Dragon above Diagon Alley

There is no question that sends Florida theme park fans into a passionate debate faster than, “Which is better-- Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando Resort?”

I can think of numerous times when we’ve had articles here on Theme Park Tourist having nothing to do with the debate where readers still take to Facebook to speak their feelings on this complicated subject. There are a stunning number of factors involved. Walt Disney World has unbeatable nostalgia, atmosphere, and guest service but Universal has an edge in appeal to teens, thrill ride technology, and prices for dining and merchandise. We’ve discussed many of the advantages and disadvantages of each resort many times before here at Theme Park Tourist.

Dragon on Diagon Alley

I had the pleasure of returning to Universal Orlando Resort after a decade long absence and was blown away by how much the resort had improved (particularly by the stunning Harry Potter sections). Despite being a diehard Disney loyalist, I have long held the opinion that Islands of Adventure is one of the most incredible theme parks ever built. This article is not meant to suggest that Universal Studios Orlando or Islands of Adventure are inferior parks, nor is it meant to put over Disney more than they deserve. Indeed, there are many areas where Disney has needed their feet held to the fire by a competitor as strong as Universal.

However, there are still areas where Universal Orlando Resort could learn a few things from Walt Disney World. Indeed, if you are a Disney regular visiting Universal Orlando Resort for the first time, you may just find yourself missing these four key things…

Editor's Note: Jett's opinions in no way reflect those of Theme Park Tourist or its staff. 

1. Air Conditioning

Souvenir Shop at Universal

This was the most unexpected difference we noticed between Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. On a steaming Florida summer day, it stood out like a Disneybounder prancing through Diagon Alley…

Universal Orlando Resort has a bizarre lack of air conditioning in attraction queues, shops, and many restaurants.

While Walt Disney World gets as hot as anywhere else in Florida, it never occurred to us how ubiquitous air conditioning is in the kingdom of the Mouse. You usually don’t have to hunt far in Walt Disney World to find a shop, restaurant, or ride queue with A/C.

However, at Unviersal Orlando Resort, with the exception of well-insulated attractions like Poseidon’s Temple, the blazing heat proved inescapable. Particularly in Islands of Adventure, do not expect to find icy air conditioning on most ride queues or even in many shops. While this makes sense for the attractions with outdoor queues, a steady miasma of sticky heat carries over into many of the resort’s indoor rides as well.

Poseidon's Temple at Islands of Adventure

The issue was most noticeable in the faces of many Universal cast members we met in shops and restaurants. A cashier at Three Broomsticks fanned herself with sweat pouring down her cheeks, looking ready to drop at any moment as she took our order. Shop attendants in other areas did the same. Indeed, the several we briefly interviewed all said the same thing: it’s not a fun situation for guests or for those who work at Universal.

If you’re visiting on a particularly sweltering day, take care to make sure you have a water bottle you can refill or frequently pick up free water from any locations with a soda fountain. You may also want to bring a small fan in your park kit.


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