The Best to Worst Theme Parks in Orlando List for 2024

Visiting Orlando for the first time can be overwhelming when navigating all the vacation options. There are eight theme parks within an hour of Orlando Airport and only so many days in a trip! Of course, each one has its own unique attractions and experiences. However, if you need to narrow down which ones to visit, I have compiled this theme parks in Orlando list, ranking them from best to worst!

Though my list might be biased, I tried to determine the best as fair as possible. I chose four categories to rank each theme park by and gave them a rating from 1 to 3 (1 being the lowest, 3 being the highest). Then I added the scores up and ranked them from highest score to lowest.

The four categories I used to rank the theme parks in Orlando are attractions, amenities, atmosphere and value. Attractions looks at how many and how good they are. Amenities compares the shows, restaurants and facilities in the park. Atmosphere is judged on how well themed and pleasant of an environment a park is. Lastly, value looks at how good of an experience one can have based on money spent. After comparing all eight options, here is my theme parks in Orlando list ranked from best to Worst.

the best theme parks in orlando to visit

The Best of the Best Theme Parks in Orlando – Animal Kingdom

 Animal Kingdom
Total Points11

I am sure many will be shocked to see Animal Kingdom named number one on my best theme parks in Orlando list. When it first opened over twenty years ago, it was regarded as a half day park for over a decade and often criticized as more of a zoo than a Disney theme park. With the addition of Pandora and many excellent restaurants and attractions through the years, I think it now ranks high enough to be my top pick for Orlando theme parks.

Since there are only eight rides, it gets a 2 out of 3 in the attraction ranking. However, there are many shows and exhibits that elevate it and lead to a 3 in all other categories. Another thing that sets it apart if the flow of theme. The whole park feels like an immersive nature experience with a focus on conservation and the beauty of the earth.

You can easily spend a full day here starting with thrills on Everest and Flight of Passage. Then you can move on to the Safari, animal walkthroughs and the shows. The perfect day at Animal Kingdom ends with a top-notch meal at Tiffin’s and then watching the tree of life projections. Don’t forget the numerous delicious snacking spots throughout the day and upbeat attractions like DINOSAUR and It’s Tough to Be a Bug. You might go at a slower pace here than other parks, but the fact that you can do that and still experience everything it part of the reason it is the best theme park in Orlando!

expedition everest at animal kingdom

Second Place for the Best Orlando Theme Parks – Magic Kingdom

 Magic Kingdom
Total Points10

Next up is the park that started it all- Magic Kingdom! The most magical place on earth opened fifty years ago and has enchanted the hearts of many ever since. This could have been an easy option for first place of the best theme parks in Orlando, but I think it has a couple areas of improvement.

Magic Kingdom ranks high for attractions and value. There are twenty-three rides here as well as the best firework show in the area. You could spend two days in this park and still not experience it all. It also has a nostalgia factor that makes it an essential park to visit.

However, the food scene here is extremely lacking. The quick service options are inadequate compared to other parks and the full-service restaurants are difficult to get into and overpriced. I also find a lot of the theming to be disjointed. Fantasyland’s expansion now leaves old Fantasyland feeling subdued and Storybook Circus out of place. Tomorrowland is especially a mess with it starting to look more like Pixar plus space land. I am hoping with the pandemic and 50th anniversary behind them, this park will get some cohesion, as well parade and dining improvements. Until then, it is still a must visit experience for all ages.

Third Place – Islands of Adventure

 Islands of Adventure
Total Points9

Of the two Universal Orlando theme parks, I think Islands of Adventures deserves to be in the top three for the area. This park also was not as well received when it opened in 1999. The addition of both Harry Potter and some new thrill rides have helped it achieve this third-place spot.

With 16 attractions, this has one of the best lineups in Orlando. I did give it a 2 out of 3 for attraction rankings because three of those are water rides and a bit too much of the soaking variety at that. The rest of the rides are some of the best you will find in the world, including the VelociCoaster, Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

In regards to atmosphere, I really enjoy the port of entry theming and then the engaging theming of each of the different lands. Though it is pretty cartoonish in Toon Lagoon and Super Hero Island, it is still immersive. There is also a lot of fun and whimsy for kids at Suess Landing, and of course for all ages in Hogsmeade. They are working on adding more restaurants and shows, but both Mythos and the Hogwarts projection show give this park some leverage and make it well worth the cost of entry. If you love theme parks strictly for thrills, this should probably be number one on your list, but I think everyone will find something to enjoy here.

islands of adventure theme park

Fourth Place – SeaWorld

Total Points8

Next up on this list is neither a Disney or Universal park, but SeaWorld Orlando. Though this park is originally known for its Shamu whale shows, the park has now shifted to more of a rides and zoo experience, similar to Animal Kingdom. Between the fifteen rides and over a dozen animal experiences here, you can spend at least a day exploring this aquatic focused Orlando theme park.

