Top 10 theme parks in Orlando
In the seven years that I’ve been lucky enough to live in Orlando, FL, I’ve always made sure to take advantage of my proximity to the theme parks. I’ve had the opportunity to explore many of them in great depth and have found tremendous joy in making helpful recommendations to people visiting my city. Here are my top 10 theme parks in Orlando.
It takes just 30 minutes to drive from the Disney Resort area to Legoland’s majestic plastic gates (made entirely out of little plastic Lego bricks, of course!). Stretching across a 150-acre expanse, Legoland contains 50 different rides, shows, and attractions, even a water park. This family-friendly attraction loaded with enormous Lego structures and 13-unique themed areas is a hit with kids aged 2-12.
Don't miss: Stroll through New York City, Washington D.C., Las Vegas and more with Miniland U.S.A.’s insanely detailed sculptures of each city’s major landmarks. Who would have thought that you could snap pictures of the Statue of Liberty on your Florida holiday?
9. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The largest of the Walt Disney World parks, Animal Kingdom has more than enough space for all of its rhinoceros, elephant, giraffe, lion, and tropical bird inhabitants in spacious, incredibly constructed habitats.
Safaris and guided tours bring the intrepid explorer in your family up close and personal with exotic animals. Seven uniquely themed sections of the park surround the intricately sculpted Tree of Life - an enormous artificial tree that includes carvings of countless different animals throughout its trunk.
Dont miss: Be sure to check out Asia for the Flights of Wonder performance (featuring gorgeous and incredibly trained tropical birds) and search for the mythical Yeti on the roller coaster Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.
8. Wet ’n Wild
This sprawling water park situated right off of the attraction laden International Drive features 15 exciting water slides and play areas. Numerous rides that feature two-person or more inner tubes make for fun for the whole family.
Don't miss: Adrenaline junkies will definitely want to check out The Bomb Bay - a 20-plus metre free fall drop featuring a mind-tripping trapdoor that slides out from under the rider, propelling them straight down the slide unexpectedly at speeds determined wholly by the whims of gravity.
7. Universal Studios - Ride the Movies
A wide variety of rides and attractions based on your favourite films provide thrills and joy for every fanatic - regardless of their genre preferences. Motion simulator rides based on Transformers and Despicable Me bounce guests through the universe of mega-Blockbuster popcorn flicks. Train to be an agent on the Men In Black: Alien Attack laser shooter ride, or hop aboard Krusty the Clown’s runaway roller coaster in the park’s most colourful quadrant based on the perennial TV hit - The Simpsons.
Don't miss: For roller coaster enthusiasts, The Mummy hurls riders through a world of ancient curses and reanimated corpses and The Rip Ride Rockit goes straight up into the sky before dropping at a 90-degree angle that is followed by countless spirals, loops, and turns - all while blasting a rockin’ soundtrack of your choice.
Wonder what it’s like to live under the sea? Maybe the dolphins can tell you how they do it as you ride water slides that pass through aquarium animal habitats. Relax between thrilling plunges down this park’s 14 slides and attractions at the elaborately constructed sandy beaches with shores leading into two enormous wave pools, or take a nap next to a gorgeous population of cichlids on the lazy river that passes next to their environment.
Don't miss: Turn the kids loose at Walkabout Waters - an enormous water play fortress with slides and water cannons all under an enormous bucket of H20 that tips at random intervals.
5. Disney’s EPCOT
The Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow is a celebration of innovation and progress. The iconic “EPCOT ball” houses Spaceship Earth - where astounding animatronics act out the lengthy course of human progress from cave paintings to putting man on the moon and beyond! The World Showcase portion of the park features premier options for food and drink inspired by the unique cultures of eleven different nations. The man-made World Showcase Lagoon hosts a spectacular night time laser light show called Illuminations that highlights mankind’s diversity and the beautiful, intricate cultures that we have fashioned for ourselves.
Don't miss: Ride a prototype car through various engineering experiments that culminate in a 0-70 mph acceleration tests on Test Track. Also take in the bird’s eye view of various California landmarks on the Disneyland- original hang gliding simulator, Soarin’.
4. Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Go behind the scenes to experience the magic of your favourite movies at performances such as the Studio Backlot Tour and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Whether you’re a fan of of the TV classic - The Twilight Zone or you just enjoy a good scare, the thrilling free fall elevator drop of the Tower of Terror. The rockstar in your family will love the high speed limo ride to the Aerosmith concert on the Rockin Roller Coaster. Disney’s Hollywood studios is the spot for pop culture thrills for all ages.
Don't miss: The nightly performance of Fantasmic! is almost too epic to put into words. I recommend lining up outside of the Hollywood Hills Amphitheatre at least an hour before showtime in order to get a great seat for this Disney character-loaded laser/fireworks/water performance extravaganza.
Young Jedi Knights will need to pay very close attention to the 20-minute tutorial at the Jedi Training Academy, because their final exam will take them dangerously close to the dark side and Darth Vader himself!
Guests can learn about the majesty of sea life and the importance of conservation at the animal-loaded performances of this theme park. If you’re looking for thrills, strap yourself into the high speed Kraken and Manta roller coasters. When you need a break from the midday heat, check out the most expansive attraction in SeaWorld Orlando’s history - Antarctica: Empire of the Penguins.
Don't miss: The dolphins fly just as high as their tropical bird co-stars in Blue Horizons - a performance that features acrobatic marine life and daring (human) trapeze artists. The laugh riot Clyde and Seamore show follows California Sea Lions, Otters, and a Pacific Walrus as they hunt for pirate treasure.
2. Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Orlando’s premier Thrill park features excitement for all ages, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - This is the closest we will ever come to living in the world that has enchanted millions of muggle readers all over the world. The details are incredible: snow topped roofs, novel-inspired store fronts, frog choir performances. The treats are indelible: Butter beer, cauldron cakes, chocolate frogs. The rides are unbelievably immersive: fly through Hogwards on Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey, tangle with a Hungarian Horntail and Chinese Fireball on The Dragon Challenge roller coasters.
Marvel Superhero Island - Spiral into a green rage on The Incredible Hulk roller coaster (my all-time favourite); get your fear extracted by Doctor Doom’s Fearfall - a gut-wrenching launch to the top of the world followed by a free fall drop; or help Spiderman face off against a gauntlet of his most ferocious foes on The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman - a 3D motion simulator ride.
Braver guests can test their luck on the dangerous Jurassic Park River Adventure. If you’re observant, you may be able to find some nearby dinosaurs posing for photo ops.
Toon Lagoon and Seuss Landing provide colourful escapes for those not meeting The Hulk’s height requirements. Kids can dive into the imagination of Dr. Seuss on The Cat in the Hat and then cool off with a tumble down Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.
Don't miss: You may be tempted to scoff at waiting in line for a gift shop, but Ollivander’s Wand Shop is so much more than just a toy store. One lucky wizard or witch is chosen from the crowd to test out wands in order to find the perfect match. My only grievance is that they have a tendency to pick guests that look less like adults than I do, but I’ll get my shot someday.
1. Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom
The culmination of a lifetime’s worth of dreams and hard work, Walt Disney accomplished every minor detail of his vision to create the quintessential theme park experience for people of all ages. This enormous park lives up to both words of its name: Five intricately themed sections (Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square) make up Walt’s Kingdom. Though so much of the Magic is in the tiny details, the ethereal experience is heightened by all of your favourite characters (or best friends ever) from childhood walking around this dreamy park.
There are almost too many attractions to recommend. The classics - some of which have received stunning updates - are all musts: Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Haunted Mansion, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, the spinning tea cups of The Mad Tea Party, It’s a Small World, but also be sure to check out the brand new Festival of Fantasy parade.
Don't miss: If you show up right when the park opens, it may take some endurance to last until the closing fireworks, but I PROMISE you that it is 110% worth it. Gather round Cinderella’s Castle for Wishes - a spectacle that never fails to enchant.
Article written by Brentley Newton.
Orlando Travel Guides
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- A beginner's guide to Orlando's theme parks
- Top 10 theme parks in Orlando
- Top 10 Things to Do in Orlando
- Double the fun: Combining your Orlando stay with a trip to the coast
- What to a pack for an Orlando theme park holiday
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- A-Z of Attractions
- About Walt Disney World Resort
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