Scattered Clouds86° WeatherScattered Clouds86° Weather

Florida Theme Park Guide to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens and more

.

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. 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.
  2. Theme parks, 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:

  3. '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)
  4. 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
  5. Falcon's Fury drop ride officially open at Busch Gardens

    Florida

    It has essentially been open for the past week, but on Tuesday Busch Gardens made it official: The much-delayed Falcon's Fury drop ride is open.

    ANNE GLOVER  |  Times
Falcon's Fury at Busch Gardens is officially open.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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]
  9. 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.
  10. '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