Amazing Florida Theme Parks

Florida Theme Parks

In 2018 there were over 75 million visitors that traveled to Orlando and the major reason for it was the central Florida theme parks.  Orlando is the number 1 travel destination in the US and home to major theme parks in the Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. With all these attractions its no wonder that Orlando is known as the theme park capital of the world.

And just a short drive from Orlando there are two other major theme parks resorts including Legoland Florida, Busch Gardens Tampa/Adventure Island Tampa.

With so many theme parks to choose from, Orlando is the place to be for all the excitement and attractions.

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THE WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT

Since October 1971, The Walt Disney World Resort has been the pinnacle of all the theme parks in the world.  Disney features four individual theme parks, two amazing water parks, over 30,000 hotel rooms, a major sporting venue and one of Florida’s largest shopping, dining & entertainment venues.  These include:

  • The Magic Kingdom Park
  • EPCOT
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  • Typhoon Lagoon water park
  • Blizzard Beach water park
  • ESPN Wide World of Sports 
  • Disney Springs (shopping, dining & entertainment)

Disney theme parks has a “FastPass+” service which is included with the cost of admission.  This service allows you to reserve rides, entertainment and character meet & greets up via a web site or smart phone app 30 days in advance of your visit.  If you are staying at a Disney Resort Hotel, you can make reservations up to 60 days prior to check in for the length of your stay.  

Endless Summer Tip:  if possible, try to stay on site so you can book your FastPass+ reservations within 60 days in advance for your trip.  Many of the rides and shows will fill up quickly so the earlier you can make your selections the better chance you can get the times you want.

MAGIC KINGDOM PARK

The 107-acre Magic Kingdom Park is the most visited theme park in the world hosting more than 20 million guests each year which is over 2 million more than its sister park, Disneyland in California.  The Magic Kingdom originally opened in 1971 and was the first of Disney’s four theme parks in the Central Florida area.

There are a total of six themed “lands” in the park each with its own themed rides, shops, shows and restaurants.  The park’s individual lands are designed around Cinderella’s Castle which is the central hub of the Magic Kingdom as well as home to its amazing shows and parades.

  • Main Street USA
  • Adventureland
  • Frontierland
  • Liberty Square
  • Fantasyland
  • Tomorrowland

Some of the most popular rides and attractions are the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, “it’s a small word ride”, the Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain.  In addition to its rides and attractions are meet & greets with some of the Disney iconic characters including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Tinkerbell, Anna & Elsa from Frozen, Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Belle from Beauty and the Best.

The Magic Kingdom hosts a number of special events every year including Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Disney Villains After Hours at the Magic Kingdom.

Click here for our Ultimate Guide to the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort for 2021

EPCOT

Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, known as EPCOT is the second of the four theme parks in the Walt Disney World Resort.  Spanning 305 acres (which is twice the size of the Magic Kingdom), Walt Disney originally intended for for EPCOT to be a true city where people would live, work and play but today it is the second most visited theme park in the world hosting over 13 million guests in 2018.

EPCOT consists of two separate themed areas known as Future World and the World Showcase.  However, Disney is in process of transforming EPCOT with new themes and new rides & attractions.  At the 2019 D23 Expo, it was announced that Future would undergo a massive redevelopment and new theming with four new neighborhoods known as: World Celebration, World Nature, World Discovery and World Showcase (existing).   

Some of the most popular rides and attractions at Future World East & Future World West include: Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, Test Track, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, The Land, Soarin; and Imagination!

The World Showcase is a world traveler and foodie’s delight!  Circling a 40-acre lagoon, there are 11 individual nations featuring food, art and culture from their country.  You can sample fine cuisine and enjoy amazing wines from around the world in the numerous restaurants.  And at the end of the evening, make sure you find a great place along the lagoon to watch the fireworks show called “Epcot Forever”.  Epcot Forever replaced “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” which ran for 20 years as the centerpiece show at Epcot.

These 11 nations at the world showcase include Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom and Canada.

EPCOT is also known for its special events hosting number of fun filled experiences throughout the year with each having its own theme.  These four events (for 2019) are as follows:

  • Epcot International Festival of the Arts (Late January to early February)
  • Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (Early March to early June)
  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (Late summer to early fall)
  • Epcot International Festival of the Holidays (Mid-Fall to winter)

EPCOT Expansion

At the 2019 D23 Expo, it was announced that Future would undergo a massive redevelopment and new theming with four neighborhoods known as: World Celebration, World Nature, World Discovery and World Showcase.

