9 of the best Orlando theme parks to try in 2021
With thrills and spills around every corner, Orlando is the undisputed theme park capital of the world. Each of the parks offers something a bit different, from larger-than-life roller coasters to once-in-a-lifetime animal encounters.
With so much vying for your attention, it can be tricky to know where to start. At least you know you can get there easily thanks to Virgin Atlantic, which operates great value direct flights* throughout the year from London Gatwick and Manchester. So take a look at our pick of the top nine theme parks to try in 2021, and start planning your Orlando adventure today.
1. Magic Kingdom
Disney describes Magic Kingdom as 'the most magical place on earth' - and we're not about to disagree with that. Walk through the gates, and you've immediately got Cinderella's Castle peering down at you in all its glory. It's even more impressive at night, when it's illuminated by one of the best fireworks displays you'll ever see.
Elsewhere, you can pose for photos with some of Disney's world-famous characters, and work your way through classic rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
2. Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios - formerly known as MGM Studios - brings the glitz and glamour of Tinseltown to Florida, showcasing the best from the worlds of movies, television, music and theatre.
Big-name rides here include The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which sees you hurtling up and down a 13-storey elevator shaft, and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, where you'll zoom along in pitch-black darkness to the tunes of Aerosmith.
There's also a new Star Wars zone opening in 2019, where you'll be able to fly the Millennium Falcon and explore the Planet of Batuu.
3. Disney's Animal Kingdom
Part theme park, part safari park, Disney's Animal Kingdom offers up the ultimate wildlife experience. Head out into the depths of the 110-acre African savannah to spy on the likes of zebras, lions and giraffes in their natural habitats, before enjoying the thrills and spills of the rest of the park.
Don't miss the Expedition Everest roller coaster, which sees you whizzing through the Himalayas on a speeding train, or the Kali River Rapids ride, which lets you tackle the white water in a 12-person raft.
EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which gives you an idea of the kind of attractions you'll find at this Disney park. The whole place is geared up around technological innovation.
Test Track lets you design your own car of the future before heading out for a spin, and Spaceship Earth sees you travel through time from the Stone Age to the computer age.
Away from the rides, you'll find EPCOT's World Showcase. Here, 11 pavilions, each themed around a different country, line up around a huge lagoon. Each one features architecture, attractions, shops and restaurants specific to the country it's representing.
5. Universal Studios
Part of Universal Orlando Resort, Universal Studios is more than just a theme park - it's a real-life, working film and TV studio as well. As such, the rides are based on classic movies and shows, from Men in Black and The Mummy to The Simpsons and Despicable Me.
The star attraction, though, has to be The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Here, you can explore Diagon Alley, get your very own wand at Ollivanders, and stop for a refreshing Butterbeer at the Leaky Cauldron.
6. Islands of Adventure
The other half of Universal Orlando Resort, Islands of Adventure, boasts some of the biggest and best rides in Florida. In fact, it's been voted the number one amusement park in the world for the last three years.
Top billing goes to The Hulk roller coaster - as you speed around the track at 67 mph, you'll encounter no less than seven loops. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter also extends over here. Hold on tight as you soar over the grounds of Hogwarts on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride.
7. Disney's Blizzard Beach
You're spoilt for choice when it comes to waterparks in Orlando, but Disney's Blizzard Beach is arguably the best of the bunch. It's themed around a ski resort, and is packed full of slides and rides in all shapes and sizes.
Experience a near-vertical drop on Summit Plummet, one of the tallest, fastest freefall body slides in the world. And zoom downhill, face-first, on Toboggan Racers. When it's time to turn the tempo down a bit, head for Cross Country Creek - a lazy river, which winds its way around the entire park.
8. Discovery Cove
You won't find a roller coaster in sight at Discovery Cove. Instead, this all-inclusive park is geared up around relaxation and one-of-a-kind animal encounters. It's the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Orlando's other theme parks.
You can swim with dolphins and sharks, snorkel with thousands of tropical fish, and hang out with playful otters. Lunch and unlimited drinks are included, and there's a beach for sunbathing and a lazy river complete with cascading waterfalls and an underwater cave.
Just south of Orlando, Gatorland gives you a real taste of Florida. It's home to more than 2,000 American alligators, as well as crocodiles, panthers and giant tortoises. You can venture within a few feet of the gators on a swamp tour, and observe them in their natural habitat on a monster truck adventure.
Gatorland also brags one of the best zip lines in the country. The 1,200 feet journey will see you soaring through the air, while 130 giant alligators chill out beneath you.
The question is, which one will you choose to visit first? If you're packing your bags for a tour of Orlando's famed theme parks*, check out the latest deals on flights to Orlando from Virgin Atlantic. Fly direct in under 10 hours all year round from London Gatwick and Manchester.
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