Top 4 Reasons Not To Skip Universal Orlando

Less Planning Worries

I am a planner. I have lists of lists. And while I’m not saying that you can just rock up at the Universal gates and expect to just get everything done, you won’t need to worry about reservations 180 days in advance. It feels quite relaxing to know that you don’t need to reserve your meals six months in advance and that there is no option to book fast passes weeks before.

Sure there are some restaurants, where you can reserve a table, and an Express Pass you can buy exists – but you don’t have to! You can show up at a restaurant and will be seated (maybe after a little wait), this counts for the parks as well as CityWalk. There is no complicated FastPass system, you either have bought an Express Pass or are staying at a Premier hotel (where it is in included) or you will be queuing, standard first come first serve.

So have a good idea of what you want to do and in which order, as you would for any theme park visit. Only here you make the schedule, not your reservations.

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More Compact Area

Let’s face it, there’s a reason you need a very long time to see all of WDW, it’s huge! While USF is growing, it still can nowhere near be compared. Both have their pro’s and con’s but right now I’ll just focus on the benefit: once you’re on property, you can easily walk everywhere. There are other methods of transportation but if you’re somewhat good on foot, Universal is your oyster. You can walk from one park to the other within minutes, and all the hotels and dining options are scattered along the way on CityWalk.

This leads to easier park-hopping, although I’d recommend the Hogwarts Express for this, and overall more flexibilty. Don’t be fooled though, you’ll still need some good footwear and get ouf of bed early.

Thrills En Mass

Don’t get me wrong, I love the rides at Walt Disney World, I will happily queue forever to meet characters and get a numb behind from waiting for a show to start…. but: IoA, and USF, definitely cater more towards the thrill seekers coming to Orlando. Between the Hulk and Hollywood’s Rip Ride Rockit, you’ll need to bring your courage with you. Besides this, there are also plenty of fantastic motion rides and a few ‘smaller’ rides for the younger audience.

The technology featured in the Wizarding World rides is ground-breaking, and the King Kong ride promises yet another unique experience.

Even the water rides feature intense drops. On this note: IoA also has the wettest ride I have ever experienced; Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges will leave you completely soaked!

rsz_101_1627 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I mean, do I need to say much more on this point? The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, split between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida, is one of the most immersive lands created in theme parks in a long time. I would even go so far to say it’s currently the most immersive land in any theme park.

Created in collaboration with  J. K. Rowling and staying true to the visuals of the movies, it comes as no surprise that any Potter-head feels as if they have returned home. However, non Potter-fans can appreciate the World as well. The area is filled with so many details, your eyes won’t know where to look first. Furthermore, the Wizarding World offers some of the best dining and shopping locations in both parks.

There is so much to see and do at Universal Orlando, I can’t recommend a visit highly enough! Take two or three days and enjoy all there is offered!

  • SteveR

    Folks should set aside their bias against “all theme parks other than Disney” and take a couple of days from your WDW vacation and go to Universal and IOA!

    If you stay one night at one of the deluxe hotels; Portofino Bay, Hard Rock, and Royal Pacific, you get Free Universal Express Unlimited passes for both parks for your check in day and check out day.

  • Joelk

    Reasons to skip Universal:
    1. Unreasonable wait times, and the feeling of being a 2nd class citizen, as hundreds of other park goers cut in front of you, unless you’re willing to spring for the Express Pass or can afford to stay at one of their upscale resorts.
    2. Notoriously poor treatment of handicapped guests.
    3. Rude ride attendants.
    4. Unkempt and uncleaned seating areas in counter-serve restaurants.
    5. Trash-filled and foul-smelling attraction queue areas.

    • Disney_Gal

      Hmmmm….that was definitely not our experience. To be honest, We’ve been sadly disappointed with Disney on our last two trips for many of the reasons you’ve listed here. Disney has changed and it looks to me like Universal is seeing the opportunity and stepping up their game. We found the customer service was better at Universal as well and for the first time ever, I felt the need to write to Disney after our trip and tell them about the poor service (I never complain about service and lean towards giving the benefit of the doubt). I’m sad to say that my ‘Disney-crazed’ family is now more excited about going back to Universal than they are Disney :( P.S…..the cars ride had a 180 minute wait.

    • Laurel Lane

      I would add:
      6. Theming is not very good. You get portions of one ride intruding onto another section of the park that doesn’t have anything to do with it.
      7. I couldn’t find a decent place to eat after 7:00 p.m.; most restaurants were closed.
      8. If you stay at one of their resorts (beautiful as they are), they charge you for parking which Disney does not do. If I’m staying at your hotel and laying down that much money to do so, parking should be free.
      9. And if staying at their hotels, I could not find a restaurant that was reasonably priced; it was all upscale. No affordable food courts, etc.

