Explore Disney's Animal Kingdom
Explore Disney's most spectacular and wildest Imagineering to date. Trek through the jungles of Africa along the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail or set out on safari across the savanna with Kilimanjaro Safaris. Journey through the exotic lands of Asia and embark on an expedition to the peaks of Expedition Everest; then explore the mysteries of Anandapur while wandering the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Be sure not to miss Finding Nemo -- The Musical or the Festival of the Lion King, absolutely the best shows in all of WDW.
Go Globe-Trotting at Epcot
You can travel around the world in only an afternoon at the World Showcase pavilions, rocket through space on a thrilling mission to Mars at Mission: Space, travel back in time to the age of the dinosaurs at the Universe of Energy, and dive deep below the sea to explore the ocean's inhabitants at the Seas with Nemo & Friends. And there's no better way to cap your day off than watching Epcot's IllumiNations, a spectacular show of fireworks, laser lights, and fountains.
Take Center Stage at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Though it is more grown-up than the Magic Kingdom, it has plenty of great shows to entertain the kids and attractions to thrill movie buffs. Don't miss Toy Story Mania, the American Idol Experience, Star Tours (overhauled in 2011), Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, and Fantasmic! -- an innovative, after-dark mix of live action, waterworks, fireworks, and laser lights that rivals IllumiNations.
Escape to the Magic Kingdom
It may seem an obvious choice, but Disney's oldest is still the most magical of Orlando's theme parks. Speed through the universe on Space Mountain, watch Donald's antics at Mickey's PhilharMagic, laugh out loud at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, or wave hello to the ghouls of the Haunted Mansion. Cap your day with the impressive Wishes fireworks display. There's plenty here to entertain all ages.
Experience Universal Orlando
Universal Studios Florida and its sister, Islands of Adventure, are both chock-full of thrilling rides and spectacular shows that combine cutting-edge technology, high-tech special effects, and incredible imagination and creativity. The attention to detail throughout the parks is amazing -- check out the street sets at USF and the wildly unique landscapes of IOA (including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and you'll see what I mean. For thrill seekers, not-to-be-missed attractions include Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, Men in Black Alien Attack, the Dragon Challenge, the Forbidden Journey, the Incredible Hulk Coaster, the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls.
Dive into the Eco-Edutainment of SeaWorld, Discovery Cove, and Aquatica
Your kids may never realize just how much they're learning as they explore their way through these theme parks' eco-exhibits and experiences. With the addition of Manta, Journey to Atlantis, and Kraken, SeaWorld added a bit of zip and zing to the lineup, ensuring that those in need of an adrenaline rush aren't left out in the cold (or over at the other parks). But it's still the hands-on encounters, such as touching silky rays as they glide by you in droves, and up-close views of animals ranging from polar bears and penguins to killer whales, that draw the crowds. Discovery Cove is more of an island retreat than a theme park, where the big draw is the chance to take a dip with the dolphins. Rest and relax on the beach, swim along with the fishes, or explore the Grand Reef (the park's latest addition). Aquatica combines high-speed thrills (with raft rides and racing tunnels), up-close animal encounters (with Commerson's dolphins, colorful fish, brilliant macaws, and more), and a whimsical South Pacific atmosphere to create an eco-themed water park unlike any other.
Go Wild at Gatorland
Located between Orlando and Kissimmee, this throwback park is a great way to spend a half-day (an especially good choice for that extra time on your day of arrival) and costs less than a third of the price of some of the major theme parks. In addition to the animal exhibits, Gator Jumparoo, a signature show since the park opened in 1949, and Gator Wrestlin' are worth a look. Thrill seekers with a bit of extra cash can even zip along high above the crocs and gators (and lush grounds) below -- the park's zipline adventure made its debut in summer 2011. Other options include a train ride, water playground, and aviary. If you have some extra spending money for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, consider becoming a Trainer for a Day.
Pamper Yourself with a Spa Treatment
Rest, relax, and rejuvenate -- you may very well need to if you intend on surviving all of the fast-paced activities you've planned. After a few days at the parks, it should almost be a requirement. Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (tel. 407/934-7639 or 407/824-3000), the Mandara Spa at Universal's Portofino Bay Hotel (tel. 888/322-5541 or 407/503-1000) and at the WDW Dolphin (tel. 407/934-4000), the Spa by Guerlain at the Waldorf Astoria (tel. 407/597-5360 or 407/352-4000), the Neu Lotus Spa at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld (tel. 407/351-5555), and the Spa at the Peabody (tel. 407/345-4431 or 407/586-0000) all offer an array of fabulous treatments, some with salon services to boot.
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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.