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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. Universal Orlando will add 'Fast & Furious' attraction to theme park

    Florida

    Universal Orlando will open a new ride based on the popular Fast & Furious movies, the theme park announced Wednesday.

    Universal Orlando will open a new ride based on the popular Fast & Furious movies, the theme park announced.  Fast & Furious: Supercharged is slated to open some time in 2017. The seventh film in the Furious franchise made $1.5 billion at the box office worldwide this year. And Universal Studios Hollywood debuted a ride tied to the franchise in June.
  2. Disney will bring Star Wars half marathon to Orlando in April

    Events

    Star Wars fans, you have been heard.

    California got the first Star Wars Half Marathon weekend at Disneyland in January. Now, the California run will channel “the Light Side of the Force,” while Orlando gets the Dark Side.
  3. Theme park wars: Disney strikes back at Harry Potter with Star Wars expansion

    Tourism

    "Never tell me the odds," says Star Wars character Han Solo in one of his more memorable movie lines.

    We're going to tell you anyway.

    The Star Wars lands planned for both Disney Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., is one of the largest expansions in Disney’s history.
  4. Universal will hold its third Harry Potter fan fest at its theme parks in January

    Florida

    Universal Orlando Resort announced Wednesday that it will hold its third Celebration of Harry Potter, a three-day fan fest at the theme park with actors and production designers from the films, interactive exhibits and the return of the Harry Potter Expo. The special gathering will take place Jan. 29-31 and vacation …

    A dragon breathes fire from atop Gringnotts Bank during a preview of Diagon Alley at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, Thursday, June 19, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) FLJR104
  5. Busch Gardens drop ride Falcon's Fury featured in new Travel Channel show

    The Feed

    The Falcon's Fury drop tower at Busch Gardens Tampa will be on the premiere episode Wednesday of the new Travel Channel show Thrill Factor about the science behind scary thrill rides. The 335-foot-tall drop tower, which openened a year ago at the Tampa theme park, swings riders forward into a face-down position …

    Kari Byron and Tory Belleci ride the drop tower Falcon's Fury at Tampa's Busch Gardens theme park in the first episode of Travel Channel's new show Thrill Factor.
  6. Buy one, get one free ticket deal at Busch Gardens for limited time

    Events

    Busch Gardens announced a special end-of-summer special of buy one, get one free for single day admission to the Tampa theme park. "The weather may be putting vacation plans on hold," a Busch Gardens news release said Wednesday, after being closed Monday due to weather, but the park, "is giving guests a reason to keep …

     files Falcon's Fury at Busch Gardens.
  7. Orlando's Crayola Experience a fascinating wonderland of color, technology and nostalgia

    Florida

    ORLANDO

    Fred Rogers' sweater is a hue Crayola might call Forest Green, or maybe Aquamarine, or maybe Illuminating Emerald. He sketches a simple rainbow on an easel in his modest TV living room, the one decorated like childhood, and turns to the camera.

    A “crayonologist” creates a batch of crayons for Crayola Experience visitors.  “This brand has certainly evolved and changed,” Crayola president and CEO Mike Perry (not pictured) says. “But that mission of sparking the creative spirit of a child has never changed.”
  8. Crayons abound as Crayola Experience opens in Orlando's Florida Mall

    Kids

    ORLANDO — Snipping a ribbon of uncut yellow crayon wrappers, Crayola executives on Wednesday officially opened the Crayola Experience, a wildly colorful celebration of artistic creativity at Orlando's Florida Mall.

    Crayola executives on Wednesday officially opened the Crayola Experience, a celebration of artistic creativity at Orlando?s Florida Mall.
  9. Legoland Florida's expansion Heartlake City, aimed at girls, opens today

    Florida

    Legoland Florida's newest attraction, Heartlake City, opens today at the Winter Haven theme park, bringing in the Lego Friends product line aimed at girls that was first introduced in 2012. It's all modeled after the five Lego Friends characters Olivia, Stephanie, Emma, Mia and Andrea. The theme park now has an …

    Kids at Legoland Florida take a spin on Mia's Riding Adventure, part of Heartlake City, the theme park's expansion based on the popular Lego Friends characters.  (Photo courtesy of Merlin Entertainments Group Inc.)
  10. Busch Gardens unveils Howl-O-Scream theme, ticket deal

    Florida

    Busch Gardens on Wednesday put tickets on sale for this year's Howl-O-Scream fright fest themed "Unearthed."

    From left to right, Jack Holland, Brian Jordan, Greg Wirth and Dan Wirth scream in one of the Haunted Houses at Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream in 2005.   (Photo  courtesy of Busch Gardens)