The World Showcase keep its current title but will also undergo a transformation with new themes and attractions.  So far there have been four new rides and attractions announced but we are anticipating many more to come soon.  These four are:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy (roller coaster)
  • Innovative Pavilion (interactive adventure featuring Disney Characters)
  • Remy’s Rattouille Adventure (4D experience)
  • Walt Disney Imagineering Presents the Epcot Experience (exhibits featuring the changes to Epcot)

Click here for our Ultimate Guide to EPCOT at the Walt Disney World Resort for 2021

DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is inspired by show business with some parts being an operating production studio.  Formerly known as MGM-Studios, it was the third theme park built at the Walt Disney World resort.  The park as a whole is themed after a number Disney’s classic movie franchises and television shows including Star Wars, the Toy Story franchise, and Disney Junior television shows. 

Disney’s Hollywood Studios recently underwent a major transformation and expansion which brought a all new Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land to the park, bring the total number of individual park areas to nine. 

  • Hollywood Boulevard
  • Echo Lake
  • Commissary Lane
  • Grand Avenue
  • Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
  • Toy Story Land
  • An Incredible Celebration
  • Animation Courtyard
  • Sunset Boulevard

Several of the most popular rides and attractions include the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster, Toy Story Mania!, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Star Tours – The Adventure Continues and Micky and Minnie Starring in Red Carpet Dreams.

In addition to the amazing rides and attractions there are a number of great shows including Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, For the First Time in Forever: A “Frozen” Sing-Along Celebration, Muppet Vision 3D and Fantasmic! which is the nighttime spectacular with characters, fireworks and more.

COMING SOON:  there is an Star Wars themed hotel currently under construction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  This hotel will provide a completely immersive Star Wars experience to its guests including views of the galaxy from its “windows” as well as a specialty dining experience.

Click here for our Ultimate Guide to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for 2021

DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM

Opened in 1998, Animal Kingdom is the largest of all four Disney parks in the Orlando area and at 580 acres, the largest theme park in the world.  This park features Asian jungles and African savannas to go along with rainforests and animal encounters.  There are more than 250 different species of animals at Animal Kingdom with over 1,700 in total.   Beyond the natural wonders there are a number of thrill rides and attractions that will keep you keep at the edge of your seat.  

There are are six themed lands at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with each having their own rides & attractions, shops, shows and places to eat.

  • Oasis
  • Discovery Island
  • Pandora – The World of Avatar
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Dinoland USA

In the past few years Animal Kingdom has been expanded featuring a number of Pandora – The World of Avatar themed rides and attractions.  This expansion really has brought this park to life by adding a way to cap off the day with evening events & attractions.  Several of the popular Avatar themed rides and attractions include the Na’vi River Journey and the 3D ride, Avatar Flight of Passage.

Several of the most popular rides, shows and attractions outside of Pandora – The World of Avatar are as follows:

  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (roller coaster)
  • DINOSAUR (dark ride)
  • Finding Nemo – The Musical (show)
  • Festival of the Lion King (show)
  • Kali River Rapids (water ride)

It is still our opinion that the best attraction at of Animal Kingdom  is the 100-acre tour of the savannah known as Kilimanjaro Safaris as you get an up close and personal experience with a number of animals that you won’t find in your local zoo.

Animal Kingdom also has some of the best dining experiences in all of the Walt Disney World Resort.  Several of our favorites include:

  •  Yak & Yeti Restaurant
  • Tiffins Restaurant
  • The Tusker House Restaurant

The highlight of the day is the Rivers of Light nighttime show which begins just before the closure of Animal Kingdom.  This 17-minute show is exactly what you would expect from Disney featuring some of the music and pageantry form The Lion King movie. 

Animal Kingdom hosts a special event entitled “Nature Glows in the Dark”.  It is an after hours premium experience where a limited number of guests enjoy a select number of the most popular rides from 9:00 pm to midnight.  

Click here for our Ultimate Guide to Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort for 2021

DISNEY WATER PARKS

TYPHOON LAGOON

Originally built to take the place of Disney’s River Country, Typhoon Lagoon opened in 1989 and features one of the world’s largest outdoor wave pools that provide surfable waves.  There is actually a program at Typhoon Lagoon that teaches those ages 8 and up to surf.  

