For the first time, more than half a billion people visited major theme and amusement parks worldwide in 2019. From water themes to movie scenes, theme parks of all kinds led the way for families looking to enjoy their entertainment offerings.
To put that into perspective, with a population rate of 7.5 billion people worldwide, one in 20 people visited an entertainment park in 2019. Americans enjoyed their share of the fun and, according to Statista, shelled out more than 22 billion dollars to get their thrills at amusement and theme parks that year.
Fortunately, you don’t have to travel to other parts of the world to find the best parks to play in. Florida boasts more than two dozen theme parks, ranking seven in America’s top 10 most popular parks.
Get ready to dive in and see what makes Florida theme parks some of the best in the world.
Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
Orlando’s Magic Kingdom is the world’s most popular theme park, with nearly 21 million visitors in 2019. It’s one of four major theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort and gets more than twice the amount of visitors as the second most popular park.
What makes the Magic Kingdom the best theme park on the planet? For starters, it has more than 40 exhilarating rides. According to a survey by Upgraded Points, Space Mountain is the most popular ride at this theme park, closely followed by Haunted Mansion.
Adventure lovers of all ages can find rides that satisfy their yearnings for fun. Classic rides like Jungle Cruise and It’s a Small World remain guest favorites, while adrenaline junkies get thrills on rides like Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Can’t decide between visiting the zoo or spending the day on rides? You don’t have to choose at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Florida’s second busiest theme park blends the two for a fun-filled day of animal-themed rides and fun adventures such as Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safari.
A word of advice: if you want to experience Flight of Passage, one of the most technologically advanced rides in the park, try to do it when you enter the park since it often has one of the longest lines.
Marjolein, with Radical FIRE, says, “If you can, get to the park at least half an hour early, if not more. The park opened 30 minutes before the scheduled opening time on the day we visited, so we were one of the first guests to ride Pandora – The World of Avatar. Later in the day, that same ride had more than a three-hour wait time!”
Don’t miss the Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom. It is Disney’s larger-than-life show that celebrates the beloved movie, The Lion King.
More than 12 million guests visited Epcot in 2019, making it the seventh most popular theme park in the world.
Disney’s World’s Fair-like park highlights include Mission: Space, the most popular ride at Epcot, and Soarin’ Around the World, a high-flying, hang-gliding adventure that transports guests to famous places around the world.
You’re in for a cultural treat as you stroll through Epcot’s World Showcase with pavilions featuring 11 countries. Guests can enjoy eating, drinking, shopping, and attractions related to each country as they make their way around the Showcase.
Epcot Center isn’t just for enjoying rides. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival draws crowds anxious to explore the world’s finest food, wine, and entertainment.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney’s Hollywood Studios, formerly known as MGM Studios, might be the smallest of the four Walt Disney World parks, but it packs the biggest punch when it comes to thrill rides, like Rock’ n’ Roller Coaster. In 2019, it attracted 11.4 million visitors making it the fourth most popular theme park in the Sunshine State.
Adrenaline-pumping rides like Twilight Zone Tower of Terror leave guests screaming for more and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attracts fans young and old. Toy Story Land is a popular newer addition, as is Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the first ride-through attraction where Mickey Mouse is the star.
Don’t miss epic shows like Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, and Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage.
Universal Studios Orlando
In 2019, nearly 11 million people visited Universal Studios Florida.
Here, guests can enjoy attractions like the 4K-HD state-of-the-art Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a one-of-a-kind adventure ride within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With a water park, two immersive theme parks, and a vast shopping area, you don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to enjoy your time at Universal Studios or Island of Adventure.
If you prefer to keep your feet solidly on the ground, you’ll find top-notch live productions here, like The Blues Brothers Show, Universal Orlando’s Horror Make-Up Show, and The Bourne Stuntacular.
Carly with Home to Havana shares this advice, “If you’re a Florida resident, be on the lookout for special ticket deals throughout the year and make sure to get on the parks’ email lists for special deals and discounts. During a special sale for Florida residents in July, I scored a season pass to Universal Studios Orlando for just $150. I saved a couple of hundred dollars compared to what it would have been in January for an annual pass, and I still had the rest of the year to enjoy it.”
Guests can spend the day amusing themselves at the Lego-themed park or add tickets to the adjacent waterpark for even more fun. Although Legoland is designed for a younger audience, don’t be fooled into thinking there’s nothing to entertain older kids and adults. The Great Lego Race coaster reaches speeds up to 35 miles per hour and has a 50-foot drop.
Save time to explore Miniland, USA, where you’ll see 1:20 scale versions of some of the most famous scenery from coast to coast. More than 32 million Lego bricks make up this mesmerizing section of Legoland, and you will want to see them all!
SeaWorld offers a mix of guest-pleasing shows and thrill rides to keep visitors entertained. Younger children will want to see Sesame Street Land, while adrenaline-hungry adventurers will get their fill on some of Florida’s most exciting roller coasters.
SeaWorld’s Mako coaster reaches heart-racing speeds up to 73 miles per hour and climbs to nearly 200 feet, making it the fastest and tallest roller coaster in Florida. The Kracken is a floorless coaster and is not for the faint of heart! It reaches 65 miles per hour in less than three seconds. It continues to thrill riders with seven inversions along its three-quarter-mile track.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
This 335-acre African-centered animal theme park is best known for its sensational roller coasters. Although this park also has world-class entertainment and live shows such as Cirque X-Scream and Turn It Up, the ten heart-stopping roller coasters make it the 11th most popular park in America.
The Montu, an inverted coaster, thrills riders with seven inversions, rising to 150 feet and reaching speeds up to 60 miles per hour. The Cheetah Hunt gives adrenaline seekers what they’re looking for on a 4,429-foot track; it’s the longest roller coaster track in Tampa Bay.
It accelerates to 60 miles per hour, reaching a height of more than 100 feet, giving riders a view of the beautiful greenery that characterizes the theme park setting.
You won’t run out of options with rides like Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Revenge of the Mummy, and Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket coaster. Keeping with its movie theme, other popular rides include Incredible Hulk Coaster and Dr. Doom’s Fearfall.
The real test of bravery comes for those willing to ride the Iron Gwazi, the world’s fastest and steepest hybrid coaster. This monster coaster soars to a height of 206 feet and reaches an astonishing 76 miles per hour on its 4,075-foot track.
Other Popular Florida Theme Parks
The fun doesn’t end there. There are even more parks in Florida worth planning a family vacation to.
Popular choices include SeaWorld’s other parks, Aquatica and Discovery Cove. Volcano Bay, part of Universal Orlando Resort, is also a popular themed waterpark.
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Featured Image Credit: Deposit Photos
Karee Blunt is a nationally syndicated travel journalist, focused on discovering destinations and experiences that captivate and inspire others through her writing. She is also the founder of Our Woven Journey, a travel site focused on inspiring others to create memory-making adventures with their loved ones. Karee is passionate about encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and live the life they dream of. She is the mother of six kids, including four through adoption, and lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. You can learn more about Karee on her about me page.