Famously known as ‘the theme park capital of the world’, the city of Orlando takes this title very seriously. Whether you’re five years old or 50, it isn’t easy to ignore these attractions, primarily because one of the many options is bound to grab your attention, if not the attention of the child within you. Though I’ll warn you now, doing justice to all the amusement parks — in text or in person — isn’t easy.
According to the city’s tourism board, if you were to visit all the theme parks, rides and museums, it would take you about 67 days. And although I didn’t have that much time, I did have enough to want to go back again — to lose myself in Harry Potter’s magical world, to experience the inexplicable rush of The Hulk rollercoaster, to forget the real world in Mickey Mouse’s company and to be converted into a ‘minion’ in a ride fashioned around the Hollywood hit, Despicable Me (2010).
Watch out for:
Shamu’s (the killer whale) show, feed the stingrays
Spread across 200 acres, Sea World gives you the chance to interact with creatures you’ve only often seen behind a glass wall. You can stick a prawn in the middle of your fingers and wait for a stingray to suck it out of your hand or drop fish into a dolphin’s mouth — there’s lots to do. The park’s killer whale mascot, Shamu’s show should top everyone’s list. Just the sheer size of the magnificent creatures is enough to leave you gaping; until one of them splashes into the pool, soaks you and brings you back to reality. And if you can deal standing inside a refrigerator to meet the penguins in their exhibit, you might enjoy the second most famous attraction here.
The glass showcases bring the aquarium alive
Get lost in spaceWhere:
Children usually grab the front rows at this show because when you’re least expecting it, with a whirl of the tail, Shamu’s massive splashes soak them
Magic Kingdom and Epcot Watch out for:
Mission: Space, Soarin
Magic Kingdom is everything that a Disney fan could ask for. With splashes of colour everywhere and Mickey Mouse right in the centre, this park isn’t as much about the rides as it is about soaking in your childhood fantasy. Meanwhile, Epcot is what one can call a relatively more mature amusement park. The area is split into two ‘realms’ — Future World and World Showcase. And if you think you can handle thrill, make sure you attempt the motion stimulator ride called Mission: Space at Epcot. Their recreation of a space shuttle take-off left churned my insides to a level of extreme discomfort.
From Hulk and Harry Potter, with love Where:
Universal’s Island Of Adventure Watch out for:
Wizarding World Of Harry Potter, Incredible Hulk Coaster
The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter is a dream stop for fans of the JK Rowling books. The ride here that has been designed inside a replica of Hogwarts is awe-inspiring and not for the faint-hearted. And while you’re walking to the ride, the moving frames of Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff can give you quite the fright if you aren’t prepared. The Incredible Hulk Coaster is located within a section called Marvel Super Hero Island. Every evening, suited superheroes put up a parade and the chances of you bumping into Spiderman walking around are very high. Involving numerous freefalling drops, The Incredible Hulk Coaster has earned itself the title of being one of the most thrilling rides in the world.
Feel miniscule in front of Atlantis
The Hogwarts Express
If the rocket garden (an area dedicated to actual rocket shells) wasn’t enough to impress you, Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex (located at a few hours drive from Orlando) recently unravelled its biggest attraction worth millions. Called Space Shuttle Atlantis, this is where you have a chance to actually feel miniscule in the presence of the actual shuttle. If you look closely, you can still see the burn marks on its tip from when it was re-entering the earth’s atmosphere in 2009, after a trip to the Hubble Space Telescope.
The writer travelled as a guest of Visit Florida.
Orlando tops the list as the most popular destination for Americans this Christmas and New Year. Photo: AFP/Carl Stewart/shutterstock.com