No question, Florida is theme park heaven.
Thrill-seekers love the daredevil rides that get more heart-stopping with each debut while traditionalists are keen to ride the old versions again and again. Young children are wide-eyed at meeting life-size versions of their favorite movie and book characters. Even honeymooners will find amusement, taking selfies in front of fairytale castles.
Florida theme parks trade in fantasy for all ages. It seems no one is too old, or too young, to wear a hat of Mickey ears, especially if their name is embroidered on the front.
Theme parks in Florida draw visitors from around the world and keen ears pick up the many languages spoken by the guests roaming the parks. Fun is an international language and Florida’s theme parks certainly prove that. Orlando International Airport welcomes flights from more than 50 international destinations.
Orlando is theme park central, housing the vast Disney World and Universal Orlando complexes. There are many more amusement parks in Florida, though, stretching to other parts of the city and state so we’re sure you’ll fine a theme park near you!
Disney cemented Florida’s theme park reputation when it opened the Magic Kingdom, a sister park to California’s Disneyland, in 1971. After that came Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Magic Kingdom, with its fairytale castles and nightly fireworks remains one of the most-visited parks of “The Florida Project,” as Walt Disney called it. Disney never saw his vision become a reality because he died in 1966.
One might wonder what he would think of the sprawling complex today with a multitude of resorts, including the original Contemporary and Polynesian Village, plus the upscale Grand Floridian, Pacific-Northwest inspired Wilderness Lodge and walk-on-the-wild-side Animal Kingdom Lodge, and several more themed resorts and budget accommodations. Disney Springs, a shopping and entertainment complex, boasts several celebrity chef restaurants. Oh, and there are waterparks, too.
Just up the road, Universal Orlando is another popular Florida theme park destination. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the two-park attraction celebrates author J.K. Rowling’s fantastical tale of the boy wizard. No need to go any farther for your own magical wand.
True to its name, Universal celebrates movie themes, among them Jurassic Park and Dr. Seuss. One of the most popular annual events at Universal is its spooky (and terrifying to some) Halloween Horror Nights. Nearby CityWalk features entertainment and restaurants, and Universal has five resorts to accommodate guests, among them a Hard Rock Hotel.
Also in Orlando is Seaworld, which beside its wild animal shows boasts four rollercoasters. Among them are Kraken, a floorless coaster, and Mantu, a ride designed to minic how a manta ray moves along the ocean floor. In nearby Lakeland, LEGOLAND is a favorite of young children who love its rides and other activities celebrating the iconic building blocks. A resort continues the theme.
In Tampa, about 75 miles west of Orlando, the popular African-themed Busch Gardens features animal exhibits, live entertainment and plenty of rides. Coaster-lovers are quite partial to Busch Gardens’ thrilling rides among them Cheetah Hunt, a triple launch coaster, and Cobra’s Curse, a new but old-school amusement park steel coaster.
The theme parks in Florida are year-round attractions thanks to Florida’s famous weather. Bring a rain poncho, bring a sweatshirt, but shorts are always in style.