Attractions

  • Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool (full wave pool)
  • Castaway Creek (lazy river)
  • Ketchakiddee Creek (for the little ones)
  • Keelhaul Falls (tube ride)
  • Mayday Falls (single rider tube slide)
  • Gangplank Falls (four person tube ride)
  • Humunga Kowabunga (drop five stories in this water side)
  • Storm Side (three different body slides
  • Bay Slides (slides for those under 60 inches)
  • Mountain Trail
  • Miss Adventures Falls (family raft ride)
  • Crush ‘n’ Gusher (roller-coaster style raft ride) (Endless Summer favorite)

Dining

  • Leaning Palms
  • Happy Landings ice cream
  • Lowtide Lou’s
  • Typhoon Tilly’s
  • Snack Snack
  • Let’s Go Sluping
  • Surf Doggies
  • Tropical Amity Outpost

Shops and Merchandise

  • High N’ Dry
  • Singapore Sal’s

BLIZZARD BEACH

Due to the success of Typhoon Lagoon, Disney opened Blizzard Beach in 1995.  Blizzard Beach is a 66-acre water park that is themed after the melting of a snow ski resort.  

Attractions

  • Melt-Away Bay wave pool
  • Cross Country Creek lazy river
  • Ski Patrol Training Camp:  activity play area for pre-teens
  • Tike’s Peak: a water playground for those under 48 inches
  • Green Slopes – for the daring
    • Summit Plummet 
    • Slush Gusher
    • Teamboat Springs (six person raft ride)
    • Chairlift (chairlift to the top of of the mountain)
  • Purple Slopes – moderate level slides
    • Toboggan Racers (mat slide)
    • Snow Stormers (mat slide)
    • Downhill Double Dipper (racing tube slide)
  • Red Slopes – for the faint at heart
    • Runoff Rapids (tube ride down three twisting slides)

Dining

  • Lottawatta Lodge
  • Cooling Hut
  • Frostbite Freddy’s
  • Artic Expeditions
  • Avalunch
  • I.C. Expeditions
  • Warming Hut
  • Polar Pub

Shops and Merchandise

  • Beach Haus
  • Snowless Joe’s
  • Sand Breakers

DISNEY SPRINGS

Formerly known as Downtown Disney as Disney Village Marketplace, Disney Springs has been redeveloped and expanded into an enormous 120-acre shopping, dining and entertainment complex that consists of four separate districts which are built around “bubbling springs”.

  • The Marketplace (the original section)
  • The Landing (formerly Pleasure Island)
  • Town Center (the expansion in 2016)
  • West Side

Disney Springs was originally built in 1975 as the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village and has evolved to the massive development it is today.  The most recent expansion and rebranding was started in 2013 with some limited construction continuing today.    There is no admission charge and parking is also free.  There are a number of covered garages but you can also get their by Disney’s bus transportation system as well as by boat from select Disney area hotels.  A number of off-site hotels also offer complimentary transportation to and from Disney Springs.

There are a host of retail shops which feature Fashions & Sportswear, Home Decor, Footwear, Toys & Games, Jewelry & Accessories as well as Beauty & Health.  Featured retailers include:

  • Anthropologie
  • Everything But Water
  • Kate Spade New York
  • LACOSTE
  • The LEGO Store
  • Star Wars Galactic Outpost and Star Wars Trading Post
  • ALEX AND ANI
  • PANDORA Jewelry
  • Coach
  • Vera Bradley
  • The Art of Shaving
  • Sephora
  • The Art Corner
  • Johnston & Murphy
  • Sperry

In addition to the shops listed above there is a number of Disney themed stores including the 51,000 square foot WORLD OF DISNEY STORE which is the largest Disney store in the world.  There are 12 individual rooms featuring everything from classic Disney merchandise to the most recent Disney themed toys, clothes and collectibles.   If you are a fan of all things Disney, then make sure you find time of visit this amazing store. 

