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Vote of the week: What's your top theme park in the Orlando area?

By Robert Niles
Published: June 24, 2010 at 9:39 PM
I'm curious if the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park has changed visitor's attitudes about which theme parks they most want to visit on an Orlando-area vacation.

So let's put it to a vote, shall we? If you could visit one theme park in Central Florida on your next vacation there - and only one - which would it be?

Obviously, if you are planning a trip to Central Florida this year, this would have to be one of the parks on your itinerary, and the one you're looking forward to most. And if you're a local, this should be the park you visit most often during the year.

The Magic Kingdom's long been Central Florida's (and the nation's) theme park attendance leader. But is it really the favorite Orlando-area park among the committed theme park fans who read websites such as Theme Park Insider? Will Harry Potter draw some of those fans to IOA? Or will the large crowds initially flocking to the Wizarding World cause others to stay away later?

You tell us, in the comments. And, as always, thank you for reading Theme Park Insider!

Readers' Opinions

From 69.108.140.17 on June 24, 2010 at 10:07 PM
Nobody beats IOA. Not hating on Disney though. But hey, Walt would've enjoyed IOA more then even his own dream back at Anaheim, just my opinion...
From Adam Wade on June 24, 2010 at 11:20 PM
Harry Potter, in spite of the incorrect wording in many statements, is really just one ride and some shops, not a "theme park" of it's own. It may be a very well-done new ride, and some very detailed (if cramped and narrow) shops, but one can only experience them so much. The other two rides are the same rides they always were, and the rest of the park is the same as it has been since they have opened.

So for theme park fans who need to check it out, sure thing - but the Magic Kingdom is still the Magic Kingdom, and although I visit and enjoy both parks at Universal, Harry Potter isn't enough to get me to spend that much more time there than I already would. It's a game-changer in terms of vacationers who may have skipped Universal otherwise, so I have no doubt it will be a huge boost to Universal's revenue, but as a theme park fan, one new ride isn't enough to drastically change how I visit/view a park.

From 212.240.35.34 on June 25, 2010 at 12:42 AM
I seem to be in the minority here with my love of the Hollywood Studios. Last time we visited FLorida (May) we spent WAY too much time at the American Idol show. It becaome somehting of an addiction.....

My biggest problem with Universal parks is that they just dont' ahve the "magic" that a trip to Disney managed to create. I can't put my finger on it but there really is something special about Disney parks, especially after dark

From James Rao on June 25, 2010 at 2:56 AM
Epcot, without a doubt. There is more to see, do, and eat at Epcot than at any other theme park in the world. And at night it doesn't look like a carnival, it looks like Heaven.
From Mark Hollamon on June 25, 2010 at 4:01 AM
My wife and I have not been on FJ yet, but have been told by friends that it was a top notch attraction that rivaled Spiderman. That being said I still feel IOA is not a full day park as I won't stand in long lines and consider them part of my "experience".

I still feel MK is the crown jewel of Orlando and Disney in general is just a cut above everything else, period. That doesn't mean I am putting down USF, IOA, or SW as they all are great attractions.

Nobody is going to come here on vacation and only visit one park. I do think FJ on its own will change the overall dynamic of family vacations this year in Orlando, but find it hard to believe anybody will travel here just to visit IOA.

From Sylvain Comeau on June 25, 2010 at 4:02 AM
Normally the Magic Kingdom would be my choice, but Robert said "if you could only visit one theme park", so naturally IOA wins right now. Everyone wants to experience Harry Potter, it's the newest and possibly the greatest.
From Caroline Davis on June 25, 2010 at 4:19 AM
Even if I was going pre-Harry Potter, I'd still probably say Islands of Adventure, for it's thrill rides and because it's a bit of an underdog compared to the Disney attractions. Also I wouldn't be able to pick between the Disney parks, I have no clear favourite of the four. If it was the Universal parks vs the Disney parks vs the Busch parks, then I'd pick Disney. But I might change my mind soon, because I'm going to Orlando in 9 days and last time I went was 1999 (when IOA first opened)!
From Amy Tupper on June 25, 2010 at 4:39 AM
I have a 4 1/2 year old little girl. It's gotta be Magic Kingdom!

However, I can totally see the draw of IOA, and I know my husband is itching to get there. Neither of us are big fans of standing in line for hours, though, so it'll be a while. Thank goodness we live in Central FL!

