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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. 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
  2. '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.
  3. '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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  6. '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)
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.