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. Plan your Christmas at Epcot with celebrity narrators at Candlelight Processional

    Florida

    Christmas in July promos remind us that now can be a good time to plan your Christmas entertainment before tickets sell out. Held every year at Disney's Epcot, the Candlelight Processional is not to be missed. There's a mass choir, joined by a 50-piece live orchestra and a celebrity narrator who tells the story of …

    The giant Christmas tree at Epcot, seen with the park's iconic Spaceship Earth attraction behind it, is the centerpiece of the holiday celebration at the theme park. [Photo by Garth Vaughan]
  2. SeaWorld launches enhanced apps at SeaWorld, Busch Gardens parks

    Attractions

    Visitors to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place can now use their phone to pay for food and merchandise at the parks.

  3. Disney villains get their own night at theme park

    Florida

    More than 50 baddies will be unleashed at Disney's Hollywood Studios for a new separate-ticket event Aug. 23 called Villains Unleashed. Disney found out it was on to something when it kicked off Halloween season last September with a special night of villains on Friday the 13th. It was so popular the Hollywood Studios …

    Darth Vader, 20th Century Fox
  4. Harry Potter-themed Diagon Alley opens at Universal Studios Tuesday

    Florida

    Diagon Alley, the highly anticipated Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios in Orlando, finally opens to the public Tuesday. But will its signature ride be working? The ambitious Escape From Gringotts ride is an entirely new kind of 3D attraction, with newly invented spins on the roller coaster experience with a …

    The Diagon Alley attraction, featuring shops, dining experiences and the next generation thrill ride, will officially open Tuesday.
  5. Space center adds fiery asteroid exhibit

    Florida

    The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex just opened a new exhibit that spotlights asteroids, comets and meteorites. Called "Great Balls of Fire," the 1,500-square-foot exhibit deals with the projectiles' possible risks, and it offers hands-on components that let visitors see how scientists determine the path of …

    In this frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera, on a highway from Kostanai, Kazakhstan, to Chelyabinsk region, Russia, provided by Nasha Gazeta newspaper, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 a meteorite contrail is seen. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Nasha gazeta, www.ng.kz) MOSB105
  6. Panic before the plunge at Ihu's Breakaway Falls

    Florida

    ORLANDO — Fear is a tricky commodity, and mondo business, for theme parks these days. You have to push the envelope to keep pace with your nearby competitors, but not be so pushy that too many potential guests tremble at the idea of your nefarious new terror machine.

    Times pop music critic Sean Daly was seriously freaking out before getting sucked into the swirly horror of it all, as you can totally tell from his face in this picture.
  7. Now kids can ride shotgun at 140 mph in Richard Petty Experience

    Florida

    Young racing fans who want to go fast like their favorite NASCAR drivers now have a chance to do just that with the Junior Ride-Along offered by the Richard Petty Experience.

    Petty staff members helped to suit up our test rider, Isaak, 10.
  8. Determined to go to Diagon Alley on opening day? Here are tips

    Florida

    Starting Tuesday (July 8), Harry Potter fans can apparate into Diagon Alley, a second wizard world of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort, where they can mostly shop just like the boy wizard. • The magical theme is now set across both Universal theme parks, with a Hogwarts Express train taking guests from …

    The wizard shopping district marks the entrance to Diagon Alley with a dragon that breathes real fire on top of Gringotts Bank. The bank houses the Escape From Gringotts thrill ride.
  9. Legoland's new Duplo Valley is big for little ones

    Florida

    For all the things Legoland has going for it, the park still has had some obstacles to being a perfect attraction. There's the long drive across Winter Haven. The $14 parking. And the fact there's really not much for the tiniest tots to do.

    The biggest add to Duplo Valley is a pair of small rail rides, one of them being this Duplo Tractor. The area also features a playhouse.
  10. Disney park to add 'Frozen' characters, fireworks this summer

    Florida

    Another sign this culture is getting Frozen over: Disney's Hollywood Studios is about to get in on the act by adding "Frozen Summer Live" July 5 through Sept. 1 with Anna, Elsa and mountain main Kristoff making a royal procession down the park's Hollywood Boulevard each day at 11 a.m.

    This image released by Disney shows, from left, Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, Olaf, voiced by Josh Gad, and Kristoff, voiced by Jonathan Groff in a scene from the animated feature "Frozen." (AP Photo/Disney)