Starting with rides, SeaWorld gets a 2 out of 3 due to its diversity and number of attractions. Once Ice Breaker opens this year, there will be four roller coasters here that are arguably even more thrilling than Universal’s. The new coaster will in fact have the steepest beyond vertical drop in all of Florida! In addition to these, there are also two water rides and some cute kiddie rides. Unfortunately, there are not many rides in the middle ground for adults that do not like fast rides. The animal experiences can make up for that though!

In regard to shows, there is plenty to see including whales, dolphins, sea lions and otters. Exhibits also include penguins, rays, turtles, sharks and a touch tank. This helps boost the amenities category to a 2 out of 3. However, I have not ranked it higher due to very basic restaurants that are overpriced as well. Most of the food offerings are quick service eateries with fast food fare and the sit-down restaurants are mediocre at best.

For atmosphere, this park sticks to it theme almost better than any other theme parks in Orlando. You definitely get the coastal vibes throughout the park. I still find it a little haphazardly thrown together at some parts though. Lastly, for value, this park also ranks in the middle of the pack. Though slightly cheaper than other theme parks here, it is usually only open for eight hours per day with no nightly entertainment. You can probably explore most of SeaWorld in that time though, and definitely should if you like thrills or sea life!

Fifth Place – Hollywood Studios

 Hollywood Studios
Total Points7

In the middle of the pack of theme parks in Orlando is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a park that has had an identity crisis through the years. Few attractions are left from the MGM days. Though the Grauman’s Chinese Theater still stands, the rest of the park has changed significantly, especially in the last decade.

The biggest draw to the park now is Star Wars; Galaxy Edge and Toy Story Land, as well as Sunset Avenue, home to of the most thrilling rides at WDW. Currently there are nine rides and a handful of shows, although most are still closed since the pandemic started. I gave it a 2 out of 3 for attractions. Though the ones they have here are all excellent, the lines are still insanely long and there are frequent outages on most attractions. There are also only three “kids rides” and not a lot at this park for people who do not like coasters or drops.

 My biggest complaint is the atmosphere, which is a hodge-podge of intellectual property. Besides the new areas, most of the park is a mess with no concise areas. The fact that there are two separate Star Wars sections outside of Star Wars Land is strange enough. But also, the random placing of Muppets 3D, The Disney Junior Show and the Frozen Sing-Along make no sense. Most of the shows are so outdated and the nighttime entertainment is lacking as well.

For amenities, I gave this park a 2 out of 3. It has a good mix of quick service and full-service restaurants, including Hollywood Brown Derby, BaseLine Tap House and Docking Bay 7.

I really like what they have done with the new sections and the Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride so hopefully improvements to the rest of the park will follow suit. For now, I place this as a solid middle of the pack park where you can definitely experience fun rides and some tasty treats, but not the full magical Disney experience of other parks.

hollywood studios disney

Sixth Place – Epcot

Total Points7

It pains me to put my beloved Epcot as last for the Disney theme parks on this list, but it has gone down in a few areas for me through the past decade. Though I do love all the food and fun of the festivals, I think they have been focused on too much and the rest of the park not enough, to its detriment. There is a big refurbishment going on in Future World that might help a little, but overall, I do not like where Epcot is now or the direction it is going in.

There are ten rides here, which is more than two of the other Disney theme parks, but most leave a lot to be desired. Soarin’ and Test Track have not lived up to their predecessor versions and Mission Space, Journey into Imagination and Spaceship Earth could also use an update. That leaves the rest of the rides to be relaxing boat rides or dark rides (including the new Ratatouille Adventure ride). These are fun, but a little underwhelming, especially considering the wait times, so Epcot gets a 1 for attractions.

As for restaurants, the food offerings here continue to impress, although less so with the price increases. I still find the World Showcase atmosphere to be gorgeous, but I gave atmosphere a 2 out of 3. This is due to constant festival chaos with booths causing disruption to the atmosphere and the disjointedness of future world. Lastly, I gave the value of visiting here a 1 out of 3 because this is simply not a park worth spending over $100 to enter. To get the full experience, you need to spend a lot of money on food and drinks and potentially a lightning pass for Ratatouille. Considering the park does not even open until 10 AM now, it is very hard to justify paying for a full day here.

