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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. Why the CEO of SeaWorld, parent of Tampa's Busch Gardens, stepped down

    Tourism

    Was it declining theme park attendance? Weaker profits and a plunging stock price? The nagging impact from the animal rights Blackfish film against keeping killer whales in captivity? Perhaps the long delay by Tampa's Busch Gardens to get this year's big new attraction — the Falcon's Fury ride — up …

    Orcas during January a show at the Shamu Up Close attraction at Sea World in Orlando. [Orlando Sentinel]
  2. Legoland hotel coming next summer with themed rooms, 'disco elevator'

    Florida

    Legoland Florida recently unveiled details on the hotel opening next summer for the Winter Haven theme park aimed at families with young kids, and is now offering a free second day for reservations made before Christmas. Still under constructino, it will be a 152-bedroom hotel, with themed interiors "like a large Lego …

    At the first Legoland Hotel at the California park, a Lego bellhop greets guests. The Florida hotel will open next June.
  3. Neil Patrick Harris, Frozen's Kristoff among celebrity narrators at Epcot's Candelight

    Florida

    Two of the most anticipated celebrity narrators for Epcot's Candlelight Processional — actor Neil Patrick Harris and Broadway star Jonathan Groff, the voice of Kristoff from Frozen — will be telling the Christmas story before a full choir to help kick off the opening of the popular holiday …

  4. Free Smithsonian animal exhibit making a Tampa stop this weekend

    Events

    A free interactive exhibit from the Smithsonian is making the final stop on its U.S. tour at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo this weekend. Animal Connections: Our Journey Together will be parked by the main entrance to the zoo at 1101 W Sligh Ave. in Tampa to introduce visitors to the special relationship humans share with …

    A free Smithsonian exhibit, Animal Connections: Our Journey Together will end its U.S. tour this weekend at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, parked by the main entrance. Lowry Park Zoo
  5. 'Harry Potter' actors at Universal Orlando fan weekend to include Hagrid, Dumbledore

    Florida

    Hagrid, Dumbledore, Luna and the Weasley twins will be coming to Orlando in January for Universal Orlando's second Celebration of Harry Potter, a weekend of fan events at the theme park with actors, panel discussion and demonstrations from film's creators.

    Among the actors coming for Universal Orlando’s second Celebration of Harry Potter is Michael Gambon, who plays Dumbledore. Ticket packages start at $219.
  6. 'Frozen' holiday show debuts at Disney World on Wednesday, pushing out Cinderella

    Florida

    Cinderella is getting Frozen out of Disney World's Christmas show starting this week.

  7. Blood bank: Elaborate Halloween haunts pay off for Florida theme parks

    Florida

    Elaborate haunted houses have become a bloody bank of profits for Florida theme parks, with crowds for Halloween-themed special events now dwarfing the spring break hordes.

    Universal's Halloween Horror Nights.
  8. Disney, Legoland, more attractions offer less-scary Halloween options

    Florida

    Other major attractions in Florida offer Halloween parties that are less ghoulish than Universal and Busch Gardens, which pride themselves on in-your-face scares. Some options:

  9. 'Frozen' ousts Norway Maelstrom ride at Epcot

    Florida

    It's official and, for Disney purists, a little depressing: A ride based on smash flick Frozen will replace Maelstrom, the begrudgingly beloved boat trek in Epcot's Norway pavilion. No date has been given for closings and openings, but with the tale of Scandinavian sibs Anna and Elsa being such a phenomenon, you …

    This undated image released by Disney shows Disney characters Anna, left, and her sister Elsa from the animated film "Frozen" at Princess Fairytale Hall at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Princess Fairytale Hall features walls of stone and stained glass windows, a spacious gallery adorned with portraits of Disney princesses and elegantly finished rooms where guests can meet Anna & Elsa, Cinderella, Rapunzel and other princesses. Wait times to meet the sisters stretches for hours and reservations are snapped up as soon as they become available, part of a frenzy for all things "Frozen."  (AP Photo/Disney, Matt Stroshane)
  10. Theme park deals pop up in the fall for Florida residents

    Florida

    After Labor Day, it's a good time for Florida residents to check out the theme parks, where the crowds are lighter, the weather a tiny bit cooler (eventually) and Florida residents deals start cropping up. Here's a roundup of theme park news and deals announced recently.

    Epcot refreshes live shows

    The annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival