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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. Epcot seeds Flower & Garden Festival with new features

    Florida

    Like a topiary in need of shaping up, Epcot is branching out with some new music and garden features for its springtime series, the International Flower & Garden Festival.

  2. Disney will live stream New Year's Eve fireworks from Magic Kingdom

    Florida

    The week between Christmas and New Year's Eve is always the busiest of the year at Walt Disney World, so this year you can avoid the crowds and still see the Magic Kingdom fireworks show online. Disney announced Monday that it will live-stream the New Year's Eve fireworks from the Magic Kingdom on the Disney Parks Blog, …

    Disney fireworks light up the sky on Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom on July 3, 2008.  (Disney)
  3. 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]
  4. 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.
  5. 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 …

  6. 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
  7. '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.
  8. '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.

  9. 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.
  10. 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: