Visiting Orlando Theme Parks

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.

MustDo.com | 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.

Photo courtesy Disney.

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.

MustDo.com | Older kids (and parents) can fulfill their dream of swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida.

Photo courtesy Discovery Cove.

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.

MustDo.com | 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!

Photo courtesy Universal Studios.

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!

MustDo.com | 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.

Photo courtesy Disney.

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.

MustDo.com | 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.

Photo courtesy Disney.

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.

MustDo.com | 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.

Photo courtesy SeaWorld.

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.

MustDo.com | Coastersaurus at LEGOLAND Florida located south of Orlando 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.

Photo courtesy LEGOLAND® Florida.

MustDo.com | LEGOLAND® Florida 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.

Courtesy LEGOLAND® Florida.

MustDo.com | Legoland Water Park. LEGOLAND Florida 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.

Photo courtesy LEGOLAND® Florida.

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.

Tips

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!

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Written by: Gillian Birch | Author Website

Gillian Birch is a freelance travel writer and, whenever possible between trips, she enjoys life in Florida. As the wife of a Master Mariner, she has traveled extensively and lived in some exotic locations all over the world, including the Far East and the Republic of Panama. Describing herself as having "endless itchy feet and an insatiable wanderlust", she continues to explore Florida and further afield, writing about her experiences with wonderful clarity and attention to detail. With a diploma in Journalism from the BCJ, she has published several travel books and ebooks, all available on Amazon under her name. Formerly the Florida Editor for BellaOnline from 2011-13, Gillian is an active member of the International Travel Writers' Alliance and the Gulf Coast Writers' Association, and an enthusiastic guest blogger for MustDo.com Visitor Guides. Learn more about her writing as YourTravelGirl at: www.gillianbirch.com and follow her blog around the world at https://gillianbirch.wordpress.com/

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