USA guide: Florida’s top parks
By Anthony Pearce
Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando welcomed a staggering 20 million visitors in 2017, making it the most visited theme park in the world for the 12th consecutive year. The iconic Cinderella Castle remains the park’s centrepiece, lit up every night by the famous fireworks display.
Also in Orlando, Universal’s Islands of Adventure features eight islands, the seventh being The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here you will find Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a motion-based ride that utilises clever technology described by Theme Park Insider as “the most advanced and engaging attraction in theme park industry history”. The eighth island, Skull Island, opened in 2016, featuring the excellent Reign of Kong ride.
Universal Studios, another of Orlando’s blockbusters, is the ninth most attended theme park worldwide. The most recent additions are the Fast & Furious: Supercharged and Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, but the highlights remain Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, Revenge of the Mummy and Transformers: The Ride 3D, each innovative and thrilling in their own way.
Universal Orlando spent nearly $600 million building Volcano Bay, making it America’s most expensive water park. It’s money spent well. The 200-foot Krakatau volcano, which features waterfalls during the day and “lava flows” at night, is the park’s centrepiece. Its epic aqua coaster takes riders inside the heart of the volcano, before plunging through a waterfall.
Legoland in Winter Haven, Florida is aimed specifically at families with children aged two to 12 years old. The thrills aren’t as wild as at the above parks but kids will love the Star Wars area and the Great Lego Race rollercoaster, which is bolstered by VR headsets. The architects preserved parts of the site’s original botanical gardens, making for a surprisingly verdant theme park.