Best Theme Parks in Orlando, Florida – An Introductory Guide For Beginners

Every Theme Park in Orlando & Beyond Explained

Orlando, central Florida, is best known for being a hot spot for theme park lovers – in fact, it’s pretty fairly earned the title of Theme Park Capital of the World.

Most are no doubt familiar with Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. However, many don’t know that Orlando is home to more than a dozen different amusement parks, making it one of the most entertaining spots in the United States for families and people of all ages.

Today we’re sharing with you all the best theme parks you can visit in the Orlando area and what you can expect when planning a family trip to Orlando.

This post is part of our series Discover the USA

Don’t forget Orlando isn’t JUST theme parks! We share more non-theme park family experiences over here, too, so you can balance out your trip to the theme-park capital with some fun family day trips and nature experiences.

1. Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando is made up of four theme parks and two water parks.

Magic Kingdom: Magic Kingdom is Disney’s main theme park and features classic Disney films, including the main attraction, Cinderella’s Castle, as well as Aladdin, Dumbo, and more! For younger children (and those young at heart), this is the ultimate starting point for an Orlando theme parks adventure.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios: The Hollywood Studios park features Disney films such as the Marvel franchise, Star Wars, and Pixar films such as Toy Story, Cars, and more. A great mixture of shows, thrilling rides, and interactive experiences, more suited to your older tweens and teens, but still plenty here that younger kids will enjoy.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom: The Animal Kingdom park is the Disney Park that features Disney films that showcase countries such as Africa and Asia. Some of the Disney films that you will see throughout the park include The Lion King, Avatar, and A Bug’s Life.

Our Globetrotters - SFB Airport Disney World Transp Tips

EPCOT: Epcot is known for celebrating different countries and cultures around the world. At Epcot, many rides and attractions feature characters from countries around the world, including Ratatouille and Beauty and the Beast. Look out for annual events, including the International Flower & Garden Festival, Festival of the Arts, and the International Food and Wine Festival, for added fun.

Blizzard Beach: Blizzard Beach is one of two Disney water parks that allow you to enjoy a cross between swimming and a theme park. Here you will find water slides, water tubes, relaxing lazy rivers, and much more! *Blizzard Beach is temporarily closed, but there are plans to reopen at some point.

Typhoon Lagoon: Typhoon Lagoon is the other water park on Disney property. Similar to Blizzard Beach, at Typhoon Lagoon, you will find a number of water slides, water tubes, North America’s largest wave pool, and so many other swimming and water experiences.

In addition to the theme parks, don’t miss spending some time at Disney Springs – a shopping and dining district inside Walt Disney World grounds.

One day, 1 park passes start from $109+

Traveling with young children? Don’t forget to read up on your Disney stroller rules – trust us, you’ll want a stroller for ALL Orlando theme parks, so make sure it’s size compliant.

All the Disney World parks can be exceptionally busy depending on the season. If you don’t have Genie Pass sorted well in advance, expect to do a lot of queuing. You can keep the magic alive for little ones by having a few queuing games and activities up your sleeve.

2. Universal Orlando Resort

The Universal Orlando Resort property is made up of three parks, including two theme parks and one water park.

They have similar names but different parks! Here’s how to distinguish between Universal Studios and Hollywood Studios in Orlando

Universal Studios Florida: The Universal Studios property showcases many feature films you know and love. Universal Studios Florida features everything from classics such as E.T., The Simpsons, and Men in Black to more modern films, including the Fast & Furious franchise and the Minions movies.

From street shows to some of the best roller coasters in Orlando, this is a firm favorite with older kids and thrill-seekers, though there are still plenty of rides that appeal to kids of all ages, and sections made especially for toddlers and young children.

Universal’s Island of Adventure: The Island of Adventure side of the park features more of the “adventurous” movies such as Jurassic Park and the Marvel franchise such as Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk.

Another great choice for tweens and teens, and thrilling ride fans with its heady mix of roller coasters and water-based rides.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: While the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not a completely separate park, it is actually spread between both Universal Studios Florida and the Island of Adventure parks.

