A relative newcomer to the world of Florida theme parks, Legoland Florida nestles in Winter Haven, 47 miles south-west of Orlando. Aimed firmly at tourists aged three to 12, it has 18 rides, including four gentle rollercoasters, as well as the kitsch charm of Miniland USA, where US landmarks like the Statue of Liberty are constructed from the ubiquitous plastic bricks. Duplo Valley, with mini tractor and train rides, is new for 2014.
Price: One-day tickets cost £40 for adults, £36 for three- to 12-year-olds. Passes that include the resort’s waterpark cost £49 for adults and £45 for children.
Find out more: Legoland Holidays
2/5 Walt Disney World Resort
Orlando’s original child-magnet may not be able to match Universal’s Potter power, but it can certainly beat it for size. It boasts two waterparks and four separate theme parks – the most recognisable of which is the Magic Kingdom, with its fairytale castle andtimeless sparkle.
It is also the focus of the resort’s changes for 2014, with an expanded Fantasyland area, which includes a new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride pinned to the tale of Snow White.
Price: One day’s entry to one theme park costs from £56 per adult and £52 per child aged three to nine. Seven-day Ultimate Tickets, which give access to the entire resort, cost £259 per adult and £244 per child.
Find out more: Walt Disney Holidays
3/5 Universal Orlando Resort
Which of Orlando’s major theme parks is most likely to induce palpitations of excitement in young visitors? At the moment, it may be Universal Orlando Resort. The reason? A certain British wizard. Since 2010, Universal has been home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a recreation of Hogwarts and other parts of JK Rowling’s realm that has had tourists rushing to visit Islands of Adventure, one of two separate theme parks here.
This year’s opening of Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida has brought the second theme park into the Potter-verse. A physical imagining of Rowling’s magical London street, with its wand shops and Leaky Cauldron pub, this clever innovation draws visitors to a ride set in Gringotts Bank. It is also connected to the other Potter attractions in Islands of Adventure by a new train link – inevitably, the Hogwarts Express.
Price: A one-day pass to one of the theme parks costs from £57 per adult and £53 for three- to nine-year-olds. For those keen to delve deeper into the Potter-sphere, four-day passes to both parks cost £117 for adults and £109 for children.
Find out more: universalorlando.co.uk and bestoforlando.com
4/5 Seaworld Orlando
Despite the furore surrounding captive killer whales generated by last year’s docu-movie Blackfish, SeaWorld continues to be another of Orlando’s grand landmarks, and is home to dolphins, turtles and its controversial population of orcas.
SeaWorld’s adjacent waterpark Aquatica has an impressive addition for 2014 – Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, an exhilarating four-chute, 80ft waterslide.
Price: General admission to Seaworld is £38 per day, although you can save money by buying combined tickets (£74 a head), which also allow access to Acquatica. Aquatica-only day tickets cost £16.
Find out more: seaworld.com
5/5 Busch Gardens, Tampa
Tucked away in Tampa, Busch Gardens is the ultimate family adventure. Spread across 297 acres, the park offers fascinating attractions based on an exploration of the world. The park boasts one of America’s best zoos – with more than 12,000 animals – live shows, restaurants, shops, games and of course, rides. Busch Gardens famously appeals to older children and teens with its roaring rollercoasters. New for 2014, Falcon’s Fury is a ‘drop tower’ ride, which plunges 335ft at speeds of 60mph.
Price: Day tickets cost £39 per person.
Find out more: buschgardens.com
More of what you love…
Are you a family of thrill-seekers? Check out our roundup of the world’s best amusement parks and our tips for making the most of your visit.