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Differentiating Between Three Central Florida Theme Park Passes
Everybody (well, virtually everybody) loves a theme park - there's dark rides, roller coasters, water rides, kiddie rides, stimulator rides, and character greets. Most have parades and all have some form of entertainment, such as street performers and live shows. The most-prominent region of those mega-amusement parks fitted into central themes is Central Florida, where my home is located (near Tampa), and its capital is Orlando. It's home to 8 theme parks, 2 of them each in Orlando and Tampa owned by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment (SeaWorld Orlando proper and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, respectively), 2 at Universal Orlando Resort (Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios), and 4 at the Walt Disney World Resort (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom). Here, I differentiate three different multi-day, quasi-annual passes I have bought myself in the recent past, and all apply to people just like me: Florida Residents.
Fun Card (Busch Gardens Tampa Bay)
Imagine unlimited admission to either one of the two SeaWorld Parks and Entertaiment's theme parks: SeaWorld Orlando proper and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay - that's the essence of the Fun Card, a multi-day, annual pass. I did one on the latter, and I have done a whole weekend doing the park. Needless to say, it took place several Julys ago, and the heat, rain, long lines (namely for the water rides, especially Congo River Rapids), and the turismos defined it, but Muetti and I bought one anyway and explored the park without a hitch.
There are many ups and downs with the Fun Card at Busch Gardens. If you live close to the park (in the Tampa Bay Area, in particular), you'll be amazed by the convenience of having one. It's among the cheapest of all yearly (seasonal and annual) passes and thus less costly than one day at Disney's Hollywood Studios on Gay Days. But the thorny side includes admission to peak seasons and peak holidays, so you might reconsider hunkering down at home on, say, Christmas Day proper. Despite its flaws, the Fun Card is excellent for those who want unrestricted fun and don't mind crowd swells at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. (there's also one at SeaWorld, but that's another Hub.)
2-Park Power Pass (Universal Orlando Resort)
Heading out for weekends at Universal Orlando? Instead of buying gobs of one-day admission tickets, why not buy yourself a 2-Park Power Pass? With this all-year admission ticket at hand, you can enjoy a couple of hours doing Universal Studios Florida proper, then do another at Universal's Islands of Adventure. With the freedom to come back all year, no longer you will have to wait until the next vacation to do another day at either park - the admission is unlimited.
However, there are blockout dates to consider: most of them correlate with the busiest of seasons to come, namely Easter, New Year's holidays, and the Fourth of July. Christmas (sometimes), June, and the rest of July are unblocked, but keep in mind the crowds and turismos, who invade every aspect of the parks (especially dead on Christmas and the summer). Still, it's a flexible option, especially for those very much interested in thrill rides.
Florida Resident Seasonal Pass (Walt Disney World Resort)
Personally, I have an addiction to Walt Disney World, although I still go to the other Central Florida parks - thus, the Florida Resident Seasonal Pass works wonders for me. I love the unlimited admission to any of the four theme parks, and like the 2-Park Power Pass at Universal Orlando, migrating from one park to another can go smoothly. (It's as if the pass has a built-in Park Hopper.) For example, I can do two parks with the word "Kingdom" in their names - I go spend half a day at Disney's Animal Kingdom and head to the Magic Kingdom for Spectromagic and Wishes. For the Disney fan living nearby the resort, it's a boon to have.
Like the 2-Park Power Pass at Universal Orlando, the Florida Resident Seasonal Pass has block-out dates, but they are more stricter. Virtually all of summer (Fourth of July included) and Christmas are inaccessible dates just like Easter and New Year's. The upside of those dates are less turismo encounters (Keep in mind that the only times to worry about them are the days of December before Christmas, January after New Year's, and February, when it's summer in their originating nations of Brazil and Argentina. You may bump into ongoing events, when you know exactly where it will be held (like ESPN: The Weekend) and when you won't expect where it's being held (like my crazy-as-smarm experience at one St. Nicholas Day at the Magic Kingdom during the Walt Disney World Christmas Day Parade taping), so keep that in mind. If you are an avid Disneyphile who are leery of high crowds, I strongly recommend it.
Official Park Pass Pages
No matter how you do your multi-day yearly passes, get to the parks early, use ride reservation systems, and have fun! Oh, and don't forget the discounts and joys of having one too!
Some Further Reading
- How to Cut Long Lines (and Waits) at Your Favorite Amusement and Theme Parks
Everyone's pet peeve in amusement and theme parks worldwide are long lines. Here are some handy tips to minimize waiting for your favorite rides!
- The Many Months of Disney Crowds
The whens of going to Walt Disney World (correlates with most other Central Florida theme parks)
- Walt Disney World: What Annoys You?
Planning around pet peeves in the Vacation Kingdom (few apply to other Central Florida theme parks)
- Turismos: Tour Groups of Central Florida
The whens of the youth groups from other lands and planning around their trips