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Florida Theme Park Guide to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens and more

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By Michelle Stark, Anne Glover, Amber McDonald and Kelly Stefani, Times Staff Writers
Illustration by Steve Madden, Times Staff Artist
Developed by Alexis N. Sanchez

Are you a Florida theme park fanatic? Send your favorite memories, horror stories (we all have them) or park insider tips to our Things to Do editors at calendar@tampabay.com or post to the official Things to Do Facebook page.

  1. Here's what it's like inside a writhing, growling Howl-O-Scream audition

    Florida

    TAMPA — At Busch Gardens, a Howl-O-Scream manager is hunting zombies.

    Auditioner Natalie Rychel, 20, of Tampa, Fla., high fives director of atmosphere Morgan Malice after being selected for a job for Bush Gardens' Howl-O-Scream during an audition at the theme park on Friday, August 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (From left) Auditioners Jared Shipley, 20, of Lakeland, Fla., and Lincoln Scott, 41, of Riverview, Fla., look over. This year, Howl-O-Scream will take place from September 22 to October 29 at Bush Gardens. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. Halloween Horror Nights brings 'Saw: The Games of Jigsaw' to Universal Orlando

    Blogs

    Universal wants to play a game.

    For its 27th year of Halloween Horror Nights, the Orlando theme park brings back the popular Saw house, the theme park announced Monday.

    Saw: The Games of Jigsaw comes to this year's Halloween Horror Nights.
  3. Looking Back: Epcot Center, Welcome to the 21st Century (Oct. 2, 1982)

    Pop Culture

    "Good Morning Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls. All of us at Epcot Center are glad to have you as our guests today. We welcome you and hope your find your day with us to be a most enjoyable one.

    With a flourish of brass Walt Disney Productions formally opened its $1-billion Epcot Center.

TIMES | Fred Victorin

  4. Looking Back: Epcot Center, If Walt Disney can dream it, Imagineers can do it (June 13, 1982)

    Pop Culture

    As the Disney powers that be continue to stray from Uncle Walt's original vision, (fans of The Maelstrom know what I'm talking about...), here's part two of a three-part series of stories on the construction and grand opening of Walt Disney's Epcot Center. A full year after construction started there was a discussion of …

    Construction continues on Walt Disney World's Epcot Center at Lake Buena Vista, Florida. 

TIMES | Fred Victorin

  5. Disney World lifts seasonal passholder block-out dates early

    Florida

    With two classic rides retiring at Walt Disney World, the theme park giant has taken the unprecedented step of lifting the block-out dates a little early for seasonal passholders so they can visit one last time.

    Disney World surprised seasonal passholders by lifting the block-out dates for the month of August instead of Aug. 11. The theme park giant said it would allow fans to ride some classic rides that are retiring Aug. 13. 

 (Orlando Sentinel)
  6. Want to audition for Howl-O-Scream? Here's how.

    Florida

    How would you like a job that has you running all night, dodging punches and earning high marks from your boss if you make someone wet their pants?

    Lindsay Weppelman, a University of South Florida biomedical science student, plays a Zombie Bride in one of Busch Gardens' open-air scare zones at Howl-O-Scream 2016.  Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens.
  7. Looking Back: Walt Disney's Epcot Center, We've just begun to dream (June 21, 1981)

    News

    In 1966, on an episode of "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color," Walt Disney first announced his intention to build "a community of tomorrow." His death soon after would lead to the demise of a true "city of the future", but the idea was kept alive within the Walt Disney company and in the mid-1970's plans were …

  8. Dragon ride in Harry Potter section of Universal closing for new themed ride

    Florida

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019 — sending wizard fans into a guessing game with hopes for a Floo Powder Network or the maze from the Triwizard Tournament.

    Universal Orlando announced Monday that it will close Dragon Challenge on Sept. 5 for a new "highly themed" Harry Potter ride to open in 2019. The ride, originally the Dueling Dragons roller coaster, was renamed and incorporated into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter when the hugely popular area opened in 2010.
  9. Quick! Do these fun things with the kids before school starts!

    Kids

    Three weekends. That's all we have left before the new school year is upon us.

    Ya'riah Ellison,6 of Tampa works on a pop art self portrait at the Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa on Friday, July 14, 2017. On Monday, July 20th, a new pop art exhibition will open in which children will be able to create self portraits in a variety of ways including screen printing, pointillism and pop art methods.
  10. Disney news: Tron ride, 'Guardians of Galaxy' ride and a 'Star Wars' hotel coming to Florida

    Florida

    In case you missed it, this weekend brought a rush of news for Disney World fans at D23, the official Disney fan club in Anaheim, Calif., and visitors to the four theme parks in Florida can look forward to more attractions for teens and roller coaster fans.

    Artist renderings of Disney's plans for an immersive Star Wars-themed hotel show guests would wear costumes and  interact with "Star Wars" creatures and droids. The multi-day experience would guests their own story line and each window of the hotel would look out into space.
Photo courtesy Walt Disney World