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14 Top Orlando Theme Parks

Is your family begging for a theme park getaway? If so, look no further than a trip to Orlando, Florida. Choose from a variety of parks to suit all tastes, from the classic rides and characters at Walt Disney World Resort to the heart-pounding thrills of Universal Orlando Resort. And if the kids are animal lovers, they’ll be especially happy at SeaWorld Orlando or Gatorland. Read on to start planning your next trip to the Sunshine State; fantastic weather and fun-filled family adventures at these top Orlando theme parks await.

Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort: Lake Buena Vista

Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

Perhaps the best-known theme park in Orlando, Magic Kingdom Park opened its doors in 1971 as the first park at Walt Disney World Resort. Awakening the imaginations of kids and adults alike, the world-famous Magic Kingdom is home to many classic, nostalgic rides, like Pirates of the Caribbean, Peter Pan’s Flight and Jungle Cruise. Rides are separated into six themed areas – including Adventureland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland – with Cinderella’s Castle standing as the focal point in the center of the park. There are several family-friendly Disney lodging properties located close to Magic Kingdom, including Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort: Lake Buena Vista

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Known best for Spaceship Earth, its iconic white sphere, Epcot offers four different worlds for visitors to explore. In the World Discovery section of the park, get your blood pumping on two thrilling rides: Test Track and Mission: Space. At World Showcase, learn about countries all around the world, including Morocco, Italy, Norway and China, through films, exhibits, rides and restaurants. Popular rides in this area include Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in France and Frozen Ever After in Norway. When hunger strikes, stop for a bite at the romantic La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico. For easy access to Epcot, book a stay at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, which is within walking distance to one of the park’s back entrances. At this property, you can also hop on the Disney Skyliner gondola to reach Disney’s Hollywood Studios, more Disney Parks or other area resorts.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World Resort: Lake Buena Vista

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“Star Wars” and “Toy Story” fans won’t want to miss Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where they’ll find entire lands dedicated to their favorite characters. At Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, take a ride on the Millennium Falcon, make your own lightsaber or step into the story on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. In Toy Story Land, visitors can ride the Slinky Dog Dash coaster, try their hand at carnival games on Toy Story Mania! and meet characters like Woody and Buzz Lightyear. You’ll also find a variety of live shows, including “A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.” Affordable Disney resorts close to Hollywood Studios include Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. At Art of Animation, larger families can opt for a three-bed family suite, which includes a dining table that doubles as a bed.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort: Lake Buena Vista

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Spanning more than 500 acres, Animal Kingdom Park is one of Walt Disney World Resort’s largest theme parks. It houses around 2,000 animals and features a range of rides across six sections, including Africa, Asia, Pandora – The World of Avatar and DinoLand U.S.A. Favorite attractions include the Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain coaster, Avatar Flight of Passage and Kilimanjaro Safaris. Visitors to this Disney Park can continue their Animal Kingdom experience with a stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Guests can look just outside the lodge to see more than 30 species of African wildlife, as well as enjoy a large pool with a waterslide and meals at on-site restaurants like Jiko – The Cooking Place and Boma – Flavors of Africa.

Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Walt Disney World Resort: Lake Buena Vista

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For some refreshing fun during Orlando’s hotter days, head to Blizzard Beach, one of two Disney water parks. The theme park brings to life an imaginary Florida snowstorm centered around Mount Gushmore, which features a chairlift and the Summit Plummet waterslide. Other attractions include the Toboggan Racers, where you can race a friend or family member on a mat, and the Teamboat Springs group water raft ride. Blizzard Beach sits between Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and Disney’s All Star Sports Resort – both convenient accommodations offering easy park-to-park access.

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, Walt Disney World Resort: Lake Buena Vista

Courtesy of Walt Disney World Resort

Disney’s second water park option – Typhoon Lagoon – is easy to spot thanks to its iconic shrimp boat perched atop a mountain. Hang out in the Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool, the park’s main attraction with a white sand beach, or take a spin on the Crush ‘n’ Gusher, a coaster-style raft ride that propels you forward with water jets. For an extra special experience, you can even take a surfing lesson. Typhoon Lagoon is located near Disney Springs, a shopping and dining district, and nearby resorts include Disney’s Old Key West Resort and Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.

Universal Studios Florida, Universal Orlando Resort: Orlando

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Step into the spotlight at Universal Studios Florida, where you can experience attractions based on movies, TV shows and Hollywood icons. Perhaps the most popular section of the park is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, which lets fans of the popular book and film series experience the magical setting of Harry Potter. Parkgoers can ride the Hogwarts Express or hop on the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts thrill ride, and they can even select their own wand at Ollivanders Wand Shop. Beyond Harry Potter-themed attractions, travelers can enjoy the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem simulator and The Simpsons Ride. Universal Studios Florida is also known for its Halloween Horror Nights event each fall, which features elaborate haunted houses and spooky characters. Loews Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando, an Italian-themed resort, makes for a luxe stay with easy access to the parks via boat.

