USA Theme Parks

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No country in the world compares to the USA when it comes to the quantity – and quality – of theme parks; it’s estimated America has almost 500 of them! So where to go?

The sunny Orange County region has an array of theme parks, including Disneyland Park and LEGOLAND (for serious Lego lovers). Then of course Orlando, Florida – known as the ‘theme park capital of the world’ – is the place to go for savings, unique treats and all sorts of unimaginable fun.

Magic Kingdom Park

Magic Kingdom Park

Magic Kingdom consists of six different lands: Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Main Street, USA. 

Best For: 
Toddlers, kids and teens.

Youngens Will Love: 
Fantasyland. Kids can catch up with favourites in Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Other Highlights: 
Pirates of the Caribbean at Adventureland and also Tomorrowland Speedway (if you’re happy to wait a while).

Don't Miss: 
Take a pitstop at the Tangled-themed rest area at Fantasyland (you can charge your phone here too).

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom

In the six lands – Oasis, Discovery Island, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Asia and Dinoland, USA – you will meet some pretty cool animals and have the opportunity to take an African safari tour without even leaving America (well worth the wait).

Best For: 
Toddlers

Youngens Will Love: 
Meeting a furry friend at the Affection Section petting zoo. 

Other Highlights: 
If Dad’s complaining about how tame this park is, why not suggest he take a ride on Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain? He may never whinge again.

Don't Miss: 
The secret paths through the Oasis – a lifesaver for when you want to get away from the crowds for a minute!

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Take a walk down memory lane to relive some of Hollywood’s classic film moments. This park is divided into eight sections: Hollywood Boulevard, Echo Lake, Sunset Boulevard, Streets of America, Commissary Lane, Pixar Place, Mickey Avenue and Animation Courtyard.

Best For: 
Tweens, adults.

Youngens Will Love: 
Toy Story Midway Mania! at Pixar Place and Muppet Vision 3D at Streets of America.

Other Highlights: 
If you’re after something a little scarier, hop in the haunted elevator of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Sunset Boulevard.
 
Don't Miss: 
The Jedi Training Academy at Echo Lake. Get there early to sign the kids up for a 20-minute training session on how to use ‘the force’ (complete with a robe and lightsaber).
 
 
Sure, the abovementioned are all Disney parks, but that’s just what happens when you’re on to something good. The even better thing is that Disney offers something called a FastPass for selected rides, giving you the chance to skip some of the longer lines.
 
When you’re buying your tickets, let the assistant know if you’re celebrating your birthday or honeymoon toreceive a super-special badge to wear around! If you’re lucky you’ll be able to nab a few freebies at the parks.
 
Universal Studios Florida

Universal Studios Florida

Those who love the action of television and movies will adore Universal. The latest addition – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley – does not disappoint! 
 
Best For: 
Teens, adults.
 
Youngens Will Love: 
The Shrek 4D show. Tip: Pack some tissues – you’ll feel everything!
 
Other Highlights: 
There are so many 3D rides here that teens and adults will be spoilt for choice – The Simpsons Ride, Terminator 2, Transformers and more.
 
Don't Miss: 
Keep younger kids occupied at the A Day in the Park with Barney show. Clap and sing along with everyone’s favourite purple dinosaur.
 
Universal Islands of Adventure

Universal's Islands Of Adventure

The best part of this park is that it contains the Holy Grail for keen Harry Potter fans worldwide – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade.
 
Best For: 
Tweens, teens, adults.
 
Youngens Will Love: 
The Cat in the Hat couch ride and Caro-Seuss-el – both are very well done, even adults will think so.
 
Other Highlights: 
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey isn’t for the faint-hearted – you’ll actually feel like you’re flying and being threatened by a fire-breathing dragon and a huge, hairy spider – but it’s not to be missed.
 
Don't Miss: 
Your very own mug of non-alcoholic Butterbeer! So delicious!
 

When’s all said and done, the most important things you need to take with you on this trip are preparation and patience. Understand that you’re going to be on your feet for a good majority of the day, so dress accordingly.
 
Mid-week visits and rainy days will encounter fewer crowds than weekends, and it’d be wise to avoid school holidays. “The best times of the year to visit Orlando are May and September,” says Heide Colon of VisitOrlando. “Visitors enjoy shorter lines, theme park deals and some of the lowest hotel rates across the destination.”

Off The Beaten Track

Honourable mentions go to...

  • The Dells in America’s Midwest has plenty of water parks flowing through a small south-central Wisconsin area, with attractions such as the aptly named Noah’s Ark – which features more than 50 waterslides for water lovers
     
  • Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park in California is never as crowded as Disney (particularly on Sundays), its prices are far less (only about one-third of the major theme parks), almost all rides are suitable for younger children (the tame but terrific Bonfante Railroad Train Ride and single-child Big Red Engine Co. trucks are a must). Walt Disney himself would love it
     
  • Busch Gardens  in Williamsburg, Virginia and Tampa, Florida has its share of thrill rides, of course, but also has child-friendly animal displays ranging from prancing horses to hissing snakes
     
  • Cedar Point in Ohio has more than a dozen rollercoasters. The most breathless may be the GateKeeper, said to have the longest wing-coaster drop in the world
     
  • Six Flags Magic Mountains With a diverse range of rides and attractions (in the hundreds) to suit kids and adults alike, the 262-acre Six Flags Magic Mountains in Valencia, California has it all.