The grocery store. The dentist office. The neighborhood lily pad. It's one of the most-asked questions I get: "What's the best Orlando theme park for my kids?"
It's an important question to ask. When families are spending and saving they want to know that every dime is going toward the best possible experience. They want their tadpoles to be hoppy. While every Orlando theme park offers something for everyone, some of them are better suited to a particular age group or two. This post will break down the Orlando theme parks by age group.
Before we dive in, let's be clear, this isn't the definitive guide—there are always exceptions! The best Orlando theme park for your kids (or parents, spouse, partner) is the one that they want to visit. Get them involved in the process. Show them videos of attractions from our YouTube channel and ask if these things interest them. Also, consider what they're currently interested/obsessed with. Do they like Star Wars? Visit Disney's Hollywood Studios. Frozen? Head to Epcot. Despicable Me and Shrek? You're off to Universal Studios Florida. Penguins and Dolphins? Sea ya at SeaWorld. Regardless of the age-proper category they may fall into, give serious consideration to what they are interested in.
On the other side of that, there are the adults. While you're never too old to snap a selfie with Donald Duck, meeting characters and exploring Fantasyland isn't for everyone. The Orlando parks also offer variety for adults and seniors. Simply enjoying the atmosphere of a wonderfully themed land or park can be just enough "magic" for those who don't need thrills.
Recommended Orlando Theme Parks By Age Group
If you can, our recommendation is to visit each of the parks at least once and then pick your favorites to revisit. With all of that said, here are the recommended Orlando theme parks by age group.
Best Orlando Theme Parks for Toddlers
Best: Magic Kingdom Park
Hands down, the Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom offers the most magical experience of all the Orlando theme parks. Guests of all ages, but especially the toddler set, will be able to enjoy a large number of attractions. They can also meet their favorite Disney characters (when they still believe they're real) and wonder at the sights and sounds in each of the different lands. For children who are easily scared, there are plenty of rides where they can sit with Mom or Dad. Start them off with Peter Pan's Flight and Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
Character meet-and-greets can be like a dream come true for the toddler age group. The variety of Disney characters hanging out in Magic Kingdom is great. Whether your tadpole is a Mickey Mouse admirer (Mickey's regular meet-and-greet is at Town Square Theater) or one of Buzz Lightyear's junior Space Rangers, you're guaranteed to find their favorite Disney character somewhere!
Other good Orlando Theme Parks for Toddlers:
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park — This park is ideal for anyone who loves animals. Toddlers especially will enjoy seeing them up close in a lush, jungle-like setting. Tortoises, lions, cotton-top tamarin monkeys, Yellow-napped Amazon parrots and more are just some of the animals that can be found! Pint-sized shows such as "Finding-Nemo: The Musical" and "Festival of the Lion King" are also perfect for the wee set. Tots into dinosaurs will "dig" The Boneyard, a dinosaur dig site-site playground.
- SeaWorld Orlando — Like Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the animals truly are the focus of the park. The little ones will love feeding the sea lions and dolphins. The experience of a stingray gliding beneath their fingertips is a treasure they'll enjoy. A whole section of the park — Shamu's Happy Harbor — is devoted to the little ones and features wee versions of spinning tea cups, a carousel and a gentle tug boat.
Best Orlando Theme Parks for Elementary-Age Kids
Best: SeaWorld Orlando
Who says learning isn't fun? Out of all the Orlando theme parks, SeaWorld Orlando is one of the most educational. Kids of all ages, but especially young children, can test their knowledge of aquatic life. They can also explore the exhibits and get up close and personal with baby dolphins, sea lions and stingrays. The younger end of this group will love Shamu's Happy Harbor, especially Net Climb — four stories of nets linked together by tunnels! Be sure to also check out Antartica: Empire of the Penguin while at SeaWorld Orlando. While the ride itself is quite mild, kids (and kids at heart) should not miss the penguin habitat, which mimics the icy conditions of the South Pole. Get up close with the penguins in temps of 30 degrees. You can see four species on land and under water.
Other good Orlando Theme Parks for Elementary-Age Kids:
- LEGOLAND Florida — The whole park is geared toward 2- to 12-year-olds. For LEGO fanatics, the themed lands are second to none! Adventurous kids can experience the thrill of the Flying School roller coaster. Those who aren't quite ready have ride options such as The Dragon. The water park within the park will keep everyone cool on the hottest summer days.
