Planning a visit to the Orlando theme parks can be completely overwhelming. There are so many and it is tough to know where to start. Luckily I have put together this Orlando theme parks guide for beginners to help you start planning your Orlando theme park vacation.
This post may contain affiliate links.
Guide to Orlando Theme Parks
There are 12 main Florida theme parks in Orlando and they are the Walt Disney World parks, Universal Orlando parks, and the SeaWorld parks. Each theme park destination has more than one theme park and you will typically need multiple days if you plan to visit multiple parks.
List of Orlando Theme Parks
- Magic Kingdom (Walt Disney World)
- Epcot (Walt Disney World)
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Walt Disney World )
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Walt Disney World)
- Typhoon Lagoon (Walt Disney World, Water Park)
- Blizzard Beach (Walt Disney World, Water Park)
- Universal Studios (Universal Orlando Resort)
- Islands of Adventure (Universal Orlando Resort)
- Volcano Bay (Universal Orlando Resort, Water Park)
- Aquatica (SeaWorld, Water Park)
- Discovery Cove (SeaWorld)
Walt Disney World Parks
Walt Disney World is the largest of the Orlando theme parks with 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, a dining district, and over 30 on-site resorts.
They offer complimentary bus transportation throughout the resort as well as to and from the airport if you are staying on-site. This makes it easy to focus on staying at Disney World for the duration of your family vacation.
Magic Kingdom is the first Disney theme park to open in Orlando. It is what most people think of when they visit Disney World. Magic Kingdom is home to Cinderella’s Castle and classic attractions like Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Peter Pan.
Articles about Magic Kingdom
- Magic Kingdom Itinerary and FastPass Tips for Families
- Best Rides at Magic Kingdom for School Age Kids
Epcot is divided into to areas Future World and the World Showcase. In Future World guests experience technology and educational attractions about our world. World Showcase allows guests to visit 11 different countries and experience their culture.
Epcot is undergoing a big transformation that will be finished near the end of 2021. It is adding more attractions and Future World is getting a makeover.
Articles about Epcot
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is seeing the most change lately. They have recently opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge which offers an immersive Star Wars Land. Children can also participate in the becoming a Jedi at the Jedi Training Academy.
In March 2020 they are also opening Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the first Mickey themed attraction ever.
Hollywood Studios is also home to Toy Story Land and the Tower of Terror. There are many shows and characters to meet at Hollywood Studios too. It is a great park especially for kids 7 and up.
Articles about Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- How to Make Fastpass at Hollywood Studios
- Jedi Training Academy Tips and Guide
- Our Day at Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has attractions and animal exhibits to explore in this unique park. This is a large park where guests will walk a lot. There are different areas to explore animal exhibits and attractions. Our favorite area is Pandora and we love the Flight of Passage attraction. Lines will get long for this attraction and I highly suggest booking a FastPass.
When visiting Animal Kingdom you should plan on taking your time to explore everything and see all the shows. We also enjoy participating in the Wilderness Explorer Club, a free activity where kids can earn patches at different stops throughout the park.
Articles about Animal Kingdom
- Fastpass Tips and Itinerary for Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Everything You Need to Know to Be a Wilderness Explorer
- Best Rides at Animal Kingdom
- Characters to Meet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Typhoon Lagoon is a water park at Disney World. The island has been washed away by a typhoon and what is left is this peaceful beach themed park.
Articles About Typhoon Lagoon
Blizzard Beach is the second water park at Disney World. This is themed to a beach taken over by snow. The theme is really fun and the park is a great choice for visiting a water park during your Disney vacation.
Our friends at Raising Whasians have a great article about what to expect at Blizzard Beach for your visit.
There is so much to do at Walt Disney World with 7 theme parks to visit. Check out our Best Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World for the First Time to help you start planning your visit. If you are ready to compare ticket pricing check out Undercover Tourist Disney World tickets.
Universal Orlando Parks
Universal Orlando has 2 theme parks and 1 water park. They also have 8 resorts and an entertainment district. I go into more details in this article about the Universal Orlando Resort Parks and Hotels.
Universal Studios is the original of the Universal Orlando parks. It is set up like a working studio but not much, if any filming is going on at the parks anymore. Universal Studios has attractions like E.T. the Adventure, Transformers, The Mummy, and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley.
Articles About Universal Studios
- Best Rides at Universal Studios for Families
- Universal Studios Height Requirements and Scare Factor Guide
- Universal Studios Tips and Guide for Families
Islands of Adventure
Islands of Adventure opened in 1998 and it has received great reviews since day one. Islands of Adventure has a bit more thrilling rides than Universal Studios and is home to The Incredible Hulk Coaster and Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
You will also find a theme Dr. Seuss area, Seuss Landing, that kids will love as well as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade.
Articles About Islands of Adventure
- Best Rides at Islands of Adventure
- Islands of Adventure Height Requirements and Scare Factor Guide
- Islands of Adventure Tips and Guide for Families
Volcano Bay is Universal Orlando’s water park. This water park is unlike any I have ever visited. It is themed so well and you feel like you are at an island oasis, not in the middle of Orlando. You could spend the entire day relaxing at the wave pool overlooking the volcano. It is a stunning park.
Articles About Volcano Bay
Universal Orlando is becoming a destination in itself. We have spent a few Orlando vacations staying on-site at Universal’s Cabana Bay and Universal’s Surfside Inn and Suites. It is a great place for your family vacation. Check out How to Plan Your First Universal Orlando Vacation Guide for great tips and tricks.
Universal is also building an entirely new theme park called Epic Universe. Not many details have been released but we are expecting an opening around 2023. Ready to buy tickets? Check out ticket prices here.
SeaWorld has three parks in Orlando as well as Busch Gardens in Tampa. The original park SeaWorld has rides and attractions. Aquatica and Discovery Cove are water themed parks.
SeaWorld is home to some of the largest roller coasters in Orlando. We visited during the holidays for their Christmas events and really enjoyed ourselves. If your family loves roller coasters you will enjoy the top notch ones at SeaWorld. Check out our visit to SeaWorld during the holidays to learn more.
Aquatica is a water park in Orlando. It has fun rides for the entire family and often lower crowds than the Disney or Universal Parks. Learn more about Aquatica from this article on Why You Should Visit Aquatica with Kids.
Discovery Cove is not really a theme park. It is a fully inclusive day that includes animal encounters, swimming, and food and drinks for the day. This experience only allows a limited amount of people a day to make it a completely immersive and relaxing day. Learn more about visiting Discovery Cove in this article.
Outside of Orlando
If you want to take a day trip out of Orlando you can also visit Busch Gardens in Tampa or LEGOLAND Florida. Both are over an hour drive but are great parks for families.
I hope our Orlando theme park guide helps you decide what Florida theme parks are the best choice for your family vacation. Each one has great attractions that no matter what you choose will be a fantastic Orlando trip.