The best theme parks in Orlando range from big-name venues to local attractions, but all offer unforgettable, world-class experiences.
A family holiday to Disney World Orlando is on many a bucket list for a family vacation to Florida. But with huge price increases over the last few years, it's becoming harder for today's families to afford such an adventure.
When the park first opened in 1955, the $2.50 admission ticket on opening day is the equivalent to spending more like $25 today, but prices can now set families back around $600 (£469) per person for a '7-Day Magic Ticket' - which is roughly $85/£67 per day if you were to visit every day in a week.
But there are so many options beyond Disney World, if the ticket prices pose an obstacle to your visit and you only have one day of your vacation to dedicate to theme park fun. Each of the well-maintained theme parks in Orlando below offers a uniquely different experience, from thrill-seeking rides to brilliant shows and more.
The best theme parks in Orlando, Florida
1. LEGOLAND Florida
This 150-acre open-air resort in Winter Haven is just under 50 miles southwest of Orlando. With a plethora of interactive Lego-themed rides, captivating shows, and 11 themed zones, this park is dedicated to bringing out the builder in all its 2-12-year-old visitors.
Young builders will enjoy a ride through the countryside and visit farm animals on the Duplo train in the Duplo Valley. Thrillseekers should head to the Land of Adventure for a ride on the Coastersaurus, a wooden roller coaster that transports you through the jungle while whizzing past life-sized brick dinosaurs. Between character meet-and-greets and exciting rides, head to manicured Cypress Gardens to catch your breath while admiring an array of palms, banana trees and azaleas.
Purchasing the combination ticket will grant you access to the Legoland Water Park, and visitors can construct their own Lego raft, which they can sail down the 305m long river.
Prices for a day pass start from $84.99 / £63.50. Find out more and book tickets here.
Top tip: Head to the Imagination Zone for the opportunity to build your own computerized robot.
2. Universal Orlando
Learn what goes on behind-the-scenes of movie sets at Universal Orlando through entertaining and informative tours of working sets, thrilling rides and interactive shows.
Comprised of two theme parks, a tropical-themed water park, and a massive entertainment complex, visitors should budget for at least three days to maximize their time at the impressive site.
At Universal Studios, visit the six different themed areas which include San Francisco, Hollywood, New York, and Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone.
You can shop for souvenirs and apparel in the Simpsons inspired Kwik-E-Mart and sip on butterbeer before jumping the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross Station to Hogsmeade Station, landing you in the heart of Islands of Adventure. While you're there, don't forget to ride the trackless Skull Island: Reign of Kong.
Over at water theme park Volcano Bay, you can ride through a waterfall on the Krakatau Aqua Coaster. Afterwards, play at the waterpark to beat the heat, where the 60 meters tall Krakatau volcano punctuates the skyline.
To recharge throughout the day, or to take advantage of some indoor attractions, head to CityWalk, the resort’s entertainment complex, which offers a plethora of restaurants and shopping options, as well as a movie theatre, comedy club, and miniature golf course.
Prices for a day pass start from $80 / £60 for Volcano Bay and $109 / £81.50 for Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Find out more and book tickets here.
Top tip: For those short on time, stay at one of the on-site properties. Guests at Universal hotels receive an early entry for specific attractions, saving you time on transit and in queues.
3. SeaWorld Orlando
Since it opened in 1973, SeaWorld Orlando has seamlessly blended educational exhibits with family-friendly rides for a fun and informative all-ages experience.
Learn about conservation through the theme park’s shows where visitors can interact with dolphins, walruses, and orcas. Then spin, fly face-down and navigate thrilling turns at high speeds on the Mako, Kraken, and Manta rollercoasters, which are some of the top-ranked roller coasters in Orlando.
Allow enough time to splash around SeaWorld's water park, Aquatica, which is home to two wave pools and a number of thrilling slides. Ascend the 122m Sky Tower for a bird’s-eye view of the expansive 200 acres that make up up the park.
Prices for a day pass start from $89.99 / £67. Find out more and book tickets here.
Top tip: Budget at least two days for SeaWorld: this will allow you enough time to ride the exciting roller coasters and enjoy up-close animal encounters.
4. Icon Park
With over 40 dining establishments, boutique shops, and amusement park rides, this 20-acre open-air entertainment destination promises fun for the entire family.
Ride the observation wheel, which stands at 122m tall, and marvel at a panoramic view of downtown Orlando, Big Sandlake and Little Sandlake, and beyond.
Then, snap a selfie with your favourite celebrities at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Visit thousands of fish, stingrays, and sea turtles from the 360° ocean tunnel at Sea Life aquarium, and even get the opportunity to touch starfish.
Gorge on crepes at iCafe de Paris, enjoy authentic paella and a flamenco show at Tapa Toro and sip on margaritas at Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant.
Prices for a day pass start from $69 / £52 for access to all attractions. Find out more and book tickets here.
Top tip: If you’ve already visited one of Orlando’s other theme parks, purchase a Park Topper Pass for a late-night ride on The Wheel at 50% off. It's a ferris wheel like no other.
5. Dezerland Park
At 79,000 m2, and offering over 17 activities, Dezerland Park is Florida's largest indoor attraction. Its highlights include Jump Start, a 1,858 m2 trampoline park that invites guests to play dodgeball and super slam basketball on its trampoline courts, the state’s largest indoor karting track with electric go-karts, glow-in-the-dark mini golf, and axe throwing. The park also hosts Orlando Arcade, an arcade filled with hundreds of games including classics like pinball.
Car enthusiasts will appreciate the Orlando Auto Museum, a 23,225 m2 facility that houses the world's largest collection of James Bond and Batman Vehicles among thousands of others.
Purchase credits for the arcade, or pay per activity. Find out more and book tickets here.
Top tip: If you’re celebrating a birthday, rent one of three rooms at Jump Start to host private parties.
6. Fun Spot America
Fun Spot America is a family-owned business with one location in Orlando and another in Kissimmee. With a goal to create fun memories for all families, this theme park offers a variety of roller coasters, kiddie rides, and games for kids and adults.
Jump on the classic Bumper Kars, go for a spin in giant teacups, or ride the carousel with your kids. For a more fast-paced experience, try the swing ride, a 27m tall ride that affords an aerial view of the park, or ride upside down in the Headrush 360.
For a break from the rides, head inside the 93m2 arcade, or head to the midway and try your luck at scoring prizes by playing games like Balloon Bust or Hot Shot.
Alternatively, head along to Gator Spot, an oasis that showcases over 1,000 crocodiles and gators. Stay for the petting zoos, animal shows and natural alligator breeding marsh.
Prices for a day pass start from $54.95 / £41. Find out more and book tickets here.
Top tip: When it gets too hot, beat the heat at the Splash Pad, a massive interactive water feature with playable elements, such as canons and water rings. You can also rent your own private cabana by the pad if you want to go back and forth from there to the rides and attractions all day.
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Vivian is a Vancouver-based freelance writer who has worked for Culture Trip and Fodor's Travel as well as Woman&Home. She covers a wide range of topics, ranging from travel and outdoor adventure, to food and mental health and wellness. She's a curious wanderer with a thirst for adventure, and when she’s not writing, can likely be found lazing by a lake, hiking the forested trails of beautiful British Columbia, or on a mission for the next best donut.
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