5 Things Walt Disney World Does Better Than Universal Orlando
With all the back and forth the past few years between theme park rivals I thought it would be fun to write in a positive light about things these properties have been doing well. This article is a follow up after pointing out some of the things Universal Orlando has been doing better. I’m going to be giving my opinion on some of things that WDW is just knocking out of the park.
Counter Service Restaurants:
It wouldn’t be difficult to point out some bad counter service restaurants on property at WDW but there are also some great options if you know where to look. In turn it would be difficult to point out some great ones on property at Universal. Epcot and Animal kingdom in particular excel in these types of restaurants. One can only imagine the success had in quick food options at AK will spread to the rest of the resort as well. The average guest on a week long vacation can’t afford to sit down to eat multiple times a day making quick service a dominant part of your vacation experience. Why would anyone want to settle for mediocrity on so much a part of your vacation. With a little research ahead of time you don’t have to at the WDW resort. Animal Kingdom has the Harambe Market where the food is not only very good but some atypical choices like; skewers and fried battered sausages. The market also is showcasing some of the new imagineering skills in theming so you can enjoy your meal in an immersive environment. Magic Kingdom still is not on par as most of the other parks when it comes to food service but they do have a little gem off most peoples radars, Sleepy Hollow. This spot has some waffle sandwiches that are de-lish. The fruit and nutella waffle in particular is my favorite and mind you at the time of this writing it only costs $6.69. Epcot will not be outdone, it has Sunshine Seasons. Some offerings you will not find anywhere else on property that will delightfully fill your gut and not break the bank. Sunshine seasons even has some very popular choices for vegans. Although Epcot has many great quick stops around showcase the Tangerine Cafe in Morocco is also well worth mentioning. The kabobs are very tasty Chicken Shawarma Platter is tasty as well as affordable and they have this coffee liquor beverage that most people aren’t even aware of. Disney’s Hollywood Studios could be in some trouble. The only standout counter service restaurant is in a precarious situation, it sits in the path of Star Wars land. In the meantime you should stop at Min and Bills Dockside while you still can. Starring Rolls is fantastic as well, but it is more of a bakery option. I have to throw a mention that Epcot also has this little thing called The International Food & Wine Festival and the Flower & Garden Festival which brings several additional choices for several months of the year. Universal Orlando has made some strides the past couple of years in this area but still pales in comparison to what is happening across town at WDW.
I strongly disagree with the statements that all rides at Universal are the same. Having said that, I can’t disagree that variety of rides and vehicles at the Walt Disney World resort is far greater. In fact Universal Studios is a dry park. Heavens no, alcohol is for sale just about anywhere. I’m referring to the lack of any rides that would please the Boat Ride Club. Disney World has indoor coasters, ominmovers, boat rides, spinners, free roaming trucks and even a drop tower. The Magic Kingdom alone has more ride variety than Universal Orlando has rides. In addition to ride type variety they also have a large portion of their attractions with no real restrictions. This allows the entire family to stay together and enjoy the experience together. This is a key theme you will find in most of what Disney is trying to accomplish resort wide in the parks and out of them.
Universal Orlando has been dipping it’s toe into these waters as of late but would have a long way to go as Walt Disney World has been performing cannon balls for a very long time. From the start of your vacation to the end of your vacation Disney can take care of you if you want them to. They can handle your luggage, drive you from/to MCO and put you on a dining plan so all you have to worry about is having fun. They will handle your transportation between your resort and the parks as well as their new vision entertainment complex, Disney Springs. Just by putting a bracelet on your wrist, you have your room key, your ride reservations, food reservations and charging privileges. There is something nice about having nothing to worry about and Disney is excelling at it. Meanwhile across town, the park known for its technological superiority is still using paper annual passes.
For lack of a better term this is a comparison of Disney Springs at Walt Disney World to CityWalk at Universal Orlando. Let me begin by saying I can find little wrong with CityWalk. In fact, it has some of my favorite restaurants and entertainment offerings outside any park. While Universal has been able at times to twist the argument that the size of the WDW resort can be a negative Disney has just delivered a nuclear warhead here that just can’t be overcome. If two places build something great and one place has the ability to keep adding more great things, well even I can handle this math equation. You can’t beat it. I recently enjoyed a return to what was the Downtown Disney district after a 3 year hiatus. It is amazing how connecting the T-Rex area to the Rainforest Cafe area brings everything together. It presents a feeling of smaller while the place is actually expanding to potentially triple the original size. Sure we can tease that the new shopping offerings include a sun glass hut and a flip flop store but clearly those are place holders while the real work is being done. The parking garage effort seems to finally be paying off not only for guest parking but for relieving traffic in the area as well. The only risk going forward I recognize is if they over estimate their high end dining audience. If high end places aren’t filling it will create a domino effect against the entire area. As of now I am giving them an ‘A’ in what is going on here. This is a drastic change from the ‘F’ I would have given them just three years ago. This is a credit to a good plan and superior execution. Another tip of the hat goes to Disney for creating a space that is staying true to the family image they need to portray.
Truth be told, I had to consult some good friends and mouse fans to make sure I didn’t make this insulting. Just in case it still is, let me tell you up front it is not my intent to make Disney fans seem like lemmings or are blindly snorting the pixie dust. Disney has invested not only in the future, but inadvertently in the past. Most people who have been to WDW as a child will look forward to the day they can take their children. The resort may continually be changing but its roots and history remain in tact while doing so. Meanwhile over at Universal Studios the park has no choice but continually turn its attractions over to keep interest and attendance moving in the right direction. I was lucky enough to be brought to Disney World several times by my parents, and I couldn’t wait to introduce my children to the mouse as well. Truth be told I look forward to starting the cycle again with grand children some day. This multi generation experience weighs heavily in our decisions, in particularly surrounding vacationing. As a result, WDW reaps a powerful benefit very few corporations are able to in brand loyalty. We expect greatness from Disney and typically its what we get from them. Every once in a while, not unlike a family dispute, we disagree in the direction it may be moving but we will be willing to overlook some pretty big offenses. After all, it feels more like family, than a theme park.
Hope you enjoyed this and my previous post with the opposite topic ‘5 Things Universal Orlando Is Doing Better Than Walt Disney World Resort‘. Before pushing this post I have already come up with big points for both properties but I am going to leave it right there for now. I have a west coast trip coming up soon and looking forward to putting Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood into the mix here.