Because it is such a feature spot of the property, we felt like it needed its own feature. Here, you will be transported into the world of the Harry Potter books and films and get the full experience with everything from enjoying the food and beverages you know from Harry Potter in Diagon Alley to embarking on adventures in the various rides and attractions throughout the Wizarding World.

Universal’s Volcano Bay: Volcano Bay is Universal’s waterpark. Here, they have a number of rides and attractions featuring water, including water slides, a water roller coaster, swimming pools, and more!

Overhead view of Volcano Bat water park in Orlando
Volcano Bay, Universal Resort Orlando | Depositphotos

Connecting the two main theme parks is Universal’s City Walk, also packed with dining options and entertainment. It can be worth an evening visit itself, even if you’re not visiting the Universal theme parks.

Day tickets for a single park start from $114+

You can find our complete beginner’s guide to Universal over here – the perfect starting point for planning a trip to Universal Studios Orlando. You may also want to check out our guide to all the hotels in Orlando with Universal Shuttle services and our guide for distinguishing between entertainment and attractions at Universal Studios vs Islands of Adventure if you’re short on time and can only visit one.

3. SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld combines thrilling theme park rides with the world of the Ocean. SeaWorld Orlando is the perfect place to enjoy animal experiences such as the Dolphin Cove, the Jewel of the Sea Aquarium, the Manta Aquarium, and also fun rides and attractions such as Mako, Manta, and the Journey to Atlantis.

SeaWorld has broad appeal across age groups from tots to teens making it a good choice for a large family group.

Single-day tickets start from $124.99+

4. Aquatica

If you enjoy swimming, thrilling water rides, and cooling off in the water, Aquatica is a great place to visit.

Aquatica is one of Orlando’s premier water parks, offering something for everyone, whether you want to relax and enjoy the sun or splash into the water. They have a wide variety of slides and pools to enjoy as well as a variety of cabanas and loungers for relaxing.

Single-day tickets start from $94.99+

5. Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal with animals of the sea. Not only do you get to see the animals in action, but you can also actually get in the water and swim and frolic with them side by side.

Here you can swim with dolphins, and sharks, feed rays, and so many more incredible animal encounters.

Day resort admission starts from $224.00+, plus look for combo packages with SeaWorld, Aquatica, and Busch Gardens

6. LEGOLAND Florida

LEGO lovers will absolutely LOVE LEGOLAND Florida. Legoland is a theme park that includes a variety of rides and attractions, and all over the park, you will find the most incredible sculptures and works of art made entirely of Legos.

LEGOLAND Florida consists of a theme park, waterpark, and on-site hotels and resorts for a complete family vacation. LEGOLAND can be found in Winter Haven, around an hour south of Orlando.

You can also find the brand new Peppa Pig theme park adjacent to LEGOLAND (more coming soon!). Nostalgia buffs might be surprised to know that one of central Florida’s original attractions, Cypress Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden, can be found inside LEGOLAND!

Day tickets to LEGOLAND start from $104.99+ for adults and $84.99+ for kids. 3-day multi-park passes start from $144.99+

7. Gatorland

Florida is famous for its gators! At Gatorland, you will have the chance to see alligators of all kinds ranging from babies to full-grown gators up to 14 feet long! In addition to seeing gators, you can also enjoy fun activities such as zip lining, off-roading, live shows, feeding times and a petting zoo.

If you’re looking for a change from the theme park rides and want to get closer to nature in Florida, this is the park for you. It’s ideal for your under 10’s and its smaller size makes it easy to manage in half a day.

A child looking at a gator in Gatorland orlando

Adult day tickets start from $32.99+ and children $31.99+

8. ICON Park & The Wheel

ICON Park is a park that offers all of your entertainment needs in one spot, including restaurants, shopping, rides, and attractions for fun!

