Universal Orlando Resort has two exciting theme parks, Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Everyone has a different opinion on which Universal park is better, and why, but you’d only be cheating yourself if you don’t experience both for yourself. The purpose of this article is to compare Universal Studios vs Universal’s Islands of Adventure to help you to decide which park tickets you’ll need to buy and what park you should focus on.

Which Universal Park is Better: Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure?

Before we begin, please be aware that Universal Orlando has a water park (Volcano Bay) but we are just focusing on the two theme parks in the article. Also, keep in mind that Universal and Walt Disney World are totally different resorts, have completely different experiences, and are owned by different companies.  They are both amazing parks – and are only about 7 miles away from one another – so we recommend checking out both places if your time and budget allow it!

Contact The Vacationeer and get started planning today.  They specialize in both Disney and Universal Orlando vacations and they never charge a dime for their planning services.

Now, here’s our Universal Studios vs Islands of Adventure comparison.

1. History and Theme

Universal Orlando Resort’s two theme parks were opened 9 years apart and have completely different themes.

  • Universal Studios Florida opened to the public on June 7, 1990. The park is themed to aspects of the entertainment industry, with a focus on movies and television.
  • Universal’s Islands of Adventure opened on May 28, 1999. The park is themed after a journey of exploration and adventure, where guests visit a variety of themed islands.
Winner: Universal Studios

We give a slight edge to Universal Studios Florida because it’s Universal’s original park. We also love its atmosphere and the park is a little easier to navigate than Islands of Adventure.

2. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (it’s in BOTH Universal Theme Parks)

Hogwarts Express

Before we go any further, it should be noted that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-themed area is found at BOTH Universal parks.

You’ll need a Park-to-Park pass if you plan on experiencing the entirety of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on the same day.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley is at Universal Studios while the Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade is at Islands of Adventure.

Which Side of Wizarding World of Harry Potter is Better?

The centerpiece of Hogsmeade is Hogwarts Castle. Inside the castle is the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction, a thoroughly unique “broom” ride. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure is another amazing ride at Islands of Adventure’s Hogsmeade, and also one of Universal’s Islands of Adventure’s newest and most popular rides.

Diagon Alley is an incredible immersive area and one of our favorite places to explore at Universal. It’s also home to my favorite Universal attraction, Escape from Gringotts,

Winner: Universal Studios

Both areas are NOT TO BE MISSED, but we prefer Diagon Alley by a slight margin.

3. Cost of Tickets at Universal’s Theme Parks

  • Single Park Tickets 

As of early 2022, a 1-day, 1-park ticket costs $109 and $104 for children (ages 3 – 9). This rate applies to either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure. You choose the park you want to go to on the specified date.

  • Park-to-Park Tickets (for 2 Parks on the same day)

As of early 2022, a 1-day, 2-park ticket costs $164 and $159 for children (ages 3 – 9). This rate applies to both Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. You go from park to park as you wish on the specified date.

  • Universal Express Pass

The Universal Express Pass allows you to skip the regular lines 1 time per select ride. The cost is $79.99 per person per day at Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

  • Save with Multi-Day Tickets

Visit Universal of 2+ days and save on tickets. The longer you stay at Universal, the more you’ll save per day on tickets.  multi-day tickets will let you see more.

  • Deals for Florida and Georgia Residents

Florida and Georgia residents may be eligible for special promotions.

  • Tickets to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter area

There are no special tickets just for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. That said, please be aware that the area is located in BOTH parks.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley is part of Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade is part of Islands of Adventure.

If you plan on experiencing BOTH sides on the SAME DAY (the one in Universal Orlando and the one in Islands of Adventure), then you’ll need to purchase Park-to-Park Access. This multi-park pass will give you access to the Hogwarts Express so you can ride between both Harry Potter lands.

Winner: Tie

The answer depends on how long you stay.

