Two Orlando Theme Parks Most Popular With Toddlers

Toddlers are tricky little beings to travel with. They love theme parks, with all the fun rides, bright colors, and lively music, but they also burn out quickly. They start out with a big burst of energy, but they can get cranky and ready to crash just as fast. Also, parents know very well that their attention spans are limited, and they need room to move around because they get squirmy when they have to sit still for too long.

All of the Orlando-area theme parks (Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld) know that families with toddlers are a big part of their audience, so they have lots of attractions geared to the youngest family members. However, two are standouts for families with young kids:

The Magic Kingdom

The Magic Kingdom is the original Walt Disney World Theme Park. Like Disneyland, it was created as a place where parents and children could enjoy rides and other attractions together. That means that it has plenty to appeal to even the youngest kids who are often left out elsewhere because they're too small to ride most rides.

In particular, Fantasyland and New Fantasyland are the perfect places for toddlers. They feature rides for the whole family, like It's a Small World, Peter Pan's Flight, Journey of the Little Mermaid, and Winnie the Pooh. Better yet, Disney makes waiting much easier on families with fidgety kids. For example, Winnie the Pooh has a play area adjacent to the queue line, and Dumbo has a huge indoor playground themed to the circus. You get a pager, and the kids can play while you sit back and relax until it's your turn to ride.

Many of the Disney shows are also geared to toddlers. For example, Philharmagic is a fast-moving 3-D show with characters kids recognize, like Mickey and Donald, and special effects that dazzle youngsters. Enchanted Tales With Belle is a combination show and character greeting that gets the kids involved hands-on as they prepare a special surprise for Belle.

Are your toddlers getting tired after all that excitement? You can always run back to your hotel for a break, but if they just need a short nap, there are even some attractions that make it easy to take a rest. The Hall of Presidents and Carousel of Progress both feature a dark environment, comfortable seats, and relatively long shows where a toddler can catch a quick nap. The People Mover is a good ride for kids to nod off, too, since it's a tame, scenic journey through Tomorrowland, or hop aboard the train for a soothing loop around the park while your little one crashes against your shoulder.

SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld Orlando is a great place for toddlers because most of the shows involve animals, and they're relatively short in length. They've got lots of music and action, which makes them appealing to young children, and they're short enough to fit the toddler attention span. If you visit during the holidays, you might catch a Sesame Street show, too.

SeaWorld also has Shamu's Happy Harbor, a special place for young kids who want to go on rides just like their older siblings. Shamu's Happy Harbor has several rides without height restrictions, like a cute train and sea creature-themed carousel.

You can take your toddlers through several walk-through exhibits to see live animals. There's an impressive shark attraction where you get to go through an acrylic tunnel, with sharks gliding all around you. Wild Arctic has creatures like beluga whales and walruses.

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin combines a toddler-friendly ride with a special surprise at the end: SeaWorld's new penguin habitat, where kids get so close to the animals that they might just get splashed as the penguins frolic in the water.

SeaWorld educators also bring out a variety of animals for close encounters throughout the day. Your toddler will stare in awe at the magnificent bald eagle or marvel at more cuddly critters, like sloths and possums. The park has costumed characters, too, so have your camera ready to snap some priceless photos as your little one gives Shamu a big bear hug.

Because so much of SeaWorld is focused on outdoor exhibits, you can let your toddlers fidget and run and burn off some energy. It's a kid-friendly park that lets children be themselves, and they'll be thrilled at the opportunity to see orcas, dolphins sea lions, and other impressive animals in person instead of just on a TV screen.