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Disney Springs vs CityWalk

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Planning a trip with the kids is no easy feat. From figuring out the itinerary and meeting everyone’s food preferences, to keeping the children and adults equally entertained throughout the day, it can get to be a lot! Here is a breakdown of Universal CityWalk vs Disney Springs to help make your vacation a success and planning it a breeze. 

Designed for families and people of all ages and open all year round, theme parks are among the easiest picks and the two biggest have expanded on the themeparks with alternative separate areas to keep you entertained on a non park day. With a wide selection of shopping, dining and entertainment options, there is something for everyone!

Disney Springs v CityWalk

Is Disney Springs the same as CityWalk?

Nope! While Disney Springs and CityWalk are both entertainment complexes, they are not the same. Disney Springs is an entertainment complex that is located on the east side of Disney World, and CityWalk is Universal Studios’ entertainment complex. Although both of them offer shopping, food, and entertainment options for families, they are different from each other in a number of aspects. 

DIsney Springs
Disney Springs
city walk surf shop at Universal
Surf shop photo opportunity in CItyWalk

Disney Springs vs CityWalk

From the perspective of scale alone, Disney Springs is significantly larger than CityWalk. Disney Springs is essentially a colossal outdoor mall that easily takes at least half a day to explore entirely.

One of the best parts about this free-to-enter shopping and entertainment district is that it offers car parking for free. The property has three multi-storey parking garages, Lime, Orange, and Grapefruit, as well as surface level parking. 

Disney Springs includes a wide range of stores, from clothing and jewelry to merchandise, some of which are Disney-themed. Most restaurants and novelty stores here also follow certain themes. For instance, the Coca-Cola store has two levels of Cola-themed products that include everything from shirts and mugs to special edition Coca-Cola bottles.

When it comes to entertainment, Disney Springs offers an open-air theater where performances take place round the clock. In addition to all of this, there is also a shuttle service that takes guests to all the Disney parks and resorts for free.

Universal CityWalk, on the other hand, is smaller but more chic than Disney Springs. It’s known, first and foremost, for its array of restaurants that cater to every type of foodie. From famous chain eateries to standalone restaurants with intriguing themes, it’s got it all.

The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen and the Red Oven Pizza Bakery are two such spots you can’t miss if you’re dropping by this entertainment complex.

CityWalk is especially great to hang out at night for young adults due to its bright, energetic vibe, and neon lights. Entertainment options here include watching a movie at the movie theater, going mini golfing, and bar hopping. Unlike Disney Springs, however, CityWalk offers no free parking until 6 p.m. 

Universal city walk view of toothsome emporium and Hard Rock hotel
City Walk with Toothsome Chocolate Emporium in the background.

On site transport:  Universal CityWalk vs Disney Springs

Walking around Disney Springs and CityWalk is absolutely free of cost. If you choose to go beyond both these districts into the parks, however, you will need to reach into your wallets.

Spread over 120 acres, Disney Springs has been designed with expansive pedestrian bridges and walkways connecting one attraction to the next. Conserve your energy for all the activities or take a short break after lunch by hopping onto one of the complimentary buses or cross Lake Buena Vista by ferry.  

Disney Transport includes everything from the monorail, water taxis, ferries  to the Minnie Vans (which are making a comeback this summer). These transport options are free for everyone visiting the park. Transportation and walkways traverse both Disney Springs and Disney World so you don’t have to worry about trudging back to your resort or hotel after your fun filled day. 

Walk around Disney Springs and enjoy the Boardwalk lawn by catching the latest movie or grab a bite to eat at any one of the many restaurants. Take a breather by immersing yourself in the live shows, music shows, or chomp on the free samples from the famous Ghiradelli Soda Fountain. You won’t miss any of the fun attractions if you choose to walk along the Springs. 

The entrance to Universal CityWalk is free too. Head to CityWalk before 6 p.m. and you may only have to shell out a couple of bucks for parking. 

