ADVENTURE ISLAND, 10001 Malcolm McKinley Drive, near Busch Gardens (813-987-5660). This 30-acre water park features a huge variety of amusements, including slides, corkscrews, water falls, a wave pool, children's water playground and other family attractions. Additional amenities include outdoor cafés, picnic and sunbathing areas, gift shops, arcades and a white-sand volleyball complex. The park is open March through October; hours vary. Single-day passes are $34.95 for adults, $32.95 for ages 3-9, and children 2 and younger enter free ($5 parking fee). Combo tickets for Busch Gardens and Adventure Island are also available. www.adventureisland.com.
ANIMAL KINGDOM, I-4 East to Walt Disney World, exit 65 (407-824-4321). This Disney attraction is a hybrid zoo/theme park, running the gamut from "wild creatures of southern Asia" to gibbons and other exotic animals. Top attractions include the jungle safari, a Jeep-style tour through the bush; and Dinosaur, a virtual encounter with beasts of the past. Hours vary from week to week. Single day passes are $56.70 for adults, $47 for ages 3-9, and free for tots 2 and younger; combo ticket packages are available as well. www.disneyworld.disney.go.com.
BIG CAT RESCUE, 12802 Easy St., Tampa (813-920-4130). This 42-acre facility is the world's largest sanctuary for big cats that have been abused, abandoned or retired from performing acts. The sanctuary is home to more than 150 tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, bobcats, lynx, ocelots, servals, caracals and others. Guided tours are available at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Mon.-Fri., and at 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sat. (ages 10 and up only); admission is $22 per person. The Saturday Kid's Tour (for children under 10) is at 9 a.m., and admission is $12. www.bigcatrescue.org.
BUSCH GARDENS, 3000 E. Busch Blvd., Tampa (813-987-5082). This 300-acre African-themed park and zoo has one of the area's best collections of alligators and flamingos, along with a mock Serengeti Plain stocked with giraffes. Attractions include the Gwazi, Kuumba and Montu roller coasters, Myombe Reserve, Great Ape Domain, Rhino Rally and Tanganyika Tidal Wave. The mock-preserve Edge of Africa, featuring hyenas, giraffes and other jungle creatures, offers a variety of guided Jeep tours (for an additional charge) that allow guests to feed, observe and learn about giraffes, ostriches and other animals. Visitors can also choose from a selection of shows and restaurants. Hours vary from week to week. Admission is $57.95 for adults, $47.95 for ages 3-9, and children 2 and younger enter free; parking is $7. www.buschgardens.com.
EPCOT CENTER, I-4 East to Walt Disney World, exit 67 (407-824-4321). In the land where pigs and carrots sing, this renowned Orlando attraction makes learning fun. Be sure to check out Mission: SPACE, a thrilling interactive adventure. Future World features informative displays about technology and science, and Test Track takes visitors on the longest, fastest ride in the Disney triumvirate, where guests ride along on a vehicle stress test, then zip along at 65 mph. Hours vary from week to week. Single day passes are $56.70 for adults, $47 for ages 3-9, and free for tots 2 and younger; combo ticket packages are available as well. www.epcot.com.
FLORIDA BOTANICAL GARDENS, Pinewood Cultural Park, 12175 125th St. N., Largo (727-582-2100). See what's in bloom at this cute, 182-acre park filled with native Florida plants and exotic tropicals, displayed in both natural and formal gardens. The park is also a natural habitat for Florida wildlife. Open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. daily. Free admission (donations welcome). www.flbg.org.
GATORLAND, U.S. 441 in southern Orlando, I-4 East exit 72 (800-393-JAWS). This place claims to be the alligator capital of the world, and hey, who wants to argue? Take the swamp walk and watch gators lounge, stroll down a wooden boardwalk through a canopy of trees and enjoy a view of the 110-acre natural habitat from a three-story observation tower, or check out the park from the safety of the Iron Horse train. There's a petting zoo (sorry, no gators), and Lilly's Pad, a water fountain park for kids. After working up an appetite, sample the smoked gator ribs and deep-fried gator nuggets at Pearl's Smokehouse. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Admission is $19.95 for adults, and $12.95 for ages 3-12. www.gatorland.com.
ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE, on the Universal Studios grounds, 1000 Universal Studios Plaza, I-4 east to exit 74A, Orlando (407-363-8000). This mega-theme park dazzles visitors of all ages and tastes with five distinct islands in which to indulge. Visit Seuss Land, which is based on the popular children's books, or check out Marvel Superhero Island. Jurassic Park lets you ride the Dueling Dragons inverted roller coaster with two trains speeding, at times, 12 inches apart. The Triceratops Encounter is a peek at virtual 'saurs — including a 24-foot Triceratops that feels, acts, smells and even defecates like the real prehistoric pets. Hours vary from week to week. Admission is $63 for adults, $52 for ages 3-9, and children 2 and younger enter free. www.themeparks.universalstudios.com.