Walt Disney World: More than any other park, the Magic Kingdom is packed with seminal experiences: the transporting Audio-Animatronic wizardry of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion; the vertiginous thrills of Splash Mountain and Space Mountain; and the homespun, only-at-Disney charm of Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan’s Flight, and “it’s a small world.” Cap the day with Wishes, the famous fireworks show. At Epcot, Frozen Ever After has begun its animatronic-rich boat ride through Arendelle; and Soarin’, the ride with the resort’s highest re-ride ratio, recently changed its visuals from California-only sights to a smorgasbord of world icons. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the ride-through 3-D video game Toy Story Midway Mania is never the same experience twice; while Disney’s newest marquee ride, the cutting-edge and thrilling aerial simulator Avatar Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom, wows every time.
- Universal Orlando: At Islands of Adventure, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey fires on more technological cylinders than you thought a ride could possess; Skull Island: Reign of Kong is the latest big-ticket addition; The Incredible Hulk Coaster just emerged from a complete teardown and rebuilding; and The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man remains the standard bearer for premium family-friendly ride concepts, as it has been since 1991. But don’t miss Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls or Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, a pair of ingeniously sopping flumes. Next door at Universal Studios, a separate park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley represents the cutting edge in visual design that believably immerses you in the world of the movies and the Escape from Gringotts ride is a technological tour de force. Fans of Springfield will find themselves re-riding The Simpsons Ride to catch all the insider references. The newest ride here, Fast & Furious—Supercharged, is a simulated car chase.
The Other Parks: At SeaWorld Orlando, roller coasters pack punches that Disney pulls: the new Mako is Orlando’s tallest, fastest, longest (and, for our money, greatest) coaster; Manta flies riders belly-down over water and rooftops; while Kraken dangles their feet for seven spine-knotting inversions while immersing them in a virtual reality simulation. And this year, it opens Infinity Falls, a water ride with a vertical lift and a 40-foot drop. The controversial killer whale show, currently One Ocean, is winding down but still packed. Elsewhere, Legoland Florida’s tricked-out Miniland USA is such a masterpiece of Lego creations that it’s a show of its own, but its collection of kiddie rides is second to none, even Disney.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.