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Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland: Which is Best for Your Family Vacation?

Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland: Which is Best for Your Family Vacation?

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Are you debating Universal Studios or Disneyland for your next family vacation? Keep scrolling for a comparison of Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland to see which theme park you should visit!
This comparison of Universal Studios Hollywood vs Disneyland was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

My family LOVES theme parks! Since we live in Seattle, it’s easiest for us to fly down to Southern California for our theme park vacations. It’s less than a 3-hour flight.

But, there are several theme parks to choose from. San Diego has LEGOLAND California, Los Angeles has Universal Studios, Anaheim has Disneyland, and Buena Park has Knott’s Berry Farm.

The two most popular SoCal theme parks are Disneyland and Universal Studios. In this post, I’ll compare the two so you can figure out the perfect family vacation!

The Magic of Disneyland

If you’re trying to pick between Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland for your family vacation, let’s talk about the magic of Disneyland first!

Disneyland Resort in California has two theme parks: Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park.

Disneyland is always a fun time! Photo credit: Alvin with Flytographer

Disneyland Park is where you’ll find classic Disneyland rides like Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Plus, there’s the famous Sleeping Beauty Castle where you can take super cool photos. And, of course, you might see Mickey Mouse and his friends walking around!

Each area in Disneyland has different themes, like Fantasyland, Adventureland, Toontown, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Tomorrowland. They’re all designed for various age groups, so there’s something fun for everyone, whether you’re little kids or big kids.

Disney California Adventure Park has cool rides too, and it’s more about Disney’s stories and characters. Both parks have amazing parades with characters dancing and singing, and they’re so fun to watch.

The best part? Disneyland is all about making magical memories. Whether you’re meeting your favorite characters or enjoying the rides, there’s always something special happening. It’s perfect for families who love Disney’s charm and want a mix of thrilling rides and cool shows.

The Thrills of Universal Studios Hollywood

Now, let’s talk about Universal Studios Hollywood. This single theme park is all about bringing movies to life, and it’s super cool for families with older kids and teens. It’s totally one of the top places to visit in Los Angeles with family.

Here, you can step into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where Hogwarts castle looks just like in the movies. You can even try a butterbeer!

Universal Studios is famous for its world-famous studio tour. You get to see where real movies and TV shows are made, which is pretty awesome. And if you’re into dinosaurs, the Jurassic World ride is a thrilling adventure with some surprises.

Check out these expert tips for Super Nintendo World Universal Studios Hollywood by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of a dad and two boys walking into Super Nintendo World.
We love the new Super Nintendo World! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

For families who love video games, Super Nintendo World is a must-visit. It’s like stepping right into a game! And for those who adore cute animals, the Secret Life of Pets ride is super fun.

Universal Studios has lots of entertainment options, too. They have shows that make you feel like you’re part of a movie and character meet-and-greets where you can take pictures with your favorite movie characters.

Overall, Universal Studios Hollywood is great for families who love movies and want a day full of exciting rides and unique experiences. It’s a place where movie magic really happens!

Theme Park Accommodation and Dining

When picking between Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland for your family trip, it’s good to think about where you’ll stay and what you’ll eat. Both places have great options!

Near Disneyland, there are lots of awesome places to stay. The best places to stay near Disneyland include on-site hotels right in the Disneyland Resort.

Image of the monorail slides at the Disneyland Hotel
Your family will LOVE the monorail slides at the Disneyland Hotel. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

These hotels are super cool because they’re just a short walking distance from the parks. Plus, you get to feel like you’re in the Disney magic all day and night!

Dining options at Disneyland are fun too, with lots of different foods to try. They even have character meals where you can eat with Disney characters! Plus there’s the Downtown Disney District that has a ton of places to eat.

Image of frozen butterbeer at Universal Studios Hollywood
We ALWAYS get Butterbeer when we visit Universal Studios Hollywood! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Universal Studios Hollywood is close to CityWalk, which has a few hotels nearby. You won’t find on-site hotels like at Disneyland, but there are plenty of places close by. We like staying at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City.

CityWalk also has a ton of dining options, from quick snacks to fancy dinners. It’s like Downtown Disney but for Universal Studios, with shops, restaurants, and entertainment all in one place.

So, whether you choose Universal Studios or Disneyland, you’ll find great places to stay and lots of yummy food to make your vacation super fun!

