Both Universal Orlando’s CityWalk and Disney Springs at Walt Disney World are worth visiting on an evening after a day at the associated parks. However, if you have a limited amount of time you’ll likely have to choose between the two.
Universal’s CityWalk is smaller than Disney Springs & focuses on entertainment with a cinema & mini-golf alongside 11 table service restaurants. While, Disney Springs at Walt Disney World has some entertainment, it’s larger & therefore has an expansive number of shops & restaurants.
Deciding between the two is likely going to come down to what you’re looking for most from evening entertainment which is why I’ve broken both of these venues down by their primary traits.
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Both CityWalk at Universal Orlando and Disney Springs at Walt Disney World are completely free to enter for guests with and without tickets to the associated parks.
If you’re travelling by car then parking is free at Disney Springs, however at Universal Studios CityWalk parking is only free after 6pm or when you purchase a movie ticket (more on this here).
There are 11 table service restaurants at Universal’s CityWalk and 20 at Disney Springs. As Disney Springs is larger there’s certainly more food options to choose from with a range of bars and lounges alongside quick-service food trucks.
While Universal’s CityWalk has less to choose from the options certainly seem more catered to the adult market with the likes of The Hard Rock Café and CowFish.
That said, Disney Springs still has a number of luxurious restaurants such as The Boathouse we were had our wedding meal after getting married.
One thing’s for sure. Both of these locations have excellent sweet / dessert options with Voodoo Doughnut and Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen at Universal’s CityWalk and Ghirardelli and Amorette’s Patisserie at Disney Springs.
While it’s a very close call, Disney Springs nudges ahead when it comes to food. The sheer variety of cuisines, budget options, family-friendly eateries and of course the ability to use the Disney Dining Plan at many of the locations make this a great place for foodies.
Winner: Disney Springs
Disney Springs at Walt Disney World has a number of luxury boutiques such as Anthropologie, Coach and Kate Spade alongside mainstream stores such as Lego and Uniqlo.
Meanwhile, Universal’s CityWalk has just 13 small stores including; Fossil, Quiet Flight Surf Shop and The Island Clothing Store.
The difference in size between CityWalk and Disney Springs is really demonstrated by the number of shops at each location and the transformation from Downtown Disney into Disney Springs really highlights the focus that the team have put on making Disney Springs one of the best shopping destinations in all of Orlando.
Even if luxury shopping isn’t for you, there’s still a whole host of Disney focused stores such as The Art of Disney, Goofy’s Candy and of course the largest Disney store in the world, The World of Disney with items starting from just a couple of dollars there’s something for everyone.
CityWalk’s shopping experience is by no means as exciting or immersive, so it’s safe to say the clear winner in this department has to be Disney Springs.
Winner: Disney Springs
Entertainment is easily the broadest category covered in this comparison so I’ve broken it down further so you can focus on the entertainment types you’re most interested in, whether that be drinking and nightlife or watching the latest movie at the cinema.
Both CityWalk and Disney Springs have a cinema complex. CityWalk’s is hosted by Universal Cinemark which has more than 20 screens all with state-of-the-art projection and sound systems as well as stadium seating and high-backed chairs.
Meanwhile, Disney Springs is hosted by AMC Movies. Here you’ll find 24 Dolby cinema screens, 6 of which offer a dine-in experience.
Ticket prices for matinee shows on digital screens cost $9.75 for adults at Cinemark at CityWalk. However, this increases to $12.75 for matinee shows on XD screens and $14.25 for XD screens after 6pm.
Matinee shows on a digital screen at AMC in Disney Springs are cheaper at $8.79 per adult. Dolby Cinema experiences at matinee times increase the cost to $14.29 and Dolby Cinema experiences after 6pm come in at a whopping $18.19 per adult.
There’s little between the two cinema locations. CityWalk’s cinema is cheaper and you’ll get a refund on your parking which is a nice bonus. However, AMC at Disney Springs offers the unique dine-in experience which comes at an additional cost but may be worthwhile for the novelty. Ultimately, this one’s a draw.
Both CityWalk and Disney Springs offer a variety of live music options. CityWalk has Hard Rock Live which hosts paid concerts and seats up to 3,000 and boasts state-of-the-art audio, lighting and video.
Meanwhile, Disney Springs has Marketplace Stage which is a free open-air venue that includes Disney Performing Arts dance troupes by day and live tunes by night. Musicians often include a rotating lineup of regional and local faves.
Universal’s CityWalk has a nightclub which is open until 2am in the form of The Groove. This isn’t something replicated at Disney Springs as they continue to focus on a family friendly atmosphere.
Both locations offer some relaxing live music, with honourable mentions including Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at CityWalk and Raglan Road at Disney Springs.
The differences in live music at both of these venues make them hard to compare. While Hard Rock Live tickets cost money, the Marketplace stage is free. That said, CityWalk has a nightclub and Disney Springs doesn’t and both offer a variety of relaxing live music options at different bars. All in all, this one has to be a draw.
The Blue Man Group is the primary show at Universal Studio’s CityWalk. This is a franchise of shows which is put on all over the United States including Las Vegas and New York and is incredibly immersive and entertaining.
Honestly, this show is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced and well worth booking if you have the budget available for some evening entertainment like this.
Sadly, Disney Springs has recently lost its primary show attraction in the form of the Cirque du Soleil and we as guests are unsure as to when or if a similar show may make a return.
Either way, this is a traditional circus show and doesn’t quite have the unique curb appeal you’ll find at Universal Studio’s CityWalk with The Blue Man group. For that reason, CityWalk has to be the winner.
There’s just one additional form of entertainment hosted at Universal’s CityWalk which isn’t at Disney Springs and that’s mini golf.
The Hollywood Drive-In Golf is home to two interactive 18-hole mini-golf courses. You’ll have the chance to choose between The Haunting of Ghostly Greens and Invaders From Planet Putt, or play all 36 holes for a daring “double feature.”
There are also some additional attractions at Disney Springs that are worth mentioning.
- Marketplace Train & Carousel – Ideal small rides for young children
- NBA Experience – A variety of basketball activities and games for the whole family to play
- Aerophile – Get an incredible view of Disney Springs from above in this incredible hot air balloon
- Coca-Cola – Grab a photo with the Coca-Cola bear and taste the different flavours of Coke products from around the world
- Splitsville – 30 bowling lanes split across 2 floors with 5 lively indoor/outdoor bars
- Vintage Amphicar – Take a 20-minute guided tour on the waters of Lake Buena Vista while riding in a vintage Amphicar
With so many additional activities when compared to Universal’s CityWalk the clear winner when it comes to entertainment is Disney Springs.
Winner: Disney Springs
It’s easy to see once broken down that Universal’s CityWalk is designed for older children and adults and Disney Springs is catered to families.
With an extensive number of additional shops when compared to CityWalk, Disney Springs is better described to an outdoor shopping mall than it is an entertainment district with a primary focus on purchasing items from one of the 103 stores.
Both offer a wide range of things to do from a movie at the cinema, to dancing at one of the live music venues and playing mini-golf. However, Disney Springs is a cut above the rest when it comes to dining experiences with so much to choose from every taste and budget is well covered.
Whichever entertainment district you choose, you’re in for a fun-filled, entertaining evening.