When someone says “I’m going on vacation to Orlando” you assume it’s for the roller coasters, castles, and all things amusement park. After all, Orlando boasts the moniker “Theme Park Capital of the World.” With millions of visitors each year, Orlando often beats New York as the United States’ most visited city, all due to the theme parks that attract guests from all corners of the world. Read on for a breakdown of Orlando’s many attractions.
When to Go:
Unfortunately, Orlando doesn’t suffer much of a low season — in 2015 the city welcomed over 66 million visitors. Expect crowds year round. The theme parks run special events and seasonal offerings that keep people streaming in throughout the year. However, you’ll enjoy your visit to Orlando most when the weather is warm but not sweltering, between October and March. During the height of summer, Central Florida gets regular afternoon thunderstorms, so come prepared with ponchos.
Walt Disney World
In the mid 1960s, Walt Disney — the creative mastermind behind the beloved cartoons — bought 47 square miles of swampy Central Florida land. Today, the enormous plot is home to no fewer than seven amusement parks and countless resorts and hotels. On Disney’s property, known as Walt Disney World Resort, you’ll find Orlando’s original Disney park, The Magic Kingdom. You’ll also find Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, all Disney parks with their own unique themes and entertainment offerings. You can enjoy two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Shopping, dining, and leisure activities are also scattered across the property, at the likes of Disney Springs and ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Like Disney, Universal Studios is another film and production company that used its beloved movie characters to inspire a theme park attraction. Universal’s parks include its roller-coaster heavy Islands of Adventure, and the new and popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Universal is also working on a water park of its own, Volcano Bay, set to open May 25, 2017. You can find food, club, music venues, and entertainment offerings at its free-to-enter Universal CityWalk.
Seaworld Orlando is part theme park, part zoo. You will find a variety of aquatic animals at this theme park, from bottlenose dolphins to sea lions. Seaworld gets a bad rap for its whale captivity, but it is arguably the more educational and eco-friendly of Orlando’s attractions. Visitors can learn all about wildlife and ocean conservation with the interactive animal exhibits. Seaworld also sponsors and participates in conservation and wildlife preservation programs across Florida. Also under the Seaworld brand is its waterpark Aquatica, part water park, part aquarium. For those looking to get up close and personal with the animals, a visit to Seaworld is where to go for a swim with the dolphins.
Orlando’s theme parks have bolstered its economy and made it an international tourism hub. The Central Florida region, for better or worse, is marked by these attractions. Living humbly in the shadows of the aforementioned theme park “greats,” are Orlando’s lesser-known parks: Gatorland, Legoland, the Kennedy Space Center, Fantasy of Flight, Medieval Times, and even Dinosaur World. These parks cater to a niche market of hobbyists and enthusiasts and attract their own set of enthusiastic out-of-towners.