Single Park tickets are the same price for each park, and they get cheaper if you buy multiple days’ worth of tickets. However, if you are only at Universal for one of two days, or if you want to take full advantage of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, then consider going with the Park-to-Park ticket and paying extra for the convenience factor.

Questions? Ready to book? Want a free quote?

Contact The Vacationeer if you’d like to find out more on theme park tickets, discounts, or to begin planning your Universal vacation.

4. Themed Areas (Lands)

JURASSIC WORLD VELOCICOASTER

Universal’s theme parks are loosely divided into different themed areas (or “lands).

  • Universal Studios has eight themed areas.  They are as follows (located clockwise from the entrance): Production Central, New York, San Francisco, London/Diagon Alley, World Expo, Springfield, Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone, and Hollywood. They have a combination of shows, rides, attractions, restaurants, character appearances, and merchandise stores.
  • Islands of Adventure has eight themed “islands.” They are as follows (located clockwise from entrance): Port of Entry, Marvel Super Hero Island, Toon Lagoon, Skull Island, Jurassic Park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Lost Continent, and Seuss Landing.
Winner: Tie

5. Rides and Attractions

Universal Studios has 15 rides and attractions in total. Of these, there are 4 roller coasters.

Current Universal Studios Florida Rides and Attractions
  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem Rides
  • Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit (roller coaster)
  • Transformers 4D: The Ride
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
  • Revenge of the Mummy (roller coaster)
  • Fast and the Furious Ride
  • Woody Woodpacker’s KidZone
  • Woody Woodpecker Nuthouse Coaster (roller coaster)
  • E.T. Adventure
  • The Simpson’s Ride
  • Kang & Kudos Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
  • Men In Black Alien Attack
  • Escape from Gringotts in Diagon Alley (roller coaster)
  • Shrek 4-D
  • Hogwarts Express

Universal’s Islands of Adventure has 17 rides and attractions in total. Of these, there are 4 roller coasters and 3 water rides.

Universal Studios Orlando – Islands of Adventure Rides and Attractions
  • Flight of the Hippogriff (roller coaster)
  • Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure (roller coaster)
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
  • Pteranodon Flyers
  • Jurassic World VelociCoaster (roller coaster)
  • Cat in the Hat Ride
  • High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train
  • Caro-Seuss-El
  • One fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Doom’s Fearfall
  • Storm Force Accelatron
  • Incredible Hulk Coaster (roller coaster)
  • Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man
  • Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-rat Barges (water ride)
  • Dudley Do-Right Ripsaw Falls (water ride)
  • Jurassic Park River Adventure Ride (water ride)
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong
Winner: Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Universal’s Island of Adventures wins by a slight margin because of its diversity of rides.

6. Thrill Rides

Both parks offer some very good thrill rides.

Universal Studios

A favorite at Universal Studios is the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit. This steel roller coaster reaches a top speed of 65 mph and a height of 167 feet.  The lift to the top takes guests straight-up on a slow climb before takeoff. Guests can also select a song to be played during the ride.

Other notable popular thrill rides include the classic dark-ride/roller coaster hybrid Revenge of the Mummy. This one has stood the test of time and is still a fan favorite.

And, let us not forget Escape from Gringotts in Diagon Alley. Guests board a vehicle system and speed off on one of the most terrifying adventures you’ll go on!

Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure is home to the new Jurassic World VelociCoaster which reaches speeds of 70 mph.

Then there’s the enormously popular Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Coaster combined traditional coaster elements with fantastic storytelling.

These two thrill rides are among Univeral Orlando’s most popular attractions at the moment.

Another trill ride to get your adrenaline pumping is The Incredible Hulk Coaster. It launches guests from 0 to 40 mph in just 2 seconds! Like Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket, the has a number of twists and turns throughout the ride.

See our Best Universal Orlando Rides for more.

Winner: Islands of Adventure

It’s a close call but Islands of Adventure comes out on top.

7. Family Attractions: Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure

Universal Orlando theme parks are generally geared toward older kids and adults. That said,  there are lots of attractions for preschool-age kids and other kids that may want some gentler types of rides.