 Other Disney themed retail stores include:

  • The Art of Disney (Endless Summer favorite)
  • D-Tech on Demand at Marketplace Co-Op
  • Disney’s Days of Christmas
  • Disney’s Pin Traders
  • Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories
  • Mickey’s Pantry
  • Goofy’s Candy Company
  • Disney’s Candy Cauldron

There are over 50 dining options at Disney Springs which range from fast casual dining & quick service to more formal table service.  Here are a number of the featured table service options:

Featured quick service dining options include:

  • Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza
  • Chicken Guy!
  • D-Luxe Burger
  • EARL OF SANDWICH
  • The Polite Pig
  • Wolfgang Puck Express
  • 4R Cantina Barboca Food Truck
  • Ron Jon Surf Shop (Endless Summer favorite)

Beyond just shopping and dining, there are a number of unique entertainment experiences and attractions located at Disney Springs.  These include:

  • Aerophine – The World Leader in Balloon Flight
  • AMC Disney Springs 24 movies
  • House of Blues Music Hall
  • NBA Experience
  • Splitsville Luxury Lanes (Endless Summer favorite)
  • The VOID: Hyper-Realty Experience
  • Vintage Amphicar & Italian Water Taxi Tours
  • The Coca-Cola Store Rooftop Beverage Bar (Endless Summer favorite)

  Click here for our Complete Guide to Disney Springs at the Walt Disney World Resort for 2021

DISNEY HOTELS AND RESORTS

There are 36 resorts at the Walt Disney World Resort including the Disney Vacation Club (fractional ownership) properties totaling more than 30,00 hotel rooms and over 3,200 vacation club units.  

Hotels and resorts are separated into different categories which include:

  • Deluxe Resort Hotels
  • Deluxe Resort Villas
  • Moderate Resort Hotels
  • Value Resorts
  • Disney’s campgrounds

There are a number of great benefits that come from staying on-site at a Disney hotel or resort.  These amazing benefits include:

  • Complimentary transportation between the resorts and parks with free hotel parking
  • Extra Magic Hours (you get to enter the parks early and stay late, times and dates vary)
  • Free MagicBands
  • Make FastPass+ reservations up to 60 days prior to your stay

CLICK HERE to check the current prices on the Orlando area theme parks including The Walt Disney World Resort.

THE UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT

THE UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT is the second largest theme park in Orlando behind Disney but has been closing the gap due to the opening of Volcano Bay (water theme park) and the announcement of a new park called EPIC UNIVERSE

The original Universal Studios opened in 1990 and was themed as a “Ride the Movies” type of park .  As part of a massive expansion in 1999, Universal opened a second theme park called ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE, a dining and entertainment complex called CITYWALK and several on-site themed hotels.

Similar to Disney’s FastPass+, Universal offers the “Universal Express” option which in our opinion is the best theme park benefit of any throughout Orlando.  Universal Express allows you to skip the regular lines at most of the rides and attractions throughout Universal Orlando.  Unlimited Express Pass is a FREE hotel benefit when staying at any of Universal’s Premier Resorts or you can upgrade your admission to a one time per participating ride Express Pass or an unlimited Express Pass.  The “unlimited” version allows you to skip the regular lines and ride the participating rides as many times that you want.  Prices for Universal Express and Universal Express Unlimited start from $69.99 per person per day for one-park.

And if you are a Universal Orlando Premier Annual Passholder, the one time Universal Express (after 4:PM) is included with the cost of your pass.  CLICK HERE to learn more about the Premier Annual Passholder benefits.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS FLORIDA

Universal Studios Florida is Universal’s original Florida park and in 2018, has hosted more than 10 million visitors making it the 11th most visited theme park in the world.   As indicated above, Universal Studios was originally designed as a “Ride the Movies” park but has evolved and changed with the times.  

The park are eight individual area that surrounding a central lagoon which originally hosted a boat themed stunt show.  Now the lagoon features a fountain a projection show known as Cinematic Celebration.  The eight themed lands are:

  • Hollywood
  • New York
  • Production Central
  • San Francisco
  • Springfield
  • Diagon Alley – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone
  • World Expo

Some of the most popular rides and attractions are themed after movies including Despicable Me, Escape from Gringotts Bank, The Mummy Roller Coaster and Men In Black Alien Attack. Universal Studios Orlando is also famous for its special events.  Two of the more popular are  Halloween Horror Nights and Mardi Gras at Universal Studios.

On most nights from September to early November the park closes early and is transformed into a giant horror fest known as Halloween Horror Nights (“HHN”).   The event is so popular that it is has been running for 29 years and the crowds continue to grow.  HHN features scare zones, haunted houses and a number of great shows.  If Halloween is your thing, HHN is not to be missed. 