Ticket Prices and Packages

Choosing between Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland for your family vacation in Southern California? Let’s talk about theme park tickets and how to get the best deals!

At Disneyland, standard theme park tickets start at $96 for 1-5 days. The cool part is, that the more days you go, the cheaper it gets per day.

Image of a family taking a selfie in front of the Mickey's Toontown sign
We always get park hopper tickets at Disneyland. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

You can also upgrade these tickets to a park hopper, which lets you visit more than one park in a day. Plus, there’s an option to add Genie Plus for an extra fee, which helps you skip part of the line on some rides.

Over at Universal Studios Hollywood, tickets start at $109 per day. If you want to skip lines, you can upgrade to the Universal Express pass. They also have a VIP Tour and an early entry option for Super Nintendo World, but these cost extra.

To find discounts and deals for both parks, I like to use Get Away Today. They have sales throughout the year, which can save you some money. It’s always good to check for deals before buying your park ticket.

So, whether you choose Disneyland or Universal Studios, look out for those special offers to make your trip a bit easier on your wallet!

Accessibility and Convenience

When planning a family vacation to theme parks in Southern California, thinking about how easy it is to get there and move around is super important. Both Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland have their own perks when it comes to accessibility and convenience.

Universal Studios is in Los Angeles, close to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This makes it pretty easy to get to if you’re flying in.

The park is big, but it’s simple to navigate with clear signs and helpful staff. The only thing I personally find annoying is that it takes a solid 10 minutes to walk from the Upper Lot to the Lower Lot and it feels MUCH longer.

Disneyland is in Anaheim, which is a bit further from LAX. A closer airport is the John Wayne Airport in Orange County, also known as Sana Ana Airport.

Image of a line of red strollers at Disneyland
These are the strollers you can rent at Disneyland. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

If you visit Disneyland, it’s a bit bigger than Universal Studios with two parks, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. This means a bit more walking, but Disneyland is designed to be super family-friendly with lots of signs, maps, and places to rest.

Both parks are in busy areas of Southern California, so plan for some traffic. But once you’re there, both Universal Studios and Disneyland are set up to make your family’s visit as fun and easy as possible!

Seasonal Events and Crowds

When you’re picking between Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood for your family vacation, thinking about special events and crowds is super important. Both parks have amazing seasonal celebrations that are super fun!

Disneyland Special Holiday Magic

At Disneyland, they have Halloweentime at Disneyland which is really cool. They decorate the park with pumpkins and spooky stuff, and even the Haunted Mansion gets a special Halloween overlay. Then there’s the Oogie Boogie Bash, a fun Halloween party with characters and treats.

Check out this honest Oogie Boogie Bash review by top Disney blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Marcie Cheung and her family at the Disneyland Halloween party
Disneyland’s Oogie Boogie Bash is spooky fun!

Christmas at Disneyland is magical. The whole park lights up with holiday decorations, and there’s a beautiful Christmas overlay on some rides. It’s like stepping into a winter wonderland!

Festive Universal Studios Hollywood Fun

Over at Universal Studios Hollywood, they know how to make Halloween extra eerie. It’s famous for being super spooky and fun, with haunted houses and scary shows.

For Christmas at Universal Studios, they have “Grinchmas,” which is all about the Grinch and his Whoville friends. It’s really cute and festive.

Image of two boys posing with a fake snowman at Universal Studios Hollywood
There are several cute photo ops around Christmas at Universal Studios. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Both parks get really busy during these special events, especially near Christmas and Halloween. To manage the crowds, try to visit on weekdays or during off-peak times. Arriving early in the morning can help you enjoy more rides before the parks get super crowded.

Another tip is to plan which rides and shows you really want to see. That way, you can make the most of your time. Both Disneyland and Universal Studios have apps that show wait times for rides, which can really help.

Whether you choose Disneyland or Universal Studios Hollywood, these seasonal events are a blast! Just remember to plan a little, arrive early, and enjoy the special magic each park offers during the holidays!

How Many Days Do You Need for Disneyland?

If you ask how many days you need at Disneyland to a variety of people, you’ll get a ton of different answers. Some people do it in one day while others can spend a full week.

Find out the best Disney vacation destinations recommended by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of Marcie Cheung and her family at Star Wars Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge never ceases to amaze us!

