As significant as air conditioning in making the state what it is today, WALT DISNEY WORLD turned a wedge of Florida farmland into one of the world’s most lucrative holiday destinations. The immense and astutely planned empire also pushed the state’s media profile through the roof: from being a down-at-heel mix of cheap motels, retirement homes and alligator zoos, Florida became a showcase of modern international tourism overnight.

Disney World is the pacesetter among theme parks. It goes way beyond Disneyland – which opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955 – delivering escapism at its most technologically advanced and psychologically brilliant, across an area twice the size of Manhattan. Its four main theme parks are quite separate entities and, ideally, you should allow at least a full day for each. The Magic Kingdom is the Disney park of popular imagination, where Mickey mingles with the crowds – very much the park for kids, though at its high-tech best capable of captivating even the most jaded adult. Known for its giant, golfball-like geosphere, Epcot is Disney’s celebration of science, technology and world cultures; this sprawling area involves a lot of walking, and young children may grow restless. The smaller Disney’s Hollywood Studios takes its inspiration from movies, TV and music, offering some good thrill rides and live shows that will appeal to all ages. The newest of the four, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, brings all manner of African and Asian wildlife to the theme-park setting.

Along with the main parks, other forms of entertainment have been created to keep people on Disney property for as long as possible. There are two excellent water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, a sports complex called Disney’s Wide World of Sports and Downtown Disney, where you can eat, drink and shop to your heart’s content.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Total eclipse of the heart (of America): where to see the 2017 solar eclipse

Total eclipse of the heart (of America): where to see the 2017 solar eclipse

Most visitors who trek through the vast interior of the USA are in search of natural wonders on the ground. But on August 21, 2017, they’ll be in search of a…

24 Nov 2016 • AnneLise Sorensen insert_drive_file Article
A Las Vegas survival guide: the dos and don’ts of Sin City

A Las Vegas survival guide: the dos and don’ts of Sin City

Few destinations can match the unbridled hedonism of Las Vegas. Nevada’s pulsating desert city, a tangle of neon-lit casinos and roaring freeways, is one of t…

16 Nov 2016 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
The dos and don'ts of Thanksgiving travel

The dos and don'ts of Thanksgiving travel

The only thing more challenging than an interminable turkey meal with a squabbling family? Getting there in the first place. Thanksgiving may kick off the mo…

11 Nov 2016 • AnneLise Sorensen insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month