So you're heading to Orlando, one of the biggest entertainment cities on the East Coast, congratulations!
There is probably one main question on your mind right now, which theme parks are you going to visit first?? Two of the most popular parks in Orlando outside of Disney World are Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. (Check out our video on the bottom of the page).
It should first be noted that while there are several differences in the two parks, they are overall the same branch of theme parks, Universal Orlando. The entirety of this park conglomerate includes Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay.
Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure seem to be the most visited parks overall between the three, though oftentimes guests visit both, or all three, during one visit. There are notable differences to consider while planning your visit to each park, however, especially if you are specifically planning your route through the parks, rides to wait in line for or places to eat.
So what are the main differences between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure? We have 7 of them listed below!
The size of both parks within Universal Orlando is pretty much the same, though slightly different from Islands of Adventure being 110 acres, Universal Studios being 108 acres.
This statistic is also extremely close, though if you think about it this should be fairly close due to the fact that many/close to all guests attend both parks during their visit. However, Universal Studios is visited more, though the margin is slight. Universal sees an annual average of about 10 million guests in recent years, whereas Islands of Adventure sees about 9.2 million.
It could be argued that this should be a center overlap similarity in the overall comparison between both parks, each featuring exactly 8 lands, or sections, but due to the major differences in themes in the sections, we consider this a major difference.
At Islands of Adventure, you can visit Jurassic Park, Marvel Superhero Island, Port of Entry, Seuss Landing, Skull Island, Lost Continent, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Toon Lagoon.
At Universal Studios you can also visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hollywood, New York, Production Central, San Francisco, Springfield, Woody the Woodpecker Zone, and World Expo.
A big similarity to note is that both parks do indeed house part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the only difference being that it is London's Diagon Alley featured at Universal, Hogsmeade, and Hogwarts at Islands of Adventure.
It would take a while to list every attraction available at both parks, but we can certainly give you the highlights.
At Universal Studios you can ride the Revenge of the Mummy ride, Transformers 3D ride, or the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts interactive thrill adventure.
At Islands of Adventure enjoy such equally exciting options as The Incredible Hulk Coaster, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Just to give you a better idea of the overall differences in the parks we thought it would be a good idea to enlighten you on the most popular zone/theme in each park, the results purely based on popular opinion, not fact.
Universal Studios: Simpsons Springfield or Transformers
Islands of Adventure: Marvel Island
The history of the parks may be confusing to some, seeing as they are, as stated before, technically the same park overall. There is a notable difference in opening dates of each section of the park though, with Universal Studios first opened in 1990 and Islands of Adventure in 1999.
Daily and nightly performances are a big thing at Universal Florida, with a wide variety of entertainment options in both parks. At Universal Studios enjoy the sounds of Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees, and in Islands of Adventure enjoy the famous magical Frog Choir. Of course, these are not the only options for entertainment, you will see performances on practically every corner throughout the day.
Another significant difference to keep in mind is the types of characters you can meet at each park, the section of the themed land-sharing some insight on that. For instance, due to the theme of the areas in Universal, you will encounter meet and greets with the Transformers, and at Islands of Adventure, you will meet Spiderman.
Undiscussed but noteworthy similarities between the two include the park location/parent itself, the shared Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and the fact that over 20 eateries can be found in each. For adults, something to also consider is the fact that alcohol is offered in both, Islands of Adventure hosting the popular Backwater Bar and Ale to the Chief, Universal Duff Brewery and the Carmen Veranda.
Take a look at 8 Differences Between Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure for further in-depth information on the differences in major US theme parks.