From Disney World to Universal Studios to Sea World, Orlando is one of the greatest destinations for theme parks in the world. Your first trip to Orlando should be as magical as the cartoon mouse that makes his home there.
If you plan to make the most of your Orlando holidays, take note of what you need to know about the theme parks in the area before you go. If you’re looking for USA road trip ideas, consider taking in Orlando and then heading into Georgia.
Walt Disney World
This is the focal point of Orlando tourism; there simply is no visit to Orlando theme parks that’s complete without Disney World. Prepare to spend a week or more here if you hope to explore all Disney World has to offer, as there are theme parks within this theme park, each requiring a day or two to fully discover. The most popular Disney World theme parks include: the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom, but there are water parks, a golf course and a shopping centre, too.
The Magic Kingdom
The heart of Disney World is the Magic Kingdom, where you’ll find the iconic Cinderella Castle. There are many must do’s in Magic Kingdom and it is broken up into these smaller areas:
- Main Street U.S.A.: The first area to greet you once you walk into the Magic Kingdom, Main Street U.S.A. is made up to seem like an old-fashioned American street, with shops, restaurants and small attractions. There aren’t any big rides here, however.
- Tomorrowland: This futuristic area is home to Space Mountain, a famous roller coaster ride in the dark.
- Fantasyland: You’ll find the classic It’s a Small World, Peter Pan and Haunted Mansion rides in Fantasyland, to name a few.
- Frontierland: Home to Splash Mountain, as well as old-fashioned American frontier fun. Don’t forget to visit Tom Sawyer Island!
- Liberty Square: Take in a little U.S. history with the Hall of Presidents, a robotic show of all of the presidents.
- Adventureland: A must-see for anyone who’s a fan of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and home to the classic Jungle Cruise safari-style boat tour, too.
Spaceship Earth, a large silver sphere, is the main attraction here. EPCOT is half futuristic, technology-driven attractions such as the Test Track, the fastest ride at Disney World, and half a celebration of world culture. In the World Showcase, you’ll find rides and miniature recreations of shops and restaurants from around the world, staffed by natives of those countries. Perhaps you can skip the United Kingdom area, unless you’re homesick!
Formerly MGM Studios, Hollywood Studios packages the experience of making movies into interactive attractions. It’s here you’ll find the famed randomized drop ride, the Tower of Terror, and attractions such as Star Tours, the flying-in-a-spaceship “Star Wars” experience. There are shows, too, such as the “American Idol” show, with winners selected each day.
The most recently constructed Disney World park, Animal Kingdom, is a zoo and a theme park all in one. There are rides, shows, restaurants, shops and over 1700 animals for you to see. The park is divided into areas such as Africa and Oasis, and even includes a robotic Dinoland park for boys, girls and parents who happen to love prehistoric animals.
Perhaps the second most famous theme park after Disney World, Universal Studios is worth a few days of visiting as well. Besides general attractions such as the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster, some of the must-see rides and areas there include:
- The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: It may seem strange for a Brit to fly across the world to get the “Harry Potter” experience, but Universal Studios is home to the largest “Harry Potter” theme park in the world. Visit Hogwarts and re-create the experience through shops, shows and rides, such as the Dragon Challenge rollercoasters.
- Islands of Adventure: Besides the “Harry Potter” area, the Islands of Adventure are home to “Jurassic Park,” Marvel superhero and Dr. Seuss-themed attractions, too.
- The Simpsons Ride in Krustyland: This one is a must-see for any fan of the longtime animated series “The Simpsons.”
If you’re planning a trip here this guide also has some useful planning tips for Universal Orlando.
If marine animals interest you, you have to spend a day at Sea World, where orcas, dolphins, stingrays, fish and other marine wildlife are present. Take in a dolphin or orca show, or ride a free fall ride, in which you get to visit the lost city of Atlantis below water. A day might be enough to see it all, unless you want to come back for more.
Christy Nibley is a contributing writer and American living in London. Before she moved to the U.K., she worked at a travel agency in Florida and spent a lot of time at Orlando’s theme parks.
Amar was born and raised in England and embarked on an 11-country round-the-world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second, which ended up being a 23-country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then, Amar has spent the last 14 years traveling the 7 continents.