Things to do in Florida, United States: The Best Water & Amusement Parks

August 4, 2021 Leonarda Pillsbury

Not just for retirees and theme park enthusiasts, the Sunshine State offers beautiful beaches, pristine diving conditions, and sizzling nightlife. Salsa the night away in a smokin’ hot Miami club, or swing away at one of Kissimmee’s many premium golf courses. An airboat tour of the Everglades is an unforgettable adventure – just look out for alligators! For the risk-averse, a lazy day spent on the soft sands of an Emerald Coast beach is as rejuvenating as a spa treatment.

1. Discovery Cove

6000 Discovery Cove Way, Orlando, FL 32821-6000 +1 407-513-4600 [email protected] http://discoverycove.com/orlando/
Excellent
85%
Good
10%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 17,200 reviews

Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove is a one-of-a kind experience where you can interact with bottlenose dolphins, feed tropical birds, play inches from a family of otters and even walk on the Grand Reef floor-all in one day. Between adventures, recharge with unlimited island fare and refreshments. With this all-inclusive experience your family can unwind, explore, learn, and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Reviewed By Big_JR1980 - Portsmouth, United Kingdom

As part of our Orlando adventure, we (2 adults, 2 children) booked a day at Discovery Cove including a Dolphin experience. We arrived at around 7 am and were quickly ushered through security and checked in. First impressions were of a professional and slickly run organisation. The lady checking us in briefed us on how Discovery Cove works in terms of the food (buffet breakfast and lunch are included in the price), where to get towels, wetsuits, and snorkels (all complimentary) and details of our dolphin experience. Leaving the reception area we entered the resort, which was stunning. Just stunning. Immaculately presented with plenty of both shady and sunny areas around the water attractions and with all staff knowledgable, pleasant and helpful, Discovery Cove is a little slice of heaven. The aviary is fantastic, with opportunities to feed the birds, who are not shy in helping themselves from your hand, as are the otter and marmoset attractions. The highlights though are very definitely the dolphin experience, which is excellent and professionally conducted, and the "Great Reef" where you can snorkel and swim with literally hundreds of salt-water tropical fish, including enormous rays. The dolphin experience started with a brief from the trainers and a short video before we were led down, in groups of around 10, to meet the dolphins. The Cove has 3 dolphin areas each allowing 4 groups of 10 to interact with the dolphins. This may sound a little crowded, but these areas are huge and the other groups just feel like they're in the background. Following the trainers' directions we stroked, kissed and interacted with the dolphin before enjoying a "dorsal tow" from the deep water to the shallows. Although you can't take your personal cameras/phones into the dolphin areas, there is a photographer available to take pictures of the experience for you (which can be purchased for an additional charge). Fantastic! The Great Reef is just amazing and my family spent several hours exploring it, observing the fish and the adjacent shark and eel tanks (which have submerged glass walls). There was some disruption from the Florida lightning storms, but that's to be expected for this time of year. Unlike the dolphin areas, you can use your own cameras, etc., on the reef to capture the amazing sights. The fly in the ointment, however, is the minority of guests who don't seem to understand where they are and believe Discovery Cove to be some kind of playground or rubbish dump. After lunchtime, the resort looked like a hurricane had hit it (for clarification, as this is Florida in August, a literal hurricane had not hit the resort!), with discarded food, rubbish, towels, snorkels, nappies, and other crap littering all over the beach and food areas. The free buffet was seen by some to be an opportunity to take mountains of food which was then discarded on the tables and ground for the local fauna to scavenge. The gluttony and complete disregard for this beautiful environment were shocking. There isn't any excuse for this inconsiderate behaviour as there were bins absolutely everywhere and areas for dropping off used snorkels, wetsuits and towels strategically placed to be convenient for all. Additionally, some groups in the, now fairly busy, but not overcrowded, Great Reef area were acting like they were in the local lido, with children being thrown around by parents, adults (possibly drunk; alcohol is available on site) skylarking and aggressively trying to catch or harm the fish. These elements marred an otherwise perfect day and made me feel sad for those who had come here for an idyllic escape, as well as the staff and animals. What I do want to stress, though, is that the Discovery Cove staff worked tirelessly to rectify the mess and to try to dampen the boisterous behaviour, and that, by around 4 pm, there was little evidence of the gluttonous orgy left. Overall, we absolutely loved Discovery Cove and we are already planning a future trip when funds permit a second trip to Florida. Yes, it's expensive, but even without the dolphin experience, you'll not go wanting for anything. Superb.

2. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

6000 Universal Boulevard Islands Of Adventure, Orlando, FL 32819-7640 +1 407-363-8000 http://www.universalorlando.com
Excellent
84%
Good
12%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 40,966 reviews

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Step inside a world where magic is real. Within Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ theme park you can visit the iconic Hogwarts™ castle and explore Hogsmeade™ village. And, at Universal Studios Florida™ theme park, you can enter Diagon Alley™ to enjoy a multi-dimensional thrill ride, magical experiences, and more. Get ready to explore more of Harry Potter’s world than ever before. With a Park-to-Park Ticket, you can board the Hogwarts™ Express* and travel between both Hogsmeade™ in Universal’s Islands of Adventure™ and Diagon Alley™ in Universal Studios Florida™. *Park-to-Park admission ticket required and additional restrictions apply

Reviewed By J5925SXdawnm - Lafayette, United States

escape from gringotts in universal and the forbidden journey in islands of adventure are both amazing rides - the butterbeer is a refreshing treat as you stroll through Diagon Alley after you have stopped at ollivanders to have your wand pick you so that you may test your magical abilities along your journey

3. Avatar Flight of Passage

2901 Osceola Pkwy Ste C, Orlando, FL 32830-8410 +1 407-939-5277 https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/attractions/animal-kingdom/avatar-flight-of-passage/?CMP=OKC-wdw_yelp_4262
Excellent
90%
Good
6%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 1,756 reviews

Avatar Flight of Passage

Reviewed By AdamC113 - Madison, United States

Hands down one of the best attractions in the Disney complex....fun theme, amazing views, puts you in the movie... definitely try to get a fast pass as the wait times can be LONG

4. SeaWorld

7007 SeaWorld Drive, Orlando, FL 32821-8097 +1 407-545-5550 http://seaworld.com/orlando/
Excellent
60%
Good
24%
Satisfactory
10%
Poor
3%
Terrible
3%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 33,056 reviews

SeaWorld

Immerse yourself in wonder at SeaWorld® Orlando, where the aquatic world comes alive. Only here can you experience Orlando's new tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster, Mako, named for one of the ocean’s fastest known sharks. Then, see the world through the eyes of a penguin in the thrilling, chilling adventure of Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin™, and laugh to the all-new Clyde & Seamore’s Sea Lion High™ show. Here you can also climb aboard and ride the mighty Manta®, experience the power and grace of killer whales in the awe-inspiring Shamu® show One Ocean®, and share an epic voyage with sea turtles on the 3D 360 TurtleTrek®.

Reviewed By lewisbarker380 - Warrington, United Kingdom

Don’t listen to the negativity about this place! Absolutely love sea world! Love all of the animals that you can sea, the perfect mix between aquarium/zoo and theme park! Roller coasters here are immense and the animal shows are amazing! Just immerse yourself and enjoy!!

5. Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park

1801 West Buena Vista Drive, Orlando, FL 32830-8436 +1 407-939-5277 http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/blizzard-beach/?CMP=OKC-wdw_TA_36
Excellent
60%
Good
28%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 6,586 reviews

Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park

"Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park, one of 2 Water Parks in Walt Disney World Resort, features one of the world's tallest and fastest free-falling waterslides, as well as slides and rides for the whole family—like a kid-sized, snow-castle fountain play area with scaled-down versions of the more thrilling attractions.

Reviewed By carlieb451 - Weybridge, United Kingdom

It's a good day to relax have fun be adventurous with the lovely lagoon river to the rapid slides that lay upon that park the this is defo the best one over typhoon lagoon for the little ones with a area just for them we go each year but try and get snacks for the day to fill up on as the prices are very high for the avarage food you get so a publix or walmart and your on your way to having brilliant home food snacks and a brilliant day with less of the expense

6. Universal Studios Florida

6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819-7640 407 363 8000 https://www.universalorlando.com/web/en/us/theme-parks/universal-studios-florida
Excellent
63%
Good
21%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
4%
Terrible
3%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 39,991 reviews

Universal Studios Florida

Hang on tight. Your heroes are about to burst through the screen and yank you into the story. You’re the star here and you’ll disappear into one jaw-dropping adventure after another. Dodge evil villains. Defend the earth. Face a fire-breathing dragon. Wander into animated worlds where characters you love are suddenly right beside you. Go beyond the screen, behind the scenes and jump into the action of your favorite films at the world’s premier movie and TV based theme park.

