If you’re looking into visiting California theme parks, you may be wondering about Universal Studios vs. Disneyland. You may wonder if Universal is part of Disney and how far they are from one another. Here is everything you need to know about these parks so you can make the best choices for your trip. 

A photo of Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland on top and another photo of Hogwarts castle at Universal Studios Hollywood. Text overlay reads "Disneyland vs. Universal Studios."

California is renowned for its magical theme parks, attracting millions of visitors each year. Among the most popular destinations are Universal Studios and Disneyland. As Southern California locals, we have visited both of these parks many times over the years. Join me as we dive into a fun comparison of these two iconic amusement parks to help you make the best choices for your trips.

Universal Studios and Disneyland are two separate theme parks. Universal Studios is not part of Disney. They offer distinct experiences with Universal Studios focusing on movie magic and thrilling rides, while Disneyland embodies classic Disney charm with beloved characters and enchanting ambiance.

Is Universal Studios Part of Disney? 

The iconic arched entrance to Universal Studios Hollywood with palm trees in the background.

Before we delve into the captivating world of Universal Studios and Disneyland, it’s essential to address a common question: Is Universal Studios part of Disney? The answer is no. While both theme parks offer a plethora of attractions and entertainment, Universal Studios is not affiliated with the Disney brand. Universal Studios is owned by NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast, whereas Disneyland is part of The Walt Disney Company.

How Far Is Disneyland From Universal Studios?

A Google map showing directions and distance between Universal Studios in Hollywood and Disneyland in Anaheim.

Located in Southern California, both Universal Studios and Disneyland are popular destinations for visitors from around the globe. The distance between the two parks is approximately 35 miles, with an estimated travel time of around 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on traffic conditions.

Can You Visit Disneyland and Universal Studios in One Trip? 

While they are relatively close to each other, it’s recommended to plan your visit to each park on separate days to fully immerse yourself in the unique experiences they offer.

If you’re looking for a magical adventure, and only have one day, I highly recommend visiting Disneyland and California Adventure with a Park Hopper pass instead of adding Universal Studios. California Adventure, conveniently located within walking distance of Disneyland, features Hollywood Land, where you can still get a taste of the movie magic. 

Universal Studios: Hollywood Come to Life 

Explore Hollywood movies coming to life at Universal Studios. Our favorite part is the wizarding world of Harry Potter, where you can explore Hogwarts Castle and soar through the skies on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride. Join the Simpsons in Springfield and experience hilarious adventures with America’s favorite cartoon family. Encounter prehistoric creatures in Jurassic Park, and hold your breath as you come face to face with the iconic Jaws. Video game fanatics will love exploring the new Super Nintendo World. 

Shelves full of boxes holding Harry Potter themed magic wands.

Shop for a magic wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop at Universal Studios


1. Thrilling Rides and Movie Magic

Universal Studios excels in providing heart-pounding rides and a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of movies. From the mesmerizing Wizarding World of Harry Potter to exhilarating experiences like Transformers and Jurassic World—The Ride, adrenaline junkies will have a blast.

2. Entertainment Extravaganza:

Universal Studios offers a range of live shows and entertainment that brings the silver screen to life. Whether it’s the explosive WaterWorld show or the captivating Special Effects Show, you’ll be captivated by the talent and creativity on display.

3. Convenient Location:

Located in Hollywood, Universal Studios is easily accessible to visitors in the Los Angeles area. Its proximity to other popular attractions and nightlife options makes it a convenient choice for those looking to explore more of the city.

If you really want to experience the Hollywood entertainment scene, Universal Studios is the park for you. You can also explore the nearby Hollywood Walk of Fame and the iconic Hollywood sign. 

A cup of butterbeer at Universal Studios. The cut says "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" on the front and has a foamy top.

Butterbeer at Universal Studios

4. Delightful Dining Experiences:

Universal Studios offers a variety of dining options that cater to all tastes. Harry Potter fans will love dining at the Three Broomsticks, where you can enjoy traditional British fare like fish and chips or shepherd’s pie. Don’t forget the Butterbeer! For a prehistoric feast, head to the Jurassic Café and savor options like burgers, salads, and roasted chicken surrounded by larger-than-life dinosaurs.

A colorful area of Universal Studios Hollywood featuring the Simpsons. Krusty the clown is in the center with a signs that read "Krustyland" and "the Simpsons ride."

