While there are plenty of other attractions to explore in Florida, most visitors flock into the wonderland of Disney cartoons brought to 3D life (sort of) in their humongous theme parks every year. All 17 million of them on an annual average, in fact.
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What would be your main reason to book your flights to Orlando? To take your family to Disneyland, of course. But before we delve into the rabbit-hole of Disneymania, it is worth noting that Orlando is a city which particularly favors theme parks, which come in many flavors indeed. Besides the Walt Disney World Resort (the full name of Disney World), you’ll also find the Universal Orlando Resort, which has been divided into two separate parks (just to confuse everyone, as if they weren’t dizzy with all the excitement already): Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure. In addition, Orlando houses several aquatic parks, including SeaWorld, Gatorland, and Wet ‘n Wild Water Park. So double check your entry ticket and your physical destination match before you get there, to avoid any disappointment of the little ones!
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Back to the main course of our discussion, then. Disney World can be found only 34 km away from Orlando’s CBD (or downtown in American), very designedly laid out on picture perfect and pointedly named Lake Buena Vista. It has been here since 1971, making it the second oldest of the Walt Disney Company’s theme parks after California’s 1955 Disneyland. More recent additions to the Disney theme park empire include the Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong sites, with the Shanghai park currently in construction, due to open in 2016.
Now brace yourself to navigate the labyrinths of this alternate reality that is Disney World, which is subdivided into quite a few internal theme parks: Magic Kingdom (think traditional Disney and your number one stop), Epcot (for science and technology fans), Disney's Hollywood Studios (for lovers of movie classics) and Disney's Animal Kingdom, one of the largest and most spectacular zoological parks in the world.
Then you’ve got your water parks as well (not to be confused with those mentioned earlier): Disney's Blizzard Beach (slides galore) and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon (main attraction: wave pool).
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If you’ve got any life (and money) left in you after all that, you can also check out ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Disney Quest, an indoor games park, which kind of summarizes Disney attractions across several floors of one building.
It is probably easiest to stay within the Disney Resort during your holiday, if this is the main purpose of your trip, and there is something to suit most budgets and tastes here, from lodges and campgrounds to spas and themed resorts in every style imaginable, including Beach, Key West, New Orleans, Sports and Movies, to name just a few. Book early though, to avoid disappointment.
During your park outings, it is advised to just let your child direct you and follow their lead to avoid tantrums, or alternatively, subdivide the family according to interests: doing and seeing everything in one trip is a) probably impossible b) could result in serious side effects to your health. It is vital to pace yourself and prepare beforehand by choosing your activities carefully: it’s a beautiful opportunity to teach your kids how to prioritize! Know your rides beforehand, as the popular ones attract long lines, so it is best to get there early. Don’t be surprised if you enjoy yourself just as much as your kids!
Author – Patricia Bieszk+ – Freelance travel writer.