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When it comes to theme parks, Florida reigns supreme, no-brainer study says

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Florida, particularly the Orlando area, could be accurately named the theme park capitol of the world, according to findings in an AECOM study released Wednesday.

Out of 25 top theme parks worldwide, Florida is home to seven of them. That’s more top-ranking theme parks in one place than anywhere else in the world. The fact that they are all within just a few miles of one another makes it all the more spectacular for theme-park-goers.

The top-ranked theme park is the Magic Kingdom. Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center comes in at number six with Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios coming in just behind it at number seven and eight, respectively.

Universal Studios nabbed the 11 spot with its spinoff park, Islands of Adventure pulling in number 12. Sea World, the embattled ocean wildlife park that’s fallen under harsh claims of animal cruelty, rounded out the Florida list at number 22.

Part of Florida’s success in the theme park world may be a by-product of a thriving Disney franchise in the Orlando area. Though Florida only had one theme park in the top five, four of the top five were all Disney parks. Of the entire top 25 list, 11 were Disney parks and nine of the top 10 were all Disney parks. Of Florida’s seven top-ranked parks, only three were non-Disney parks.

The list is good news and bad news for the Tampa Bay area. The good news is, most of the parks are only about an hour and a half to two hours away. The bad news is, none of Tampa’s parks – Busch Gardens, Adventure Island, Lowry Park Zoo – made the list.

The report shows Disney attractions’ attendance is up 1.3 percent in 2014 from the previous year. Though they are the top- ranked theme park group, their increase in visitors isn’t the most impressive. Universal Parks and Resorts – that includes Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure – are up 10.4 percent over 2013. However, just because they saw a bigger boost in overall attendance, Universal park’s 62.8 million visitors pales in comparison to Disney, which boasted nearly 135 million visitors in 2014.

When looking at theme parks across just the United States. Tampa did make a cameo. Busch Gardens made that list at number 12 of 20. Florida claimed eight of the 20 listed. The next closest state is California, where six parks made the nation’s best-of list.

Florida parks making the national list accounted for nearly 90 million visits in 2014. The Magic Kingdom was the source of most of those visits with nearly 20 million people going to the park that same year.

Florida also boasts some of the nation’s best water parks. When isolating water parks domestically, Orlando’s Typhoon Lagoon topped the list of 20. Disney’s Blizzard Beach came in at number two with Sea World’s Aquatica at number three.

Also making that list was Wet ‘n Wild in Orlando at number four and Adventure Island in Tampa at number seven.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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