While Walt Disney World dominates the Orlando and Florida tourist destinations, it isn’t the only game in town. You can choose from variety of travel destinations in Florida, and have a great time without setting foot on Disney property. Each of the theme parks below has plenty to offer, from niche entertainment to rides, animal attractions and shows. Choose your favorites based on your preferences – if you like animals, you’ll love SeaWorld’s exclusive Discovery Cove. Want to experience a favorite book in a whole new way? Head to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
5. LEGOLAND Florida
The newly-opened LEGOLAND Florida is the latest theme park to take on Disney. With perfectly-scaled model lands and a lot of “they did that with LEGOs?”; structures that you have to see to believe, LEGOLAND is a kid’s paradise. Offering more than 50 kids’ rides, including a roller coaster and several themed attractions, LEGOLAND is rapidly becoming a popular travel destination for Florida visitors. If you’ve been to the original LEGOLAND in Denmark, or LEGOLAND Windsor, you’ll know what to expect in Florida, the newest and largest of the LEGO themed parks.
4. Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa is an Africa-themed park in Tampa Bay, about an hour from Orlando. The park is well worth the drive from Orlando for a day trip, but there are plenty of great places to stay in Tampa Bay as well. Busch Gardens is a hybrid zoo/theme park, with plenty of botanical gardens and lush landscaping to enjoy as well. From the towering and aptly-named SheiKra coaster to the live African animal displays, Busch Gardens is a great destination for thrill riders, animal lovers or both.
3. SeaWorld Orlando
Home to Manta, one of Orlando’s best roller coasters (and Florida’s only flying coaster) SeaWorld Orlando has plenty to offer. From a trio of exciting coasters, including Manta and Kraken, to some of the most innovative animal shows you’ll find anywhere, SeaWorld is a fun destination for the whole family. It is possible to spend several days exploring the three parks that make up SeaWorld – the main park, Discovery Cove and Aquatica, the water park. You can experience a fully-rounded vacation without stepping foot on Disney property by focusing on SeaWorld.
2. Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Visit Universal’s Islands of Adventure if you enjoy thrill rides, as the park is packed with them. Islands of Adventure is geared mostly towards older kids and adults; you won’t find much for small children here. What you will find are some of Florida’s top thrill rides, and the hugely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Even if you are not a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, the Wizarding World is well worth a visit, and features what is probably the best ride in any Florida park – the totally immersive Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
1. Universal Studios Florida
Universal Studios Florida is the area’s “other” big theme park, and showcases some of your favorite films and characters in unique ride experiences. From the big-budget, awe-inspiring effects of Spider-Man to the sarcastic and wry fun of the Simpsons, you can’t go wrong with Universal’s offerings. Universal Studios Florida is also home to the wildly popular Halloween Horror Nights, a spooky, special effect packed event that is the highlight of the Halloween season in Orlando.
- LEGOLAND Florida – LEGOLAND Florida press office
- Hogwarts Castle, Revenge of the Mummy - Universal Orlando Resort media site
- One Ocean - Inside the Magic
- Busch Gardens Tampa – Natalie Sim