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Orlando, Florida, is rife with theme parks. Whether you’re wanting to visit SeaWorld, one of Walt Disney World’s many parks or Universal Studios Florida, you’ve got a lot of options.
Two popular choices are Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios Florida. Although somewhat similar in name and offering a similarly thrilling experience, the parks are owned by separate companies — each with unique value propositions.
Let’s look at Disney Hollywood Studios versus Universal Studios Florida, what these parks offer and which one is right for your vacation.
The main difference between Hollywood Studios vs. Universal Studios
Is Hollywood Studios the same as Universal Studios? No, it’s not. Although both theme parks are focused on film and television, they’re entirely separate.
Hollywood Studios is owned by The Walt Disney Co., while Universal Studios Florida is owned by NBCUniversal. These companies are often rivals, especially in the Orlando theme park space, so it’s important to know the difference between the two.
Aside from ownership, the biggest difference between these theme parks is the type of intellectual property you’ll find inside. Disney’s Hollywood Studios features the likes of "Toy Story," "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones," while Universal Studios Florida includes attractions with "Harry Potter," "Men in Black" and "Transformers."
» Learn more: How much does it cost to go to Universal Studios?
Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida opened in 1990 as the first park in what would become the Universal Orlando Resort. Nowadays, the resort also features the CityWalk, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, all of which are near each other.
As the original Universal theme park in Orlando, Universal Studios Florida focuses on the broad spectrum of intellectual property that the company maintains.
Disney Hollywood Studios isn’t the same as Universal Studios Florida, which can easily be seen when you look at the attractions.
There are 13 attractions available to guests at Universal Studios, including roller coasters, 3D rides and a highly themed version of Hogsmeade Station from "Harry Potter." This includes its own Hogwarts Express, which transports guests between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.
The pricing of Universal vs. Hollywood Studios isn’t all that different. Both parks charge upward of $100 per day, though Universal’s tickets start at $109 depending on when you’re visiting.
This price is valid for a one-day, one-park ticket, which means you’ll be able to enter only Universal Studios Florida or Islands of Adventure — not both.
However, Universal often runs promotions giving extra days for free on multiday tickets, so it’s worth checking for these promotions before buying a ticket.
» Learn more: How to get discounted Universal Studios tickets
If you don’t have much time to visit or you simply don’t enjoy waiting in line, Universal sells Express Passes that allow you to skip the regular queue.
The price for an Express Pass will vary based on how many parks you’re visiting and how busy the park is. Note that this cost is in addition to your park admission.
There are two types of Express Passes available for Universal Studios Florida:
Universal Express Pass: This pass allows you to skip the line at most rides in Universal Studios Florida a single time. Prices start at $89 per day.
Universal Express Unlimited Pass: This pass allows you to skip the line at most rides in Universal Studios Florida as many times as you’d like. Prices for the pass start at $119 per day.
» Learn more: Is Universal Express Pass worth it?
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Because we now know that Hollywood Studios isn’t the same as Universal Studios, how do the pair differ? We’ve already talked about Universal Studios — now it’s time to dig into Hollywood Studios.
Opened in 1989, Disney’s Hollywood Studios was originally named Disney-MGM Studios. Its name changed in 2008, though the park remained the same. Hollywood Studios is part of the Walt Disney World Resort, which includes four theme parks, Disney Springs and a pair of water parks.
Disney has a large number of cinematic hits in its catalog, which is clearly visible at Hollywood Studios. There are 33 attractions within the theme park, though this includes several shows and character experiences, not just rides.
Theming runs the gamut at Hollywood Studios. In one land, guests can board a "Toy Story"-themed roller coaster; in another, they can practice steering the Millennium Falcon spaceship from "Star Wars."
Hollywood Studios is slightly more expensive than Universal Studios Florida. Prices start at $124 for a one-day, one-park ticket, though the price can increase during busy times.
Those visiting for multiple days will save money on their per-day pricing; the longer you stay, the less expensive it gets. While it can be difficult to save money on a Disney vacation, those who are Florida residents can snag discounted tickets; the same is true for members of the military.
» Learn more: How to plan a trip to Walt Disney World
Genie+ and Lightning Lane
Disney debuted its Genie+ and Lightning Lane offerings in October 2021. Like Universal’s Express Pass, Genie+ allows guests to skip the standard queue on certain attractions.
The price of Genie+ varies depending on demand, but it starts at $15 per person, per day. It’s important to note that Genie+ doesn’t entitle you to unlimited, front-of-the-line access to all rides.
Lightning Lane access is limited to one use per attraction per day, and the most popular rides aren’t included. Instead, Individual Lightning Lane access is used for these in-demand rides; pricing starts at $7 per ride.
» Learn more: Ways to save on your Disney vacation
Universal Studios vs. Hollywood Studios, recapped
Comparing Universal Studios Florida and Disney’s Hollywood Studios means taking a hard look at what these two theme parks offer. Although both are based on thrills revolving around movies and television, that’s where the similarities end.
Hollywood Studios is owned by The Walt Disney Co. and costs slightly more, though you’ll be able to enjoy more attractions ranging from "Star Wars" to "Frozen."
Universal Studios, meanwhile, is owned by NBCUniversal and charges a little less than Disney. This park is also full of excellent attractions, including entertainment from "Despicable Me" and a must-visit "Harry Potter"-themed land.
(Top photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)
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