  • Universal Studios has a designed area for kids called KidZone. Here you will find a wonderful assortment of rides: Barney’s Backyard, Despicable Me, Woody Woodpecker Roller Coaster, Curious George Goes to Town, Fievel’s Playground, E.T. Adventure, Kang and Kondo’s Twirl n’ Hurl, Despicable Me, and Shrek 4D.
  • Islands of Adventure designed kids area is called Seuss Landing. Guests will feel like they just stepped into the magical world of Dr. Seuss. Seuss Landing has four rides: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Caro-Seuss-al,  The Cat in the Hat, and The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train. There are also a few more themed areas for kids throughout Islands of Adventure including Camp Jurassic, Me Ship, the Olive, and If I Ran the Zoo.

The little ones will have so much fun in these areas!

Winner: Islands of Adventure

Again, a close call but Universal’s Islands of Adventure has just a little more to offer for kids.

8. Shows – Islands of Adventure vs. Universal Studios

Live Shows at Universal Studios

  • Animal Actors – On Location!
  • Blues Brothers Show
  • Celestina Warbeck & The Banshees
  • Horror Make Up Show
  • Fear Factor Live
  • Studio Brass Band
  • Superstar Parade
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard Trunk Show
  • Universal Orlando’s Cinematic Celebration

Live Shows at Islands of Adventure

  • Frog Choir
  • Oh! The Stories You’ll Hear!
  • Poseidon’s Fury
  • Triwizard Spirit Rally
  • The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle
Winner: Universal Studios

Universal Studios has a few more shows than Islands of Adventure. Check with Universal or your The Vacationeer for updates and showtimes.

9. Restaurants at Universal Studios vs. Islands of Adventure

Universal Studios has a number of sit-down restaurants as well as the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley. One of the most popular lunchtime spots at Universal Studios Florida Fast Food Blvd in Springfield: Home of the Simpsons.  There’s a wide assortment of food with eateries named after The Simpsons television series.  Guests can select from eateries like Krusty Burger, Flaming Moe’s, The Frying Dutchman, Cletus’ Chicken Shack, Lisa’s Teahouse of Horror, or Luigi’s Pizza.

Islands of Adventure has the award-winning restaurant Mythos as well as numerous counter-service dining options. Our favorite spot at Islands of Adventure is  Green Eggs and Ham at Seuss Landing, where they serve Who-Hash and other Dr. Seuss-themed meals.

Winner: Universal Studios 

Despite our love for Green Eggs and Ham at Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios has more sit-down and counter service options and something for everyone.

10. Characters to Meet

There are many fun and interesting characters to meet around Universal Orlando Resort.

Universal Studios features many of the classic movie and television characters like Beetlejuice, Marilyn Monroe, The Simpsons, Transformers, Scooby-Doo Gang, and Despicable Me.

Islands of Adventure has Wolverine, Spiderman, and other Marvel characters, as well as The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and Raptor in the Jurassic Park area.

Winner: Universal Studios

Universal Studios wins because there are just more characters to meet all around the park.

Jurassic Park at Universal Orlando

We love both parks just about the same. If we had to choose, Islands of Adventure might have the edge in terms of rides, but Universal Studios has the edge on most of the other factors.

Do you need help planning and booking your Universal Orlando vacation? If so, then look no further than The Vacationeer. This Universal travel agency (which also books Disney trips) will get you the best rates AND make sure every aspect of your trip is as magical as possible… all without charging you anything for their planning services. Plus, they will book all your reservations so you don’t have to.

Are you looking for more information on Universal? We have many more articles!

See our Universal Orlando Crowd Calendar, Universal Orlando Map, Universal Orlando Transportation, Best Universal Orlando RidesUniversal vs Disney World, How to Get from Disney World to Universal,  How Much do Wands Cost at Universal Studios, Is the Universal Express Pass Worth It and How to get the Universal Express Pass for Free pages.