Islands of Adventure, Universal Orlando Resort: Orlando

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Universal’s Islands of Adventure park is the place to go for fantastical adventures across themed areas like Marvel Super Hero Island, Jurassic Park and Seuss Landing. At Seuss Landing, you can enter the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss and his many stories and characters. At The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, sip Butterbeer while waiting in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside Hogwarts Castle. Thrill rides inside the park range from Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure to the Jurassic World VelociCoaster, to Dr. Doom’s Fearfall and the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride. When night falls, lay your head at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, a throwback to the 1950s and ’60s featuring family suites with kitchenettes and separate sitting and sleeping areas.

Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park, Universal Orlando Resort: Orlando

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You can’t miss the giant volcano at the center of Universal’s Volcano Bay Water Theme Park. Attractions include aqua coasters, body slides, raft rides and a lazy river with rapids and waves. An especially unique feature is the park’s virtual lines; parkgoers don TapuTapu devices on their wrists that virtually hold their place in line for rides and notify them when it’s their turn. For a quick walk to the park, stay at Universal’s Aventura Hotel, which has a path that goes straight to Volcano Bay. The property also features a rooftop bar, a food hall, an on-site Starbucks and a pool.

Legoland Theme Park, Legoland Florida Resort: Winter Haven

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Got Lego lovers in your family? Experience all things brick at Legoland Florida Resort, from The Lego Movie World to Land of Adventure. Check out Lego Ninjago The Ride and Coastersaurus for more of a thrill. Little ones will enjoy the kid-friendly Duplo Valley area, which features a colorful playhouse, train rides and a toddler splash zone. For added convenience, stay overnight at one of three Legoland Florida hotels. Choose from the Pirate Island Hotel with pirate-themed rooms and in-room treasure hunts; the Legoland Hotel or bungalows at the Legoland Beach Retreat.

Legoland Water Park, Legoland Florida Resort: Winter Haven

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When you want a break from the bricks, head for a refreshing dip at Legoland Water Park. Families will find waterslides, a wave pool and a lazy river. At Creative Cove, visitors can build their own boats and race them against others, and travelers can also test out their engineering skills by creating their own rafts to float down the lazy river. Nearby accommodations outside of the park include the Courtyard Winter Haven and the Holiday Inn Winter Haven.

SeaWorld Orlando: Orlando

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An animal-themed park in Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando focuses on ocean animal rescue and rehabilitation. Get up close and personal with sea creatures at a variety of shows, including the Orca Encounter and the Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight. There are also multiple aquariums and opportunities to go behind the scenes in the park’s rehab centers. You’ll also find plenty of attractions to please visitors of all ages; rides for thrill-seekers include the Mako, Manta and Kraken coasters, as well as the Journey to Atlantis water ride. Younger kids can romp around Sesame Street Land at SeaWorld, which offers rides like Elmo’s Choo Choo Train and Big Bird’s Twirl ‘n’ Whirl. The nearby Homewood Suites by Hilton Orlando Theme Parks offers a free hot breakfast daily, as well as a pool and suites fitted with kitchens and dining areas.

Gatorland: Orlando

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For an off-the-beaten-path theme park trip, consider Gatorland. Located south of Orlando near Kissimmee, Gatorland offers kids the chance to see more than 2,000 American alligators, plus crocodiles, birds and other animals of all shapes and sizes. Spend the day riding a zip line over the reptiles, going on an off-road adventure complete with singing tour guides or attending a wildlife show. The JW Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes and the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes are both situated less than 5 miles north of the park and make for a luxurious overnight stay.

Fun Spot America: Orlando

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Located just off of the north end of Orlando’s International Drive, Fun Spot America features classic theme park rides like the only wooden coaster in Orlando. At the park, you’ll also find bumper cars and thrill rides like the SkyCoaster, the Hot Seat giant arm swing and Headrush 360 (which turns riders upside down to swing and spin). Take your pick of nearby hotels, including the Hilton Garden Inn Orlando International Drive North or the SureStay Plus by Best Western Orlando International Drive.

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Bernard Greenhall
Bernard Greenhall

Bernard is a sports and physical education expert with years of experience. He's passionate about promoting health and wellness through physical activity, and he's worked with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them achieve their fitness goals. Bernard holds a degree in Physical Education and is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and research in his field.

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