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Disney, other area parks deliver gains ... but it's not JUST Disney

Florida tourism was soft in 2007, but the state's theme parks did just fine thanks to big investments in new attractions and promotions.

Overall, attendance edged up a modest 2.5 percent at the nation's 20 biggest theme parks last year, according to an annual estimate by Economic Research Associates.

The Central Florida parks — led by Walt Disney World — dominated the industry again with eight of the 11 most-attended parks in North America. No. 1 Magic Kingdom surged ahead of California counterpart Disneyland by topping 17-million visitors for the first time.

Parks don't release attendance data, so ERA derives estimates from Wall Street and feasibility studies. But Busch Entertainment said attendance at Sea World and Busch Gardens in Tampa was understated.

Magic Kingdom, 17-million, up 2.5 percent

Year of a Million Dreams giveaways, new Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor and updating old classic rides. Toy Story Mania opens this summer.

Epcot Center, 10.9-million, up 4.5 percent

Opened The Seas with Nemo and bigger food and garden festivals.

Hollywood Studios, 9.5-million, up 4.5 percent

New name, updated old rides and Jedi Training Academy.

Animal Kingdom, 9.5-million, up 6.5 percent

Expedition Everest and new Nemo stage show.

Universal Studios Florida, 6.2-million, up 3.3 percent

Redoing headliner rides such as Earthquake, adding the Simpsons. Halloween event grows again.

Sea World Florida, 5.8-million, up 1 percent

Benefited from added international visitors, new Shamu show.

Islands of Adventure, 5.4-million, up 2.5 percent

Fine-tuned last of its original rides and begins Harry Potter for 2009.

Busch Gardens Africa, 4.4-million, up 1 percent

Tried to top ShieKra's opening year drawing power by taking out its floor, expands Howl-O-Scream. New Jungala opens April 5.

Disney, other area parks deliver gains ... but it's not JUST Disney 03/14/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 3:03pm]
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