A world of lights, colour and music, visiting ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ is on almost everyone’s bucket list. If you’re planning a trip to the Orlando theme parks, you’re no doubt going to feel a little overwhelmed, with over 15 different options to choose from. From the traditional Disney Magic Kingdom, to Typhoon Lagoon to Universal Islands of Adventure, it’s tough to decide which to tackle, especially if you’re only there for a few days.
After plenty of research, we decided on four full days and five parks. Needless to say we were exhausted by the end of it but had an amazing and magical time! Here’s our summary of the five we chose to visit and our recommendations for your time in Orlando.
DISNEY’S MAGIC KINGDOM
Opened in 1971, Magic Kingdom was the first built of the four Disney parks in Orlando. It’s here you’ll find everything you imagine when you think of Disneyworld – Cinderella’s castle, the spinning teacups and Mickey Mouse wandering down the street. This park is definitely more suited to children as the rides are fairly mild, however if you’ve never been to a Disney Park, it really shouldn’t be missed. Don’t forget to catch the parade and fireworks in the evening.
DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
As the name suggests, Hollywood Studios is themed around celebrating everything that embodies show business. Although we enjoyed strolling around the six themed areas and watching the stunt show, we struggled to fill a day here and wouldn’t go back. It’s another one that is more appealing for children, with a lot of stage shows and meetings with characters (although I will admit I did enjoy my favourite Disney movie – Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage!).
EPCOT is a great place to go to take a break from the fast-paced nature of the other parks. Check out Future World first for a technological and scientific experience, making sure you don’t miss TestTrack and Soarin’. The other land, ’World Showcase’, takes you on a trip around the globe – you’ll spend your time wandering through the different countries, trying amazing food from different cultures, perusing shops and watching shows. We loved EPCOT, particularly World Showcase, and would definitely recommend it. Try to visit it somewhere in the middle of your trip to recharge your energy for the other parks!
UNIVERSAL ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE
Our favourite park from our visit, Universal Islands of Adventure is the perfect balance of rides, shows and HARRY POTTER! If you’re a diehard Harry Potter fan like myself, The Wizarding World – Hogsmeade is a must-see. For an adrenaline rush, jump on The Hulk Coaster, cool off on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, or get your wand at Ollivanders. From Toon Lagoon to The Lost Continent, Islands of Adventure is the best adult park and we wish we’d had more time here!
Not quite as good as Islands of Adventure but still a great visit, Universal Studios explores movies and TV shows, being a working production facility as well as a park. It takes you from NYC to Hollywood to San Francisco and has a heap of rides to choose from as well as a few shows. We visited before Diagon Alley was built, but once again if you love Harry Potter I can imagine this is just as good as Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure! We did both the Universal parks in the same day however we’d definitely recommend a day at each if you like rollercoasters and larger rides!
Waterparks more your thing? Add Aquatica, Wet ‘n Wild or Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon to your list. If you’re not quite as keen on the rides check out Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Seaworld. Whichever you choose, be sure to finish one of your days with a visit to Downtown Disney. A village full of shopping, great food and entertainment, it’s the perfect spot to grab dinner and check out a show.
– Purchase through Undercover Tourist – they are an authorised seller and sell all different combinations of tickets at a discounted rate. It’s also a great resource for planning your visit.
– Don’t bother with a ‘park hopper’ ticket – unless you’re short on time, it’s unlikely you’ll want to visit more than one park within the same day.
– If you’re staying at a Disney hotel you’ll get a MagicBand when you check-in. These are amazing – they unlock your hotel door, it’s your entrance into the parks, can be linked to your FastPass+ choices and is your payment method for food and drinks.
– If you can, book into a Disney Resort hotel. It makes everything so much easier when there’s constant buses to and from the parks, food can be paid for with your MagicBand, plus you never really leave the magic of Disney! We stayed in Disney’s Pop Century Resort, it’s really reasonable for price and was a great hotel.
– Take advantage of the FastPass+ system – it allows you to select up to three attractions per day to reserve in a certain time frame so that you don’t have to waste time in queues! Download the My Disney Experience app, reserve online or head to an in-park FastPass+ kiosk.
– Take as little as possible with you, you don’t want to spend all day getting things in and out of lockers – your MagicBand makes this possible – you don’t even need to carry your wallet!
– Get to the parks when they open to avoid long queues.
– Food is always going to cost a fortune when you visit a theme park, there’s no way to avoid it so just think of it as all part of the experience!
– If you’re wanting to see a show at Downtown Disney, line up for tickets not long before it starts and you should be able to snag one for a discounted rate. We got perfect seats at Cirque Du Soleil about ten minutes before the show began!