Imagine a place where three of the most popular theme parks in the world are located within a 20-minute drive of one another.
The I-4 corridor, which runs through Orlando, Florida, is such a spot. It's the home of Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld.
Make a Plan
Given their close proximity, all three parks can be visited during a long weekend if you plan ahead.
Pick Orlando International Airport as your entry into Florida. You will mostly likely want to rent a car to get around the Orlando area, although some hotels offer shuttle service among the various parks.
Choose a hotel near one of the parks. The best bet is to choose one near SeaWorld, which sits in between the other two parks, with Universal a short distance north and Disney towards the south.
Save money by purchasing tickets in advance from the park websites, where you can choose from a range of passes and ticket combinations.
Create a strategy for each park using the respective park's planner on its website.
Purchase an Express Pass for each park. The pass allows visitors to head to the front of the lines at each ride, therefore decreasing wait times and increasing the fun quotient.
Here's an overview of each park:
Walt Disney World: Favorite Characters Come to Life
Mickey Mouse. Donald Duck. Goofy. "it's a small world." Star Wars. Pirates of the Caribbean. Tomorrowland. The list of iconic figures and rides at Walt Disney World is seemingly endless. Cinderella's Castle is unrivaled. The roller coaster inside Magic Mountain is unmatched. Frozen Ever After is inspired by the popular movie.
Disney World's four parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom – offer so much to do that you will have to choose carefully, based on the ages and interests of your group. Besides fitting in signature rides and mingling with the characters, visiting Disney means taking in shows, like the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Finding Nemo: The Musical and the stage show, Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire, at Cinderella Castle. In addition, the firework "spectaculars" in each park are well-worth a look.
Take advantage of Disney FastPass+ service to best plan your vacation up to 30 days in advance of your arrival (or up to 60 days if you are staying at a Disney Resort hotel). With this service, you can reserve access to select attractions, Disney Character Experiences and viewing areas for fireworks and nighttime spectaculars.
Carousel ride at Walt Disney World
Universal Orlando Resort: It's All About the Thrills
While Disney seeps with nostalgia, Universal Orlando Resort prides itself on the thrill factor at its two parks – Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure. Join Gru, his daughters and the mischievous Minions for their latest scheme on the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem 3-D ride or brave the dangers of a mysterious land in a close encounter with King Kong at Skull Island: The Reign of Kong. Revenge of the Mummy and the Incredible Hulk Coaster are just as exciting.
Meanwhile, Diagon Alley, the multidimensional thrill ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and other attractions at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter makes one feel as if he or she literally stepped into a movie. Finally, two experiences that were part of the park's original lineup – Jurassic Park River Adventure and E.T. Adventure – retain their appeal.
Diagon Alley at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort
SeaWorld: Get Close to Animals
At SeaWorld, you can focus on animal escapades instead of television and movie characters. Live shows predominate with animal interactions ranking near the top of the priority list. Begin with Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin – featuring a state-of-the-art, motion-based, trackless dark-ride system. Move on to SeaWorld's impressive roller coasters, including Manta and Kraken, before long lines form.
Fitting in shows like Blue Horizons (dolphins), One Ocean (killer whales) and Pets Ahoy (dogs, cats and ducks) throughout the rest of your stay will send you back home feeling more than satisfied with your Orlando visit.
The dolphin show at SeaWorld Orlando