If it were me and only me, I'd pick EPCOT (and perhaps go back in time to when it first opened - I truly miss World of Motion). And I'd go for Oct/Nov - for the F&W Festival!

From Don Neal on June 25, 2010 at 5:04 AM
If my family is going, it's still Magic Kingdom for us. If it were only me it would be IOA but that was the case long before Harry Potter arrived. I just enjoy the rides at that park. HP doesn't do a lot for me as a brand but I do look forward to experiencing the ride at some point. But they are all so close in the level of enjoyment it's really hard to say which one for sure. Really depends on the mood and what you want to do that day.
From Tracy Bates on June 25, 2010 at 5:14 AM
Having had season tickets to the Busch Gardens/Seaworld since 2000, I still say it's Busch Gardens Tampa. Being out of Orlando means it's not as crowded, and the rides are geared more at adults than those in most of the Disney parks. (Not to say that I don't like Disney. Certainly the fireworks behind the castle is iconic, but most of their stuff is for kids or people with kids, which isn't me.)

As for Universal, my season tickets expired last year and I'll probably renew them next year after the rush is over. I never did get to Rip Ride Rockit either, since the it was closed the 6 different times I went. (Although I've heard it's more reliable now.)

From Anthony Murphy on June 25, 2010 at 6:12 AM
I put down the Magic Kingdom because it offers probably the most variety of any park in FL. My personal favorite is EPCOT, but I know thats geared more towards adults (like me!). Gotta love the German Beer Flights!


I have no interest to see Harry Potter right now! I thought they took the strongest portion of the park and changed it into Harry Potter. Love the books, love the movies, but I am not going to lose my mind and change everything to see, as mentioned above, one ride with a bunch of new shops in front of it.

From April C on June 25, 2010 at 6:14 AM
Universal Studios Florida.

I've spent pieces, if not all, of about 54 or 55 days there this year since the end of January. I love it.

From Jay Glenn on June 25, 2010 at 6:24 AM
Animal Kingdom is for me. Some say ak is only a half day park but if you really take the time to appreciate the theming and the placement of the animals, it's a full day for me. Not to mention DINOSAUR, Everest, Kali, and Kilimanjaro are some of the best rides in Central Florida. However, IOA is a close second. You really can't go bored in that park. It's thrill after thrill with amazing theming. But AK for me.
From Tim W on June 25, 2010 at 6:27 AM
Of course most are going to say IOA right now, but how about in five or ten years when some of the harry potter fad has worn off and the land isn't quite so new anymore. Magic Kingdom does it for me. I always feel a sense of amazement when I'm in that park. It's something indescribable that just makes you feel good! It has classic rides that have withstood the test of time, and amazing new classics. Once the new fantasyland opens in 2 years, i'm sure Magic Kingdom will be right back on top!
From Tiffany Alfonso on June 25, 2010 at 6:31 AM
For me it would be Epcot, providing that I camp out at WDW one weekend in the fall and for the purpose of gaining calories at its International Food and Wine Festival! Besides - I have a FL Resident Seasonal Pass!
From Thomas Caselli on June 25, 2010 at 6:31 AM
I have never seen any of the Harry Potter movies and don't have much interest in the Universal parks. I have never been to any of them. Disney all the way. I picked the Magic Kingdom because it is pure Disney, although it is hard to pick just one Disney park.
From Phil B. on June 25, 2010 at 6:33 AM
Overall, I guess I would have to say EPCOT. It's just so different than any other park out there. Future world has just enough attractions to keep me coming back, although I would love to see some type of show stopping attraction like Tower of Terror. I enjoy all of the other ones, but none seem to be THE top dog in that park. The tri-fecta of Soarin', Test Track and Mission:Space is a pretty good one though.

World showcase is just beautiful. I love talking with cast members from around the REAL world in each countries pavillion. The attention to detail is quite spectacular, and with a little bit of imagination, you really can lose yourself in some of the pavillions, Moraco being one of those for me, with it's maze of streets in its market place. For adults, drinking around the world is a fun challenge if you pace yourself, and all of the restaurant options as well as shops with authentic merchandise imported from the countries are excellent. Again, I'd love to see a show stopper added to this section of the park, but really that's not what this area is about. I would settle for a few more countries added though. There are still several plots of land which they can build on. Then the day is concluded with what I believe to be the most impressive pyrotechnic show I've ever seen, in Illuminations. Truly an amazing show to see, I guess you could make the argument that Illuminations IS the show stopper of World Showcase.

