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.