Universal also host a huge Mardi Gras celebration which is a family friendly event that typically runs from early February to early April.  The Hollywood, Production Central and New York sections of the park transform with a New Orleansesque theme.  There is a nightly parade (with floats and beads), weekend concerts and great cajun / creole food.

Check out our Definitive Guide to Universal Studios Florida at The Universal Orlando Resort for 2021

ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE

According to the TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards, Island of Adventure was named the top amusement park for 2019.  Originally developed as more of a “thrill” type park to compliment Universal Studios Florida, Islands have a number of roller coasters and “thrill” type rides that definitely draw the crowds.  

What really increased the popularity of this park was when in 2010 Universal added the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade Village and Hogsmeade Castle to its line up.  As a result, Island of Adventure was in the top 15 in theme park attendance for 2018 with more than 9.7 million guests crossing their gates.    

There are eight individually themed “islands” at Islands of Adventure that have rides and attractions suitable for all ages.

  • Port of Entry
  • Marvel Super Hero Island
  • Toon Lagoon
  • Skull Island: Reign of Kong
  • Jurassic Park
  • Hogsmeade – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • The Lost Continent
  • Seuss Landing

The most popular “thrill” rides and attractions at Islands of Adventure include the rides at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey and the Flight of the Hippogriff), the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster, Dr. Doom Fear Fall and the Amazing Spiderman ride.  In addition to the thrill rides, this park features there amazing water rides in the Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do Right’s Rip Saw Falls and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges ride.

There is an island also dedicated to kid rides and attractions known as Seuss Landing which of course is themed after the stories of Dr. Seuss.  In addition to great rides like Cat in the Hat and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, there are a number of character meet & greets in Seuss Landing.

And under construction in a new roller coaster that will have  Jurassic Park theming.  Limited details have been make public at this time so check back for updates.

Check out our Definitive Guide to Islands of Adventure at The Universal Orlando Resort for 2021

UNIVERSAL’S CITYWALK

When Universal underwent their expansion in 1999 they added CityWalk which is their entertainment and retail district. Universal’s CityWalk is the “epicenter” of the Universal Orlando Resort featuring a number of restaurants, shops, nightclubs and entertainment venues.

After parking in either the garages or being dropped off at the transportation center, you will need to pass through CityWalk to get to the entrance of Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

CityWalk features a more than 20 dining options which range from fast food to quick service dining as well as table dining.  There is a wide variety of dining options so if guests are seeking a intimate dinner for two or just a quick bite to eat with the kids, there will be a wide variety of options to chose from.

Feature Table Service Restaurants 

  • Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Antoijitos Authentic Mexican Food
  • Bigfire
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
  • The Cowfish
  • Hard Rock Cafe Orlando (Endless Summer favorite)
  • NBC Sports Grill & Brew 
  • The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Vivo Italian Kitchen

Fast Food and Quick Service Dining

  • Bread Box Handcrafted Sandwiches
  • Hot Dog Hall of Fame (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill
  • Panda Express
  • Voodoo Doughnut
  • Burger King Whopper Bar

During the evening hours there is no better place to party than Universal’s CityWalk.  CityWalk features a number of clubs and lounges and you can bar hop until your hearts content.  

  • CityWalk’s Rising Star (karaoke bar)
  • Lone Palm Airport (outside bar)
  • Red Coconut Club
  • the groove (dance club)

If bar hopping is not your thing or if you are visiting with children, than don’t regret as there are plenty of things to do for you when the theme parks close.

  • Blue Man Group (live show) (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Hard Rock Live Orlando (concert venue)
  • Hollywood Drive-In Golf (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Universal Cinemark (movie theater)

In addition to the dining and entertainment venues at CityWalk, there are a number of trendy shops including the Universal Studios store which sells just about every Universal themed souvenir a visitor can wish for during their vacation.  Other retailers include the Island Clothing Co and and P!Q as well as retail stores in Margaritaville and the Hard Rock Cafe.

VOLCANO BAY

The most recent addition to Universal Orlando is Volcano Bay which is a themed water park.  Opened in the summer of 2017, the park uses a unique wearable device that wears like a bracelet that guest use to hold their pace in line as well, interact with a number of park features, and make purchases of food & merchandise (provided its connected with a credit card).

