A-Z of attractions in & around Orlando
All ages will enjoy the experience of an airboat ride, and you don’t have to drive all the way to the Everglades in the south of Florida to do this. The headwaters to the Everglades actually start in Orlando, and Boggy Creek Airboat Rides run trips of varying durations and routes from a couple of locations just minutes from the main attractions of Orlando.
An airboat ride is an exhilarating way to experience the beauty of Florida, seeing exotic birds, turtles and the Florida alligator in their natural environment. If you opt for the night tour, you have the best chance of spotting an alligator in the hot summer months. With the airboat travelling at speeds of up to 45mph, this excursion combines exhilaration with nature spotting, and the beautiful setting is a lovely contrast to the theme parks. Top Tip – take a waterproof as it’s an open boat and you might get wet from either the rain or the river.
Part of the Walt Disney World Resort, the fun gets wild at Animal Kingdom®. Whilst it is the largest of the four theme parks, it is possible to explore all of this park in one day as so many acres are given over to the animals. On entering the park, head straight over to get a Fast Pass for the Kilimanjaro Safari® Expedition, then sit back in your safari truck and enjoy the sight of giraffes, lions, rhinos and other stunning species roaming the park. Younger children will enjoy “Finding Nemo – The Musical” and the 3D movie “It’s Tough to be a Bug!”®, whilst the thrill-seekers can enjoy the “Primeval Whirl” rollercoaster and those wanting a peaceful stroll take the “Pangani Forest Exploration Trail”®
Unlimited admission to the Animal Kingdom® is included in your pre-bookable ticket for Walt Disney World Resort, which you can arrange with your American Sky consultant.
Blizzard Beach Water Park
One of the two water parks in Walt Disney World Resort, this features one of the world’s tallest and fastest free-falling waterslides, as well as rides and slides for the whole family. Built around the bizarre concept of a freak winter storm creating Florida’s first ski resort, it’s a great theme with such rides as the Toboggan Racers 8-lane waterslide where you can race your friends and family, and Runoff Rapids inner tube waterflume. There is plenty of fun for all ages, but the centre piece is not for the faint-hearted - the high-speed waterslide with a 12-story drop – Summit Plummet.
Unlimited admission to Blizzard Beach Water Park is included in your pre-bookable ticket for Walt Disney World Resort.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens is an hour and a half drive from Orlando, but well worth the day trip. It is a great combination of safari park and theme park, suiting all ages and temperaments. For the adrenalin junkies there is the Cheetah Hunt® roller coaster, those wanting the safari experience can sit back in an open-air touring vehicle on the Serengeti Safari, for the youngsters there is the Treetop Trails with climbing nets, bridges and crawl tubes plus a water-play area for the tots. And when you need a breather, there are shows to enjoy such as Madagascar Live.
Part of the Walt Disney World Resort, this is a theme park likely to appeal most to older teens and adults. The park has two sections – Future World and World Showcase. At the parks main entrance is Spaceship Earth – the polyhedral Epcot icon – a slow-moving 16 minute ride through time and space. In this zone you’ll also find rides such as “Soarin” simulating a peaceful hang-gliding flight over California and “Mission:SPACE” simulating blasting off into space.
Worldshowcase takes you on a global adventure across a collection of international pavilions representing the culture and cuisine of 11 countries. Unlimited admission to Epcot is included in your pre-bookable ticket for Walt Disney World Resort.
Evening shows and theatres
Whilst Orlando is the ultimate place for family entertainment, there are several great venues for the grown-ups to enjoy a night of comedy and entertainment, and here are just a few highlights: Mama’s Comedy Show is an improvisation show getting rave reviews, the Mad Cows Theatre put on highly rated shows such as Dream Girls and there are the Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows for those who want to have fun playing amateur detective.
This is a small family-owned business show-casing thousands of alligators and crocodiles, with a surprisingly wide array of fun and activities, proving a relatively good value afternoon excursion for the family. You certainly won’t experience a 1,200 feet Zip Line over Nile crocodiles and an alligator breeding marsh anywhere else. There’s also an aviary and a petting zoo that the kids will like, and a couple of shows and encounters with great photo opportunities.
A perennial favourite for the teenagers and wannabe racing drivers in your party, there are several go-karting tracks both indoor and outdoor around Orlando and Kissimmee such as the Orlando Grand Prix and Orlando Kart Centre
With 170 courses, Orlando is the ultimate golfer’s paradise. From the Shingle Creek Golf Club which has an immense reputation for having a perfectly designed and maintained course, to the Greg Norman designed Championsgate Golf Club, creating a unique golfing experience with the links courses of Ireland and Scotland in mind. Golfers of all standards and ages will find a course to perfectly suit them in Orlando.
One of the four theme parks of Walt Disney World Resort, Hollywood Studios offers backstage tours, live shows and movie-themed thrilling attractions such as Rock ‘n’ roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror® and Toy Story Mania®. The stage shows are spectacular – enjoy the Broadway-style musical Beauty and the Beast or the night-time “Fantasmic” firework and water show starring Mickey and featuring classic Disney music.
Unlimited admission to the Hollywood Studios is included in your pre-bookable ticket for Walt Disney World Resort, which you can arrange with your American Sky consultant.
Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex
An hour’s drive from Orlando is the Kennedy Space Centre which now houses the retired Atlantis space shuttle – a spectacular sight covered in scars, scorch marks and space dust from its 33 flights into space. The Shuttle Launch Experience is the most realistic space shuttle launch simulation ever created – strap in and be launched into space at 17,500mph, then enjoy the breath-taking views of the earth once the payload doors have opened. Take a bus ride around the rocket-launch areas and the world’s busiest space –launch facility and there are several I-Max screens with movies showing on various space themes. A contrast to the thrills and spills of the theme parks, this would appeal most to older children and adults with some interest in the space programme.
LEGOLAND is a 45 minute drive westwards out of Orlando, with rides, shows and attractions including thousands of spectacular LEGO constructions, which will appeal most to families with children under 12. There are several different zones which include: LEGO City, where the youngsters can live out their dreams in a scaled-down town (the pint size driving school for 3 to 5 years looks the most fun); the Imagination Zone showcasing seven of the most visually exciting LEGO models in the world and where you can build a LEGO car to race on the digitally timed track; and Land of Adventure where there are several rides and attractions.
The first of the four Walt Disney World parks to open, this is where you’ll find the iconic Cinderella Castle and six whimsical lands including Main Street USA and Frontierland. There are rides and attractions for all ages at the Magic Kingdom, including the classics - Space Mountain®, Splash Mountain® and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad®. “It’s a Small World” will captivate youngsters and have adults singing the theme tune for the rest of the day. When you’re ready for some down-time enjoy a scenic half hour cruise on the Liberty Square Riverboat. And then end the day with “Wishes Night-time Spectacular” - the nightly fireworks extravaganza hosted by Jiminy Cricket .
Unlimited admission to the Magic Kingdom is included in your pre-bookable ticket for Walt Disney World Resort. Ask your American Sky consultant for details.
Orlando Balloon Rides
An amazing experience, for both adults and children, but perhaps one to focus on for adults who will enjoy the champagne toast on landing and will appreciate that the early start is necessary to catch the magnificent sunrise.
The flight lasts for an hour and offers spectacular views of the area from theme parks to orange groves and from forests to swamps. Once you have landed, there is a glass of champagne followed by a lavish breakfast at the Radisson Resort Orlando-Celebration.
You will need to meet an hour before sunrise and then travel to the launch site chosen that day, after which inflation takes about 20 minutes, and then it’s time to take off.
Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
One of the two waterparks in Walt Disney World Resort, with fun for all the family from fast waterslides to a children’s area with pint-sized raft rides. You can catch six foot waves in the Surf Pool and snorkel with real sharks, sting rays and tropical fish in Shark Reef. There are ten different activity areas for the little ones who are less than 48 inches tall. And the teenagers will enjoy the Crush n’ Gusher water coaster – up to three people ride down hairpin turns, sudden drops and gravity-defying uphill climbs.
Unlimited admission to Typhoon Lagoon is included in your pre-bookable ticket for Walt Disney World Resort.
This is a buzzing area for to visit in the evening where you’ll find great restaurants, lively bars and cool nightclubs. There’s live music every night at CityWalk® whether it’s at the Bob Marley Tribute, the “groove club”, or perhaps you can provide the vocals at the Rising Star karaoke club where they have a live band and backing singers.
Popular bars include Jimmy Buffett’s® Margaritaville® and Pat O’Briens. There’s a great range of restaurants from family favourites such as Bubba Gump, and for racing and sports enthusiasts there is the NASCAR Sports Grille. If you want sophistication then Emeril’s® restaurant offers a Creole-based menu, and for a night to remember head to the largest Hard Rock Café in the World.
Finally, the Blue Man Group have nightly performances of their unique show, mixing inventive comedy with a phenomenal live band, fun audience interaction and multimedia theatrics. This is an excellent show for children, teenagers and adults of all ages.
Universal’s Islands of Adventure
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has become the key attraction of this park, and once you pass through Hogwarts castle gates you will be swept up into the world of witchcraft and wizardry. As with many of the larger rides in Orlando, you’ll need to be over 48” to join this ride.
There are also many other rides to enjoy on the Island’s of Adventure such as the 3D simulator The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk Coaster, or cool off on the Jurassic Park® River Adventure. You can rest your feet at The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad® Stunt Show. And then take the kids to enjoy the little rides such as The Cat in the Hat in the Dr Seuss Landing area.
Unlimited admission to both Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios is included in the Orlando Flex Ticket which you can book before your trip from your American Sky consultant.
For all Transformers fans, a must-do ride is TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D – “an ultra-immersive sensory experience that puts you on the front lines of an intergalactic war between the Autobots and Decepticons”.
Or perhaps you’d prefer the more sedate Shrek 4D, where you join Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey on a honeymoon adventure. You can party with The Blues Brothers in New York, or laugh at one surprise after another on The Simpsons ride. Or for the die-hard thrill seekers, both TWISTER…Ride it out® and the Revenge of the Mummy® ride are a must.
For the younger members of your party, there is Woody Woodpecker’s KidZone® where you can get a mouse-eye-view of the world in Fievel’s oversized playground or join Barney® and his friends in a sing-along, clap-along show.