Share on Facebook

Top 10 Things To Do in Orlando

Visit the Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and more, in this guide to Orlando, Florida’s biggest theme parks and attractions.

1 / 10

1. Disney Hollywood Studios

Like Universal Studios, Disney Hollywood Studios underscores Orlando’s standing as a small, but growing, film production center and offers an up-close look at the world of “Lights! Camera! Action!”. The park cost $300 million to create and the result is an effective fusion of fun and information; the attractions tend to be complex, involving rides, shows, and educational commentary, so there really is something for everyone. Nostalgic references to Hollywood’s heyday are balanced by high-tech trickery, making this a must for anyone with even a remote interest in the movies.

(Photo © Walt Disney World)

2 / 10

2. Islands of Adventure

Orlando didn’t have a lot to offer adrenaline junkies until Universal unveiled its second Central Florida park in 1999. Billed as the “world’s most technologically advanced theme park,” no rivals can touch Islands of Adventure’s (IOA) thrill power and innovation (although Tampa’s Busch Gardens is also highly rated by thrill-seekers). With terrifying roller coasters, three heart-stopping water attractions, and stunningly creative rides, it is the place to head for those who like to live dangerously.

(Photo © 2012 Universal Orlando Resort.)

3 / 10

3. Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney’s first Florida theme park opened in 1971, envisaged as a place where dreams come true, even if only for a little while. It took six years and $400 million to create “Disneyland East”, which has surpassed Walt’s own dream: instead of being a spin-off of California’s Disneyland Park, it has become the USA’s most popular theme park, attracting more than 17 million visitors every year (some 40,000 each day). Although little has changed in 40 years, with more than 40 major attractions and countless minor ones, this is a true fantasy land for the young and young at heart.

(Photo © Walt Disney World)

4 / 10

4. Epcot

Walt Disney imagined Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) as a futuristic township where people could live, work, and play in technologically enhanced splendor. After his death in 1966, the idea changed dramatically, and Epcot opened in 1982 as a park of two halves: Future World focuses on science, technology and the environment, while World Showcase spotlights the cultures of several nations. The pairing works because both sections are educational and appeal to curious adults and kids alike. Be warned, the park is vast, a fact that has led some to joke its name is an acronym for “Every Person Comes Out Tired.”

(Photo © Walt Disney World)

5 / 10

5. Universal Studios Florida

Universal’s first park in Florida opened in 1990, with movie-themed rides and shows, and a mission to steal some of Disney Hollywood’s limelight. But it is only since a revamp that the park has really taken off, due largely to the runaway success of the hugely popular Men in Black Alien Attack, Terminator 2 3-D and the child-friendly Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone.

(Photo © 2012 Universal Orlando Resort.)

6 / 10

6. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park

As the name implies, wildlife rules at the latest addition to Disney’s empire of fun, which is home to 1,700 animals and around 250 species spread across 500 acres (200 hectares) of lush landscape. Here, the serious issue of conservation is combined with the playfulness of a theme park, though critics complain that the landscaping makes it hard to see the animals, especially in the hottest parts of the day. There’s compensation in the fact that the park has some enthralling shows, rides and attractions reflecting conservation and nature at Disney.

(Photo © Walt Disney World)

7 / 10

7. SeaWorld Orlando

Opened in 1973, SeaWorld Orlando is the city’s third major attraction. But its unique marine wildlife focus and educational goals puts it in a league all its own. Guest can get up close and personal with killer whales, sea lions, manatees, rays, and a host of other watery creatures. During 2012 and 2013, SeaWorld is undergoing a major redevelopment, so some attractions may not be open.

(Photo courtesy of Roller Coaster Philosophy/Flickr)

8 / 10

8. Wet ‘n Wild

Opened in 1977 by George Millay, the founder of SeaWorld, Wet ‘n Wild boasts an awesome collection of rides, family activities, and a beach party atmosphere that visitors of all ages enjoy. There is a refreshing lack of merchandise tie-ins here, even though the park is now owned by Universal Studios. The focus I on original thrill rides that leave guests breathless and grinning. Despite strong challenges by Disney World in the form of Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, Wet ‘n Wild remains the region’s best water park, and one of the area’s top attractions.

(Photo courtesy of Roller Coaster Philosophy/Flickr)

9 / 10

9. Merritt Island

Thanks to the U.S. government’s race into space, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at the Kennedy Space Center has become the second-largest reserve in Florida. Founded in 1963 to serve as a security buffer zone for NASA, it’s 140,000 acres now serve as an important habitat for endangered species and a vital stop-over along the migration path of hundreds of birds. The Manatees are the refuge’s most popular attractions.

(Photo courtesy of stephg67/Flickr)

10 / 10

10. Kennedy Space Center

More than any other Florida attraction, the Kennedy Space Center highlights and celebrates the fruits of human inquiry and imagination. Built in 1967, the center’s Visitor Complex has become one of Florida’s most popular tourist destinations. Each year, it offers a fascinating window on life beyond Earth to more than 1.5 million visitors, and is the site of many dramatic spacecraft launches.

(Photo courtesy of robinz/Flickr)