entertaining stilt walkers. Specialty food items are also offered, like Beignets, Crawfish Boil, and King Cake.
Halloween Horror Nights
One of the most thrilling experiences that horror movie lovers look forward to every year is Halloween Horror Nights, between September and November. An additional pass or ticket is required to attend, and the event starts at 6:30 pm every evening and transforms the Universal Orlando Resort theme park.
Scare-Zones are scattered across the park as guests move from one haunted house attraction to the next. Pro-tip: If you’re not a horror fan or think the event may be too scary for you, you can always find ways around most of the scare zones and go on rides all night long instead. The theme park rides have shorter wait times, and you can enjoy the evening while friends or family are in the houses!
You may have seen the iconic meet-and-greets online of guests and The Grinch during the Grinchmas season. Grinchmas runs from November to early January every year and is a winter holiday celebration at Universal Orlando Resort. The Grinch you can meet at the park has very similar make-up and characteristics to Jim Carey’s character adaptation and makes for an entertaining visit.
Besides the iconic meet-and-greet experience, Seussland at the Universal theme park is decked out with a towering Christmas tree, tinsel on every building, garlands, Christmas lights, and wreaths. So if you’re visiting during winter, you must go to Universal Orlando Resort for this incredible experience.
7. Free Express Pass When Lodging at a Universal Resort Orlando Hotel
Besides park tickets being less expensive at Universal Orlando Resort, lodging is substantially less. Plus, a Premier Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort will allow guests to skip the regular lines at the parks for free. Rates for lodging start as low as $272 per night based on a four-night stay.
8. You’ll See Everything in One Trip
This may not be a perk to everyone, but if you don’t get to vacation in Orlando very often, you know you’ll get your money’s worth and see everything that Universal has to offer in just a day or two. Rather than make a detailed itinerary for visiting the parks and making sure you have enough time to get on all of the rides, you can pretty much relax and take your time to enjoy Universal Orlando Resort.
With just two theme parks, Volcano Bay, and CityWalk, you’ll have a thrilling yet relaxing experience. Universal typically has fewer crowds, so you’ll see shorter wait times for most rides.
There are plenty of things to do in Orlando besides theme parks that locals love, but if you ask an Orlando native where prefer to go, you’ll probably hear Universal Orlando Resort more often than Walt Disney World.