Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure

While both offer something for Harry Potter fans to enjoy, the parks differ primarily in theme and energy.
Natasha Etzel
By Natasha Etzel 
Updated
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

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If you’re planning a trip to Orlando, Florida and are a fan of amusement parks, a visit to Universal Orlando may be on your list. However, a trip to Universal can come with many questions. Mainly, should you spend the day at Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure?

The primary difference between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure is their theming. Universal Studios is focused on movies and television shows, while Islands of Adventure is themed around superheroes and magical creatures.

Both parks include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter offerings, but rides and experiences differ.

Here is what you need to know before packing your bags and heading to Florida. 

Key differences between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure 

If you’re planning a trip soon, you may wonder which parks are worth a visit. It depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for and what rides you enjoy. Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are two of the three Universal Orlando Resort amusement parks.

The main differences between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios are the themes. Universal Studios centers around TV shows and movies, and various rides reflect that.

On the other hand, Islands of Adventure features adventure and thrill rides, as the park is themed around superheroes and magical creatures.

When it comes to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios features Diagon Alley, while Islands of Adventure has Hogsmeade. 

The hours of operation for each park differ from day to day. The parks are located within walking distance of each other and it’s possible to buy a park-to-park ticket, which gives guests access to both parks on the same day.

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are each situated between City Walk, which has shopping, entertainment and dining options. 

🤓Nerdy Tip

You don’t need a park admission ticket to access City Walk, but parking fees may apply. 

Alternatively, guests with park-to-park tickets can ride the Hogwarts Express train between Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios. This is a fun experience that Harry Potter fans will love. 

What to expect at Universal Studios

(Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort)

Universal Studios offers 13 rides and attractions for visitors, young and old. Some of the top rides and attractions include: 

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

  • E.T. Adventure.

  • Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. 

  • Race Through New York, starring Jimmy Fallon.

  • Revenge of the Mummy.

  • The Simpsons Ride (pictured above).

What to expect at Islands of Adventure 

(Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort)

Most rides and attractions at Islands of Adventure are made with thrill-seekers in mind. The park offers 19 rides and attractions, including:

  • Flights of the Hippogriff. 

  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

  • Jurassic World VelociCoaster (pictured above).

  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. 

  • The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. 

  • The Incredible Hulk Coaster.

Admission costs

You may wonder about the cost of visiting either park as you plan your vacation budget. Universal Orlando Resort ticket prices vary by date and season — a common practice for amusement parks.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Visiting either or both parks during the off-season can help you keep more money in your pocket. Another way to save on the cost of admission is to purchase multi-day tickets. 

The good news is it costs the same amount of money to visit either park. You can visit Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on the same day with a park-to-park ticket or visit only one of the parks by purchasing a one-park ticket. 

One-day, one-park ticket

For guests who want to spend the day at one of the two parks, the following ticket prices apply: 

  • Adults: $109 to $159 for a dated ticket or $165 for a flexible non-dated ticket for entry to Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure. 

  • Kids: $104 to $154 for a dated ticket or $160 for a flexible non-dated ticket for entry to Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure.

One-day, two-park ticket 

For guests hoping to visit both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure on the same date, the following ticket prices apply: 

  • Adults: $164 to $214 for a dated ticket or $220 for a flexible non-dated ticket with park-to-park access on the same date.  

  • Kids: $159 to $209 for a dated ticket or $215 for a flexible non-dated ticket for park-to-park access on the same date.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Using a travel credit card to book your reservations and attraction tickets is an excellent way to earn rewards for your spending. 

So, which is better — Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure

If you can afford a park-to-park ticket or have extra time to visit the parks for multiple days, it may make sense to go to both parks. 

But if not, consider which park will offer you the best experience based on your interests and the type of amusement park experience you prefer. Universal Studios may be for you if you prefer a park centered around movies and TV with a more laid-back atmosphere. If you like superheroes and thrill rides, you’ll want to travel to Islands of Adventure.

No matter what you decide, it’ll be a fun experience. 

(Top photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort)


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