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Disney World vs Universal


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My wife and I are looking at a quick trip to FLA in Aug. We are looking at either Universal or Disney. At either park we will be staying in/near the park and most likely taking part in the parks offer of food (unlimited food at select locations for universal or the Disney Deluxe Dining plan).

So who is THE person to talk to on here for disney and/or Universal. I have some questions about the best places to get vacation deals (through the park, AAA, piece meal, etc), whats worth it to do/not to do, which park is the best, etc.

I have been reading trip reports and such and we dont know where to go for what. Hope this makes sense.

Thanks

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I've taken about a dozen extensive trips to Disney World and a half-dozen to Universal. Both are really great. If you've never been to a Disney resort, I'd choose Disney World just for the sake of being there. If you have been to Disney World (or even moreso Disneyland), I'd favor Universal. Two days at one and three/four at another would be better than cutting one out completely, if you ask me.

Universal Orlando is much, much smaller and more easily navigated, with two theme parks connected by a kidney bean shaped CityWalk entertainment / food / bar district. The second park there, Islands of Adventure, is really a triumph with or without the new Harry Potter island. The original park, Universal Studios, is not generally a favorite, but it does have some really great rides. At Universal, staying in the on-site hotels (there are three, and all are fairly expensive) gets you free Universal Express - your room key gets you to the priority boarding line on every ride that offers it, unlimited, all day. Depending on what time of year you go, that's very valuable (since a one-time-per-ride option retails for $50.00 per person during the busiest days). I used Universal's Meal Deal and really found it beneficial, but I'd always suggest at least a day without it to try the resort's world famous Mythos restaurant, which may or may not be around much longer if Potter's island expands further into the park as is perpetually rumored.

Disney World is just very different. The four parks that make it up are miles and miles apart, so resort transportation is the only surefire way of getting around, and it's not always dependable. People wait 30 minutes through a deluge of busses to find one headed toward their destination. The thing I find "awkward" about Disney World compared to its Californian sister is that it basically has the same number of major, E-ticket rides as Disneyland, just spread across four parks instead of two. The result is that there are massive, beautiful, interesting parks that you can more or less finish in a day if rides are your primary interest. Still, it's wise to plan for five or six days at minimum, but there's much personalization that has to go into that: some people say Epcot is a two-day park. Some prefer to skip it. Would you spend a whole day enjoying the beautiful World Showcase area, sampling international food and watching "CircleVision" films of countries' terrain and industry? If not, you can plan less time there.

Disney's Animal Kingdom, as its marketing constantly reminds, is not a zoo, but if you're not interested in animal exhibits and walking trails, you can really be done before the park closes. Dinosaur is a unique ride there, and Festival of the Lion King is a can't miss show. Expedition: Everest is a fun coaster and the safari ride is a must-do. After that, you've got a 3D Bugs Life show, a Finding Nemo show, and a white water rapids ride. All are very well done, but you can see how you might be finished with the park at four or five and think, "what now?" At Hollywood Studios, the "big rides" at the recently-redone Star Tours, Tower of Terror, and Rock n Roller Coaster, but I wouldn't skip the Little Mermaid show, the Great Movie Ride, the Indiana Jones Show, or the Lights Motors Action show. Toy Story Mania is also there, and garners the longest lines of any ride at the resort (and without FastPass).

Another question is how you want to vacation. If you want solely to focus on parks and immersion, Disney World may be best. I like to arrive at the parks early each morning, ride what I like, go back to the hotel, then return in the evenings. At Disney World, you've got to consider about 45 minutes of transportation both ways, so it's almost impractical to do so. Disney World also offers "park hopping" tickets for a price more each day. Truly consider if you want that add-on, because it's quite expensive and given the transportation, may be impractical. Even if you plan to park hop on the fifth day of your trip, let's say, to reride your favorites at each park, you'd need to add the Park Hopper option to your entire trip which can be expensive.

I'm sure there are many of us here who would love to add our input and help you plan, so ask away.

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Personally, I can complete Universal in a day. The only time I think you would need 2 to complete both parks, is if they have their weird hours when they close at 5, 6, 7 ish.

Disney on the other hand is definitely a multi-day event. I'd say at least 4 days for the Disney experience, more if possible.

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BB1 has went to Disney since he was 0. Like said, the park hopper is one of the best ideas for in the Disney area. To my experiences, Disney has mostly came out on top for me, staying on park grounds when you can have the late, and early ride times at certain parks really help. While Universal has some good rides, like the Mummy, Rip Rockit roller coaster, & Jurrasic Park, it is not the best with alot of rides. Must do's at Disney by park are

Magic Kingdom: Attractions-Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountian, Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Tommorrow Land racetrack, & the Train. Restaurants-Liberty Tree Tavern, & Casey's Corner. Epcot: Attractions Test Track, Spaceship earth, Soarin, Living With The Land(note this is for the plant/tropical persons), & Maelstrom. Restaurants-Biergarten. MGM Studios: Attractions- Tower of Terror, Rockin Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith, Great Movie Ride, Muppets Theater, Indiana Jones stunt show, Toy Story Mania, Back Lot tour, & Star Tours. Restaurants-Brown Derby. Animal Kingdom- Expedition Everist, Kilomanjaro Safaris, Bugs Life, Dinosaur, & Primevial Whirl. Restaurants- Rainforest Cafe. The waterparks are a whole different post for me. Basically Disney is the best choice.