Located on International Drive, ICON Park includes the famous Madame Tussauds Orlando wax museum, SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, In The Game, 7D Motion Theater, Museum of Illusions, and the toddler-sized Pearl Express Train.

And of course, you can’t leave ICON Park without riding the famous Ferris Wheel.

An ICON Parks Play Pass for all 7 attractions is $74.99+ per person.

Orlando Icon Park observation wheel
The iconic Observation wheek of ICON Park in Orlando – a fun theme park addition

9. Fun Spot America

How could you not want to go to a place called “Fun Spot America”? This park is just that, a fun spot! Here you will find a variety of fun amusement rides such as the Firecracker, the Freedom Flyer, and the Liberty Swing.

There are two locations in Orlando and Kissimmee, with day passes starting from $54.99+ per person.

10. Busch Gardens Tampa

Whist technically not in Orlando, Busch Gardens Tampa is just a short drive away for a day of fun (less than 2 hours – traffic dependent!).

Busch Gardens is a wildlife safari theme park. Enjoy a number of thrilling coasters, including Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, and Kumba, or take an excellent safari tour to see the beautiful animals and exotic birds in their habitats.

Tickets start from $124.99+

Learn more about all the fun things to do in Tampa, FL with kids

Orlando Theme Parks Map

Use this map to help plot your journey and find the best accommodation options near to your favorite Orlando theme parks.

Best Orlando Theme Parks by Age

It comes down to age groups and thrill levels, which theme parks may interest families the most. From our personal experience from being swinging singles adults through to having grandparents, toddlers, and teens in Orlando, we think these are the best for each age group to consider:

  • Toddlers – Magic Kingdom, Peppa Pig, Animal Kingdom, Gatorland
  • Pre-schoolers to Elementary School Age – SeaWorld, Legoland
  • Tweens – Universal Studios, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT
  • Teens – Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Aquatica, Hollywood Studios
  • Water Park-lovers – Aquatica, Volcano Bay, Typhoon Lagoon
  • Grandparents & Non-thrill-seekers! – EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, ICON Park, Animal Kingdom

Your taste could, of course, be entirely different, or with a multi-age and multigeneration group, you might need to make quite a few compromises. It’s your Orlando vacation, so the choice is entirely up to you.

Kids in Universal Orlando Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Diagon Alley – the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios

Budgeting Your Trip to Orlando

We’re not going to lie; an Orlando theme park adventure is far from the cheapest vacation you can take with your family. Just a few money-saving tips for theme parks:

  • Do plan a long way out – top hotels onsite at the resorts can sell out well in advance; the sooner you book, the more available choices within your budget (and time to save!)
  • Visit during low-season if at all possible; you’re more likely to find value package deals
  • Write out your dream list, then see what parks and hotels can be packaged together; accept that you are unlikely to be able to “see and do it all” in one trip to Orlando
  • Look for hotels that offer free shuttles or can easily access the I-Trolley to save on taxis and hire cars (we talk more about Orlando hotels that offer shuttles to the theme parks here – otherwise, you’ll pay A LOT for parking at Disney, and a fairly similar daily amount for parking at Universal
  • Not planning to go to a theme park every day? Larger families and groups should look for rental properties in Orlando instead of hotels and resorts

+ Beware of the tax! All theme park tickets are subject to 6.5% local sales tax. Resorts and Hotels are also subject to a 6% tax. You’ll need to add this to your Orlando theme parks budget.

Orlando has so much family fun to offer. Unless you are planning to spend a significant amount of time there, you probably won’t be able to visit all of the theme parks in the area. You will need to pick and choose, according to your time and budget, as well as your kids’ ages and interests, just how many of these theme parks you can fit in one trip.

We hope this guide has provided you with a little insight on what to expect at each and plan your trip to Florida around your family’s interests.

More Family Things to do in Florida

The family fun in Florida doesn’t end at the theme parks; you may also be interested in:

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Disney's magic kingdom castle lit up with fireworks - text Every Orlando Theme Park
Best Theme Parks in Orlando

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