Which is the better studios theme park in Orlando? Today we are comparing Disney’s Hollywood Studios vs. Universal Studios Florida to see which park is best for your vacation.
They are not the same park and are actually not even at the same resort.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is located at the Walt Disney World resort. Universal Studios Florida is located at the Universal Orlando Resort.
First we need to address the fact that neither Universal Studios or Hollywood Studios are actually working studios anymore.
At one point Disney’s Hollywood Studios, formerly MGM Studios, did film TV shows on property.
They had soundstages that produced The Mickey Mouse Club as well as a production of Disney Animation. Currently most of Disney filming is done in California.
Universal Studios had Nickelodeon Studios that filmed popular Nickelodeon TV shows. That has closed but soundstages at Universal Studios Florida are sometimes used for filming.
This is not open to the public the way Universal Studios Hollywood tram tour is. If there is a special event filming you may get a chance to see it but most filming is done on closed sets, if any at all.
Note: This article is about Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios Florida located in the Orlando area. Not Universal Hollywood or the Disneyland resort.
If you are visiting the Southern California theme parks you should read this post: 9 Day Southern California Itinerary for Your Theme Park Vacation
Overview of Hollywood Studios vs. Universal Studios
Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios both offer a wide variety of rides and attractions, shows, character experiences, and dining.
To decide what theme park is the best one for your trip to Orlando you need to know a little bit about both parks.
What to Know About Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is located at the Walt Disney World resort. It is one of the four main Disney parks.
You will find thrill rides as well as rides for the whole family.
What to Know About Universal Studios
Universal Studios is located at the Universal Orlando Resort. It is one of two (soon to be three) theme parks. Universal’s Islands of Adventure is the other park.
Universal Studios most popular area is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. There are Harry Potter attractions at both of the Universal parks.
I will go into more details on everything you can find at both parks later in this post. Both parks offer unique experiences.
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Cost Comparison for Hollywood Studios vs. Universal Studios
Expect to pay about the same when visiting Hollywood Studios or Universal Studios for the day.
Tickets for the theme parks start around $109.00 a single day and can go higher depending on the time of year you visit.
The best way to save on your tickets is to stay longer at one of the theme parks.
This means you will spend less money purchasing a 5 day ticket to Disney World instead of purchasing 3 days at Disney and 2 days at Universal.
It works the same for Universal. The more park days you purchase the less per day you pay. If you are on a budget you may want to choose one theme park resort to visit for your vacation.
We like to alternate between visiting Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. It really depends on how much time you have for your trip to decide what is the better choice.
Where to Stay When Visiting Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Orlando on-site resorts offer accommodations for all budgets. We prefer to stay on-site because on-site guests receive early entry into the parks as well as bus and boat transportation to the parks.
A few resorts are also within walking distance to Universal Studios Florida. I have written reviews for the resorts we have stayed in if you would like to learn more.
- 4 Benefits to Staying at Hard Rock Hotel Orlando with Kids
- Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort Family Suites Room and Resort Review
- Universal Endless Summer Resort Dockside Review
- Endless Summer Resort: Surfside Inn and Suites Review
Where to Stay When Visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Walt Disney World is a much larger resort and they have over 30 hotels. If you are visiting Hollywood Studios specifically you may want to consider staying at a Disney Skyliner Resort.
All Disney World resorts offer transportation to Hollywood Studios by bus or boat but the Skyliner resorts provide a gondola ride to the parks.
We have stayed at all of the Skyliner resorts. If you want to learn more read our reviews below.
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort Review for Families
- Disney Art of Animation Review and Family Suite Room Tour
- Disney’s Riviera Resort Review for a Family of Five
We have also stayed at Disney’s Caribbean Beach which is a great moderate resort for families. All resorts also offer 30 minute early entry to Hollywood Studios.
Rides at Hollywood Studios vs. Universal Studios
Best Rides at Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios has many rides that are great for all ages. Some of our favorites are Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and Slinky Dog Dash.
Most attractions are for young kids but there is a roller coaster called Rock and Roller Coaster that has a 48 inch height requirement.
There is also a Star Tours ride, Toy Story Midway Mania and Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that are popular.
I go into more details in this article: 12 Best Attractions at Hollywood Studios
The Star Wars and Toy Story land at Hollywood Studios are so much fun to walk through. Star Wars is particularly immersive.