      • Robert Shawyer

        Parking is no longer free at any Disney World Resort or Park

        • Laurel Lane

          It was when I originally responded. And don’t think I’m not angry about that…. Can’t find a single good reason why they changed that other than greed.

    • SweetCaroline

      Went to Universal mid-October during a WDW trip in 2016 and had a great day! I can’t speak to your second point, but we didn’t experience any of your other points. We didn’t have an Express Pass but did all we wanted to: extensively toured all of WWOHP (big fans), plus 4 other rides including losing a lot of time in Kong because of technical difficulties (approx 90 mins) and we didn’t even stay until closing. So we feel we got a lot done compared to WDW. And it was refreshing to not over-plan our day. It was only our first visit so we have limited experience at Universal… maybe a regular would have more opportunities to see ‘bad’ days?

    • LLions

      Totally agree. Our family had the same impression when we went. The park food was awful!!!! It is not DISNEY quality but you pay DISNEY prices to get in!

  • Mike Gillispie

    I am an annual pass holder at WDW. I’m here to tell you there is only one thing keeping me from Universal, the loud rock music. When I go to the movie theater at City Walk, that loud music is unbearable. I have been told it permeates throughout the theme parks. I don’t know, if this is true or not. I have asked this question on various sites and never received an answer. If nothing else I want to ride the Hogwart s express so badly and see the Macy s Christmas parade, but not with the loud rock. And I love rock.

    • Beth04

      We were just there and as soon as you get over towards the parks, the music is gone. Next time you’re there, walk that way and you’ll hear the noise die down quickly (you don’t have to even go into the parks to notice). Islands and Universal also have their own theme music but it’s not intrusive and it’s a nice part of the theme.

  • Raymond M

    I enjoy Universal, but there are two reasons we have stopped going there.
    1- It used to be that Universal was cheaper and less crowded than Disney. Now, it has become just as expensive and is pushing the crowd levels to a point where it isn’t worth it anymore. Sure, there is WWofHP, but it isn’t enough to keep me coming year after year. That being said, I don’t see Universal avoiding the advanced planning disease that Disney has for the same reasons Disney does it. So enjoy what little left you have of time at Universal without advanced reservations.
    2- I have 2 family members that are wheelchair bound and Universal is no where even close to Disney in the level of service and accommodations that are made for these guests. It seems that Universal does enough, while Disney goes beyond.

  • Samantha Kumorkiewicz

    I had looked into going to Universal mostly because of the WWoHP but I was really disappointed to find out that most of the rides are simulators which I can not ride because I have really bad motion sickness that moving and looking at a screen makes me really sick and my daughter doesn’t like them. She does love rollercoasters and she would ride those but I don’t and she’s not old enough to wait in line or ride by herself. I still really wanted to see the WWoHP still just to walk around look at it, shop and eat but it would cost $380 for one day, two park pass for the two of us! To me that is a ridiculous amount of money to spend just to look around. I’ll stick with Disney since it seems to be more cost efficient for what you get.

  • mytrek

    WDW and Universal both have their high points….But after 25 straight years of Disney, I am put off by the regimented vacation planning. We are now “done with Disney” for a couple of years…and when the grandkids do return, they also enjoy SeaWorld, We usually go to Universal about every 5 years, just to do something different/see what’s new. The last time we went for the Harry Potter area, we couldn’t do two of the rides (coasters) which my hubbie won’t do, and the other ride had seats too tight for us to fit in…me around the middle and hubbie’s shoulders (claustraphobic)…so we drowned our sorrows in a pumpkin beer and hit a few favorites before heading for the conveyors to the parking lot. Too much of Universal has been “standing attractions” which is very tiring for us oldsters, but the boundless energy of youth will have a blast at Islands and UStudos!

  • Good points. I love how easy it is to navigate between the parks. In general, I think that Disney fans look at the thrill rides and don’t see all the other highly themed attractions that are available. Even looking beyond Harry Potter, rides like Spider-man, Men in Black, The Mummy, Kong, and many more are all worth doing. It’s a different vibe, but Universal is doing amazing things with theme park technology these days.

  • MrNico

    Thinking about doing one day there in April during our WDW trip, but ticket prices are high!

  • Caitlin

    Would you say the same for Universal in California? We went there about eight years ago and were *really* disappointed. Half the rides were closed, those that were open had long waits, most of the restaurants were closed, and the first thing we saw when we walked through the gates were people from a bank trying to sell credit cards. It really put us off after getting used to the standard at Disneyland.