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Family Vacation Guide To Orlando's Amusement Parks

There are so many different theme parks and attractions in the Orlando area, it is no wonder so many families travel to Central Florida for their annual vacations. With the variety of theme park attractions, entertainment and rides, there is something for everyone in the family to enjoy. Plus, many of the area theme parks have their own resorts or are partnered with local hotels offering all-inclusive packages including meals, accommodations and theme park tickets.

The Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios Resort (Credit: Heather Leigh Carroll)
The Hogwarts Express at Universal Studios Resort (Credit: Heather Leigh Carroll)

Universal Studios Resort
6000 Universal Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 363-8000

Universal Studios Resorts in Orlando features two main theme parks — Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. Each theme park offers something unique and fun for families to experience during their vacation to Central Florida. While exploring the theme parks, visitors can take time to have fun at Universal CityWalk, home to several restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and serves as a gateway to both of the theme parks.

The original theme park at the Universal Studios Resort is Universal Studios Florida. This theme park is home to many attractions based off of classic movies such as E.T. and The Terminator. Plus, some newer attractions based on family favorites like Shrek and Despicable Me. With so many different rides, attractions and shows, chances are everyone in the family will find a movie they like and have fun experiencing the action up close.

Islands of Adventure is where families can enjoy the Wizarding World of Harry Potter by using their magic wands to animate storefronts or drinking some Butterbeer, but that's not all! Families can go on an adventure into their favorite movies, travel back in time to see dinosaurs on the Jurassic Park River Adventure or enjoy water rides at Toon Lagoon. Marvel fans can spend time exploring the attractions on Marvel Super Hero Island and the kids can use their imagination at Seuss Landing.

Those who have purchased a two-park pass can hop on the Hogwarts Express and travel between Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, making it possible to quickly get back and forth from one park to another. This is no ordinary train ride however, your trip aboard the Hogwarts Express will take you on an adventure right into the story of Harry Potter!

Walt Disney World Resorts
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-5277

There are four main parks at the Walt Disney World Resorts — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom. All four of these theme parks offer family-friendly fun, featuring attractions, rides, shows and activities for guests of all ages. In addition to the four main parks, Disney World also has two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. In addition to four theme parks and two water parks, Disney World is also home to Downtown Disney, featuring a variety of unique shops, live entertainment, fabulous restaurants and plenty of things to do.

Magic Kingdom is the park that most people think of when planning a trip to Disney. First opened in 1971, Magic Kingdom was the very first theme park built at Walt Disney World Resorts. There are six different lands in the park, including Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Liberty Square and Fatasyland. Each of these different areas are home to themed attractions, including some of the more popular rides like Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and It's A Small World.

Epcot is the one place at Disney World where you can take off into space, explore the future and travel around the world all in the same day. Must-see attractions at Epcot include Spaceship Earth, Mission: Space and the World Showcase Lagoon. There is definitely something for everyone in the family at Epcot, however, because there is so much to see and do, it might take two full days to fit it all in.

Families will experience the magic of Hollywood at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This theme park takes guests into the world of how movies are made, including live stunt shows, such as Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show and Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. Other movie-inspired attractions at this theme park include animation galleries, behind-the-scenes looks and live shows. Older kids can also get in on the fun on rides like the Rock'n'Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Go wild with the animals at Disney's Animal Kingdom! This park features a variety of animals that you can see on a walking tour of Pangani Forest or on safari aboard Kilimanjaro Safari. Little ones will love the shows and animal encounters at Rafiki's Planet Watch and the older kids will have a blast on Expedition Everest and Dinosaur. Disney's Animal Kingdom Park is home to more than 250 different species of animals.

Related: Orlando Tops U.S. Destinations for Spring Travel

A show at Sea World (Credit: Heather Leigh Carroll)

SeaWorld Orlando
7007 SeaWorld Drive
Orlando, FL 32821
(888) 800-5447

SeaWorld Orlando is the one place in Central Florida where families can get up close with Shamu and all of the other amazing underwater creatures which call this theme park home. In addition to animal encounters, families can enjoy a variety of thrill rides, roller coasters, family-friendly attractions and the newest comedy show — Clyde and Semour's Sea Lion High. There are also a variety of behind-the-scenes tours available, giving guests the opportunity for more personal encounters with Sea World's wondrous underwater wildlife.

Cool off with the wild animals of SeaWorld at Aquatica. This water park combines the best of everything you expect from an Orlando attraction, including water, an aquarium, zoo animals and wave pools. Families can easily spend an entire day at Aquatica, splashing around in the water, lounging in the lazy river or plummeting down the Dolphin Plunge right through the Commerson's dolphin habitat.

Discovery Cove is a small exclusive guest area just across the street from SeaWorld. Here, guests can enjoy animal encounters without the heavy crowds of the theme park. Animal encounters include swimming with the dolphins, sting rays and other tropical fish. This is definitely an experience families do not want to miss out on when visiting SeaWorld Orlando.

Related: Best Family-Friendly Hotels In The Orlando Area

1 Legoland Way
Winter Haven, FL 33884
(877) 350-5346

One of the newest attractions in the Central Florida area is LEGOLAND. This park features everything a Lego fanatic dreams of, including larger than life Lego creations. This theme park was designed with kids ages two through 12 in mind, which makes this park perfect for families traveling with little ones. The park is just a 45 minute drive from the Orlando area and offers families a fun day filled with attractions, shows and Lego building opportunities. LEGOLAND has also recently added a water park to the fun, offering families more excitement and vacation packages for both parks.

Families can enjoy a variety of different themed vacation by visiting one, two or all of the theme parks in Orlando. Many of these parks offer the opportunity for families to create their own vacation packages and customize their Central Florida visit to their family's likes and needs. Just another reason why visiting Orlando is one of the best destinations for families and those looking for a memorable vacation destination.

Heather Landon (Heather Leigh Carroll) is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions - writing and travel - to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at

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