If you have a Star Wars fan in your group you will want to spend a lot of time in Galaxy’s Edge. Guests can build a droid or light saber, and walk in a fully immersive Star Wars land.
Best Rides at Universal Studios
Universal Studios has The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley which has one of my favorite Universal theme park rides: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.
There is a Minion Land, Transformers attraction, the classic E.T. ride, Hollwwood Rip Ride Rockit, and Revenge of the Mummy ride.
In summer of 2024 Dreamworks will be getting a new land at Universal Studios too.
Universal Studios rides are a bit more intense than the majority of rides at Hollywood Studios. Although with Dreamworks that will change a bit.
I go into full details in this post: Universal Studios Height Requirements and Scare Factor (A Guide for Families)
If you are looking for Harry Potter you want to visit Universal Studios. For big Potter fans I suggest planning time to visit both parks.
One reason to visit both parks is the Hogwarts Express. This is the train that will transport guests between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
It requires a park-to-park ticket to experience it because Diagon Alley is at Universal Studios and Hogsmeade is at Islands of Adventure, but it really is a must do for Harry Potter fans.
Both resorts offer early entry into the parks before the general public to get on the most popular attractions first.
If you want to avoid the lines Universal and Disney both offer a line skipping add-on.
Universal has Universal’s Express Pass which is pricey but allows guests to skip lines without making reservations. Find out how to get express pass for free in this article.
Disney has Genie+ which allows guests to use Lightning Lane for specific attractions. This is purchased day of your visit.
Shows at Hollywood Studios vs. Universal Studios
Hollywood Studios shows include Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage, Disney Junior Play and Dance, Disney Movie Magic, Fantasmic, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, and Wonderful World of Animation.
Universal Studios has Ollivanders Experience at Diagon Alley, The Bourne Stuntacular, Animal Actors on Location, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show, and The Blues Brothers Show.
Both parks have live entertainment and live music throughout the parks.
Characters at Hollywood Studios vs. Universal Studios
At Hollywood Studios you will find classic characters like Mickey and Minnie, Star Wars characters, and Toy Story characters. Meet and greets change often, be sure to check My Disney Experience app for up to date characters.
Universal Studios has the Minions, Scooby-Doo, Hello Kitty, as well as characters from Harry Potter.
Do not expect to meet Harry Potter or any of the main characters at the parks. The Wizarding World characters you will find are the Knight Bus Driver and other characters that support the story.
Dining at Hollywood Studios vs. Universal Studios
Both of the parks offer quick service and table service dining options. If you are interested in table service at Disney reservations need to be made 60 days in advance.
Reservations at Universal are a bit easier to make but I try to do it a few weeks before.
We typically do quick service meals but when we want to do something special we will book a sit down.
At Disney World Hollywood and Vine has a character meal and they also have a new Toy Story themed restaurant Roundup Rodeo BBQ.
At Universal we love to dine at Leaky Cauldron which is a quick service Harry Potter themed restaurant. Finnegans is an Irish Pub that we have made reservations for when looking for a sit down inside the park.
Universal is so close to Universal CityWalk that guests can dine at one of the popular restaurants there.
This list will help you pick a great one: Best Restaurants at Universal Orlando Resort with Kids
What Park is Better Hollywood Studios vs. Universal Studios
So which park is the better choice for your theme park vacation?
It is such a personal decision and a lot goes into making the best choice for your family.
If you are visiting with young children Disney may be a better choice due to the height requirements at Universal Studios.
Traveling with a Harry Potter fan? You have to visit the Universal parks!
We have been visiting both parks since my kids were small and each visit we find something new that we love.
When making the choice do what is best for you and your family, you won’t regret either one!
Both theme parks are great places to visit. Start with this article planning a Walt Disney World vacation if you are visiting Disney World. Visiting Universal Orlando? Check out Guide to Planning a Trip to Universal Orlando (2023).
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Leah has been traveling with her family of 5 since 2012 and sharing her expertise on planning family vacations and visiting theme parks since 2016. Leah has been featured in Visit Rochester, Undercover Tourist, and Home Publications. She has worked with brands like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Hersheypark, Toyota, and various Tourism boards and destinations. Leah creates family travel itineraries based on real trip experiences with her family. Her guides and tips help others plan great family vacations. Learn more about Leah and Five for the Road.