Florida is an incredible state to explore; there are so many things to do across the Sunshine State, especially when it comes to its larger-than-life theme parks. With resorts like Disney, Universal and Busch Gardens, it’s the kind of state that’ll have you laughing, gorging and steeped in fun across your whole trip. In fact, you’ll be spoilt for choice with all the best theme parks in Florida to visit
Now, one thing we’ve found from our trips to Florida is that there’s never quite enough time to see and do everything you want. This is why it’s totally important to prioritise which theme parks you want to visit, alongside the other plans you have for your trip. After all, most of us will want to pack in lots of amazing Floridian experiences whilst in the state.
This means (if you love a good theme park as much as us) it’s a good idea to pre-book your entry tickets before arriving in Florida. This then allows you to plan the rest of your holiday around these blocked-out theme park days; especially if you want to visit some of the best beaches in Florida, the incredible national parks or the Florida Keys, too!
Whatever way you decide to plan your trip to Florida, just make sure it’s filled with lots of fun!
With that in mind and with our countless trips to Florida (and its epic theme parks), I wanted to share our lowdown on the best theme parks in Florida to visit when you arrive.
Just be sure to plan, plan, plan! It’s one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned from visiting Florida’s theme parks!
1.) Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom
Let’s start with one of the most iconic theme parks in Florida… heck, possibly the world! Disney’s, Magic Kingdom.
First up, don’t be fooled into thinking this is just for kids… we big kids can really enjoy the Magic Kingdom, too! In fact, I think I even appreciated it even more!
Opened back in 1971, it’s the kind of theme park that’s constantly changing, growing and (yeah, it sounds cheesy) but is totally magical. It’s got rides, shows and events for all ages, making it the perfect place to visit with a family or your friends.
Of course, you’ve gotta check out the iconic Cinderalla Castle; but don’t forget about Space Mountain, the Haunted Mansion and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Trine.
Now, one thing to look out for is pricing! Trust me, you can skink a shed load of cash on these if you’re not too careful. To save some money (especially if you’re visiting other Disney parks) then buy an allotted period of days for entry. For instance, you can buy one or two weeks “Magic Tickets“. This allows you to hop between all the Disney theme parks, typically at a discounted price. Oh yeah, and they include entry into Disney’s water parks, too!
To see the most of Magic Kingdom, make sure to see which rides are most popular when you arrive. Typically, some of the longer queuing rides are worth visiting as soon as the park opens or when the parade is on. This is when lots of other visitors either haven’t arrived or are watching the parade; which all means fewer queue times for you!
If you’re not keen on that level of planning, opt for Disney’s Genie+, this allows you to enter the Lightning Lane entrance and plan your trip around particular timed entries. Though, this can bump up tickets costs if you’re travelling with a larger family.
Oh, and don’t forget, if you’re staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you will have 30-minutes early entry to any of the four major parks, too.
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2.) Universal’s Islands of Adventure
In my opinion, Universal’s Islands of Adventure is one of the best theme parks in Florida to visit for thrills! Again, perfect for the whole family (most theme parks in Florida are), it’s a totally expansive park that’ll keep you busy for days!
One of the things I love about Islands of Adventure is the different rides they have relating to movies and TV! Honestly, this is the place where the Wizarding World of Harry Potter first became a reality, so expect to see a lot of people here waving their wands and butterbeer around the park. Oh, and you can ride a broom and head to Hogwarts on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or you can take some butterbeer while strolling through Hogsmeade village. You can also ride the Hogwarts Express if you’d like, too!
One of the newer rides, the Jurassic World VelociCoaster is incredible and well up there as one of Orlando’s best coasters! Saying that, if rollercoasters are your thing, then head on the Incredible Hulk Coaster, which will shoot you right up the track and over the park! Just be prepared to scream.
Again, just like Disney, you can save money by buying multi-park passes (to include Universal Studios) and increasing the number of days. Oh, and of course, you can opt to pay a little extra for Universal Express packages that’ll limit queue times on most of the popular rides in the park.
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3.) Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay
Around a 90-minute drive from Disney World or 30-minutes from Tampa Airport, Busch Gardens is one of the best theme parks in Florida to visit when heading further east from Orlando.
Not only will you get to explore the incredible gardens with over 300 special that call this area home, you’ll also get to ride some of the rollercoasters that are totally epic. Sheikra is a vertical drop coaster that will take your breath away! Oh and don’t forget about Kumba – the speed on this is insane.
Just make sure to check out their website and book tickets before you get to the gates. This way, you’ll keep costs lower!
Read more: Exploring St. Petes (near Tampa)
4.) Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral
Okay, okay! Yeah, the Kennedy Space Center isn’t a Theme Park, I know! But honestly, you can’t mention it when thinking of the amazing attractions to visit in Florida. You see, it’s the spot where NASA launches so many of its rockets that head up to space.
