As theme park specialists, sometimes we forget that not everyone is as "dialed in" as we are. When you're always watching for the latest & greatest snacks, the most surprising Hidden Mickey's & park "easter eggs", you forget that some folks don't know that Marvel isn't at Walt Disney World in Florida, or that Hollywood Studios and Universal Studios aren't the same Park. Here's a guide to the very basics of Orlando theme parks!
WALT DISNEY WORLD - The House of the Mouse has 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, and more than 20 hotels/resorts!
Magic Kingdom - This is the park where you find the classics like Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, etc. Lots of family friendly rides. Also, Be Our Guest, Cinderella's Royal Table, and one of the Bibbidi Bobiddi Boutiques.
Epcot - The park with the "big ball", Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster, and the World Showcase, where you can drink around the world! Also a great educational opportunity for kids, as the country pavilions are staffed by young adults from that country.
Hollywood Studios - This is where you find Star Wars Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land. For the littles, you'll also find Disney Junior Play & Dance, meet & greets with Disney Junion pals in the Animation Courtyard, and Disney Junior Play n Dine breakfast at Hollywood & Vine. The characters change now and then (we miss you, Sophia the First!) so be sure to check before your trip!
Animal Kingdom Park - NOT JUST A ZOO. There are animals, and probably more and different animals than your local Zoo, but so many people skip this park because "we have a zoo at home". This is still a theme park with rides, including a great roller coaster called Expedition Everest! This is also where you find Pandora, the World of Avatar, and the incredibly popular Flight of Passage ride.
UNIVERSAL ORLANDO - owned by NBC/Comcast, not Disney, and it's about 8 miles away. Neither Universal nor Walt Disney World has shuttles that go between the two, though Universal does have some private transfer options.
Universal Orlando Resort has 3 Parks, two "dry" parks and one "wet" park, as well as 7 on-site hotels.
Universal Studios Florida - the park with Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley, as well as the future Minion Land (opening this summer), and the Simpsons land. This is where the movies come to life!
Islands of Adventure - Surprise! This is where you will find Marvel in Florida, due to a licensing agreement that predates Disney's purchase of Marvel. Jurassic Park attractions are here, as well as Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade. You'll need a Park to Park ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express!
Volcano Bay - Universal considers their water park to be their 3rd park. There is something for everyone here, from lazy river and wave pool to the aforementioned aqua coaster, Krakatau.
Epic Universe - new park coming in 2025! We don't know much yet but it will have Super Mario Land.
SEAWORLD ORLANDO - home of the coolest new roller coaster I've ever seen, Pipeline! I feel almost certain it will take the Best Roller Coaster title from Jurassic World Velocicoaster this year. They still have animal shows and you can book special up close encounters. There is also a Sesame Place in SeaWorld, and it's worth noting that this park is very sensory friendly. Discovery Cove, Aquatica, and Busch Gardens Tampa are also part of the SeaWorld family.
Legoland - they don't play nice with travel agents. I will grudgingly let you know they do have packages and are about an hour from Walt Disney World
ICON Park - when you're driving on the highway and see the big Ferris wheel, that's ICON. They have a Madame Tussauds, SeaLife Aquarium, and various other family attractions there. Next time I go to Orlando I'll try to get there to cover it!
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