The Simpsons Krustyland at Universal Studios Hollywood


1. Lacking Disney Magic:

While Universal Studios offers a unique movie-centric experience, it lacks the timeless charm and iconic characters that Disneyland embodies. If you’re seeking that classic Disney enchantment, you may feel a bit disappointed. Universal Studios doesn’t give off as warm and fuzzy vibes as Disneyland. On the other hand, the magic of Harry Potter may be just what you’re looking for. 

2. Crowds and Lines:

Universal Studios can get crowded, especially during peak times, resulting in longer wait times for popular rides and attractions. It’s essential to plan your visit accordingly to make the most of your time.

Disneyland: Fairytale Magic 

The Sleeping Beauty Castle walkthrough at Disneyland in California. A magical looking Disneyland castle decorated for the 100th anniversary in blue and silver.

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland California

Enter the original Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, and be transported into a captivating adventure through cherished Disney tales and unforgettable characters. Since its grand opening in 1955, Disneyland has enchanted visitors with its nostalgic ambiance, iconic attractions, and undeniable charm of a true fairytale destination.


1. Classic Disney Charm:

Disneyland is the epitome of Disney magic, with its iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle and beloved characters. It transports you to a world where dreams come true, providing a sense of nostalgia and enchantment that is unparalleled.

2. Wide Range of Attractions:

From timeless favorites like Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion to thrilling adventures like Space Mountain, Disneyland offers an extensive array of attractions to cater to every age and interest.

Disneyland Resort is larger and offers more attractions compared to Universal Studios Hollywood. Disneyland Resort consists of two theme parks: Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. These parks combined provide a diverse range of attractions. 

In terms of Universal Studios vs. Disneyland rides and attractions, Disneyland has more fairytale experiences. 

3. Unforgettable Entertainment:

Disneyland takes entertainment to new heights with spectacular parades, bands, nighttime shows, and breathtaking fireworks displays. 

A child's. hand holds a powdered sugar Mickey Mouse beignet in front of a river at Disneyland.

Disneyland Mickey Mouse Beignet

4. Charming Disney Treats:

Disneyland is renowned for its treats that have become legendary among Disney fans. Indulge in iconic delights such as the famous Dole Whip—a refreshing pineapple soft-serve treat that will transport you to a tropical paradise. Be sure to make dining reservations months in advance if you’d like a special reservation such as the Blue Bayou, which is located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. 


1. Longer Travel Distances:

Unlike Universal Studios, Disneyland is not located in the heart of Hollywood. Traveling to Disneyland may require more planning and travel time, especially if you’re staying in the Los Angeles area. If you’re coming from Orange County or San Diego, Disneyland will actually be closer. 

2. Potentially Larger Crowds:

As one of the most popular theme parks in the world, Disneyland can get crowded, particularly during holidays and peak seasons. It’s advisable to strategize your visit, considering FastPass options and arriving early to maximize your experience.

The stone entrance to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Studios. A hogwarts sign says "please respect the spell limits." Snow capped building are seen in the background.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Studios

Universal Studios vs. Disneyland: Which is Better for Young Children? 

When it comes to Universal Studios vs. Disneyland for toddlers, Disneyland tends to be the more suitable option. Disneyland has a reputation for being more toddler-friendly due to its focus on family-oriented attractions and beloved Disney characters that resonate with young children. The park offers a variety of gentle rides, enchanting shows, and character meet-and-greets that cater specifically to the interests and attention spans of toddlers.

Disneyland’s Fantasyland, in particular, is a haven for young children, featuring classic attractions like “It’s a Small World,” “Dumbo the Flying Elephant,” and “Peter Pan’s Flight.” Additionally, Disneyland provides Baby Care Centers equipped with changing tables, nursing areas, and quiet spaces for families with infants and toddlers.

Which is Better: Disney or Universal Studios? 

The answer to whether Disney or Universal Studios is better depends on your personal preferences and the composition of your group. Universal Studios is a must-visit for fans of Harry Potter, with its immersive Wizarding World and thrilling rides based on the beloved series. The park also offers exciting experiences related to other popular franchises like Jurassic Park, The Simpsons, and Nintendo.

On the other hand, Disneyland is the ideal choice for those who prefer the enchantment of Disney princesses, iconic characters like Mickey Mouse, and classic attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean. It all comes down to whether you’re seeking the magic of Disney or the excitement of Universal’s film-centric experiences.