Experience the wizardly wonders of Universal Studios, have breakfast with Mickey Mouse or take a Journey to Atlantis at Sea World… What ever takes your fancy, Florida has a theme park for you!
It’s important to remember that Disney World is most certainly not just for kids. Encompassing several different parks, this world-renowned wonderland of attractions is a magical, enthralling memory-machine. The parks include: Epcot (with space-age adventure and country-themed sections), the Magic Kingdom (an enchanting land of fairytale fun), Hollywood Studios (a journey into the golden age of the movies) and the Animal Kingdom (home to 250 species of animals, as well as dinosaur attractions). There are also two very different water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Across all the parks, you will have the chance to meet your favourite characters, from Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to Frozen’s Elsa and Anna. Breathtaking parades take place on a daily (and nightly) basis too, and the various shows performed across the parks are out of this world. Thrill-seekers shouldn’t underestimate Disney either – from the super-fast Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster to the hair-raising Tower of Terror, there’s more to this pleasure ground than Cinderella’s Castle.
A complete playground for both kids and adults, the Universal Resort in Florida is home to two exciting theme parks – Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The former is the original park, and allows you to leap into the worlds of your favourite films in the form of rides, shows and even movie sets. Islands of Adventure takes you to lands of mythical legends, comic book characters, cartoons and well-known children’s stories. Both parks are home to different areas of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade), as well as the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and 3D Transformers attractions. Don’t miss Wet ‘n Wild either – you can zoom down more multi-person slides here than at any other waterpark in Orlando. Along with all these family-friendly attractions, Universal Studios boasts several extraordinary hotels and inviting restaurants, plus a great choice of thrilling rides for the brave at heart.
Love marine life? Some of the ocean-dwelling creatures you’ll meet at SeaWorld include whales, dolphins, manatees, sharks, penguins, otters, walruses and sea turtles. You’ll come across some interesting birds too, including pelicans, flamingos and parrots. However, SeaWorld isn’t just a wonderland of wildlife, but a thrilling theme parkwith exciting rides, shows and attractions. There are whale, dolphin and sea lion shows to please the whole family, along with spectacular firework displays during the evening. There are also shows reserved for night-time, so there’s still plenty to entertain after the sun goes down. When it comes to rides, take your pick from exciting or intriguing. For example, The Manta is designed to simulate the movements of a manta ray, with an incredibly smooth track that plays host to spinning, gliding and flying movements. For something a bit tamer, Antarctica: The Empire of the Penguin is a great family ride that takes you on a journey through Antarctica with Puck the penguin. Or, if you’d like to cool down, embark on some watery twists and turns on the Journey to Atlantis.
Spanning over 150 acres and boasting its own botanical garden and water park, Legoland Floridais also home to numerous rides, attractions, restaurants and shops. A relatively new member of the Legoland family, the park opened in 2011, and is now the largest Legoland park in the world. The park is divided into several sections, including Fun Town, Miniland USA and the Land of Adventure. For toddlers, there’s Duplo Valley, with mini tractor and train rides. For a medieval adventure, step into the Lego Kingdoms, home to attractions including the Forestmen’s Hideout playground, the Royal Joust ride and the Dragon rollercoaster, which gives you a glimpse of life inside the enchanted Legoland Castle. At Pirates’ Cove, you can watch some swashbuckling water skiing on Lake Eloise in a live action show filled with stunts and surprises. Legoland’s waterpark is also worth a visit. Splash around in the Wave Pool, race alongside a friend on the Twin Chasers, or head to the Build-a-Raft River to put your very own vessel together with your family, before testing it on a lazy waterway adorned with floral wildlife and palm trees.
Part of the SeaWorld family, Busch Gardens is an animal theme park located in Tampa. The park is home to Tampa Zoo – one of the largest zoos in North America. There are over 12,000 animals in residence, and over 30 of them are threatened or endangered species. The habitats are vast and open, allowing the animals to feel as though they’re out in the wild; despite this, you can still get great up-close looks at them from special viewing areas. There are several different safaris to choose from too, from the captivating Serengeti Night Safari to the exhilarating Cheetah Run. You’ll also find yourself spoilt for choice when it comes to rides and shows. For thrill-seekers, there’s Falcon’s Fury – North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower, or Sheikra, a floorless dive coaster with a water-soaked finale. There’s a great selection of rides and attractions for kids too, from the Jungle Flyers that soar above the animal village below to the fun Madagascar show, complete with live band and dancers.
If you’d like to immerse yourself in several wildlife experiences, Discovery Cove is the perfect place. Also part of the SeaWorld family, this park gives you the chance to swim with dolphins, meet exotic birds, tropical fish, sting rays and even land mammals. Unlike other parks, it gives you the chance to really interact with the animals and become immersed in their habitats, whether you’re snorkeling on the surface or diving into deeper waters. Seaventure, for example, is an underwater walking tour in which you don a dive helmet and explore the teeming marine life – no SCUBA certification required. There’s also the Freshwater Oasis, where you can gently wade into tropical habitats featuring otters and marmosets. If you’d like to learn even more about the animals at Discovery Cove, you can shadow a trainer for the day and really learn the ins and outs of what they get up to. Alternately, if you’d like a break, there are stretches of beach for you to relax on, as well as clear pools where you can indulge in a refreshing swim.
The masterminds behind SeaWorld decided to dream up a water park, and Aquatica is the spectacular result. This park is home to several exciting rides; race alongside your friends on the Taumata Racer, spin around on a solo raft on Tassie’s Twisters or embark on an aquatic adventure with your family on Roa’s Rapids. If you’ve got little ones in tow, Walkabout Waters is a 60-foot-tall fort of rain, colour, fun and adventure. The Dolphin Plunge is also a great option for the whole family, and has become the park’s most popular ride; wave hello to several gorgeous black and white Commerson’s Dolphins as you race through their underwater world in an enclosed tube slide. There’s also Orlando’s tallest, steepest drop tower, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls. After entering one of four boxes, the floor disappears beneath your feet, causing you to plummet from a height of more than 80 feet! Once you’ve caught your breath, you can head to your own private cabana to soak up the sun and order some food, which will be delivered to you by your own cabana host.