Passionate About Pittsburgh
and the Moms Who Live Here

Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure

Last year we had a family reunion and a work conference in Orlando. We had been to Disney World before, but never Universal Studios, so we thought we’d give it a try. I did a lot of research to try to figure out which park was better for our kids, but it was difficult to tell. Here are some of my thoughts:

There are two parks at Universal – Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. They are two separate parks, with Harry Potter World split between them. Diagon Alley (London) is in Universal Studios. Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure. If you want to ride the Harry Potter Train, you have to buy a Park Hopper pass, which is very expensive. We found it was cheaper to buy year passes, which allowed us to go to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.

Islands of Adventure is cooler-looking and feels more family friendly. There are winding paths and lots of trees. Universal Studios is filled with concrete and feels like a money-making machine, but it is also much bigger, with a lot more to do.

Everything I read said that Islands of Adventure was better for little kids, but I disagree. Pretty much the only thing for 3 and under at Islands of Adventure is Seuss World. And the 3 and under crowd can’t even ride the High in the Sky Seuss Train because you have to be over 36 inches. My son was one inch too short, loved trains, and cried and cried that he couldn’t go on that ride. So I found it very frustrating that they made a ride in the little kid area that little kids couldn’t even go on.

On the other hand, Universal Studios has a huge little kid area that includes Barney, Woody Woodpecker, Curious George, and a huge room filled with tubes and balls. My littlest boys loved this area more than anything else we visited.

Both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios have incredible 3D rides. They are different than any roller coaster I had been on at Disney World or Kennywood. Islands of Adventure has Spiderman, but Universal Studios has Transformers, Minions, and Escape from Gringotts. I think Transformers and Escape from Gringotts were my two favorite rides ever. 

And last but not least, Harry Potter World. My kids and I are huge Harry Potter fans, and Harry Potter World is really cool. That being said, it is often super crowded which makes it harder to see things. I would highly recommend going during a less crowded time of year, like in January or February. Gringotts and Dragon Duel were my favorite rides. It is worth seeing both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, but if I had to choose one, I would pick Diagon Alley, which is in Universal Studios. I felt more immersed in the world of Harry Potter in Diagon Alley (the London side) than I did in Hogsmeade.


The Fast Pass at Universal is a huge rip-off. The price changes depending on how busy they are. We never bought it because it just made me mad that they would charge so much after I’d already paid a fortune to get into the park.

Overall, if I had to choose only one of the parks to go to, I would choose Universal Studios over Islands of Adventure.

Let us know your opinion in the comments! Which do you prefer?

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