Orlando – the county capital of Orange County – is well known as the ‘Theme Park Capital of the World’. A holiday here is an eye-opening, jaw-dropping spectacle after joyous spectacle. When the number of annual visitors is approaching 60 million you know you’ll be in good company!
1) Walt Disney Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom’s attractions are many and varied: 41 of them amaze and exhilarate in equal measure. The thrills of the big drop rides of Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, the scares of Stitch’s Great Escape, the spinning rides of the Mad Tea Party will leave you dizzy and delighted.
This Disney resort aims to inform and leave you awestruck. Its tagline of ‘Travel Around the Globe, Under the Sea, into Outer Space… and Beyond!’ entices you into a series of mind-opening tours. Marvel at the history of the States being brought to life in an audio animatronics journey, learn about conservation with the Circle of Life feature and go into ‘space’ with ‘astronaut training’ for the youngsters.
3) Orlando Repertory Theatre
With a mission statement, ‘To create experiences that enlighten, entertain and enrich the lives of family and young audiences’ this theatre produces remarkable family shows that challenges preconceptions of culture and stimulates interest in learning and diversity. As an educational attraction, the Orlando Repertory Theatre is well worth visit; children of all ages benefit from exposure to literacy and verbal skills and presentations of thought-provoking literature.
4) SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld is a venue where you can get hands on with the animals. Help feed penguins and dolphins and fall in love with their characters – it’s an unforgettable encounter. The aquatic adventures continue with the Sharks Up-Close tour which helps lead into the conservation and educational aims of the centre.
5) Orange County Convention Center
With many conventions open to the public, the OCCC is the place to go to find a diverse mix of events from the Orlando iX16 virtual reality and interactive technology to the Florida Wedding Expo in 2017!
6) The Florida Mall
A trip to Orlando will almost certainly mean at least one visit to the Florida Mall. When you have a shopping centre that plays host to 270 shops that include Macy’s, Sears and Dillards alongside the high profile Armani Exchange through to Toys ‘R’ Us and Apple there really is something for everyone!
7) Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Whether you start your own space mission by standing underneath the awe-inspiring 363 feet tall Saturn V rocket that first took Man to the moon or looking at the Space Shuttle Atlantis with 60 interactive exhibits or going on the Space Shuttle Experience where you feel the full force of lift-off, you really begin to learn what it is like to be an astronaut.
8) Discovery Cove
Go snorkelling around the reef, indulge in the Dolphin Experience, come face-to-face with sharks or take your first steps at SCUBA diving. Then dry off on the sun-kissed sandy beaches and reflect on your new-found skills and know-how.
Opening in 1949, Gatorland has the cachet of being one of Florida’s original theme parks. Building on the guided tours of the alligator pens this theme park gives you an insight into the reptiles’ lifestyles, the importance of their environment and conservation. Couple that with a 30 mph aerial flight down a zip wire above the alligator and crocodile enclosures and you’ve got yourself an eccentrically-American theme park.
10) Wet ’n’ Wild Orlando Waterpark
As waterparks go this is up there with the best. Some of the most exhilarating thrills can be found on the Aqua Drag Racer where you plunge head-first down a twisting four-lane water slide some 360 feet long. Or perhaps Der Stuka – a six-storey near vertical speed slide that lets you freefall – if that’s what it takes to give you an adrenaline rush!
11) Universal Studios Florida
This attraction is a real working film and television studio that enables visitors to jump right into the action of their favourite movies and TV shows in a variety of fully-dressed backlot locations. Harry Potter fans can rejoice in the Wizarding World, Diagon Alley, Gringott’s and the Hogwart’s Express.
12) Universal’s Islands of Adventure
This Universal resort promises ‘interactive attractions [that] bring your favourite stories, myths, cartoons, comic books and children’s tales to life.’ With the upcoming addition of a seventh Island (Skull Island: Reign of Kong) joining Marvel’s Super Hero Island and Jurassic Park to name but two, there are fantastic rides to excite the entire family.
13) The Orlando George and Dragon
For a quick change of pace, a visit to this little slice of England, is ideal for a pint, some food, lively expat chatter and the chance to see a live English Premier League match in HD might be just what you’re after!
14) Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
Out of the two Disney water parks in Orlando, the Typhoon Lagoon bases its ‘legend’ upon the tale of a shrimp boat –a stunning centrepiece called ‘Miss Tilly,’ impaled upon a mountain named ‘Mount Mayday’ that gushes a 50-foot geyser of water every half hour, right before the bells of the watch sound on ‘Miss Tilly’. The water park rides all thematically stream from this (no pun intended).
15) Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park
This water park’s colour-based slide types famously categorise the slide experiences on offer: Green for single track water slides, Purple for multiple-lane racing slides and Red for the 600 feet long slide that sends you careening down twisting, turning flumes before entering corrugated steel pipes.
16) Skeletons: Animals Unveiled!
You’re in for a treat with this family-owned museum. Where other natural history museums display reproduction or mounted animals, this displays 40 exhibits of 400 real animal skeletons that have been professionally articulated. This really gives you a new insight into the workings the animals with which we share the plant.
17) Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
This theme park primarily concentrates on safari animal attractions and complements these with Broadway-style performances like Finding Nemo – the Musical. Lions, tigers and rhinos are just some of the beautiful animals you’ll see on your tour.
18) Disney’s Hollywood Studios
With Disney owning Star Wars you just have to spoil your inner Jedi and go to the many exhibits and shows like An Encounter with Kylo Ren, Meet Chewbacca, or watch a Behind-the-Scenes in the Star Wars Launch Bay before paying a visit to the Launch Bay memorabilia shop to pick up some great collectables. Did we mention the life-size AT-AT?
19) Fun Spot America
Image source: Orlando Informer
An alternative to Disney and Universal, Fun Spot America is a family-owned theme park that prides itself on ‘safe, clean, fun’ rides. There are roller coasters, go-karts, arcades, kiddie rides and Midway games which will entertain all the family.
20) Madame Tussaud’s Orlando
Get your photograph taken with your favourite ‘celebrities’ amidst the lifelike waxworks. Learn about celebrities and noteworthy figure in themed rooms including A-List Party, Arts & Science, Music, Sports and History & World Leaders.
While Orlando’s holiday reputation is indisputably tied to theme parks there are other attractions to visit but it’s theme parks you love then it’s theme parks you’re going to get!