Personally, I think 3 days at Disneyland is the sweet spot. It’s enough time to explore both parks, do a character meal, and maybe even relax at your hotel pool.

How Many Days Do You Need for Universal Studios Hollywood?

We’ve been a few times and we have been able to do/see everything we want in just one day. But, we skipped some of the “big” rides and just did grab-and-go food.

Silly Swirl Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We visited Universal Studios for two days once and it was nice to not feel rushed to do everything. But, we also found ourselves heading back to the hotel right after dinner.

Can You Do Both Universal Studios and Disneyland in the Same Trip?

Absolutely! If you’re thinking about doing Spring Break in SoCal, I’d do one full day at Universal Studios and three full days at Disneyland. You can add in one day to travel between the parks (it can take an hour or two depending on traffic) and one day to just hang out at the hotel.

Southern California Theme Parks FAQs

What age is best for Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood?

Disneyland is great for all ages, especially young kids, as it has many toddler-friendly attractions. Universal Studios often appeals to a slightly older crowd (think 8 and up) due to more thrilling rides and movie-themed attractions.

Can you bring outside food and drinks into the parks?

Yes, both Disneyland and Universal Studios allow outside food and non-alcoholic beverages, but there are restrictions on coolers and containers.

Are there height requirements for rides?

Yes, many rides at both parks have height requirements for safety reasons. These are clearly posted at each ride and are also available on their respective websites and apps.

How can we avoid long lines?

Consider using Disneyland’s Genie+ service or Universal’s Express Pass to skip lines. Also, visiting on weekdays or during off-peak seasons can result in shorter wait times.

Are there accommodations for families with special needs?

Both parks offer accommodations such as disability access services, rental wheelchairs, and specific ride information for guests with special needs.

Is it worth staying at the park’s hotels?

Staying at on-site hotels can offer added convenience and early park access, but they tend to be more expensive. Compare with nearby hotel options for the best fit for your budget and needs. But, we personally recommend the Disneyland Hotel if you want to splurge.

What should we bring to the parks?

Essentials include comfortable shoes, sunscreen, hats, water bottles, snacks, and a first-aid kit. Also, I highly recommend a stroller for young children.

Are character meet-and-greets available?

Yes, both parks offer opportunities to meet various characters. Check the daily schedule for times and locations.

How many days are needed to see everything?

Ideally, plan for at least two days at Disneyland (to cover both parks) and one day for Universal Studios.

What are the dining options in the parks?

Both parks offer a wide range of dining options, from quick snacks to sit-down meals. Special dietary needs are usually catered to as well.

Disneyland vs. Universal Studios: Deciding What’s Best for Your Family

Deciding between Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland for your family vacation? Here’s what to consider based on your family’s interests, the ages of your kids, and what you all like to do on vacation.

If you’re visiting Disneyland with toddlers or younger kids, Disneyland California is super kid-friendly with lots of rides and characters that little ones love. They have iconic attractions like the “It’s a Small World” ride and fun meet-and-greets with Disney characters. Plus, the Disneyland app is really helpful. It shows ride wait times and helps you plan your day.

Disneyland is perfect for families who love classic Disney magic and want a variety of experiences for younger and older kids. The whole park is like stepping into a fairytale, which is really special, especially for little ones.

On the other hand, Universal Hollywood is great if your family has slightly older kids or teenagers. It’s got popular attractions like the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and exciting rides for a slightly more mature audience. Universal Studios is all about stepping into the world of movies and experiencing big thrills.

Both theme parks offer unique and memorable experiences. So, think about what your family enjoys most. Do your kids love Disney movies and characters? Or are they big fans of action-packed movie adventures? That can help you decide which park is best for your family.

Remember, both Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood are amazing places. They each have their own special kind of fun and magic. So, choose based on what your family gets excited about and what you all want to experience on your vacation. Whichever park you pick, you’re sure to have a fantastic time!

Looking for more SoCal theme park content? Check out Disneyland vs LEGOLAND, 27 Must-Try Kids Activities at Knott’s Berry Farm, 17 Must-Read Tips for Universal Studios Hollywood with Kids, Which is the Best Disneyland Resort Hotel, and 17 Things to Know Before Your First Trip to Disneyland!

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