Although smaller in scale in comparison to Disney Springs, CityWalk is also a great option for a day of entertainment. Travel between the two major parks by Universal shuttle buses and between your designated resort and CityWalk by water taxi. 

min train at DISNEY SPRINGS
Mini train ride at Disney Springs

Disney Springs vs CityWalk: Is Disney Springs more kid friendly than Universal CityWalk?

While it is true that Disney Springs caters to a younger age group, that does not mean that both venues don’t have a little something for everyone. 

Disney Springs boasts a life size carousel and a train express for the easiest of smiles and laughter. It doesn’t end there – The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a definite detour if you have a Disney princess of your own.

From the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM to splash pads, Disney Springs has exclusive activities and food that is catered especially towards toddlers and children. Eateries such as Goofy’s Candy Company, Wetzel’s Pretzels and and Swirls on the Water are just to name a few. T-Rex Cafe is an eatery with free access to an attached playzone that includes a sand pit.   

Disney Springs has plenty for parents too. There are several bars and restaurants on the premises, including the House of Blues, Raglan Road Irish Pub, and the Coco-Cola Store Rooftop Beverage Bar.

When it comes to CityWalk, you can expect activities and programs for children to be held during the earlier parts of the day. The most famous attraction has to be the two 18 hole mini golf courses. Play a double feature by golfing in either the horror flick themed “Haunting of Ghostly Greens” or the sci-fi inspired “Invaders of Planet Putt”. If you need some down time, catch a matinee show of the latest blockbusters at any of the 20 available screens.

Have a fussy eater and need a bite to eat? Restaurants such as Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen, and Voodoo Doughnuts are great places to take your kids. They all have kid friendly menus to make the experience smooth and fuss-free.

Adults will love that Universal Studios stays open till around 2 a.m. on most nights with Hard Rock Live Studio playing the greatest hits with a delectable selection of drinks and food. If you prefer a more immersive experience and an interesting selection of food and drinks, head to Rising Star where you’ll get to be the star of your own concert with a group of backing singers and your own vocal cords to boot.

When it comes to fun and activities for toddlers, however, Disney Springs is the easy pick. 

Disney vs Universal: Which has a better theme park?

It’s safe to say, no two theme parks are the same. 

Universal is home to three major theme parks – Universal Studios, Island of Adventure, and Volcano Bay.  Each theme park boasts their own curated list of rides and attractions. Universal Studios theme parks are themed around movies belonging to the same production house. These include King Kong, Dr. Seuss, Moana, Transformers, Incredible Hulk, and many more. 

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter includes Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade and is divided betwen the first two theme parks. Both Wizarding Worlds are interconnected by a life size Hogwarts Express. Some of the most iconic rides at Universal are Amazing Adventures of Spiderman, Men In Black: Alien Attack, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Disney Springs is different in that it conceptualized its parks around the Walt Disney World franchise. Step into a world of nostalgia by visiting any one of the four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. 

Each one has its own unique theme and memorable rides making it difficult to pick one over the other. While Magic Kingdom celebrates the Disney Classics, Animal Kingdom is a zoological theme park with traditional attractions and a live safari.

EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) is dedicated to culture, technological advancement, and urban living. And last but not the least, Hollywood Studio pays tribute to the Star Wars Galaxy, Toy Story Land, Lightning McQueen from Cars, and Indiana Jones to name a few. 

Disney Springs vs CityWalk: Storage Facilities

Locker services are available at CityWalk, usually priced at a daily rate depending on the size of locker with unlimited privileges. Lockers are available on a first come basis. Similar facilities are available in Disney Springs at similar price points. In addition to locker services, most rides at Disney also have a storage pouch below or in front of each seat for loose items, bags, and hats.

Disney Springs vs CityWalk: Quality of service

Universal CityWalk and Disney Springs function with dedication and attention to customer satisfaction. At Disney World, staff often dress up or enact Disney characters  to provide a more immersive experience. Universal staff, while more understated, are no less efficient and customer friendly.

How good is the entertainment in Disney Springs vs CityWalk?

Cinema Experience

Grab an extra large popcorn and get comfy cause neither Disney Springs not CityWalk disappoint when it comes to the big screen. Universal Cinemark has 20 state of the art screens, reclining seats, and an endless food and drinks menu. If you choose to attend a matinee show, you are free to avail a reimbursement on your parking ticket. 

