Are you trying to figure out which one is better: Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood?
For years, the debate has continued in a never-ending circle of passing off opinions as fact.
The truth is the answer lies in the individual theme parks. Each park offers something unique, fun and special.
Today, I will be comparing the West Coast versions of the parks to figure out which one fits your needs the best!
I will also be chatting about the differences between Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland Resort based on the following:
- Parks & Ride Offerings
- Characters & Shows
- Ticket Costs & Add-ons
- Amount of Days needed to enjoy
- Overall Park Layout
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Brief History: Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood
Before I dive into the difference of Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland, let’s understand how both destinations came to be.
The History of Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood is an actual working movie studio and that’s the original way it started.
In fact, it is one of the oldest and most famous movie studios in the world.
It was also one of the first studios to incorporate tours. This California theme park is located in Universal City, nestled in the San Fernando Valley, is the first Universal Park ever!
Ideas for the park began as an updated tour in 1962 and eventually became the idea of a theme park.
Universal Studios Hollywood Opens!
Opening in July 1964, Universal Studios Hollywood early struggle was figuring out what to offer young children to do, which technically still is still a big problem today.
Over time, particularly in the 1990s, the park reached a big boom and was able to add numerous attractions including:
- Nickelodeon-inspired ones
- E.T. Adventure
- Back to the Future
- Jurassic Park
- Even a Chicken Run walkthrough
Today, Universal Studios Hollywood is still known for the famous Backlot Tour along with innovative, thrilling and family-friendly attractions and lands.
The most recent being the addition of Super Nintendo World which opened on February 17th!
It’s one of the best things to do at Universal Studios Hollywood.
The History of Disneyland
If you are reading this, you most likely know the origin story of Disneyland but let’s go over it for those who don’t.
Walt Disney envisioned a place where adults and children could have fun together while sitting at Griffith Park with his daughters, watching them play.
The park originally would have been adjacent to the Walt Disney Studios, but eventually 160 acres was purchased in Anaheim.
Rather than having a fundraiser for the park, Walt Disney created a “Disneyland” tv show with the ABC Network, who later decided to help fund the theme park.
Construction started July 16, 1954, in which the park opened one year and a day later.
Today, the company as a whole is celebrating 100 years in operation and Disneyland itself has been around for almost 70 years.
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Planning Your Days for Each Theme Park
Let’s know go over how much time you can spend at both California theme parks.
How many days do I need to spend at Universal Studios Hollywood?
Based on my experience, you can easily complete Universal Studios Hollywood in 1-2 days, but realistically 1 day if you plan accordingly.
How many days do I need to spend at Disneyland?
For Disneyland, I would recommend 3-4 days spending 2 days at Disneyland Park and 2 days at Disney California Adventure.
Park Layouts: Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland
It’s now time for me to go over the different layouts between both parks: Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood.
Universal Studios Hollywood Park Layout
For reference, Universal Studios Hollywood has two sections:
- Upper Lot
- Lower Lot
This is due to Universal Studios Hollywood being built on a mountainside.
2023 Universal Studios Hollywood Map
While it has two sections, it is only one park. They also have a small district area that is free to enter unlike the parks.
CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal also has the Universal CityWalk which has numerous shops, quick and table service dining options, a theater and more to enjoy!
The most recent addition is Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. You can park here for a fee and hours vary.
Disneyland Resort Park Layout
Now I’ll go over the different lands at each Disneyland Resort theme park.
The Disneyland Park has 8 Lands:
- Main Street U.S.A.
- New Orleans Square
- Critter Country
Disney California Adventure has 7 Lands:
- Buena Vista Street
- Pixar Pier
- Paradise Gardens Park
- Pacific Wharf
- Grizzly Peak
Same concept but different names. It is currently being revamped to feature these new and exciting additions:
- Porto’s Bakery & Café, an iconic Southern California destination known for its sweet pastries and desserts, as well as delicious California-Cuban-inspired dishes
- Din Tai Fung, a world-renowned, family-run Chinese restaurant specializing in soup dumplings
- An open lawn for relaxation and events
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Hotels: Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood
Now it’s time for me to go through which park has the better options for lodging during your vacation.
The Universal Studios Hollywood Hotels
There are neighboring hotels nearby that range in price that you can stay in and that have packages.
The Disneyland Resort Hotels
At Disneyland Resort, there are 3 on-site hotels that range in price.
- Paradise Pier Hotel: Which is currently being revamped to have a Pixar theme
- Disneyland Hotel
- Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa
There are also lots of hotels that work with Disney called Good Neighbor Hotels.
