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Theme parks of Florida

We don't mean parks like your corner playground. We're talking big scale, roller coaster-laden, favourite film character-packed theme parks. The kind you can get lost in for days – Florida practically invented them.

Of course our list includes the parks at the Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios Florida. In fact, they're so great that we've given them their very own play-by-play.

The Walt Disney World Resort

You'll be spoilt for choice with all these offerings – where will you go first?

Magic Kingdom – Magic Kingdom is the creme de la creme of the Walt Disney World Resort. It's the one you see on all the postcards, with pictures of Cinderella's castle lit up as fireworks explode behind. Magic Kingdom is also the place for all things Disney characters. Here you'll find Mickey and Minnie Mouse and an array of princesses, while in between meet-and-greets you can spin around on classic rides like the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride and the great Thunder Railroad.

Epcot – This large-scale melting pot takes you around the world in one theme park. Spanning around the park's iconic oversized golf ball – it's actually the ride known as Spaceship Earth – are 11 countries shrunk into bite-sized attractions. Mega destinations like France, China and Germany are illustrated with traditional architecture, food and drink and the country's very own Disney princesses.

Animal Kingdom Anchored by the gargantuan Tree of Life, featuring more than 300 animals carved into its sides, the Animal Kingdom is an incredible tribute to the vast and varied creatures of the world. Here you can see live shows with your favourite animal characters and go on safaris reminiscent of far-flung destinations. Experience magical portrayals of Africa and Southeast Asia, seeing the real life animals that would call these places home.

Hollywood Studios – The studio magic that brings our favourite Disney films to life gets a voice of its own with this star-struck theme park. Hollywood Studios highlights Disney's live action side, with attractions centred on hit flicks like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. It's also where you'll find rides including the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, featuring a spine-chilling 13-storey freefall.

Typhoon Lagoon – Typhoon Lagoon is one of Disney's two waterparks, here to help ease the Florida heat. The park is modelled after a shipwreck post-typhoon, and is complete with body slides, tube slides, a surf pool and lazy river. You can also join a surf lesson and learn how to hang 10.

Blizzard Beach – Blizzard Beach is the second in Disney's waterpark family. This one's modelled after a snowy ski resort, except the glaciers have all melted into surprisingly warm pools. Here you'll have access to more tube and body slides, a lazy river and even a chairlift to take you to the top of Mount Gushmore.

Universal Orlando Studios

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – The magical world of Harry Potter comes to life both here and in the adjoining Universal theme parks, connected by none other than the Hogwarts Express. You've got the quaint little village that is Hogsmeade in Universal's Islands of Adventure, complete with shops, restaurants serving Butter Beer and a ride that'll take you flying above Hogwarts Castle. Then there are the winding lanes of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, complete with all of your favourite mystical shops and the massive bank-turned-ride that is Gringotts.

Universal Studios Florida – The original of the Universal Studios Florida gang, this park is both ride central and a working film and TV studio. Here you can embark on roller coasters and 3D shows that allow you to jump into your favourite films, including Shrek, Transformers, The Mummy and Terminator.

Islands of Adventure – The skyline of Universal's Islands of Adventure is cut with the brightly-coloured tracks of some seriously huge rollercoasters, each of which are themed after top Hollywood films. You've got the classic Jurassic Park River Adventure and coasters based on superheroes – think Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk – along with a kid-friendly Dr. Seuss-themed area of the park.

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