On a recent road trip to California, Candid TravelingMom Patty Holliday did something rather unusual. She made a stop in Southern California and did not go to Disneyland. This Disney-loving family turned their backs on the Mouse and went to Universal Studios Hollywood instead. Here are the ways that Universal Studios Hollywood is better than Disneyland.

Going to Southern California doesn't have to mean Disney. Universal Studios is a contender! See how Universal Studios Hollywood is better than Disneyland.

The details in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter are amazing! Photo Credit: Patty Holliday/Candid TravelingMom

 

How Universal Studios Hollywood Is Better Than Disneyland

I know, I know. It’s hard to believe that this ultra Disney fan was breathing the air in Southern California and did NOT go to Disneyland.

But it’s true, and even more shocking: Universal Studios Hollywood won my kids over, and I’ll admit, me too.

Look, I’ve always said you are either a Disney person or you are wrong. There was just no middle ground.

And now I have to take allllll that back. You can be both a Disney lover and Universal lover, and I can give you a couple of ways in which Universal Studios Hollywood comes out ahead of Disneyland.

My Own Personal Universal Studios Hollywood History

First a little history. My last trip to Universal happened when I was around 3-years-old, and Bruce the Shark left an indelible impression on my psyche. I can’t watch Jaws; I can’t visit shark encounters, and I certainly do not go into the water without pause. Yep, that fake plastic shark ensured I never became a marine biologist. Thanks, Universal Studios. 

Disneyland never played me that way, so of course, I had a natural inclination to return there. Any season, any reason, I can find an excuse to go to Disneyland!

However, here are a few ways that Universal Studios Hollywood beat Disneyland on this trip.

Universal Studios Hollywood is a One Day Park

We loved was the size and scope of the park. It was a one day park for us, and we felt we experienced almost everything Universal had to offer. This meant we wouldn’t have to spend extra money on additional days to make sure we got it all in.

If you are in a time pinch like we were, there are some time-saving options to ensure your bang for the buck here.

First of all, there is a Child Switch program that I felt worked better than the Disney version for a family with a time issue.

Our party stayed together through the queue. Then I stepped into the Child Switch waiting room with Lucy. After the older kids had ridden, they waited with Lucy while I had a turn. The rooms are located right by the loading zones of the rides, so I didn’t have to go back through the line at all. Disneyland forces the second party to go back through the FastPass line, and that can eat up valuable park time.

Going to Southern California doesn't have to mean Disney. Universal Studios is a contender! See how Universal Studios Hollywood is better than Disneyland.

Felt a little like Wayne and Garth with backstage passes! Photo Credit: Patty Holliday/Candid TravelingMom

The best option for maximizing your time in the park is an easy one if you have the cash: buy your way to the front with a Front of Line Pass (FOL). This is a controversial aspect of theme parks as it obviously gives those with the ability to pay a bit more (ahem, almost twice the entry cost!) to skip ahead of others. The FOL don’t play. But it can be worth it if you are limited on time and want to see as much as possible.

This is different from Disneyland’s FastPass because 1) you pay for it and 2) you get to skip the main lines once for every single attraction on property. Yes, even the Harry Potter ones.

For our family, we had limited time to ride everything, yet we managed to make it happen with those passes. Some things did get a second go-round since we had some spare time. If time is money, then this was worth it.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

I’m a big ol’ Harry Potter nerd. I’m currently listening to the Audible books for the, oh, 20th time? Something like that anyway. I love the stories, love the characters, and love the complex world that J.K. Rowling created.

Going to Southern California doesn't have to mean Disney. Universal Studios is a contender! See how Universal Studios Hollywood is better than Disneyland.

Did I say it was amazing? AH-MAZING. Photo Credit: Patty Holliday/Candid TravelingMom

And I love that Universal Studios Hollywood has created the village of Hogsmeade straight out of the book. The Harry Potter section at both Universal parks is hands down the best themed “lands” I’ve ever seen. Yes, even better than Cars Land.

From Hogwarts to butterbeer and from the Three Broomsticks to chocolate frogs, Universal just nailed it!

It’s been popular, to say the least. Universal even had to halt sales of tickets online for a bit when it first opened.

Characters at Universal Studios Hollywood

My kids know I’ve never seen a character that I didn’t want to take a picture with! So when we rounded a corner and found Homer Simpson, well, we had to stop. And literally, it was just a stop. No lines, no muss, no fuss.

We found the same experience throughout the park (loved the Minions!) with the longest line for the Transformers.

Going to Southern California doesn't have to mean Disney. Universal Studios is a contender! See how Universal Studios Hollywood is better than Disneyland.

These two were hilarious together. Loved the interactions! Photo Credit: Patty Holliday/Candid TravelingMom

Disneyland’s character stops can involve long queues or lines, which my kids just won’t indulge me in any longer. Well, Lucy will, but she’s the only one left!

I enjoyed the fact that every section seemed to have someone available and that most of the Universal park goers just didn’t appear to care.

Thrill Factor At Universal Studios Hollywood

This was the best surprise of all: the thrill factor was there for all of us, and it was just high enough to make everyone happy. I thought a few might push Lucy or Seth over the line, but nope, they loved each attraction. The Studio Tour was the big hit- yes, even with that dang shark showing up!

Lucy decided the Transformers ride was her ultimate favorite at the end and I have to concur. It’s a lot like Spiderman at Universal Studios Orlando, which I also really enjoyed.

Claire loved the Jurassic Park ride; Luke picked The Mummy, and Seth had to give the Flight of the Hippogriff his thumbs up.

Get In Early At Universal Studios Hollywood (for free!)

Universal will give you what amounts to Extra Magic Hours if you simply buy tickets online.

I kept saying to myself, what’s the catch? There is no catch; it’s really that simple.

No extra cost for a hotel stay, no complicated rules or calendar to follow. Buy in advance of your trip online, and you get in an hour before the park opens and enjoy access to everything. Yep. It’s pretty sweet.

Bonus reasons: check out the prices of the Annual Passes vs. Disneyland’s Annual Passes. Holy wow, y’all! This park is a bargain when you put it into that perspective. And the Back Lot tour is phenomenal. There’s nothing like it at Disneyland, that’s for sure.

While I suspect we are always going to be a Disneyland family, I can confidently say that there is room in our hearts for more than one Southern California theme park. And Universal Studios Hollywood did not disappoint.

 

Going to Southern California doesn't have to mean Disney. Universal Studios is a contender! See how Universal Studios Hollywood is better than Disneyland.