Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood: Which is Better in 2024?

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:

  • Location
  • Hotels
  • Parks & Ride Offerings
  • Characters & Shows
  • Ticket Costs & Add-ons
  • Distance
  • Amount of Days needed to enjoy
  • Overall Park Layout
Disneyland Resort Sleeping Beauty Castle in California. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Disneyland

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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.

Universal Studios Hollywood Sign. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

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!

Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour view of Universal City California with mountains. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

Ideas for the park began as an updated tour in 1962 and eventually became the idea of a theme park.

Universal Studios Hollywood. Opt in Lead Magnet Blog Banner

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.

Universal Studios Hollywood Jurassic World Ride tunnel with shark. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Jurassic World: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood

Over time, particularly in the 1990s, the park reached a big boom and was able to add numerous attractions including:

Today, Universal Studios Hollywood is still known for the famous Backlot Tour along with innovative, thrilling and family-friendly attractions and lands.

Backlot Studio Tour Universal Studios Hollywood California. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Backlot Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood

The most recent being the addition of Super Nintendo World which opened on February 17th!

Universal Studios Hollywood Super Nintendo World Princess Peach Castle. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

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.

Disneyland Resort Mickey's Toontown Welcome Sign. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

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.

Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind in Avenger's Campus Halloween at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Avengers Campus in Disney California Adventure

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.

Disneyland Resort Mickey Mouse in Disney 100 Anniversary Outfit next to Victoria Wade. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

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.

Universal Studios Hollywood Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

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.

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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 Simpsons Land Springfield USA Krustyland Ride and KwikEMart. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.
Simpsonsland at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood Park Layout

For reference, Universal Studios Hollywood has two sections:

  1. Upper Lot
  2. Lower Lot

This is due to Universal Studios Hollywood being built on a mountainside.

2023 Universal Studios Hollywood Map

Universal Studios Hollywood Map 2023 and 2024 PDF. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.

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.

Universal Studios Hollywood CityWalk Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.

Disneyland Resort Park Layout

Now I’ll go over the different lands at each Disneyland Resort theme park.

Disneyland Resort it's a small world boat ride. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.
Disneyland Resort it’s a small world boat ride

The Disneyland Park has 8 Lands:

  • Main Street U.S.A.
  • Tomorrowland
  • Fantasyland
  • Toontown
  • New Orleans Square
  • Adventureland
  • Critter Country
  • Frontierland
Disneyland Map 2023 PDF. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.
Disneyland Map

Disney California Adventure has 7 Lands:

  • Buena Vista Street
  • Carsland
  • Pixar Pier
  • Paradise Gardens Park
  • Pacific Wharf
  • Grizzly Peak
  • Hollywoodland
Disney California Adventure Map. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.

Downtown Disney

Disneyland has Downtown Disney District not to be confused with Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs.

Ralph Brennans Jazz Kitchen Downtown Disney. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.
Photo Courtesy of Ralph Brennans Jazz Kitchen

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

But it currently boasts several restaurants, a bowling alley, a jazz club along with stage for live entertainment, bars and lounges, shops and more. Hours vary and can be found here.

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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

Universal Studios Hollywood does not have on-site hotels unlike its sister park, Universal Orlando Resort.

Sheraton Universal a hotel near Universal Studios Hollywood California Lobby. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.
Sheraton Hotel at Universal Studios Hollywood

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.

There are also lots of hotels that work with Disney called Good Neighbor Hotels.

Howard Johnson in a hotel next to Disneyland California with Victoria Wade. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.
Howard Johnson Hotel near Disneyland

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.

Universal Studios Hollywood Waterworld Stunt Show. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.
Universal Studios Hollywood Waterworld Stunt Show

Shows such as the Waterworld Stunt Show at Universal Studios Hollywood and Fantasmic! at Disneyland Resort.

Moana answers the call of the ocean in an all-new sequence as Fantasmic! Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.
Fantasmic! Photo Courtesy of Disney Co.

For character meet-and-greets, both parks allow you to meet some of your favorite characters.

Victoria Wade Meeting Scooby Doo characters Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Disneyland vs Universal Studios Hollywood.

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.

Universal Studios Hollywood Secret Life of Pets Ride park scene. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
The Secret Life of Pets Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood

Two Shows have closed as of this post to make way for the rumored Fast and Furious roller coaster.

Universal Studios Hollywood Waterworld Stunt Show. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Universal Studios Hollywood Waterworld Stunt Show

The rides at Universal Studios Hollywood range from family-friendly to high-thrill.

Universal Studios Hollywood Jurassic World Ride predator cove. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Jurassic World: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood

I highly recommend Jurassic World: The Ride, The Secret Life of Pets, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and The Studio Backlot Tour.

Rides at Disneyland Resort

Disneyland has a total of 53 attractions with 49 rides, actually having more than Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride Entrance at Disneyland Fantasyland. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride Entrance at Disneyland Fantasyland

Disney California Adventure has 34 in total. The list for both can be found here.

Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout Ride Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Halloween Event at Oogie Boogie Bash. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout Ride at Disney California Adventure

That’s quite a lot for each theme park when compare Universal Studios Hollywood.

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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.

LAX design. Keep reading to learn what the best airport for Disney is. LAX or John Wayne. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

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. 

Los Angeles International Airport LAX arriving. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
My arrival to LAX.

LAX is 35 miles away from Disneyland, but the catch is that it can take a while to get there depending on traffic.

Universal Studios Hollywood. Opt in Lead Magnet Blog Banner

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.

Los Angeles Airport LAX steak egg tomato and mimosa breakfast. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Having Breakfast at LAX

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.

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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.

Victoria Wade and Norman Bates in Terror Tram Backlot Studio Tour with Bates Motel Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Victoria Wade and Norman Bates in Terror Tram Backlot Studio Tour with Bates Motel at Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights

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
  • Grinchmas
  • The Holidays at Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Halloween Horror Nights

Some of these events require a separate special admission ticket.

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Disneyland Resort Special Events

Both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have a variety of festivals and special events throughout the year.

Disneyland Resort Victoria Wade at Lunar New Year Celebration Disney California Adventure. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Lunar New Year Celebration at Disneyland Resort

Sometimes they change so I don’t want to give an official list. Here is what is being run currently this year.

Victoria Wade as Dolores Madrigal from Encanto at Halloween at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Oogie Boogie Bash Party. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.
Oogie Boogie Bash at Disney California Adventure

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 red carpet and pre purchased tickets sign. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

Universal Studios Hollywood Tickets

The Universal Studios Hollywood tickets start at $109 for 1-day admission with 2-day admission starting at $149.

Universal Studios Hollywood Jurassic World Express Pass Upgrade. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

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.

Disneyland Tickets

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.

Disneyland Resort Sleeping Beauty Castle and Disney 100th Tickets. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

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.

Pricing for your specific visit can be found here and the availability calendar is here.

Entrance to Halloween at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Oogie Boogie Bash Party. Keep reading to get the full guide on which is better Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland.

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.

Disneyland Resort Lunar New Year Celebration at Disney California Adventure Quesabirria Egg Roll, Coconut Lavendar Ice Coffee, Mandarin Mousse Cake

Both California theme parks have such great things to offer to those who visit, and you will make happy memories.

Disneyland vs. Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park Travel Guide
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Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

About the Author

Victoria Wade Disney Writer at ThemeParkHipster

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.

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