Orlando's Top 5 Attractions

Filed Under: Orlando, Sightseeing

Orlando is the theme park, attraction and amusement capital of the world. From Shamu to the Mouse to the world's most famous boy wizard, visitors to central Florida suffer an embarrassment of riches when it comes to escapist options. The Travel Channel has put together a list of the top 5 attractions in the Orlando area -- just strap on your best coaster shoes and pick a favorite.

Need more Orlando trip tips? Get more details with Travel Channel's Guide to Orlando.

Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World, king of theme park resorts, is a massive complex that can take planning and expertise to navigate smoothly. Here are the basics: There are 4 theme parks at Walt Disney World -- the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom.

If you've only got a day and want to steep yourself in vintage Disney, visit the Magic Kingdom. That's where you'll find Cinderella Castle, It's a Small World and the Haunted Mansion -- the classics.

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival runs from late September through mid-November, and if you're into thrill rides make sure to hit the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and The Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith at Disney's Hollywood Studios. That said, don't try to see everything -- it's impossible. Pick a few must-do attractions and take everything slowly. It's the details that make Walt Disney World a magical place.
2012 Univeral Orlando Resort
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Transport yourself to Hogwarts, sip some Butterbeer or browse the shops at Hogsmeade in this faithful recreation of the world of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park.

Muggles who can sneak away to this immersive world can soar above Hogwarts and visit Dumbledore's office on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. A pair of coasters -- Dragon Challenge and Flight of the Hippogriff -- satisfy thrill-seekers, while fans can also line up for a chance to have a wand choose them at Ollivanders.

Tuck into some fish and chips, a Cornish pasty or shepherd's pie at the Three Broomsticks, and grab some pumpkin juice at the adjacent Hog's Head Pub. Islands of Adventure is also home to some of the best and most thrilling theme park rides in Orlando.
2012 SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment
This aquatic theme park may be best known for its live show featuring mascot Shamu, but recent expansions have created an interactive, high-tech marine playground. One of SeaWorld's newest additions, Turtle Trek, is a 360-degree, 3-D movie that takes guests through the hidden world of Nyah, a deep sea turtle hatchling. Sharks, flotsam and assorted sea life are so realistic, you'll be ducking and weaving throughout the entire performance.

The Kraken and Manta roller coasters dangle and fly guests over the park, but it's the live shows that put this park on the map. Get personal with penguins, sharks, dolphins, flamingos and pelicans, among others. Splurge a bit and spend the day at SeaWorld's Discovery Cove park, where you'll have the chance to swim, touch and play with bottlenose dolphins, snorkel with tropical fish and stingrays
Merlin Entertainments Group, Brian Blanco
Central Florida's newest major theme park, Legoland is a playground for the creative at heart. The 150 acres that make up this world dedicated to those squarish building blocks is packed with 50 rides and several shows and attractions.

Dramatic colors and towers created from Legos greet guests at the appropriately named “The Beginning,” where you'll find the park entry and guest services. From there, choose from 10 themed areas, built around everything from pirates to medieval castles. Legoland is about 40 minutes south of Orlando in Winter Garden on the site of the old Cypress Gardens.
Visit an old-time Orlando theme park with teeth. Gatorland, which opened in 1949 as a roadside attraction, has expanded to a 110-acre habitat for alligators, crocodiles, snakes and other exotic wildlife. Live shows -- gator wrestling, up-close encounters, a train ride through the swamp and a zip line overhead -- can fill a day with plenty of scaly thrills.

Gatorland also has the world's largest collection of white alligators, several of which are rather on the giant size. And if you're not careful, a little education can also be squeezed in. Gatorland is a 15- to 20-minute drive from the International Drive area.
Wherever You Go ...
Tip: While a 1-day ticket to a theme park can be expensive, do not buy from roadside shacks or go to craigslist for discounted tickets. Many are unauthorized and can leave you with no entry and no recourse at the park's entrance. A safe bet is the Kissimmee Walmart, where legitimate discounted Walt Disney World tickets are sold. Or consider a visit to undercovertourist.com -- an authorized and proven reseller of discount tickets to each of these parks.

About the Author

Bill Burke is an award-winning humor columnist and writer with 20 years experience in the newspaper and magazine industry. He is the author of Mousejunkies (Travelers' Tales 2009) and Mousejunkies: Second Edition (Travelers' Tales 2011) --a humorous look at Walt Disney World addiction.

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