Mission Possible: Three Florida Theme Parks In Three Days
Imagine a place where three of the most popular theme parks in the world are located within a 20-minute drive of one another.
Given their close proximity, all three parks can be visited during a long weekend if you plan ahead:
Pick Orlando International Airport as your entry into Florida. You will mostly likely want to rent a car to get around the Orlando area, although some hotels offer shuttle service among the various parks.
Choose a hotel near one of the parks. The best bet is to choose one near SeaWorld, which sits in between the other two parks with Universal a short distance north and Disney towards the south.
Save money by purchasing tickets in advance from the park websites, where you can choose from a range of passes and ticket combinations.
Create a strategy for each park using the respective park's planner on its website.
Purchase an express pass for each park. The pass allows visitors to head to the front of the lines at each ride, therefore decreasing wait times and increasing the fun quotient.
Here's an overview of each park:
Walt Disney World: Favorite characters come to life
Mickey Mouse. Donald Duck. Goofy. It's a Small World. Star Wars. Pirates of the Caribbean. Tomorrowland. The list of iconic figures and rides at Walt Disney World is seemingly endless. Cinderella's Castle is unrivaled. The roller coaster inside Magic Mountain is unmatched. Frozen Ever After is inspired by the popular movie.
Disney World's four parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom — offer so much to do that you will have to choose carefully, based on the ages and interests of your group. Besides fitting in signature rides and mingling with the characters, visiting Disney means taking in shows, like the American Idol Experience, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and Finding Nemo: The Musical. In addition, the firework "spectaculars" in each park are well-worth a look.
Universal Orlando: It's all about the thrills
While Disney seeps with nostalgia, Universal Orlando prides itself on the thrill factor at its two parks — Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. Dragon Challenge pits two set of riders against each other in a “duel" where the cars come eerily close in several near-collisions. Revenge of the Mummy and Incredible Hulk (set to re-open in the summer of 2016) are just as exciting.
Meanwhile, Diagon Alley, Escape from Gringotts 3-D roller coaster ride and other attractions at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter makes one feel as if he or she literally stepped into a movie. Finally, two experiences that were part of the park's original line up — Jurassic Park River Adventure and E.T. Adventure — retain their appeal.
SeaWorld: Get close to the animal kingdom
At SeaWorld, you can focus on animal escapades instead of television and movie characters. Live shows predominate with animal interactions ranking near the top of the priority list. Begin with Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin — featuring a state-of-the-art, motion-based, trackless dark-ride system. Move on to SeaWorld's impressive roller coasters, including Manta and Kraken, before long lines form.
Fitting in shows like Blue Horizons (dolphins), One Ocean (killer whales) and Pets Ahoy (dogs, cats and ducks) throughout the rest of your stay will send you back home feeling more than satisfied with your Orlando visit.
For a tour of Southern California's theme parks, click here.
By Chris Girandola