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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. Volcano Bay, with waterproof wristbands that eliminate lines, now open at Universal Orlando

    Attractions

    ORLANDO — Universal Orlando opened its third park on Thursday, this one a resort-style water attraction called Volcano Bay that features a waterproof wristband that promises to eliminate lines.

    Universal Orlando opened its third park, on May 25, 2017, this one a resort-style water attraction called Volcano Bay that features the first waterproof wristband that promises to eliminates lines. [Willie J. Allen Jr. | for Universal Studios]

  2. 6 essential things you'll need before going to a theme park this summer

    Florida

    With Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer, we're back with a new a guide to what's new or noteworthy in Central Florida attractions.

    Guests make their way toward the entrance of Universal Studios Florida, a theme park at Universal Orlando Resort, in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016. The park, which has an entertainment industry theme, features rides and attractions related to movies and television series.
  3. These days, don't hit the theme park without an app and a phone charger

    Florida

    Emile Crawford stocks two back-up phone battery chargers these days when she takes her kids to Disney World. But she dare not venture into a theme park without a smart phone app, an accessory becoming as necessary as sunscreen in Florida theme parks.

    A wristband visitors will wear at the new Volcano Bay water park in Orlando, Florida. The wristband, called Tapu Tapu, tells you when it's your turn to get on a ride. It also lets you pay for food so you don't have to carry a wallet and opens lockers so you don't have to  carry a key. (Universal via AP)
  4. James Cameron, Zoe Saldana and more appear at Disney's Pandora

    Florida

    ORLANDO — As he stood on a stage at Disney World Wednesday, director James Cameron revealed his teenage dreams.

    Zoe Saldana tweeted a photo of herself from Wednesday's appearance at a new land in Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pandora -- the World of Avatar. The land is based on James Cameron film, in which she stars. Photo via Twitter.
  5. Universal Studios theme park is taking people inside 'The Shining' (w/video)

    Blogs

    It's only May, but Universal Studios is already teasing a big reveal for this year's Halloween Horror Nights: a haunted attraction based on Stanley Kubrick's horror masterpiece The Shining.

    A scene from the film version of "The Shining."
  6. VIDEO: Oscar winner Jon Landau stops by a preview of Pandora, Disney's 'Avatar' land

    Florida

    Oscar-winning film producer Jon Landau stopped by a media sneak preview of Pandora, the new land at Disney's Animal Kingdom based on the film Avatar.

    Na'vi Shaman of Songs celebrates with music in Na'vi River Journey ride at Pandora-World of Avatar land attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. [Associated Press]
  7. First look: Photos of Disney World's upcoming 'Avatar' land

    Attractions

    LAKE BUENA VISTA — It's not a movie set, but visitors to Disney World's new Pandora-World of Avatar land are in for a cinematic experience.

    A water creature floats in a pond at Pandora-World of Avatar land attraction in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 12-acre land, inspired by the "Avatar" movie, opens in Florida at the end of May at Walt Disney World. [Associated Press]
  8. Disney's Star Wars Land joins trend of theme parks putting you 'in the movie'

    Florida

    In Star Wars Land, you'll be able to fly Han Solo's Millennium Falcon. You can drop by the Cantina for a drink with a droid. The attraction, coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando in 2019, is being designed to take you out of the theme park and into the Star Wars universe.

    An artist's concept of the new Star Wars land coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando in 2019. It is being designed in such a way that you feel you have left the theme park and entered the Star Wars universe. It will like many of the movies' desert outposts, marked by low, circular buildings with unusual characters walking around. Courtesy of Walt Disney World.
  9. Watch: George Lucas, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill reunite at Star Wars Celebration for 40th anniversary

    Blogs

    During the opening event of Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, original stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew and Anthony Daniels reunited with with director George Lucas to celebrate 40 years of a galaxy far, far away.

    Star Wars actors Mark Hamill, left, and Harrison Ford reunited at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando for the franchise's 40th anniversary.
  10. Wizarding World of Harry Potter gets Hogwarts light show, holiday celebrations at Universal Orlando

    Blogs

    Ready your robes and Hogwarts house scarves, Christmas is coming to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this year.

    This year for the holidays at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, the Hogwarts castle will be a home to a special nighttime light show with projection mapping and memorable Christmas scenes from the Harry Potter series.