Volcano Bay’s rides and attractions are as follows:

The Volcano

  • Vol, the Spirit of Kratatau

Rainforest Village

  • Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides
  • Ohyah of Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Ohno of Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Puka Uli Lagoon
  • Maku of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides
  • Puihi of Maku Puihi Round Raft Rides 
  • TeAwa The Fearless River
  • Hammerhead Beach
  • Taniwah Tubes – Tonga
  • Taniwha Tubes – Raki
  • Punga Racers (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Banbu restaurant
  • The Feasting Frog
  • Kunuku Boat Bar

River Village

  • Kratatau Aqua Coaster  (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Runamukka Reef
  • Tot Tiki Reef
  • Kopiko Wai Winding River
  • Honu of Honu ika Moana  (Endless Summer favorite)
  • ika Moana of Honu ika Moana
  • Whakawaiwai Eats

Wave Village

  • Ko’okiri Body Plunge  (Endless Summer favorite)
  • The Reef
  • Waturi Beach  (Endless Summer favorite)
  • Dancing Dragons Boat Bar
  • Kohola Reef Restaurant & Social Club

EPIC UNIVERSE – COMING SOON!!!

In the summer of 2019 Universal announced that is will develop a fourth theme park called Universal’s Epic Universe.  This new park will be located on over 750 acres off Sand Lake Road and a future extension of Kirkman which will run to Universal Boulevard.   This new site was reported to feature a completely new theme park, hotels, shops, restaurants and an entertainment center.   

Universal has a post about the new park on their blog which also includes concept artwork.  Click here to read that post.

UNIVERSAL HOTELS AND RESORTS

Universal Orlando features a wide range of places to stay during your visit.  From first class on-site hotels to family suites as well as value hotels, you can find the perfect place to stay that fits your budget.

Hotels and resorts are separated into three different categories :

  • Premier Hotels & Resorts
  • Preferred & Value Hotels and Resorts
  • Prime Value Hotels and Resorts

CLICK HERE to see all the on-site Universal hotels as well as off site recommended options

There are a number of great benefits that come from staying on-site at a Universal Orlando hotel.  These amazing benefits include:

  • Complimentary transportation by either bus or boat
  • Early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well as Universal’s Volcano Bay one hour before park opening.
  • Universal Express Unlimited for those guests staying at a Premier Hotel and Resort

SEAWORLD

The SeaWorld parks & resorts are the smallest of the three major central Florida area theme parks & resorts but its has a fairly wide footprint ranging from locations in both Orlando and Tampa.  Busch Gardens Tampa was it’s first Florida theme park which opened in 1959; followed by SeaWorld Orlando in 1973.  Both the Orlando and Tampa locations have accompanying water parks which add to the guests overall experience.

SEAWORLD ORLANDO

SeaWorld Orlando is the flagship park in Florida.  Located on approximately 200 acres just east of Interstate 4 and south of the Orange County Convention Center, SeaWorld is a both a theme park as well as a marine zoological park as it features a number of different marine life exhibits.  This park is one of our favorites as its not overwhelming and if planned right, you can see every show as well as ride every ride in a day.  Along with great roller coasters, you will find some of THE BEST animal themed shows at SeaWorld. 

If you enjoy animal experiences, then SeaWorld is the park to visit.  You will find a number of different animals and mammals from dolphins to manatees, killer whales to turtles, even alligators and pink flamingos.  And there are also a number of different aquariums where you will find a number of different species of fish as well as other marine life.

This park, as well other SeaWorld parks, is undergoing a transformation and trending towards less marine life shows accompanied by more thrill type rides and attractions.  Several of the more popular rides and attractions at SeaWorld Orlando are as follows:

  • Infinity Falls – prepare to get wet on this river raft ride.
  • Mako – one of the fastest and longest roller coasters in Orlando.
  • Kraken Unleased – thrills about on this amazing roller coaster.
  • Manta – fly through the sky just like a Manta Ray on this exciting roller coaster.
  • Ice Breaker roller coaster (coming soon).
  • Journey to Atlantis – amazing water coaster ride through Atlantis.
  • Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin ride – follow Puck the baby penguin as he finds his friends.
  • Sky Tower – 400 foot observation tower ride.  You can see all of Orlando from the top.

There is something for everyone at SeaWorld Orlando including the little ones.  The new Sesame Street Land is a very well themed “kids area” which has a number of rides an attracts that are perfect for children 10 and younger.  Several of the Sesame Street themed rides and attractions include Abby’s Flower Tower, Bid Bird’s Twirl ‘N’ Whirl, Cooke Drop!, Slimey’s Slider and the Super Grover’s Box Car Derby.  There is even a fantastic Sesame Street themed  as well as “Storytime with Big Bird”.

