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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. Falcon's Fury up and running at Busch Gardens; here's what it's like to ride

    Florida

    TAMPA — As your toes dangle 335 feet high atop your perch on the Falcon's Fury drop ride at Busch Gardens, you can see Tropicana Field nearly 25 miles away in St. Petersburg. It's a moment of pure awe. Just before the panic.

    ANNE GLOVER  |  Times
Falcon's Fury at Busch Gardens is open more and more to riders.
  2. Busch Gardens visitors get to try new Falcon's Fury drop ride (w/video)

    Florida

    The weekend brought a surprise for some Busch Gardens visitors when the park quietly allowed riders on the new Falcon's Fury — a good sign the drop ride will officially open soon.

    The band All-American Rejects gets ready to ride Falcon’s Fury. Below, the entrance to Busch Gardens’ new drop ride.
  3. Buy ticket now, get one for December at Dinosaur World

    Kids

    August offers fans of Dinosaur World a "Dino Days" deal of a free ticket in December. Purchase a ticket in August ($16.95 for adults, $14.95 seniors, $11.95 for kids 3-12) and you get a free ticket to visit Dec. 1-19. The Plant City attraction, best suited for ages 3 to 10, has more than 200 life-size dinosaurs, …

    TP_350766_FLYN_dinasours_2 (2/29/2012) Logan Chambliss, 4, of St. Augustine reacts upon first entering Dinosaur World in Plant City on February 29, 2012. The mouth of a Acrocanthosaurus, above, and two Tyrannosarrus Rex are seen behind Logan in an area that is part of the 12-acre expansion which includes a 22,000-square-foot addition to the Prehistoric Museum, which features five animatronic dinosaurs. The dinosaurs pictured here new but are not animatronic.  It was Logan's first visit to Dinosaur World with his parents Mindi and Bryan and his grandparetns Dee and Joe Walker of Davenport.  "I like the dinosaur's because they are so cool!" he said.  Logan's grandfather Joe had seen Dinosaur World from the interstate driving from work and thought it would be a good idea to bring his grandson when the family visited.  [KATHLEEN FLYNN Times]
  4. Universal's Hogwarts Express in Diagon Alley reaches 1 million-rider milestone

    Florida

    Well that didn't take very long. Universal Orlando announced this week that 1 million people have already ridden the Hogwarts Express, the iconic locomotive that connects the Wizarding World of Harry Potter sections of Universal's two theme parks. It reached the milestone a little more than a month after it opened July …

    Guests cheer Thursday at Hogsmeade Station as Universal Orlando Resort celebrated its one millionth rider on the Hogwarts Express, the iconic train that transported Harry Potter between Hogsmeade Station and King's Cross Station. Here, it transports guests between Universal parks. About 200 guests were given complimentary Butterbeer ice-cream, tickets and scarves.
  5. 'Frozen' still hot at Disney theme park, celebration extended

    Florida

    The popularity of Frozen is still so strong that Disney's Hollywood Studios just can't, well, Let it Go. The park's summerlong events celebrating the movie have been extended another month, Disney announced Thursday. The themed series was supposed to end Sept. 1, but the park will extend everything through …

    This image released by Disney shows Elsa the Snow Queen, voiced by Idina Menzel, in a scene from the animated feature "Frozen." (AP Photo/Disney) NYET528
  6. Howl-O-Scream fans get to vote on Busch Gardens' scares

    Florida

    Busch Gardens will once again let its Facebook fans have a say in the planning of a new haunted house at this year's Howl-O-Scream, a separate-ticket Halloween-themed event starting Oct. 2.

    You can vote on a house at this year's Howl-O-Scream via the attraction's Facebook page. [via Facebook]
  7. Universal's Halloween Horror Nights creeping up on us with new attractions

    Florida

    Universal Studio's annual Halloween scare fest is creeping up on us and the theme park is starting to release some of the movie and TV-themed scare zones that will be coming to this year's Halloween Horror Nights, including the Alien vs. Predator franchise, The Purge, The Walking Dead, From Dusk Till Dawn

    An image from last year's Halloween Horror Nights 23. [Universal Orlando]
  8. Epcot fills out concert lineup for Food and Wine Fest

    Florida

    In addition to eating and drinking your way around the world, Epcot's Food & Wine Festival has an "Eat to the Beat" concert series during the festival's run from Sept. 19-Nov. 10. Fan favorites like Boyz II Men, left, (Nov. 3-5) and Rick Springfield (Sept. 24-25) return and new-to-the-festival acts recently announced …

    Boyz II Men
  9. 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]
  10. 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.