Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida once again tops the attendance list for amusement parks worldwide. According to a report recently issued by TEA/ERA (http://www.connectingindustry.com/pdfs/TEA-ERAAttendance06.pdf), the Orlando area resort had an estimated 16.64 million visitors in 2006, up 3 percent from the previous year. Disney’s other Orlando area parks, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom also made the list with 10.4 million, 9.1 million and 8.9 million visitors, respectively. All numbers listed are estimates.
 
 
Disney’s Animal Kingdom numbers were up 8.6 percent from the previous year, the best increase of any major amusement park. One of the reasons for this increase, according to news reports in the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper (www.orlandosentinel.com), was the new Expedition Everest roller coaster that opened last year. This $100 million ride opened in April of 2006 and is billed as a family roller coaster. This means that it is not as wild a ride as some other coasters, attracting a larger rider base.
 
 
Other Orlando area parks that made the top 25 worldwide list include Universal Studios Orlando, SeaWorld Florida and Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando. Down the road in nearby Tampa Bay, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay also was among the top 25 worldwide. Universal Studios is looking to spend a significant chunk of money to increase its popularity, following Disney’s example.
 
 
Orlando’s economy is heavily based on tourism, and these numbers indicate that this area is still going strong, despite the tourist slowdown in activity elsewhere in Florida and worldwide. According to the state tourism agency, Visit Florida (www.visitflorida.com), of the nearly 85 million tourists who visited Florida in 2006, over half – 48.3 million – came to the Orlando area.
 
In addition to the major theme parks listed above, there are a number of other parks and attractions that tourists and residents alike can enjoy in the Orlando area. These include an assortment of water parks, such as Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, Wet’n Wild, and Adventure Island. Discovery Cove is an animal themed water park that lets visitors interact with dolphins and natural environments. With so much going on, the Orlando area looks to continue to be the most popular destination for years to come.
 
 
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    Carol McDonald