In addition to the amazing rides there area a number of fantastic shows and animal experiences which are what highlight the theme of Sea World as a hole.  Here are some of the featured shows and experiences.

  • Dolphin Days – fantastic show featuring SeaWorld’s dolphins
  • Sea Lion High: The New Class – check out Clyde and Seymore’s antics
  • Orca Encounter – Killer Whale Presentation and Ocean Discovery
  • Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin (habitat)
  • Dolphin Cove and Dolphin Nursery – watch the dolphins train and play.  You can even take a special tour (paid of course).
  • Manatee Rehabilitation Area
  • Underwater Viewing – SeaWorld has underwater viewing for both dolphins and killer whales.
  • Pacific Point Preserve – Sea Lion viewing
  • Shark Encounter – go underwater with the sharks and other marine life
  • Stingray Lagoon – did you ever pet a stingray?  Well you can here.
  • Turtle Trek – huge aquariums of turtles, fish and manatees
  • Wild Arctic – after the ride, walk through the habitat for walruses and beluga whales

SeaWorld Orlando hosts a number of special events throughout the course of the year and their Electric Ocean summer spectacular along with the Christmas Celebration are not to be missed.  The entire slate of annual events are as follows.

  • Seven Seas Food Festival – enjoy great food and 
  • Electric Ocean summer spectacular – check it out here.
  • Three Kings Celebration – celebrating the arrival of the three wise men
  • Craft Beer Festival – typically held in September and October
  • Halloween Spooktacular – annual Halloween event with a Halloween parade 
  • Christmas Celebration and New Year’s Eve – celebrate the holiday seasons at Sea World.  You will be glad that you did.

Check out our Complete Guide to SeaWorld Orlando for 2021

AQUATICA at SEAWORLD ORLANDO

Aquatica is one of our most favorite water parks and was voted as the nations best water park in the 2018 Reader’s Choice Awards Poll of 2018 as well one of the top 5 water parks in the US  top 15 in the world per TripAdvisors Traveler’s Choice Awards for 2018.

If you enjoy water parks then Aquatic will be on your must do list during your next visit to Orlando.  From thrill water rides to two large wave pools as well as both fast and slow “lazy rivers”, Aquatica is the perfect place to stay cool in the hot Florida sun.

Slides

  • Ray Rush – the newest ride at Aquatica.  Family friendly raft slide
  • Dolphin Plunge – water slide through a pool of commerson dolphins
  • Ihu’s Breakaway Falls – drop style water slides for the daring
  • Omaka Rocka – raft water slide into flumes and funnels
  • Tassie’s Twisters – raft water slide with a twisting experience
  • Tamuata Racer – high speed matt water slide
  • Walhalla Wave – six-story twisting and turning raft ride
  • Whanau Way – high speed raft ride with four different experiences

Pools, Rivers and Water lay Areas

  • Cutback Cove & Big Surf Shores – side-by-side wave pools with a sandy beach area
  • Kata’s Kookaburra Cove – kids play area featuring a number of sides and water features
  • Loggerhead Lane – lazy river featuring aquarium viewing
  • Roa’s Rapids – “fast” lazy river ride
  • Walkabout Waters – multistory play area for kids with slides, water features and more

There area a number of dining options at Aquatica which include the all you can deal Banana Beach Cookout, quick service dining at Waterstone Grill and the grab & go market Mango Market.  At times we have also seen a good old fashioned BBQ at the entrance to the beach area where they were cooking up a variety of burgers and hot dogs.

Click here to see a map view of Aquatica.

CLICK HERE to check the current prices on the Orlando area theme parks including SeaWorld and Aquatica.

PLACES TO STAY WHEN VISITING SEAWORLD ORLANDO

At this time SeaWorld does not have any on site hotels but does have a number of “Official SeaWorld Hotels” as well as SeaWorld Partner Hotels.  Although both categories of hotels offer SeaWorld benefits with respect to dining and merchandise discounts, priority entry and complimentary transportation but the official hotels offer a complimentary one time Quick Queue pass which will save you from long wait times on some of the most popular rides.

Click here to see a list of Official SeaWorld Hotels, SeaWorld Hotel Partners and our recommended SeaWorld Area Hotels. Our favorite SeaWorld area hotel is shown in the video below.