Over in Disney Springs’ cinema, AMC runs 24 screens with six hosting an all inclusive dine in experience. Although your cinematic experience may weigh a little heavy on the wallet, you’re sure to walk away spellbound after a night of luxury fine dining and entertainment. 

waterside stage at Disney Springs
Waterside stage at Disney Springs

Music and Performing Arts 

Both expansive walking promenades are sprinkled with a variety of live music and staged performances. 

CityWalk is well known for its many bars and nightclubs, many of which are open till around 2 a.m. Belt a song out at the famous karaoke bar at Rising Star, catch a game at the NBC Sports Live Bar, or form your own dancing troupe at the Red Coconut Club! 

Disney Springs features an open-air amphitheater for taking a break between attractions or spending the entire day. It’s a free space that hosts a wide range of performing arts and upcoming musicians. 

CityWalk takes pride in its Blue Man Group, a popular performing arts company picked from obscurity off the streets of New York. Known the world over as the mute “blue men”, watching them perform is a unique experience that you won’t want to miss. 

Others

Disney Springs hosts a wide range of exclusive activities like the vintage Amphicar, Aerophile hot air balloon rides, and games at the sprawling bowling lanes. 

CityWalk’s famous 18 course mini golf is a must on any visitor’s to-do list. 

What’s the difference between Disney Springs Orlando and Downtown Disney District in California?

Over the years, Disney Springs has been known by a series of different names such as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, Walt Disney World Village, Disney Village Marketplace, and Downtown Disney. After the latest renovation and rebranding, its name was officially changed to its current name, Disney Springs.

It’s actually these many name changes that lead to the confusion between Disney Springs Orlando and Downtown Disney District California to arise in the first place!

Downtown Disney District is an outdoor shopping centre located at the Disneyland Resort, just outside the gates of the two parks in Anaheim, California. Despite Downtown Disney being built on a smaller scale (think 50 times), it is scarcely any less interactive or entertaining. 

With a long list of table service restaurants, quick bites, carnival snacks, and bar service, the spot makes sure you never go hungry. Most noted places for food include Tortilla Jo’s, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen, Marceline’s Confectionary, and Wetzel’s Pretzels. 

The fun doesn’t end there. Downtown Disney also includes entertainment that is similar to the kind found at Disney Springs. This includes the Lego Store, Splitzville bowling lanes, and even live music shows throughout the day.

Take a look around the WonderGround Gallery and indulge yourself by buying an art piece or two. End the day with a few tunes at Flambeaux Jazz Club or by watching the fireworks display that takes place on select nights. 

While you will only require about half a day to explore Downtown Disney, you will most likely need a lot more time to enjoy Disney Springs to the fullest. 

Is Universal better than Disney?

Universal and Disney are very similar in that they are both entertainment complexes that are famous for their theme parks, but that’s about where the similarities end. In fact, their differences are what got the age old debate: “Disney vs. Universal” started! 

When it comes to deciding between Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk, it all comes down to your family’s version of a good time. Designed keeping in mind the themes of their many productions, each theme park’s open-air entertainment complex is set against unique backdrops. 

Occupying a couple of hundred acres, Disney Springs definitely has more space for all that it has to offer. And while it is true that Disney Springs caters more towards the younger crowds, who’s to say that adults won’t enjoy a trip down childhood’s memory lane?

If you are someone who dislikes large crowds and noise, however, CityWalk may be the better option for you. Although Universal is kid friendly, its shows, rides, bustling live music scene, and dancing do tend to be geared more towards adults. The famous putt putt golf course, however, will be a family favorite, so be sure to spend some time there.

Both theme parks provide the best in transport, service, and customer satisfaction so all you have to worry about is having a good time. Choose Star Wars over Mickey Mouse, virtual reality over roller coasters, or curly fries over churros – the choice is ultimately up to you.

If you have time, you could spread out your vacation to accommodate both Disney World and Universal Studios over the course of a few weeks. Each of them warrants at least one visit during a lifetime, for their own reasons!

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