If you are not someone that is constantly researching and traveling (like me! LOL), you may find the Orlando area theme parks a bit overwhelming. Orlando is a huge hub for a number of theme parks for your family to enjoy, and keeping all of the names and brands in order can be a lot.
One of the biggest confusions that people seem to encounter is the difference between Universal Studios and Hollywood Studios.
The big question comes about… is Universal Studios the same as Hollywood Studios?
You hear about both parks, and many aren’t aware that they are actually two completely separate and totally unrelated theme parks. Just to add another layer to this confusion, Universal’s theme parks in California are known as Universal Studios Hollywood. Hence, if you are not fully versed in the differences, it is easy to assume that all the parks are related somehow.
Look no further for an explanation of Universal Studios vs Hollywood Studios!
Today we will break down everything you need to know about Universal Studios vs. Hollywood Studios parks, and by the end of this guide, you will fully understand the difference and be able to use this information to make an educated decision on which park (or both) that you may want to visit with your friends and family.
This post is part of our Orlando family travel series
Similar Names, Different Experiences
While Universal Studios and Hollywood Studios have similar names, they are two completely unique experiences. Universal Studios Orlando is owned by the Universal Studios brand, while Hollywood Studios is a part of the Walt Disney World Company.
Both are great parks and a fun experience to be had, but there are distinguishable differences, and if you only have the time to visit one or the other, you will want to ensure that you choose the park that will best suit your idea of fun. Both parks feature hit movies from their franchises, so it depends on your interests.
Here are a few things to consider when making your choice between which park you would like to visit:
- Interests: At Hollywood Studios, you will find rides and attractions that feature many hit films from the Disney franchise, including Star Wars films and Disney/Pixar films such as Toy Story. Comparatively, Universal Studios features a large variety of films, including kids’ movies such as Shrek and Despicable Me but there are also rides and attractions that feature some of the biggest films for adults as well, including The Terminator, Men in Black, the Fast & Furious Franchise, and so much more. A visit to either park will be a treat for movie enthusiasts!
- Age: While both parks can be a good time for people of all ages, Hollywood Studios is a part of the Disney franchise and tends to be looked at more for kids/young teens compared to Universal Studios. Both parks feature rides and attractions that vary from calm and relaxed to thrill and excitement, so you can find something for everyone with either park.
- Cost: Cost is another factor you may want to consider when deciding between each park. Both Hollywood Studios and Universal Orlando have varying admission prices based on seasons and availability. Estimated Costs are as follows:
- Hollywood Studios: $109-$189 USD per ticket per day
- Universal Orlando: Single Park Tickets – $109+ USD per ticket, per day
Park to Park Ticket – $164+ USD per ticket, per day
A Deeper Look into Each Park
As we mentioned above, Hollywood Studios has a variety of rides featuring a number of famous films from the Disney brand as well as other key topics in Hollywood, including music.
Rides and Attractions
Popular rides and attractions at Hollywood Studios Include:
- Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run – Based on the Star Wars films, in this ride, you will board the Millennium Falcon and embark on a mission with other riders and the Star Wars crew. Depending on where you are placed, you will be assigned a vital role in the mission’s success.
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – In this attraction, you will have a seat inside an old-style haunted elevator lift as you enter the Twilight Zone. You will plunge up and down as the ride takes you through scenes from the TV Series.
- Slinky Dog Dash – This one is a more recent addition to the Hollywood Studios lineup, and it has been a big hit! You will climb aboard Slink, everyone’s favorite dog from Toy Story, and he will race you through Andy’s backyard as you see toys, fun activities, and more!
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith – See! I told you that Hollywood Studios isn’t just Disney. The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster attraction allows you to hop into your very own limousine as you race through the streets of New York City in order to get Aerosmith to their concert. You’ll have a blast as you zip through the streets and rock out to Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roll classic tunes! Note: Currently Closed for Refurbishment
- Toy Story Mania! – Toy Story Mania is one of the most well-known and popular attractions at Hollywood Studios. It is a spinning 3-D experience where riders will climb into their ride car and ride through Andy’s room as you use your laser to shoot down targets.
While there is a large variety of rides and attractions at Hollywood Studios, when it comes to Live Entertainment, it is primarily focused on Disney characters that, in my opinion, are geared more toward younger kids. Some popular live attractions include:
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage – Enjoy a live Broadway-style version of the Disney classic film Beauty and the Beast! This show is entertaining, a great way to see a new version of a Disney favorite, and a great way to spend some time out of the warm weather and relax.
- For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration – Frozen has had a huge impact on the World of Disney, making this live Frozen celebration a popular attraction at Hollywood Studios. During this hour-long spectacular, you will enjoy Frozen-themed stories, songs, and more!