Seventh Place – LEGOLAND

Total Points6

The newest theme park on this list is LEGOLAND, which opened in Winter Haven in 2011. This is about an hour drive from the rest of the theme parks in Orlando, so I was tempted to leave it off. However, it is an affordable option, especially for families and worth mentioning here.

In regards to rides, it has almost the most with 23 to choose from. I still only gave it a 2 out of 3 for attractions though because many will only appeal to the elementary school and under crowd.  The whole family will enjoy rides like Masters of Flight and the Lost Kingdom Adventure, but there is probably not enough for adults or teenagers to enjoy ride wise.

The park itself is a treat for LEGO enthusiasts. I gave the atmosphere a 2 due to all of the amazing LEGO designs you can see throughout the park. MINILAND USA is especially a must-see, as it is made up of cities built entirely out of LEGOs. In addition, you can also explore the botanical section of Cypress Gardens that has been on display since 1936.

The other two categories earn a 1 out of 3, as this Orlando theme park is pretty basic in terms of dining options. And though you can get a one-day pass for less than $100 per day, it still doesn’t live up to most of the others in terms of values. For young families and LEGO enthusiasts, a day here is a worthwhile experience. For everyone else, I would definitely recommend the other theme parks in Orlando over this one.  

The Last Place for Theme Parks in Orlando – Universal Studios

 Universal Studios
Total Points6

Unfortunately, one of these theme parks in Orlando has to be in last, and I think this is where Universal Studios belongs. This suffers from many of the same identity issues that Hollywood Studios experiences, as they were both started as competing “movie industry” theme parks. Both tried to operate as an actual studio filming TV and movies, but have long moved away from that. Now each has shifted more towards giving visitors themed lands for different movies and TV shows, but still appear in progress.

For attractions, Universal Studios ranks 2 out of 3. I was tempted to give it a 1 because most of the rides here use screens more than rides, but I figured that is a matter of personal preference. I prefer classic rides and find many of the screen-based attractions at Universal Studios to be unpleasant, including Escape from Gringott’s. However, it does have some fun classics like the Mummy, ET Adventure and the newer Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster.

For amenities and atmosphere, it gets a 1 out of 3. I find most of the restaurants here to be subpar and way overpriced. The ones that are half decent usually have long lines as well! As for atmosphere, there is little discerning between the New York, San Francisco, Hollywood and Production Central area, so it feels like a mess. Of course, Diagon Alley and the Simpsons Land are very immersive at least, but the rest of the park needs help.

Do not let this deter you from visiting, because there is still plenty of fun to be had here! Though this may be last on the ranking of theme parks in Orlando, everything on here is still much better than any SixFlags or most other amusement parks in the country. Universal Studios has plenty to see and do, and for that I gave the value a 2 out of 3.

universal studios orlando

Know Before You Go: The Best Theme Parks in Orlando

This is not a definitive ranking of theme parks in Orlando, it is simply my opinions on the parks in their current state as of 2023. I am sure anyone could have at least a fun half day at any of the theme parks on this list, if not a full day. My hope is that this article can help you decide which parks to visit if you do not have time for all of them! I have included my comparison chart below, so you can use it to decide if you prefer a theme park with better attractions or atmosphere or what have you. In addition to that, keep these tips in mind before you go:

  • You can expect crowds pretty much any weekend and holidays throughout the year. It is hard to find a time of year where theme parks in Orlando are not crowded, but August and September and Late January to Mid-February are the best bet.
  • If you want to visit for the best weather, I recommend February through May. This is before it gets too hot and also has the least chance of storms. October through December can be nice as well, but there is a risk of storms.
  • Hurricane season is June through October and in the event of a major hurricane, these parks will shut down. I recommend avoiding this time of year unless you are okay with this risk.
  • All of these theme parks in Orlando charge at least $10 per day for parking. Be sure to budget for this expense as well!
  • If you are a Florida Resident, you can usually find ticket deals online if you buy in advance. Most parks require tickets to be purchased online anyways, so make sure to buy your tickets ahead of time.
  • I did not include Busch Gardens in this theme parks in Orlando list because it is in Tampa and more in the Six Flags realm than the other offerings on this list. For thrill seekers, you may want to check out Busch Gardens as well.
 AttractionsAmenitiesAtmosphereValueTotal Points
Animal Kingdom233311
Magic Kingdom322310
Islands of Adventure22239
Hollywood Studios22127
Universal Studios21126

I hope this guide helped you decide which of the eight theme parks in Orlando you want to visit! If you need help planning a trip to Orlando, I am partnered with Kelly’s Magical Vacations and highly recommend her services. Find out more here!

And for more ideas of things to do in Central Florida, check out my guide to non-theme park attractions.

theme parks in orlando ranked