Orlando's Must Sees
February 12, 2010 3:28 AM   Subscribe

Heading to Orlando for the first time, and overwhelmed by themepark options. Any must see recommendations?

I have 2 or possibly 3 days spare either side of a conference. For at least some of the time I am going to be on my own. Top of my list so far:
Kennedy Space Centre, Magic Kingdom Park, and Wizarding World of Harry Potter. What else should I try and squeeze in?
posted by roofus to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bush Gardens is a lot of fun. Island of Adventures has some of the best roller coasters out there, and is an awesome park.
posted by carmel at 3:35 AM on February 12, 2010

Are you going NOW, or when it gets warmer? If during the warm season, I really enjoyed Wet'n'Wild, a water park. (It's open all year, but I'm not sure I believe that all the fun things can be sufficiently heated.)
posted by anaelith at 4:00 AM on February 12, 2010

Each of those things on your list would be a full day's activities (especially since the Kennedy Space Center and Busch Gardens would require a decent amount of travel time). Also the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is part of Islands of Adventure...in essence, the WWOHP is one such Island where you may have Adventures. You also don't say when you are going to Orlando but if it is soon you should note that the WWOHP may not be completely open yet.
posted by mmascolino at 4:26 AM on February 12, 2010

It depends so much on you and what you like. I took a drive from Kissimmee to Celebration and thought about fantasy and landscape. Then drank beer at Hooters and went to a park in the morning.
posted by Fiery Jack at 5:10 AM on February 12, 2010

KSC actually takes 1.5 days if you are going to do it all. I was just in Orlando at Thanksgiving...my write up on the parks we visited is here. (self-link warning, but it directly answers OP questions...)

Don't worry about the drive, it's less than hour to KSC from downtown Orlando.
posted by COD at 5:37 AM on February 12, 2010

Seconding Fiery Jack, it depends on what you like. WWOHP is part of Universal Orlando. My son and I (over the course of several years) have had a great time at almost every part of Universal Orlando because we love the movie tie-ins, rides, theme restaurants and A/V entertainment.
posted by JimN2TAW at 6:41 AM on February 12, 2010

What kinds of things do you like to do in general? Coasters? Shopping? Animal interactions? Dining, dancing, clubbing? Be more specific and I can help you out a lot.

A couple of things right off the bat:

The Harry Potter exhibit isn't open yet, and won't be for several more weeks so if you're coming to Orlando right now, know that in advance. It's housed in the Islands of Adventure side of the Universal resort, and that area leans more toward kid stuff like Jurassic Park and Dr. Suess. Universal Studios, on the other hand, is a fabulous place for adults. All sorts of cool movie stuff, great rides, and keep an eye out for Jake and Elwood, Scooby and Shaggy, Beetlejuice, and other folks who just wander around the park randomly.

It's FREEZING here right now (45 degrees) so don't even consider a water park. If you'll be here when it warms up, though, Aquatica is THE water park to check out. It's brand new and kicks major ass. Yes, Wet and Wild is a nice water park too, but it's older and a little worn around the edges. Aquatica will blow your mind.

KSC is a full day, at least. If you're a space freak, spend the extra money on the bus tour that takes you by the launch pad, VAB, and the building where they package the stuff they take to the ISS. Seriously, don't miss it.

Lots of people who come here love the shopping options because there are a couple of outlet malls with big name stores like Macy's. IMO, the stuff is still really expensive, but if you've always wanted to load up on designer stuff, you can do that here.

Animal Kingdom is terrific, but don't forget about SeaWorld. Shamu is totally amazing, and the polar bear and penguin exhibits are fantastic. You can also pop for a behind-the-scenes tour, pet a penguin, dive in a shark tank, etc. Very cool.

Tell us a little more about what you like and I can get even more specific. :)
posted by _Mona_ at 7:04 AM on February 12, 2010

If you're a move lover - Universal is where you want to be.

If you've never been to Disney World... you have to hit up Magic Kingdom.

