Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida

There are so many exciting things to cram into a Disney/Universal vacation that it can be quite the overwhelming experience without a little bit of pre-planning. Fantastic rides, attractions, and shows are found throughout both theme parks, although some are clearly better than others. To get the most out of your trip with as little wasted time as possible, I recommend concentrating on some of the activities/attractions listed below. The benefit that comes with multiple Orlando visits is knowing which attractions are worthy of your time and which are overrated, meaning you can get right on to the fun!

In addition to concentrating on the best entertainment available within the Disney/Universal parks, also be sure to plan for some recovery time away from all the action to enjoy the natural wonders found in Central and Gulf coast Florida; you are so close by – it would be silly to pass up these great areas. Enjoy the list and feel free to share some of your favorite things to do in Orlando!

Great shows, rides, restaurants & attractions to check out at the Disney parks…

1. See the Wishes fireworks show at Cinderella’s Castle (Magic Kingdom)

The beautiful Wishes firework show at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando Florida

The iconic 12 minute nightly firework display is so short, yet so amazing. The synchronized show featuring a medley of colors over the castle, amazing fireworks, and your favorite Disney music and characters is simply breathtaking. It’s a must-see at least once during your trip (if not more). After seeing just how spectacular it is in person, you will surely be planning a repeat visit!

2. Enjoy spooky special effects on The Haunted Mansion ride (Magic Kingdom)

The Haunted Mansion ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida

Take a ghostly adventure on the ride which inspired the hit Disney movie. With every turn, you will enjoy creative & spooky special effects. Expect a long line as it is one of the park’s most popular rides, even more so during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (this festive seasonal event is one of the best times to plan your Disney trip!).

3. Set sail on a pirate’s adventure on the ride that inspired the hit Pirates of the Caribbean series (Magic Kingdom)

Pirates of the Carribean ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida

The hit Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is based on this classic Disney water ride, which happens to be one of the last rides Walt Disney himself had a hand in designing. On this slow, dark journey, you will enter a pirate’s grotto, drop down a small waterfall, and catch several glimpses of Jack Sparrow (who was later added to the ride after the popularity of the Johnny Depp films). The misty dreary setting, fantastic set design, and special effects really give you the allusion of entering another world.

4. Take your picture with the castle in the background (Magic Kingdom)

A gorgeous view of the back of Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida

Sure, you can take in gorgeous views of the front of the castle as soon as you enter the park, however, there is a really cool photo opportunity with the castle and water in the background which makes for the most perfect photo souvenir. Few crowds obstructing the view and the beautiful castle reflecting in the water make this one of the most beautiful places to have your photo taken. Just head over to the bridge to Liberty Square for one of the most amazing photo opps in the entire park!

5. Take a relaxing cruise aboard the Liberty Square Riverboat (Magic Kingdom)

Liberty Belle boat ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida

Enjoy some time off your feet with a little 15 minute boat ride aboard the 3 tiered Liberty Belle paddler wheeler, a beautiful recreation of a Mississippi steamboat from the 1800’s. From here, you will be able to enjoy some great views of the park including Cinderella’s castle, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Railroad. As an added bonus, you’ll get to recover a bit after all that walking! Sometimes, it’s great to take a step back from all the action and soak up the beautiful scenery of the park!