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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. Dining Planner: New restaurants at Disney, Universal and downtown Orlando

    Food & Dining

    Orlando GRUB

    Something is happening in Orlando. Yes, the Mako coaster at SeaWorld, but I mean something else. The theme parks have always had better food than they needed to (mental scroll of amusement park food elsewhere in the country: turkey legs and I-can't-believe-they-fried-this-and-put-it-on-a-stick …

    STK Orlando, a modern steakhouse with a hip lounge, is now open at Disney Springs.
  2. 27 new things at Walt Disney World this summer

    Florida

    When you are the world's most-visited theme park, people expect a lot. And with crowds breaking records every year, Walt Disney World seems to spend its time trying to get you to plan for Fast Passes and luring you out of the Magic Kingdom and into its three other theme parks. You don't have to go to a theme park …

    With digital upgrades and new footage, Soarin’ Around the World opens at Epcot on June 17.
  3. Everything you need to know about Florida theme parks this summer

    Florida

    Every summer we look ahead to what's new at Florida's theme parks and attractions. With prices at most parks hovering around $100 for a single day, theme parks have to give customers a "wow" factor.

    This year aims high.

    Cobra's Curse Spin Coaster at Busch Gardens
  4. What's new at Lowry Park Zoo, Florida Aquarium, MOSI and more

    Events

    Local attractions also have some new play areas and special parties planned this summer. Among them:

    Museum of Science and Industry

    MOSI space programs director Antonio Paris is pictured with the ancient iron meteorite.
  5. Here's what's new at Busch Gardens this summer: Cobra's Curse

    Florida

    Busch Gardens calls Cobra's Curse a family coaster, but more than a few parents might balk at the signature spinning feature in the final third of the ride. It freely twirls the coaster car, making it a potentially wild ride based on weight distribution.

    For theme park guide. Busch Gardens new ride Cobra’s Curse ride will be the only spinning coaster like it in the world. The main icon of the ride is King Venymyss, an 80-foot golden snake statue. Riders will travel straight up in a vertical lift to come face-to-fang with the giant snake head before sending riders forward, backward and finally freely spinning in the last third of the ride.
  6. Here's what's new at SeaWorld Orlando this summer: Mako the hypercoaster

    Florida

    SeaWorld begins its post-Shamu business model with Mako, below, the shark-inspired attraction that will be Orlando's highest, fastest and longest coaster when it opens on June 10.

    Artist Guy Harvey poses for a portrait June 23, 2014 in his showroom in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Harvey has developed his brand into a business empire. (Carl Juste/Miami Herald/MCT)
  7. 3 new things coming to Universal Studios this summer

    Florida

    The opening date for Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Universal's Islands of Adventure has not been officially announced, but the theme park is planning a media preview June 22 to 24. So chances are good the public will get a look at this giant primate's mammoth crib before July 4.

    Reign of Kong features 40-foot ride vehicles that can hold 72.
  8. Will Busch Gardens' spinning Cobra's Curse ride be torture for the snakes?

    Florida

    TAMPA — When Busch Gardens opens Cobra's Curse this summer, the snake-themed, spinning roller coaster will have an air-conditioned ride queue with an exhibit of live snakes. The park touts it as part of a mission to educate the public.

    Busch Gardens used a booming front-end loader and rat treats to help acclimate its snakes — like this Jameson’s mamba — to the vibrations and noise of Cobra’s Curse, a park official said.
  9. First look: Universal Orlando's images of King Kong coming this summer (w/video)

    Florida

    Universal Orlando on Monday released the first images of the great ape to be the centerpiece of Skull Island: Reign of Kong, a new attraction opening this summer.

    The massive King Kong, with a head the size of a car, will also have lifelike facial expressions, Universal Orlando said.
  10. Retail complex Disney Springs to open final cluster of stores, restaurants

    Florida

    Downtown Disney's makeover into Disney Springs debuts Sunday with the grand opening of its Town Center section. It's the final retail and restaurant cluster of Disney World's entertainment complex, which has doubled in size in its three-year transformation.

    Disney Springs, the reimaigined Downtown Disney entertainment complex, opens Sunday with a large manmade spring.  Matt Mauney, Orlando Sentinel