While Orlando may be known as a kiddie paradise -- a land of Mickey ear hats and killer whales that perform daily -- the resort town also provides an array of activities for teenagers with slightly more sophisticated and adventurous tastes.
The Big Thrill
Plenty of teen-friendly thrill rides are on-hand at Universal Orlando. The resort’s Universal Studios is home to such movie-themed attractions as Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride, an indoor roller coaster; Men in Black: Alien Attack, a dark ride with laser tag-elements; and motion simulator rides based on “The Simpsons,” “Shrek” and “Despicable Me.” Islands of Adventure, the resort’s other park, has an entire section dedicated to the “Harry Potter” franchise and is home to three roller coasters. Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, two theme parks that are part of Walt Disney World Resort, have rides that appeal to teenagers. Young adults will enjoy high-speed adventures on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom, and massive free-fall drops on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios.
Wet and Wild
Teens can cool off at one of the numerous water parks in Orlando, including Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, both of which are part of Walt Disney World. Teens can kick back on the 3,000-foot-long lazy river at Blizzard Beach Typhoon Lagoon, as they float through lush forests and polar ice caves. Typhoon Lagoon includes such attractions as Humunga Kowabunga, three five-story racing slides, and Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool, a wave pool with six-foot swells. Wet ‘n Wild Orlando is a large water park with rides such as Disco H20, a four-person raft waterslide where the interior comes alive with disco music, a disco ball and flashing lights. Aquatica Orlando is a water park that is part of SeaWorld Orlando Resort. Teens can take the Dolphin Plunge, where they’ll fly through enclosed slides and a pool filled with dolphins, or ride with their friends through the dark on Walhalla Wave, a raft slide through enclosed flumes.
Teens can see wildlife in a new way at SeaWorld Orlando, as they make their way through an underwater tunnel that travels through a shark tank, feel sting rays in a touch tank, and view killer whales from an underwater room. Discovery Cove, the marine life park attached to SeaWorld, gives young adults the chance to swim with dolphins and snorkel in a pool of tropical fish. In addition to exhibits showcasing Florida’s most famous scaly-skinned critters, the 110-acre Gatorland is also home to a walk-through, free-flying aviary and petting zoo. Teens can also test their nerves of steel by zip lining at 1,200 feet over a gator-filled pen.
Shop Til You Drop
Teenage shopaholics can enjoy some time exploring City Walk, Universal Orlando’s outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment complex. Bright lights and neon signs dominate the setting, home to a 20-screen movie theater, 10 shops and 20 restaurants, including ice cream shops and pizza joints. Similar to City Walk, Downtown Disney is an outdoor pedestrian-only thoroughfare dotted with 12 shops, 15 restaurants, a 24-screen movie theater, a bowling alley and Cirque du Soleil theater.
Young adults can spend the afternoon feeling chic at the Mall at Millenia, an upscale, two-story indoor mall with more than 145 shops and restaurants, including clothing and jewelry stores geared toward teenagers. Teens can recharge their cell phones at the complimentary charging station outside the food park.
Teens take to the road at Orlando Grand Prix, an indoor go-kart race track with sharp turns. Teens that measure at least 56 inches tall can drive an adult kart that reaches speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. Parents or guardians must sign waivers before teens under 18 can drive a kart. WhirlyBall is an unusual sport, often dubbed a mix between basketball, hockey and lacrosse, and played on an indoor court while driving a bumper car. The sport is open to visitors age 12 and over, or those measuring at least 4 feet and 6 inches. Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf is a buccaneer-themed miniature golf course outfitted with waterfalls, dungeons and pirate ships. Watch out for the cannon that fires intermittently as you play on one of the two 18-hole courses.