Skip to content Skip to footer

The Cost of Visiting Universal Epic Universe Will Gut Your Bank Account—and Disney’s

There’s a famous event from the history of architecture that serves as a warning to companies that assume competitors could never catch up.

In the late 1920s, the Empire State Building, 40 Wall Street, and the Chrysler Building were all being constructed in Manhattan. Architects for each of the three buildings were desperate to claim the title of the world’s tallest skyscraper. The Chrysler and 40 Wall each added some new levels to ensure they’d be the one to claim the crown, but then the Chrysler surprised everyone by installing its gleaming sculptural steel ornament as a topper, winning the race to the sky.

But when the construction of the Empire State Building wrapped up just 12 months later, competitors were horrified to see that designers had added a zeppelin mast to the top of the newest structure, qualifying it as the height champ. Despite the Chrysler’s temporary victory, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world for 40 years.

Something similar is afoot in Orlando, Florida. Universal Orlando, the chief rival to Disney, is constructing its third Florida theme park—and Universal just quietly unveiled the metaphoric zeppelin mast that could determine the fate of its rivals.

How to get tickets for Universal Epic Universe

Attractions Magazine reports that Universal has sent advance ticketing advice to its travel partners and travel agents. 

When Universal Epic Universe opens, Attractions reports, there will be no single-day tickets for sale.

To get into the hotly anticipated new theme park, guests will be required to buy multiday tickets that include Universal’s other parks.

“Initially, Universal Epic Universe products will launch with multi-day tickets of 3 or more days with a 1-day limit to Universal Epic Universe for those planning vacations well in advance,” reads the information sent to ticket sellers.

Currently, an undiscounted 3-day ticket to Universal Orlando’s theme parks costs around $300 per person, including for kids. Epic Universe prices have not been confirmed yet, but it’s expected that ticket prices will be higher than that.

If you’re interested in checking out Universal Epic Universe in 2025 after its hyped-up opening of global and breathless proportions, then you’ll have to pay at least $300 on tickets and stick around Universal for 2 extra days to qualify for the invitation. That’s not including lodging expenses, which, at Universal’s cheapest hotels at least, are slightly less than Disney’s.

That turns a minimum 1-day commitment to explore the new Epic Universe into at least a 3-day one. Adding a hotel to the tab, vacationers will have to pay at least $600, on the conservative end, to get into Epic Universe to see what the fuss is about for just one day.

That’s tough budgeting news for families. We can assume that the ban on 1-day tickets to Epic Universe may be lifted after initial excitement dies down, but in Orlando, admission restrictions have a way of persisting for years. EPCOT’s Cosmic Rewind coaster opened more than 2 years ago, but Disney still won’t allow guests to line up for the ride without putting them through an onerous Virtual Queue system

The materials issued to ticket sellers imply that Universal’s measure is in place to “manage capacity,” but considering this is the first wholly new theme park to be built in Orlando since the 1990s and this one appears to be state-of-the-art, you and I both know that the place will be packed regardless of high prices.

What is Disney doing to compete with Epic Universe?

The ticketing rule is most consequential for Disney, though, which has always dominated the time families spend visiting Orlando.

If Universal requires guests to spend 3 days on its own campus before checking out the buzz around Epic Universe, many families will decide to take those 3 days out of Disney’s share of their vacation time.

Assuming Epic Universe’s reported 3-day ticket mandate is true, then Disney’s market share will get positively slammed in 2025—and the company has not prepared to make guests a substantive counteroffer.

As the spires, dueling coasters, and monumental rockwork of Universal Epic Universe rise from an empty parcel of land near the convention center, Disney has been ensnared in boardroom wars and resting on the laurels of its four established theme parks. The Mouse, stuck in a spiral of increasing prices and consumer dissatisfaction, has announced no new major changes to combat competition from Epic Universe when it opens in 2025. It’s as if Disney Parks executives assume they will always have a lock on the family theme park business.

Is Universal’s move dirty? Some people on social media feel that it is, but Universal has been at loggerheads with Disney for years, and the two companies have been caught shuffling the debut dates of some major projects just to steal thunder from the other’s scheduled announcements. It’s been war for Universal and Disney since the late 1980s, and Comcast (Universal’s owner) even tried to acquire the Mouse in a hostile takeover 20 years ago.

This is not the first time that Universal Orlando has devised an aggressive ticketing policy that forced consumers to subtract from Disney’s market share in Orlando. When the second Wizarding World of Harry Potter section, Diagon Alley, opened in 2012, it required visitors to pay entry fees to two theme parks in order to explore both halves. At least they were linked with a novel attraction, the Hogwarts Express train, that softened the pain of paying more.

At the time, the diabolical ticketing mandate shocked the industry. This time around, a similar tactic with Epic Universe may change the balance of power in Orlando irrevocably.

The ticketing advice sent to travel planners and obtained by Attractions Magazine:

Walt Disney World is cornered. It has not publicly announced any major additions to increase capacity or to counteract the business and excitement that Universal Epic Universe is bound to siphon. And when Disney World does commit to spending for improvements, they frequently take 5 years or more to finish.

Universal was able to construct a full theme park in roughly the same length of time Disney took to build Tron Lightcycle Run, and that was based on a ride that had already been built in China.

On the weekend of August 9–11, Disney will hold its D23 Expo for its biggest fans. In past years, Disney has used the event to hype confirmation of big new projects, even if many of the things announced never actually come to fruition.

The event is only convened once every 2 years, but in 2024, D23 falls at a critical moment when Disney must come up with its own zeppelin mast for Orlando—or else fall behind with modern vacationers. 

It may already be too late for Disney to hold onto its dominance. We should expect some major, headline-grabbing catch-up announcements by Disney this summer—the parks desperately need something mammoth to sell—but the company’s recent track record for actually following through on projects has been catastrophic and humiliating. Where are you, Play! pavilion, Mary Poppins ride, Wondrous China, Spaceship Earth renovation, Avengers ride, and Festival Center? 

I reached out to Universal Orlando to confirm the new ticketing policy that was reported by Attractions. If the resort confirms or corrects the record, I’ll update this post as needed.

Jason Cochran is the author of the award-winning Frommer’s Disney World, Universal & Orlando guidebook