Reviewed By Traveldelightbb - Johannesburg, South Africa

GET THE FAST PASS!!! From waiting in a quick queue, riding and a requeue for The Hulk in a space of 10 min - you don't get better than this! BEST RIDES: Harry Potter - for the adventure and true escapism The Hulk - for the thrill The Mummy - Scary fun Spiderman - so well presented Rockit - speed and fun to your favourite jam Bart Simpson - unexpected surprise Transformers - only cause I adore Bumblebee DISAPPOINTMENTS: The Fast and Furious - what a waste of time Shrek Jurassic Park - should have been more personalized Take your own water in to the park $3.50 IS STEEP...Food is expensive and mass produced with little flavour The experience is really wonderful, top draw and UP WITH THE BEST OF THE BEST!

7. Busch Gardens

10165 N McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612 +1 813-884-4386 [email protected] http://buschgardens.com/tampa
Excellent
58%
Good
25%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
4%
Terrible
4%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 17,575 reviews

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is the ultimate family adventure, combining world-class thrill rides, live entertainment and more than 12,000 animals. Challenge a 335-foot drop tower, Falcon's Fury, or race like a cheetah on Cheetah Hunt. Busch Gardens' newest attraction, Cobra's Curse puts a spin on family thrills with this one-of-a-kind spin coaster.

Reviewed By 82lloydm - Salvador, Brazil

This is truly one of my Favorite theme parks, as it has a Mixture of everything Thrill rides Theme park and zoo, Sheikra is one of my Favorite rides with a 200 foot drop, it truly gets my Adrenaline going every time, I love the cheetah Hunt ride it’s super fast also it reminds me of Another fast ride in Thorpe park called stealth which is in a Theme park in England. One of my Best part of this park is the Gorillas and primates park you see the playing in a Natural environment, a big open space. You can see the Gorilla Through the glass there one Silverback male I think and some other smaller gorilla. The Hippos area is truly beautiful it like a Small aquarium one of the best I’ve ever seen you get to see the hippos in and out of water swimming around with fishes and Turtles. I love this place

8. Disney's Animal Kingdom

2901 Osceola Pkwy, Orlando, FL 32830-8410 (407) 939-1936 http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/animal-kingdom/?CMP=OKC-wdw_TA_118
Excellent
61%
Good
25%
Satisfactory
10%
Poor
2%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 34,218 reviews

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Encounter exotic animals and exciting adventures at Disney's Animal Kingdom park, one of the largest animal theme parks in the world. Home to more than 2,000 animals across 300 unique species, the park reflects Walt Disney’s dedication to conservation and is committed to animal care, education and research. Explore 7 enthralling lands: Oasis, Discovery Island, Pandora - The World of Avatar, Africa, Rafiki's Planet Watch, Asia and DinoLand, U.S.A.

Reviewed By Archited2013 - Fairport, United States

Animal Kingdomis an excellent park - laid out in “lands” like the Magic Kingdom. The centerpiece is the tree of life, a huge artificial tree with hundreds of animals depicted in it. The “Main Street” leading up to the tree is an area called The Oasis. This area is usually quickly passed by most, but is a really unique with a lot of trees, shade and some unique animal areas. The tree of life itself is spectacular and should be viewed from multiple angles to see all the detail. There is also a projected light show on the tree at night. Additionally under the tree is the show “It’s tough to be a bug” with characters from Bugs Life. Other lands include Dinoland, Asia, Africa and the newly built Pandora from Avatar. Our favorite rides and shows include Dinosaur, Nemo show, Expedition Everest, jungle walk, Kali River rapids, safari ride, Festival of the Lion King show and the new Pandora area. Theming is very good and food is descent too. Our favorite restaurant is “Tiffins” near Pandora - very good food and atmosphere! Very good park and now they have a river light show at night which is OK but gives more options for stuff to do at night. If you like animals do not miss the safari and jungle trek in Asia! Pandora theming great - Flights of Passage very good but long lines, Navi river journey is just average.

9. Disney's Boardwalk

2101 Epcot Resorts Blvd Boardwalk is now open. Hours are listed., Orlando, FL 32830-8442 +1 407-939-6200 [email protected] http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/entertainment/boardwalk/atlantic-dance-hall/
Excellent
0%
Good
0%
Satisfactory
0%
Poor
0%
Terrible
100%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 2,807 reviews

Disney's Boardwalk

"Disney's BoardWalk area contains more than 90,000 square feet of shops, restaurants and nightclubs. It encompasses Crescent Lake and is ""a village on the water"" near many Disney Resort hotels in Walt Disney World Resort. This quarter-mile entertainment, dining and shopping area is also conveniently close to 2 Disney Theme Parks.With sherbet-colored building facades, striped awnings, rising columns and archways, Disney's BoardWalk is designed after the boardwalks that were famous during the turn of the 20th century along such coastal cities as Coney Island, New York and Atlantic City, New Jersey.Stroll along Disney's BoardWalk during the day to explore the unusual shops and restaurants. When the sun cools down, the nightlife heats up with street performers, food vendors, midway games and lots of live entertainment.