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – If you’re looking for some action, you won’t want to miss out on the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! During this show, you will see a number of exciting action stunts as Indiana Jones goes on a dangerous mission.
There are approximately 30 dining options at Hollywood Studios, including snacks, casual quick-service dining, and table service. Some of the most popular dining options include:
- Backlot Express (Quick Service, American Cuisine)
- Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo (Quick Service, American Cuisine)
- Rosie’s All American Cafe (Quick Service, American Cuisine)
- Hollywood & Vine (Buffet Style, American Cuisine)
- Mama Melrose’s Ristorante (Table Service, Italian Cuisine)
- The Hollywood Brown Derby (Fine Dining, American Cuisine)
Universal Studios Orlando
Rides and Attractions
The list of rides and attractions at Universal Studios is a bit more comprehensive because the park is broken into two separate parks, Universal Studios Florida as well as Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
Both sides of the park have a number of popular attractions and the well-known Wizarding World of Harry Potter is split between both sides of the park. In order to enjoy the entirety of the park, you are required to purchase a park hopper ticket that will allow you to cross between the two parks.
Here is a little deeper dive into what you can expect for attractions at each of these parks.
Universal Studios Florida
- E.T. Adventure: On this attraction, you will climb onto your very own bicycle and ride through the sky as you help E.T. get to his home planet and save it before it dies! This a very cool and fun ride yet gentle and relaxing.
- MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack: Nothing is cooler than going on a mission with the Men in Black. On this adventure, you will board your ride vehicle and ride through the streets of New York while you save the city from Aliens using your blaster.
- Revenge of the Mummy: This one is a ride with some thrills and excitement! You will be going high speed back and forth, escaping evil, and before you know it, you will be freefalling, not knowing what you may fall into.
- Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts: On this wild adventure, you will make your way through Gringotts with the help of Harry Potter and his friends, Ron and Hermoine. Watch out for Lord Voldemort and his evil minions, that will do everything they can to diminish your chances of escaping.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure
- Jurassic World VelociCoaster: If you are looking for a high-speed ride, don’t miss out on the VelociCoaster! You will climb aboard and make your way through the jungle as you race alongside dinosaurs of all kinds.
- The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man: If you have any Spiderman lovers on your hands, you can’t miss out on this attraction. This 3-D experience will put you right into New York City as you help Spidey to save the day.
- Flight of the Hippogriff: Climb aboard your very own Hippogriff and enjoy this rollercoaster for the whole family. You will make your way through the pumpkin patch and forest before finally making it to Hagrid’s Hut.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey: There is nothing quite cooler than taking a journey with Harry Potter and his closest friends. Harry will take you through the halls of Hogwarts and around the castle as you embark on your journey. You can’t miss this one!
In our opinion, Live Entertainment is not as much of a focus at the Universal Studios parks in comparison to Disney parks, but that is not to say there is no live entertainment to enjoy! Some popular shows include:
- The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle: This light show is a sight to be seen. You will enjoy a variety of lighting and projection technology as it illuminates Hogwarts Castle bringing together the four Houses.
- The Frog Choir: While visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, be sure to stop and enjoy the musical stylings of the Frog Choir. They will sing a number of songs, including originals and classic tunes that you may recognize but with a twist.
Similarly to Hollywood Studios, there are a number of dining selections within the Universal Studios parks. The dining establishments vary from food trucks, a quick walk-up style service, and even table service. Popular dining options include:
- Cocina Mexicana (Quick Service, Mexican Cuisine)
- Hollywood & Dine (Quick Service, American Cuisine)
- Krusty Burger (Quick Service, Burgers)
- Mel’s Diner (Quick Service, Classic Diner cuisine)
- Mulligan’s Irish Pub (Table Service, Irish Cuisine)
- Three Broomsticks (Table Service, English Style Cuisine)
- Universal Tower Snack Bar (Snacks)
So Which Will You Pick: Universal Studios or Hollywood Studios?
If you have doubts or are confused about the difference between Universal Studios and Hollywood Studios, I hope this has given you all the clarity you need. All in all, we have found that Hollywood Studios is best suited for those that love the Disney brand with a little edge.
You get the authentic Disney experience but also have the chance to experience some more thrilling rides and experiences.
On the other hand, we have found that Universal Studios is best suited for those that want to enjoy more of a more thrilling experience and are more impressed by “grown-up” films.
As our kids have grown in age, so have their interests and leaning towards particular parks and rides. If time and budget allow, absolutely do both! We explain how to easily get between Disney and Universal here.
If you can only do one on your Orlando trip, you’d need to have a family vote and see which is more popular, combined with ticket packaging costs for each of the theme parks.
Which do you prefer, Universal Studios or Hollywood Studios? We would love to hear from you!
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