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Good Yellow, wow thanks for that. My wife and I were thinking of doing only a 2 or 3 day park adventure (so a total of 5 days). The idea was to either hit both universal and islands of adventure or to hit 2 or 3 of the disney parks. After reading your detailed post I think you may have answered my question for me. I had not been to either disney or Universal in over 10 years and I forgot how massive the Disney parks are. We dont have 6 or 7 days to fully enjoy the Disney trip.

I do like the bonuses for staying in a Universal hotel (even if its more expensive). Where is Mythos?

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The parks at Walt Disney World are really very, very, very nice parks. But after seeing their "best" rides represented in a "best of" format at Disneyland, it's odd to see them so spread out. You can do Disney World in 2 or 3 days (or less!) if rides are what you're after, and I don't doubt you'd leave with fantastic memories as a result. But if you wanted a vacation, and a chance to take in the details and see the "best kept secrets" of the parks, you'd want more. Disney officials would have you believe that half of the fun of Disney world is in Downtown Disney, water parks, shopping, dining, etc. I bet it's true, if you had the time and energy to do it all.

Universal packs a lot into its two parks and does so with more charm than people may give it credit for (Seuss Landing is really just incomparable, in my opinion). If you haven't been there in a decade, you may as well not have been there. More than any other park I've experienced, Universal has no qualms about replacing classic attractions with whatever the newest, hottest title is (which has been good and bad in the past). As was said, they've got Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Dueling Dragons Challenge, Hulk, Cat in the Hat, Revenge of the Mummy, Men In Black: Alien Attack, Disaster, and the oddly fun E.T. Islands of Adventure is on-par with and even excels beyond any of Disney's domestic parks in terms of theme and detail.

There's a lot to think about! I'm happy to help if you have questions.

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If you choose Universal, make sure you visit the Studios side before going to Islands of Adventure. We did it the other way around, and were disappointed because IoA blows everything out of the water.

Mythos was awesome. It is a must. Make sure you see Posidions Fury. I went in not even knowing what it was, and I often find myself sitting in class thinking about how neat it was.

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I agree completely, with Studios you can do the whole park in half a day (With a fast pass that they give) and be done and kinda bored. So if you choose Universal, go for Studios first and then go to Islands.

Mythos is very good too! If you can make a reservation, go for it!

Also, don't forget that if you want to get into Potters Play Place you'll need to get a ticket in the square just outside the entrance to the Wizarding World. There you can get a return time to get right in and stay as long as you'd like!

Either way you choose you'll have a great time!

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My 2 cents - don't miss out on the Disney experience just because you don't have 4+ days to spend there. Just recognize that you won't get to do and see everything.

I recommend picking parts (just do magic kingdom and eocot for example) and doing them in depth versus trying to hit highlights of everything. This leaves other parks for future trips.

Also, if doing Disney, I recommend spending the money on TourGuideMike.com.

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Also, don't forget that if you want to get into Potters Play Place you'll need to get a ticket in the square just outside the entrance to the Wizarding World. There you can get a return time to get right in and stay as long as you'd like!

I could be wrong, but I don't think they do this anymore. That was the case when the island first opened just to throttle the number of people who would all flock to the island first thing in the morning. They certainly don't do it during the off-season, but I don't know. I could be wrong.

My 2 cents - don't miss out on the Disney experience just because you don't have 4+ days to spend there. Just recognize that you won't get to do and see everything.

I recommend picking parts (just do magic kingdom and eocot for example) and doing them in depth versus trying to hit highlights of everything. This leaves other parks for future trips.

This is true to an extent, but the thing I find hard about that is what I mentioned earlier - because each park only has a few "key" attractions, it makes it difficult to choose one or the other. For example, I want to recommend that first-timers visit Magic Kingdom, but there really isn't much there for people who prefer massively themed rides or thrill rides. Epcot is a nice park for exploration, but Test Track is closed till the fall leaving (literally) only Soarin' and Mission: Space as a "main" attractions. So let's say we said to focus on those two parks... Then what about Tower of Terror or Star Tours? Could we really in good conscience tell a person to go to Disney World and consciously skip those rides? Animal Kingdom may not have a whole lot, but what about Everest and Dinosaur? In other words, there's no easy way to eliminate one park, much less two, since each park has just a few really great, big attractions.

Make sure you see Posidions Fury. I went in not even knowing what it was, and I often find myself sitting in class thinking about how neat it was.

Poseidon's Fury is really fantastic. Many people overlook it as a show, but it's so much more. They might as well have invented the word "attraction" to describe Poseidon's Fury. Not a ride, but totally up there. It, too, is rumored to be on the chopping block since it, Mythos, and a 13-year-old Sinbad stunt show are the only remnants of the Lost Continent area that Potter absorbed.

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The Lost Continent was my favorite area of IoA. (JP coming in a close second.) The theming is by far the best of the park, and I sat on Mytho's porch for a good hour looking over the lagoon and taking it all in. It really is a sight to see. I will be really sad if that area is removed for more Potter. :(

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  • 2 months later...

So the decision has been made and the trip is booked. We leave tomorrow for 4 days in Orlando. Monday we will be at Universal and Tuesday at IoA. We have lunch reservations for Mythos and we got our fast passes to make sure we are able to hit every ride in the park.... so excited a TR will be coming sometime when we get back.... Thanks for all of the help KICers

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