Universal Orlando and My Disney Family

Is your family a “Disney Family” like mine is? Having two little girls who love Disney Princesses, I always thought what better vacation is there for them than a trip to Walt Disney World? Well, as it turns out, Universal Orlando in Florida can give Disney a run for its money, even with families who love Disney Princesses.

For our last annual summer vacation, we decided to “try” two nights at Universal Orlando, just before our seven night Disney World vacation. We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel, which is right on site at Universal.

Fewer steps for little legs

When staying at the Hard Rock Hotel, the entrance to Universal Studios Florida and CityWalk is just a short walk away. It’s certainly on par with the walk from Disney’s Contemporary Resort to the Magic Kingdom.

Further, the two parks, Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, are extremely close to each other, separated by a really nice walk through CityWalk. And now that the Hogwarts Express train is there, you don’t even have to make that walk if you don’t want to.

As parents of children who can walk for miles until we get to that mile (i.e. boring…to them) loop in Epcot’s World Showcase, having everything be so close together can by quite refreshing for families with young children.

Universal Express 

When staying at one of the premium Universal hotels, like the Hard Rock Hotel, an unlimited Universal Express pass is included for everyone in the family. This pass lets you “skip” the line for many attractions. It is similar to Disney World’s FastPass+, but you don’t reserve it in advance. Just show up, scan your pass, and skip the line. Sure, sometimes there is a wait even with the Express pass, but it’s always much shorter wait than the regular line and it’s incredibly worth it, considering that the price of a room at the Hard Rock Hotel is comparable to a Disney Deluxe hotel room.

The unlimited nature of the Universal Express pass that comes with the room allows families to experience many attractions in a short amount of time. For our family, this meant that we didn’t feel rushed, and had plenty of time to wander around, take it easy, and even swim in the pool. Plus, we were able to ride Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls three times in a row!

Relevant Theming

Universal has something for everyone. Yes, there are some fairly intense thrill rides, the likes of which would never be seen at Disney (like Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit), but there were plenty of rides that even two little girls could enjoy. At Islands of Adventure, all of the attractions in Seuss Landing are often a big hit.


While the Jurassic Park River Adventure had some scary elements, even my 5-year old declared it “fun” in the end, and we went on again and again. There is even a ride called Pteranodon Flyers that adults can only go on if they have a child with them.

Toon Lagoon also has a lot of unique attractions, including our family favorite:  Dudley-Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.

At Universal Studios Florida, parents can relive their childhood by experiencing the E.T. Adventure with their children. I was about my kids’ age when the original movie came out, and this ride gave me a great excuse to watch this classic movie with them when we got home.

The highly themed Simpsons area and ride are colorful, funny and fun, and even if your kids have never heard of The Simpsons, chances are they will love it.


These two words pretty much sum up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter for my two princesses. They did ride the Flight of the Hippogriff half a dozen times, but really had no interest in the other Harry Potter rides and experiences. But, boy oh boy did they love their Butterbeer!

Time to Go to Universal!

While Disney World would seem to have cornered the market on families with Disney Princess fanatics, my experience suggests that Universal can offer something just as compelling for these children as well. In fact, Universal has become the most requested vacation destination in our house, and we’ll be adding on another day to the Universal portion of our next trip.

What do you think…could Universal have something for your Disney family?

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