Reviewed By newfeatures2002

In November - December 2018 I visited the Disney Boardwalk and was amazed. What an experience. The water way features, the light house, do you know that there are live ducks on the dock? Special features include a fabulous light show, boat rides, the Boardwalk bakery, gift shop, The ESPN Club, and more.

10. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

1145 Buena Vista Drive, Orlando, FL 32830 +1 407-939-5277 http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/typhoon-lagoon/?CMP=OKC-wdw_TA_37
Excellent
63%
Good
26%
Satisfactory
8%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 9,090 reviews

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park, one of 2 Water Parks in Walt Disney World Resort, features attractions for the whole family—from fast waterslides to a children's area with pint-sized raft rides. Catch 6-foot waves in the Surf Pool and snorkel Shark Reef—with real sharks!Escape to a tropical paradise where you'll discover a storm of fun in the sun. Disney's Typhoon Lagoon water park is the place to go for aquatic thrill-seekers of all ages. In addition to great waterslides, you'll love the lazy river, wave pool and children's play area!

Reviewed By briangator - Tampa, United States

We always have an awesome time whenever we visit Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park! Disney's Typhoon lagoon is my favorite park! I love the long lazy river with waterfalls, huge wave pool, all the slides, and and the park's carribean theme! Disney's Typhoon Lagoon first opened in 1989 and is home to one of the world's largest outdoor wave pools.The theme of the park is the "Disney legend" of a typhoon that wreaked havoc upon a formerly pristine tropical paradise. Ships, fishing gear and surfboards are strewn about where the storm flung them. The park's centerpiece is "Miss Tilly," a shrimp boat impaled upon a mountain named "Mount Mayday" that erupts a 50-foot geyser of water every half hour, right before the bells of the watch sound on it. Its mascot is "Lagoona Gator." According to the ticket stats, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon is the most popular water park in all of the United States and is second most visited water park in the world! The park operates year-round, with an annual maintenance closure during either the fall or winter. During the closure, its sister park, Blizzard Beach, remains open! Slides: 1. Humunga Kowabunga: Three enclosed "speed slide" flumes that send riders downward five stories in seconds reaching speeds of 39 mph (10/10) 2. Storm Slides: Three body slides (Jib Jammer, Stern Burner, and Rudder Buster) that send riders from a height of three stories down twisting, winding channels to a splash pool at the bottom. (9/10) 3. Gang Plank Falls: Family raft ride featuring large four-person inner tubes.(9/10) 4. Mayday Falls: Tube slide flume with winding "rough rapids" feel. (9/10) 5. Keelhaul Falls: Tube slide flume with smoother ride, spiraling down through a water fall and cave. (9/10) 6. Crush 'n' Gusher: Water coaster where one to two person rafts are propelled by water jets through hairpin turns and drop-offs. This attraction includes a choice of the water coaster slide "Banana Blaster", "Coconut Crusher", or "Pineapple Plunger" (9/10) 7. Miss Adventure Falls: A family raft ride featuring rushing rapids. (9/10) 8. Bay Slides: scaled down body slides for tots (1/10) Attraction Areas: 1. Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool: Wave pool, which has 6 foot high waves every 90 seconds. (10/10) 2. Castaway Creek Lagoon: 2,100-foot lazy river that slowly circles the entire park, passing through waterfalls, rainforests, mist, and Mount Mayday. Riders can float on inner-tubes provided. (10/10) 3. Ketchakiddee Creek: a play area for young children featuring small slides and fountains. There are water features that spray everywhere including a tugboat and a mixture of whales and seals. A small sandy beach is also provided. (6/10) 4. Forgotten Grotto: A cave walkway through Mt. Mayday (2/10) 5. Overlook Pass: A walkway across the slope of Mt. Mayday, with small waterfalls. (7/10) 6. Sandy White Beach: Beach area with lounge chairs as well as a wading pool area adjacent to Crush 'n' Gusher. (6/10) RIP Shark Reef: Guests snorkeled through an unheated chilly 70 degree salt water reef with stingrays, bonnethead sharks, leopard sharks, and colorful tropical fish. I was sad that the Shark Reef closed to make room a new water slide in 2016. (10/10) RIP Sunken Tanker: Underwater viewing area of the reefs through tanker portholes. (9/10) RIP S.A.S Adventure: A 30-minute "Surface Air Snorkeling" experience. Using a "pony" tank, a small regulator, and a buoyancy vest experience the "Shark Reef" more close up for an additional cost. (9/10)

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