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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. What to Expect: Howl-O-Scream 2016 at Busch Gardens conjures a hellish motel and murderous mermaid

    Blogs

    The spookiness at the first night of Howl-O-Scream 2016 began before guests had even entered Bush Gardens proper, when a tram driver ferrying …

    The Black Spot is one of two new haunted houses for 2016 at Howl-O-Scream.
  2. Halloween haunts: Zoo, aquarium, Disney and other attractions tone down scares for kids

    Events

    FAMILY FRIGHTS

    Many attractions tone down the gore for Halloween parties aimed at kids under 12. Here are the biggest ones:

    NEW Creatures of the Night

    Cousins Reagan Kelly, left, and Taylor and Madison Cloversettle take a trick-or-treating break to watch sharks.
  3. 6 real-life haunted houses that would be scarier than theme parks

    Blogs

    It is time again to get really close to your friends inside a dark and twisty hallway. Yes, it’s only September, but most major Halloween scare attractions are running, ready to weird out otherwise functioning adults via mason jars of eyeballs. Chelsea Tatham tells you about the themes this year, which range from …

    Ok, this is scene from Scream-A-Geddon in Dade City in 2015 is scary. But what could be even scarier?
  4. Halloween haunts: What's new at Halloween Horror Nights, Howl-O-Scream this year

    Florida

    The most wonderful time of the year isn't when the halls are decked with holly, but when they're home to ghouls, ghosts and garish creatures lurking around the corners. Halloween in Tampa Bay means sweating through a toasty Pumpkin Spice Latte, early sunsets on the beach and making room on the calendar for haunted …

    Universal's Halloween Horror Nights is now open at Universal Orlando, with nine haunted houses including one based on 'American Horror Story.' The event also features five scarezones with dozens of  scareactors and two live shows. Photo via Universal.
  5. Meet the culinary director of Epcot, a chef from Clearwater

    Food & Dining

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — Gregg Hannon is strolling through the theme park, greeting guests with the kind of joviality required of Disney people.

    "Hello!" he says. "Good morning!"

    Gregg Hannon of Clearwater is the culinary director for food and beverage at Epcot at Disney World Resort. He's preparing for the upcoming Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Sept. 14-Nov. 14. LARA CERRI   |   Times
  6. Busch Gardens, Disney parks offer mosquito repellent amid Zika fears

    Health

    Days after Gov. Rick Scott confirmed the first locally-transmitted case of Zika virus in Tampa Bay, Busch

    Busch Gardens has insect repellent available for all visitors at the Tampa theme park. [Times files]
  7. Your daily dose of cute: Baby hyena born at Busch Gardens said to be a sweetheart

    Florida

    Hyenas may have been the bad guys in The Lion King, but Busch Gardens says the 20-week-old baby spotted hyena born at the park on April 3 is a sweet boy.

    This 20-week-old baby spotted hyena was born at Busch Gardens on April 3 and debuting this week to park visitors. He is named ‘Mandazi’ for his sweet personality after a traditional pastry found on the Swahili coast, a park news release says.
  8. Mandazi is a 20-week-old spotted hyena.
  9. Universal Orlando announces dates for fourth year of A Celebration of Harry Potter

    Blogs

    Now in its fourth year, A Celebration of Harry Potter will once again bring thousands of witches and wizards to Universal Orlando in January.

    Thousands of Harry Potter fans will descend on Universal Orlando Jan. 27-29 for the fourth annual A Celebration of Harry Potter.
  10. Grim news kept people away from Disney, Universal and other theme parks, analysts say

    Florida

    ORLANDO — It's 9:01 a.m. and a stream of sweaty tourists is pressing through the entrance gates and hoofing it to the back of the park at Universal's Islands of Adventure. At this moment in early August, it's a 45-minute wait for the behemoth ride called Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which opened July 14. The wait …

    Analysts say crowds appear to have shrunk at Florida theme parks like Universal this summer. The decline could be attributed to the combination of tragic events that have struck the state this summer, including the shooting death of Voice singer Christina Grimmie at a local venue, the massacre at Pulse nightclub and a fatal alligator attack on a child at Disney World. LOREN ELLIOTT | Times