They have special rates and packages, specifically chosen due to their ability to fit Disney’s standards.
Shows and Character Meet-and-Greets: Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood
Both theme park destinations offer some of the best shows in the country.
Shows such as the Waterworld Stunt Show at Universal Studios Hollywood and Fantasmic! at Disneyland Resort.
For character meet-and-greets, both parks allow you to meet some of your favorite characters.
However, I love how Universal Studios always have so many characters roaming the park throughout the day.
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Rides & Attractions: Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland
Now we’re on to the good stuff…the rides and attractions!
Rides at Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood has a total of 20 rides and attractions including character sightings.
Two Shows have closed as of this post to make way for the rumored Fast and Furious roller coaster.
The rides at Universal Studios Hollywood range from family-friendly to high-thrill.
Rides at Disneyland Resort
Disneyland has a total of 53 attractions with 49 rides, actually having more than Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Disney California Adventure has 34 in total. The list for both can be found here.
That’s quite a lot for each theme park when compare Universal Studios Hollywood.
Distance for LAX (Los Angeles International Airport): Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland Resort
One of the things you must consider when visiting these theme parks is the distance from the popular LAX Airport.
How far is LAX from Disneyland?
One of the cons for going using LAX for Disneyland is its distance and that’s usually the drawback for some people.
LAX is 35 miles away from Disneyland, but the catch is that it can take a while to get there depending on traffic.
How far is LAX from Universal Studios Hollywood?
Believe it or not, LAX is 28 miles away from Universal Studios Hollywood. Almost the same distance that LAX is from Disneyland.
As previously mentioned, a drive that should take about 30 minutes is usually about 1 hour from the airport due to the Los Angeles traffic.
Special Events: Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood
Each year, theme parks across the country put on amazing seasonal events for their location and Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood is no different.
Universal Studios Hollywood has six special events throughout the year:
- 4th of July Celebration
- Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- EVE at Universal Studios Hollywood
- The Holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood
- Halloween Horror Nights
Some of these events require a separate special admission ticket.
Disneyland Resort Special Events
Both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have a variety of festivals and special events throughout the year.
Sometimes they change so I don’t want to give an official list. Here is what is being run currently this year.
As of this post, tickets for Oogie Boogie Bash have not been announced or have gone on sale yet.
Tickets and Add-ons: Universal Studios Hollywood vs. Disneyland Resort
Now it’s time for us to talk about how much all of this will cost for you.
Universal Studios Hollywood Tickets
The Universal Studios Hollywood tickets start at $109 for 1-day admission with 2-day admission starting at $149.
Express Passes start at $199 and VIP experience starts at $399.
You’ll be happy to know that Annual Passes for Universal Studios Hollywood start as low as $8 a month.
When it comes to Disneyland Resort, pricing depends on the day you go.
It depends on if you are doing a park hopper and how many days you’re going.
It should also be noted that Disneyland and Walt Disney World still utilize a theme park pass reservation system.
This means that along with your ticket, you must have a reservation for a park the same day that you plan to attend, or you will not be allowed in.
I recommend that you check the availability calendar prior to purchasing your tickets.
If you’re looking into an add-on experience, pricing has to be inquired by phone for most, which the details can be found here.
Ready to plan your theme park trip? Watch the best vacation planning tips on YouTube. Get started here!
My Final Thoughts on the Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood Smackdown!
So in the end, which park is the best: Universal Studios or Disneyland? You would have to ask yourself the following to find the answer:
- Are you traveling with young children?
- What is your budget?
- Are you traveling with teenagers or adults?
- How many days will you be visiting?
- Are you traveling alone?
- Is there a special occasion?
- What kinds of rides do you like or what interests you?
- Will you be staying in Los Angeles or are you willing to travel across the state a bit?
Asking yourself these questions will determine which is best because every situation and family is different.
Both California theme parks have such great things to offer to those who visit, and you will make happy memories.
Have you visited either Universal Studios Hollywood or Disneyland? Share your thoughts and experiences in our Facebook Group.
Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!
About the Author
About the Author
Victoria is a professional solo traveler here to make your solo trips as stress free AND enjoyable as possible for you.
She has over 5 years of Disney and Non-Disney travel experience and was featured by POPSUGAR as one of the Top 50 Black Disney Creators you should follow.
She is a Proud Native to Baltimore, Md but always will call Disney World home. You can find her at Disney Tea with V.