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Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom
Photograph: Matt Stroshane

The best theme parks in Orlando

Planning a visit to one of the best theme parks in Orlando? Here's everything you need to know to have the best time imaginable.

Megan duBois
Written by
Megan duBois
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When most people think of Florida, one of the first things that come to mind is Orlando's theme parks – sprawling resorts filled with sugary treats, lovable characters, and iconic attractions. But we're here to tell you that there is more to Orlando's most iconic attractions than character-clad meals and long lines. 

Whether it’s your first time in Orlando or you live down the street from the storybook castles, it can be hard to decide which ones to visit because they are all so different. We’re breaking down the best theme parks that bring people to the area to help you decide where to go, what to do at each, what’s new or coming up (like the best events in Orlando), and even a few tips on how to do the parks like a pro. Relive the nostalgia of your childhood at Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World, experience animal encounters at SeaWorld Orlando, or fly high in the sky with E.T. at Universal Studios Florida – there is a theme park for everyone in Orlando.

RECOMMENDED: Our guide to the best things to do in Orlando

Best theme parks in Orlando

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  • Theme parks
  • Camino Real

There really is nothing like walking down Main Street USA and seeing the iconic Cinderella Castle at the end of the hub. Magic Kingdom is filled with nostalgia for young and old with rides like Space Mountain and The Jungle Cruise, and characters like Mickey Mouse and Snow White parading down the street waving to guests. 

What’s new: TRON Lightcycle Run will debut at the park soon, otherwise, the park is in the middle of celebrating its 50th anniversary. 

Pro-tip: Did you know you can get your hair cut on Main Street, USA? Make an appointment at the Harmony Barber Shop first thing in the morning and see what the professionals at Magic Kingdom can do to make you feel like royalty for the day. 

  • Attractions
  • Theme parks
  • Turkey Lake

Another magical castle can be found at Universal’s Islands of Adventure – the Hogwarts castle inside The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, of course! The park plays host to wizards, witches, and goblins as they take flight on attractions like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure. On the other side of the park, you’ll find a land dedicated to Dr. Suess charters, Marvel Super Hero Island (where you can fly high with The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man), and a Jurassic Park-themed land. 

What’s new: Jurassic World VelociCoaster is the newest attraction at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

Universal’s Islands of Adventure pro-tip: While everyone knows about frozen butterbeer, you can also get the iconic flavor in ice cream and fudge. 

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  • Things to do
  • The Fountains

The worlds of Toy StoryStar Wars, and classic Disney characters all come together at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The park may be the smallest of the Walt Disney World properties, but it became a prime destination when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened in 2019. The themed land has its own original storyline that fits into the ongoing Star Wars saga. Inside you’ll find two attractions, a bar, a few restaurants and plenty of shopping. Kids will love the larger-than-life Toy Story friends who have come out to greet them, and they'll even get to ride on the back of Slinky Dog on Slinky Dog Dash. 

What’s new: The latest attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios is Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, but later this year the nighttime show Fantasmic will return to the park. 

Pro-tip: If you see 13 as the wait time for Tower of Terror get in line because that means that there is actually no wait!

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  • Convention Center

EPCOT is usually known as Walt Disney Word's adult-centric park with festivals that encourage eating and drinking all day and popping in and out of shows about each country represented in the World Showcase. But the park is currently undergoing a refurbishment and new attractions are set to open over the next few years, including a Moana-themed walk-through exhibit and a highly anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy coaster. With these new attractions, the park will lean more towards being kid and family-friendly. 

What’s new: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be opening at EPCOT on May 27, 2022. 

Pro-tip: Remy's Ratatouille Adventure inside the France pavilion is one of the newest experiences at the park. You can wait less time by going here first thing in the morning or getting in line late at night just before the park closes. 

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  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Westwood

At LEGOLAND Theme Park everything is bigger and better than any kid could have imagined with attractions like Lost Kingdom Adventure and LEGO NINJAGO World. When it’s time to take a break, head over to Pirate’s Cove to watch Brickbeard’s Water Sports Stunt Show on the lake that backs up to the LEGOLAND property. 

What’s new: A new attraction called Pirate River Quest will be opening in 2022. 

Pro-tip: Be sure to get the apple fries at the park! These are easily the best treat at LEGOLAND Theme Park. 

The newest theme park to open in Orlando is the Peppa Pig Theme Park, part of the LEGOLAND Florida Resort. The theme park is mainly for preschoolers with rides based on the popular cartoon series it is named after (no great surprise there). Many of the attractions do not have a height requirement, meaning even younger kids can enjoy a day at the theme park.

What's new: The entire park is new, so be sure to get out and explore it!

Pro-tip: This is a great half-day park, especially for parents with kids who have never been to a theme park. 

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This massive theme park has lands dedicated to Africa and Asia that will make you feel like you're traveling through real-world locations, and the park also has fictional lands dedicated to the worlds of Avatar and dinosaurs. While many people will race off to ride Avatar Flight of Passage first thing in the morning, real Disney pros know that the first stop should always be Kilamanjaro Safaris, because this is when the animals are the most active. If you’ve never heard a lion roar after your morning coffee, you’re really missing out. 

What’s new: The most recent opening at the park is Pandora: The World of Avatar, which opened in 2017 but still garners long lines for both of the attractions inside the land. 

Pro-tip: Tackle Expedition Everest faster by doing the single rider line. If you enter the line as a group you will be split up, but it's worth it to get on the coaster faster. 

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  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Florida Center

Universal Studios Florida is home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley, E.T. Adventure, and The Mummy, among other attractions. Inside Diagon Alley, you can zip through Gringotts Bank on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and drink a glass of Butterbeer with your pals at The Leaky Cauldron. After channeling your inner wizard, hop on a bike with E.T. to get him back to his home planet on E.T. Adventure. Universal fans also know this is the best ride to walk through the queue because of the iconic smell that hits you the moment you walk into the forest. 

What’s new: Universal Studios Florida hasn't had a new major addition in a few years, but it's filled with classic Universal attractions. 

Pro-tip: When you're riding Men in Black Alien Attack, be sure to press the red button when prompted. This will boost your score and will likely make you the high-point scorer in your car. 

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  • Attractions
  • Zoo and aquariums
  • Florida Center

Just because SeaWorld is last on our list doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. The expansive park shows off all sorts of creatures from the depths of the sea, including dolphins, whales, and adorable penguins. Adults will love the high-speed coasters like Kraken and Manta, while kids will enjoy seeing their favorite Sesame Street friends at Sesame Street Land. Be sure to take a ride on Sky Tower, so you can see the entire park from a bird's eye view along with panoramic views of Orlando. 

What’s new: Ice Breaker, a new coaster at the park, opened in February 2022. 

Pro-tip: You can schedule tours to learn more about some of the animals at SeaWorld, including dolphins, sea lions, penguins, and sharks. Tours should be made ahead of time, but there are sometimes slots available at the park.

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