By: Gillian Birch
Orlando is less than two hours’ drive from Sarasota, making it easy to make a day trip to Disney, SeaWorld, Epcot, Harry Potter and the other amazing attractions in Orlando. Bear in mind that most of these top attractions do not open their gates until 9 a.m. or later, so there’s plenty of time to hit the I-75/I-4 after an early breakfast and not miss a single minute of the fun even if you are staying further south in Fort Myers or Naples.
Here’s a rundown of the 7 most popular Orlando theme parks to visit during your stay in southwest Florida.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom (113 miles from Sarasota)
With Cinderella’s Castle and six themed areas, DisneyWorld really can be more than just a one-day visit. Your admission includes Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and Liberty Square. As well as meeting famous Disney characters, the park has plenty of rides, shops and things to do, from a Jungle Cruise to It’s a Small World.
Discovery Cove (120 miles from Sarasota)
Older kids (and parents) can fulfill their dream of swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove. There are less crowds here (daily admissions are limited, so book ahead) and everyone gets plenty of time to get up-close to stingrays, fish, sea otters and exotic birds as well as that special dolphin encounter. Prices include towels, food and snorkeling equipment.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (124 miles from Sarasota)
Relive your favorite movies such as E.T., Despicable Me and Shrek at this original Universal Studios attraction, or visit the recreated Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry at Islands of Adventure. Discover the Hogwarts Express and enjoy rides and experiences that are as captivating and original as the Harry Potter books on which the theme park is based. It’s magic!
Disney Hollywood Studios (114 miles from Sarasota)
See behind-the-scenes stunts, take a backlot tram tour and see animation galleries at this amazing theme park focusing on the making of many favorite Disney movies. There’s plenty of terror in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Coaster and on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride.
Disney Animal Kingdom (116 miles from Sarasota)
Disney brings the excitement of an African safari to Orlando with this animal attraction that goes way beyond the usual zoo. Raft down the Amazon, take a runaway train down Mount Everest and enjoy seeing 250 species of animals in a recreated African safari setting.
SeaWorld Orlando (120 miles from Sarasota)
SeaWorld is a whole park of marine-themed attractions, rides and shows. See dolphins and killer whale Shamu perform at the Believe Show. Aquariums, pools and recreated environments have everything from sharks and seahorses to penguins and beluga whales. Don’t miss the excellent shows, including Clyde and Seamore’s Comedy Performance with sea lions and otters.
LEGOLAND® Florida (99 miles from Sarasota)
Located south of Orlando, at Winter Haven, is the largest LEGOLAND® in the world. It features 50 rides, shows, and attractions on 50 acres. Aimed at visitors aged 2 to 12, it’s an amazing colorful world of rides, activities and working Lego models.
Book multi-pass tickets to save money.
Bring your own food and drink when possible.
Plan your visit – you won’t be able to do everything so pick a few must-do’s.
Use free parking at downtown Disney with bus transfers.
Consider a Fast Pass to avoid the lines at Disneyworld.
Restaurants will serve free water with a meal if requested and water fountains are plentiful.
Use hats and sunscreen to avoid getting burned – even in December!