From Dionne Oliver on June 25, 2010 at 7:34 AM
I love all of the parks,but would pick Universal Studio's as i do every ride,attraction & show unlike other parks. Other parks only have a few things i like to do or go on.
From Brian Emery on June 25, 2010 at 7:40 AM
IOA has it all… Even before HPI - I would pick this park… Action rides, water rides, themed rides, rides for the little ones, a nice place to eat, shops, great atmosphere…

MK would be #2.

From David L. on June 25, 2010 at 8:00 AM
unless something very strange happens, universal can never top disney. I would actually pick IOA because of the harry potter ride on my next vacation. however, my favorite park is Epcot. If you really think about it, this is actually a 3+ day park because of the hundreds of things to do(Ok, i'm exaggerating a bit but you can spend hours in every pavillion(except mision space and energy adventure) just exploring. Universal never has the amazing experiance that a disney park does. It may have some better rides,(spidy, potter) but the atmosphere is choppy. some areas have a great atmosphere where as others don't at all. I would have even rather gone to DCA before the major renovations than a universal park. in my mind, no disney park is a 1/2 day park. They all are at least a 1 or 1and a half day park.
From Manny Barron on June 25, 2010 at 9:06 AM
USF! USF! USF! Universal studios has everything. It's got thrill rides like the Rockit and Revenge of the mummy. Fun rides like the Simpsons and Men in Black. Unique and classic rides like ET and Jaws. Exciting theater attractions with great theming like T2:3-D and Twister. Family attractions Jimmy Neutron,Animal Actors,Shrek 4-D. Even attractions with a sense of humor like the Horror Make-up show, Beetlejuice and Disaster. I love all the Orlando theme parks but USF is my favorite.
From Susan Dyer on June 25, 2010 at 9:26 AM
SeaWorld Orlando. Purely because Kraken is my favourite coaster in Orlando and SeaWorld is the park I always want to visit most for this reason. We usually pop in loads just to ride the coaster.
From Tyler Bell on June 25, 2010 at 9:51 AM
i voted IOA,not because of harry potter.Before wwhp came IOA has always been my favoite with great rides and shows.
From Melissa Donahue on June 25, 2010 at 10:59 AM
I voted IOA -- not because I'm jumping on any WWoHP bandwagon but because I sincerely love visiting this Orlando theme park. Yes, Disney's Magic Kingdom does have something simply "magical" about it, I will admit; however, I think that the rides/attractions at IOA are more appealing to adults. My husband and I have no children, so we act like big kids ourselves at the parks! We're all about the thrill rides, and I think IOA is the best in that department in all of Orlando.
From luis gonzalez on June 25, 2010 at 12:45 PM
IOA is tops for rides, its not even close. MK is like my second home, i know every inch of that park like the back of my hand. EPCOT is the most fun to just walk around and drink in, plus i love to talk to the CM's about their countries (germany, england, and norway have the hottest chicks.) If i had to take one park, it would have to be IOA, the rides are just to good.

WORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From Larry Zimmerman on June 25, 2010 at 1:18 PM
Epcot - where else can you find such diverse entertainment options, go to the bottom of the ocean, soar to Mars, get DIS-sed by Ellen for being late, test a new GM vehicle, learn about hydroponics...

and then have lunch in Mexico, a snack in Morocco, and dinner in France.

Or lunch in Canada, a snack in Japan, and dinner in China.

Or lunch in Germany, a snack in America, and dinner in Norway...

You get the idea. And don't forget the "Drinks Around the World" option...!!!

I love IOA and USF minus the Hairy Potty. I don't know why USF bought into the dying franchise.

And the SeaWorld Entertainment parks offer family friendly entertainment, great food, and easy access, too!

If I really loved theme parks (and I do) and hated snow (and I do) and loved seafood (and I do), I'd probably live in central Florida. But wait -- been there, done that, and still have lots of the T-shirts. On the whole, I found, paradise has more bugs than become immediately apparent in a two-week visit, and I'm happier in the "Midwest." But I still love to visit, and will be doing so this year.

And I'll spend at least two days in Epcot, having lunch in Mexico, a snack in Morocco, and dinner in France.