Around 60-minutes from Orlando, it’s really easy to visit for a day trip and the perfect place to see Atlantis (With a shuttle launch experience), explore some of the extraterrestrial worlds in space and learn so much more about space!
Better still, you might be able to plan your visit to coincide with a launch! It’s incredible to see.
Read more: Best things to do in Jacksonville, Florida
5.) Universal Studios
My second favourite and one of the best theme parks in Florida to visit is Universal Studios! Just like Disney’s Magic Kingdom, it’s iconic!
With its Hollywood-inspired attractions, Universal Studios is another must-see when you’re in Florida; especially if you’re already check out Universal’s Islands of Adventure that is right next door.
Once here, head over to the Simpsons’ ride to glide across Springfield, hop on board the bike and soar to the skies with ET or scream all day on the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit rollercoaster that’s totally fun.
You can easily spend a whole day in Universal Studios, so plan you’re trip well in advance! Oh, and stay for the fireworks, too.
Read more: Best things to do in Hollywood, Florida
One of the larger parks of Disney, Epcot is one of the best theme parks in Florida to explore the world, scientific discovery and, of course, Spaceship Earth.
Great for families, Epcot has a few main neighbourhoods to explore. You’ll get to explore “World Celebration”, including Spaceship Earth (the massive spherical “golf ball”). Then pop over to “World Discovery” with the incredible Mission Space and Test Track where you can dart around in a car! Afterwards, head to World Nature and discover all the incredible natural beauty that our world has to offer – Living with the Land is an incredible boat ride you must experience.
Finally, don’t forget to explore “World Showcase”. This is a massive fair having 11 nations represented around a colossal lake. You can literally travel the world in a day; stopping by the UK for fish and chips, macaroons in France or tagines in Morocco. It’s incredible and totally vast.
You’ll have the most amazing time.
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7.) Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Previously known as MGM Studios, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a world filled with everything TV, film and Hollywood. Here, you’ll get to hop on fun rides like the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror! It’s a free fall lift that had me screaming so much!
Oh, and be sure to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge! It’s an epic new “land” that’s incredible to visit if you love Star Wars.
Again, if you’re deciding to visit Hollywood Studios, be sure to partner this up with the park passes that include the other theme parks on different days.
Roughly halfway between Orlando and Tampa, Legoland is one of the best theme parks in Florida to visit when exploring with younger children.
Here, everyone will be able to explore Lego Kingdoms, the gorgeous botanical gardens, Lego City and Pirates’ Cove. It’s so lovely. Oh, and don’t forget about the Legoland Water Park that’s perfect on a hot and sunny day! The Twin Chasers slides are so much fun.
Read more: Best places to visit in Florida
9.) Disney’s Animal Kingdom
There are no clues needed to guess what Disney’s Animal Kingdom is all about, is there? It’s one of the best theme parks in Florida that houses its very own safari tour with tigers, elephants and gorillas – all within Kilimanjaro Safari. It’s incredible to visit and totally beautiful to see the animals roaming around the park.
If thrills are more your things, hop on Expedition Everest, it might not be as chilly as up in the mountains but it’ll certainly have you shaking!
Oh, and don’t forget the Avatar-based Pandora area, where you get a chance to experience the film in real life. Though, be warned, queues can be long so a queue jump ticketing system might work best for you. You can easily spend a whole day or longer in the park; so plan this alongside the other Disney parks you want to visit.
10.) Other Florida Theme parks
So, let’s not forget that the best theme parks in Florida don’t have to be the billion-dollar parks that call this state home. There’s also a heap of smaller, but no less significant parks that are well worth a gander if you’re in the area.
For instance, FastTrax (in Fort Myres) is more of an indoor entertainment centre than an amusement park that’s totally kitsch and fun for a few hours trip. You’ll see go-karts here and have the chance to ride them! If go-karts aren’t your thing, you can try duckpin bowling, visiting their huge game room or heading to the pub.
Plus, don’t forget about Fun Spot America (both in Orlando and Kissimmee). Best known for Mine Blower and White Lightning (wooden coasters), Fun Spot America are relatively small amusement parks that are perfect for shorter visits. Plus, don’t forget about their annual firework displays every July 3rd after riding their great rides like Sky Hawk, Freedom Flyer, Hurricane, Splash Pad and Galaxy Spin.
Finally, Icon Park is another little gem that’s totally worth a little trip if you’ve got time. The main attraction at the park is the 400-foot The Wheel. Fifteen passengers can ride each of the 30 capsules for 20 minutes. Before boarding The Wheel, visitors can see a 5-minute presentation at a 4D theatre.
Located on the tourist corridor of I-Drive, and you can find other exciting rides and attractions here like Orlando StarFlyer, Madame Tussauds Orlando a 7D Dark Ride Adventure and a large arcade among other things all close by.
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