So, you’re intrigued. You’ve heard people like me waxing lyrical about the magic of Walt Disney World in Florida, and now you think it might be somewhere that you want to go on your next holiday. Rather than just a lot of hype, I’m going to give you a run down of all the main theme parks that are most popular with Brits going across the pond for their holiday.
This is the one that everyone has heard of. The name goes a long way towards explaining what the atmosphere is like as guests enter the park and walk down Main Street towards Cinderella’s Castle. This is the park that is going to enchant you, and the one you’ll keep coming back for.
Best rides: I’m particularly fond of Splash Mountain. There are lots of classic rides that have been operating since the park first opened in 1971 like Jungle Cruise and it’s a small world.
Best shows: Stay until darkness falls and watch Celebrate the Magic, a projection show that makes the castle look like it’s actually moving, and Wishes straight afterwards. The latter is a firework celebration of all things Disney. I absolutely sobbed while watching it on my last night of my Disney International Program!
Perfect park for: Everyone. It’s an absolute must-do for anyone who visits Orlando. It’s particularly great for small children and those who don’t enjoy big rides, as there are enough story-type rides to keep toddlers and non-thrill seekers occupied all day.
Formerly MGM, this is where the movies come to life. It’s currently undergoing a lot of changes, with a Toy Story area come fairly soon and Star Wars is set to take over a large section of the park.
Best rides: The best thrill rides in Disney can be found here. The Tower of Terror will get your heart beating with fear every time, and the Rock ‘n Rollercoaster is the only loop-the-loop rollercoaster in Walt Disney World.
Best shows: Beauty on the Beast on stage is great as it’s essentially a shortened version of a west-end show included in the entry fee. There’s also the Stunt Car Show to keep the petrol heads engaged.
Perfect park for: Teenagers, movie fans, and those looking for big thrill rides.
The park where I worked in summer 2014! This is the newest Disney park, and it promotes the ethical message of protecting the planet and all the animals living on it.
Best rides: Expedition Everest puts you face to face with a yeti at the top of a mountain. It’s not exactly an everyday occurrence! The Kail River Rapids is great for a cool down during the hotter months. I once went on it eight times in one evening as part of a Cast Appreciation Event. Needless to say, I was soaked. And I can’t forget the safari! The best time to take the tour is in the morning or just after a rainstorm when the animals are most active.
Best shows: If you like The Lion King, you’ll love the show at Animal Kingdom. It hasn’t changed in so long (other than the venue) and it’s just perfect. There’s an evening show planned to come to the river in the middle of this park in 2016, too.
Perfect for: Animal lovers and those looking to have a more relaxed day while soaking up the amazing themeing.
Probably the most educational park. Here science and culture mix into two distinct parts; World Showcase, where you can walk around 11 countries in an afternoon, and Future World which houses lots of science-themed rides and exhibits.
Best rides: Mission:Space sends you shooting off to Mars. Real astronauts have said it’s the most realistic shuttle launch simulator they have ever been in, so that’s good enough for me! Test Track is fun for everyone who likes to go in fast cars (so basically everyone).
Best shows: Epcot is a bit thin on the ground for shows, but Reflections of Earth is the nightly firework show set in the middle of the lagoon. It’s set to a beautiful score, and is all about uniting the countries that make up the World Showcase.
Perfect for: Getting a bit of culture into your visit, and being able to sample food from all 11 different countries is a dream come true for foodies.
This one has never been one of my favourites, but that has changed now that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has opened Diagon Alley here. Not only is the themeing absolutely incredibly – possibly the best anywhere in Orlando – but it also means you can now ride the Hogwarts Express between the parks. No big deal.
Best rides: Rip Ride Rock It is the only rollercoaster I’ve been on where I genuinely thought I was in danger. It’s bloody terrifying… But that makes it great. Proper adrenaline junkies only!
Perfect for: Harry Potter fans, and those who love some of the movies that Universal have made, like Despicable Me, Transformers, Men In Black and more.
Islands of Adventure
Of the two Universal parks, I’ve always prefered this one, and that continued when The Wizarding World of Harry Potter first opened with Hogsmeade here. It has some fantastic rides here, too, so don’t ignore them.
Best rides: Harry Potter & The Forbidden Journey is as close to being in a Harry Potter film as I’m ever going to get. The technology is amazing, too. I also love the Hulk rollercoaster, which is currently having a referb, and Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls which is the most terrifying log flume ever, which makes it the best. Can you tell I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie yet?
Perfect for: Those who find Disney too tame, and of course Harry Potter fans.
Also in Florida:
A rather decisive park at the minute. Personally, when I visited aged about 12 I decided I would never go back because I saw an immensely distressed polar bear in a diminutive enclosure. I still tear up thinking about it now. The killer whales get all the attention, but that is what sticks out for me. It’s a real shame, as they have some great rides and other shows, like the really cute sea lion show. It’s pirate themed and features a wonderfully fat walrus.
A bit of a drive from Orlando, but it has some really great rollercoasters. The themeing is very poor compared to the Orlando parks, but if you’re just looking for rides then it’s worth the trip.
I’ve never actually been to this one, as I didn’t enjoy the UK version very much. If you have any young lego fanatics in your part then I’m sure it will be a must-visit.
Kennedy Space Centre
Not a theme park, but one of the coolest places on the entire planet. Visiting here has given me such a passion for space, and my ultimate unrealistic dream is to be an astronaut. If you get the chance, I can’t recommend a visit highly enough. It’s utterly inspirational.
Which park is your favourite? Or which would you most like to visit?