Or, maybe I'll have lunch in Canada, a snack in Japan, and dinner in China...

From 205.188.116.77 on June 25, 2010 at 1:21 PM
how was the crowds at seaworld last weak??
From Joshua Counsil on June 25, 2010 at 2:14 PM
I agree with Mr. Rao.

There's something indescribably magical about Epcot, especially considering its stance as the least magical Disney park.

I could critique it to death. I could write a five- to eight-hundred page (yes, page) essay or report comparing it to other parks, but I'd be wasting my (and others') time.

I will note this, though. Epcot is one of the few parks immune to the four hour tours. When I get tired of the crowds and lines of the sensational overload that is Future World, I simply head to World Showcase for an afternoon of strolling, live entertainment, and great food and drink.

That's all I'll say. Far and away, my favorite park.

Universal Studios Florida (not IOA) is a close second, though, but for completely different reasons.

From James Rao on June 25, 2010 at 8:18 PM
Yep, Josh, Epcot is flawed perfection at its finest. There is no other park I would rather visit.

BTW, Disney is pulling nearly 50% of the vote...

From Bill Lohr on June 26, 2010 at 7:06 AM
We will be in Florida starting the 3rd and will stay for 8 night. While I enjoy IOA I will in no way want to stop there this year. I select Magic Kingdom. In my view the Disney parks are the best. We visit Disney every other year or so and I would say we will visit IOA maybe once every 5 or 6 years. For thrill rides I would pick a standard amusement park and do not need to travel to Florida to find that. I know the Harry Potter area will be great but I will wait till crowds are less to visit.
From Andy Milio on June 26, 2010 at 7:19 AM
USF baby! Can't go wrong with a park based on movies.
From Brian Longarzo on June 26, 2010 at 7:44 PM
Having just returned from Hershey Park and Busch Gardens, Williamsburg I would have to go with The Magic Kingdom. While the 'buzz' is certainly surrounding IOA at this moment, the simple addition of only one 'new' attraction coupled with overexposure to the delightful (yet sub-par when compared with Florida parks) atmosphere of Hershey Park, I've developed a hunger for the Disney 'Magic.' Honestly, living so close to the Mecca of all things theme-park here in Florida has made me disillusioned when I visit parks out of state. I need that experience that no other Theme Park in the world can bring me; not even my beloved Islands of Adventure! Magic Kingdom: hands down.
From Dan Barnes on June 27, 2010 at 1:10 PM
If I had to pick just one to visit this year, it'd be SeaWorld just because I haven't ridden Manta or Kraken yet. The last time I visited was 4 years ago, and it rained most of the day so Kraken was shut down all day.
From Pyra Dong on June 27, 2010 at 3:17 PM
BOTH UNIVERSAL PARKS ALL THE WAY!!!!
As much as Disney is cool for the so-called magic... what the heck type of magic is there?? Have I been missing something all along? I feel happy and child-like in WHATEVER park I go to...

But geez, even BEFORE RRR and Harry Potter-- both Universal parks have slammed it down for me. I bow down to you Mr. Universal Resort for your use of technology, great movies, and bringing the movies to life. For your shows, rides, and walkthroughs.

i have made a USO/IOA altar

From Joshua Counsil on June 27, 2010 at 6:28 PM
I'm surprised at the lack of love for some of the parks. In particular, I'm surprised Disney's Animal Kingdom and SeaWorld are at the bottom.

After Epcot and USF, DAK is probably my favorite park. I had an absolutely perfect day there on my last visit. The broken yeti, Rafiki's Planet Watch, and Chester and Hester's Dino-Rama could all use some TLC (or, in the latter land's case, complete destruction), but the park provides an overall excellent experience. Every attraction excluding those in the aforementioned lands is worthy of a visit. It's a high quality park with beautiful theming and fantastic attractions. I would complain about the food, but Jiko and Boma are nearby.

SeaWorld is a completely different experience altogether. If you attack the park properly, all your queueing, which should be minimal, will be done by mid-morning. After that, it's a matter of strolling through the park and experiencing some beautiful exhibits at a leisurely pace. I'm not very fond of the animal shows, but they seem to be very crowd-pleasing for general audiences.

From 76.192.5.38 on June 28, 2010 at 9:16 PM
Has anyone considered that the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has actually become a "Central Florida Theme Park"?

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