- Magic Kingdom Park — This is the place where fairytales come true, and princesses and pirates will love the opportunities to indulge in a little make-believe and maybe work up the nerve to try out Space Mountain or Splash Mountain. Great starter coaster options are Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or The Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini.
Best Orlando Theme Parks for Tweens
Best: Universal Studios Florida
With more simulator rides than thrill rides, and many based on movie franchises, Universal Studios Florida offers a lot to do and see. Of course, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley should be at the top of the list, and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is not to be missed! Your brave tweens can tackle Hollywood Rip Rockit coaster, which reaches speeds up to 65 mph! Revenge of the Mummy is slightly tamer but offers plenty of scream moments. TRANSFORMERS: The Ride-3D is thrilling 3D technology at its best as Autobots attempt to protect the AllSpark from Decepticons.
Other good Orlando theme parks for tweens:
- SeaWorld Orlando — Daredevil tweens will love the thrill rides, especially Mako, Journey to Atlantis, Kraken VR and Manta . The animal encounters at SeaWorld are not to be missed; truly some of the most entertaining out of all the Orlando theme parks!
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios — Its three biggest attractions — Toy Story Mania!, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ’n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith — are perfect for the tween set. The interactive elements, bursts of thrills and pure fun of these attractions are a great combination that tweens will love!
Best Orlando Theme Parks for Teens
Best: Universal's Islands of Adventure
Teens will love the high number of true thrill rides, including the Incredible Hulk Coaster and Dragon Challenge. Harry Potter fans will feel like they just stepped into the book in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade, and even those who aren't fans will be mesmerized by the incredible attention to detail. Journeying on the Hogwarts Express - Hogsmeade is an entertaining and awesome ride for park hoppers wanting to venture over to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley! Of course, no visit here is complete without Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.
Other good Orlando theme parks for teens:
- Epcot — Teens will love traveling the world in a single day, sampling the cultures — plus eating and shopping! Epcot offers some of the most diverse entertainment options out of the major Orlando theme parks. Test Track Presented by Chevrolet and Soarin’ Around the World remain perennial favorites and make this park a must-visit.
- Magic Kingdom Park — While parents and teens rarely agree, they seem to share the same nostalgia for visiting the most magical place on earth. While it may not have the major thrills offered at some of the Orlando theme parks, you can't deny the joyful feelings it brings! The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a roller coaster the whole family can enjoy together, and the Haunted Mansion is a hilariously "frightening" adventure.
Best Orlando Theme Parks for Adults
Best: Epcot — The most non-traditional park out of all the Orlando theme parks, Epcot offers the chance to experience many of the world's cultures through sight, sound and taste. Shopaholics (raises hand) will love strolling through the World Showcase shops. Epcot is the only place in the U.S. where some of these items can be found! There are plenty of diverse food and beverage options to be explored as well.
Other good theme parks for adults:
- Universal's Islands of Adventure — This park is a thrill-seeker's paradise with two fantastic coasters and tremendous theming on 3-D rides Skull Island: Reign of Kong and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Get ready to scream and splash on Jurassic Park River Adventure and Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls.
- Universal Studios —This park offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Hollywood movie making, a truly intimidating coaster in Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and 3-D fun for kids at heart in The Simpsons Ride and Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. Belly up to the bar at Moe's Tavern in Springfield U.S.A and order a Duff Beer or Flaming Moe. Enjoy waterfront dining at Lombard's Seafood Grille. Go for some more magical adventures on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley.
Best Orlando Theme Parks for Seniors
Best: SeaWorld Orlando
This pristine park is known for its fantastic shows, particularly One Ocean, Clyde and Seamore's SeaLion High and the new Dolphin Day. Seniors will enjoy the animal encounters, the 360-degree view of Orlando from Sky Tower, experiencing the life of a turtle at TurtleTrek and the numerous places to cool off.
Other good choices:
- Epcot — The pavilions of World Showcase offer the chance to shop, eat and drink in the history and architecture of 11 countries.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios — This park provides a trip back in time through Hollywood's Golden Era. The 50's Prime Time Cafe is a nostalgic eating experience in a sitcom setting. Dine like a Hollywood Icon at The Hollywood Brown Derby.
Whew — this was a long list of Orlando theme parks by age group! Now, it's your turn. Which park and attractions would you recommend for each age group? Share thoughts below! You'll find more resources for planning your vacation to Orlando inside our Planning Guide, which includes touring plans for each of the parks.