IF ITS WARM... I'm seconding Wet 'n' Wild. I went there tons in previous years and had a blast.

Also, I always like to go to Ripley's Believe it or not. Cuz I'm hokey like that. And maybe catch dinner at the Medieval Knights thingermajig. The jousting dinner show place.
posted by mittenbex at 8:01 AM on February 12, 2010

*movie lover. SORRY.
posted by mittenbex at 8:01 AM on February 12, 2010

We enjoyed Midieval Times while we were in Orlando. They have a free museum with artifacts 500-800 years old. Inside there was a simple dinner (comparable to Dixie Stampede) but instead of a "country" theme it featured a jousting contest with a special breed of horses, a king, his lovely princess daughter and a handsome prince. The servers greeted you with "Welcome m'lady or m'Lord." It was a neat experience for us.
posted by srbrunson at 8:09 AM on February 12, 2010

Hmm Disney you can spend a week in all by itself. So if you only have 3 days and have to get other things in go to magic kingdom for one FULL DAY.

IF you dont put in a full day you wont get everything in . Heck i go to disney everyyear and it takes me two days to get through everything at the magic kingdom.

Make sure you get to magic kingdom for opening. You can get splash mountain , big thunder,pirates, and haunted mansion in before it gets busy.

Islands of adventure/ universal might be another full day . That leaves you with one more day .

I thin kseaworld might be the other one to do.

ITs kinda hard to see all the good stuff in three days. especially when the magic kingdom itself could take 2 days to see everything.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:58 AM on February 12, 2010

It would help to know your interests, and also your traveling party? It makes a big difference whether or not you are bringing children.

Wet n' Wild sucks, skip it, unless you are a teenager or looking to get shot. Aquatica is the way to go. Disney has 2 nice water parks also, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, and if it is over 50 degrees outside you can visit them, since the water is heated to 72 degrees.

Disney also has 3 other theme parks besides the Magic Kingdom, and I would say EPCOT is a must-do.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:44 AM on February 12, 2010

I've never been to any of the other theme parks in the area, but I liked Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney-MGM Studios (as it was) so much better than any other theme parks I have ever been to, it's hard to imagine skipping them for something else. I liked Kennedy Space Center too.
posted by grouse at 11:03 AM on February 12, 2010

If you are going to Universal do not miss The Simpsons!!! Go there first thing in the morning as the lines get very long. Enjoy!
posted by 3dd at 12:38 PM on February 12, 2010

Response by poster: I am coming late March. I've been to DisneyLand Paris a bunch of times and DisneyLand Hong Kong, so I don't need the full on Disney experience, but I want to see some of the "original" more retro stuff. The conference hotel is actually in Disneyworld somewhere. I've also been to the Miami Seaquarium before, and am pretty ethically ambivalent about captive marine mammals. Most of the time I am going to be totally solo, although I figure my work friends might want one day of Universal or Disney.
posted by roofus at 3:41 PM on February 13, 2010

I'm heading to Orlando in May and have three days. My plan is one day for Kennedy Space Centre, one for Universal/Harry Potter and one for DisneyWorld/Epcot/Disney-MGM.

Piggybacking on your FPP, I'm wondering about bus tours from Orlando out to the Cape/Kennedy Space Centre. Anyone recommend a company that takes people staying in Orlando out to the coast? I assume that's a full day tour?

I haven't left myself much time to do anything else - but does anyone have any suggestions for things to do at night around downtown Orlando?
posted by crossoverman at 12:27 AM on February 17, 2010

Keep in mind that Easter is at the very beginning of April so the weeks surrounding it will be very busy in Orlando. re: Retro. While there are original touches at the Magic Kingdom from its early 70s launch there is lots of new things and new refurbishments to the old things. Walt always intended these things to change rather than be a museum to himself. So you might be getting a lot more recent flavor than you think at the Magic Kingdom.
posted by mmascolino at 3:21 PM on February 20, 2010

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