This past weekend was the start of Bands, Brew & BBQ at Busch Gardens. With the chance to drink unlimited beer, I grabbed my husband and the family, and off we went to enjoy a day at the park.
We arrived five minutes after the park opened and found very little crowds. We all decided Cheetah Hunt needed to be the very first stop before the wait time got too long. What a smart move that was – a zero-minute wait time was posted, and we could have literally walked right onto the coaster, but we decided to wait the whopping five minutes and stand in line for the front row. I’ve loved this coaster since the first time I rode it – but riding it in the front row was absolutely breathtaking. I came up over the hills, and it looked just like I’d fly right off the track!
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Noticing the crowds were still low, we headed over to SheiKra to check the line there. With a posted five-minute wait time, my family quickly raced off to ride on it. As they exited the ride, they were bouncing with excitement – the wait time had been overestimated and ended up being no wait at all. So, as we had on Cheetah Hunt, they waited the five minutes and rode front row. While my husband said it was the best ride ever, my daughter explained that the five-second wait at the top of the hill was a bit much as she looked straight down the drop. So, apparently, the front row of SheiKra is only for true daredevils.
We decided to try somewhere different for lunch and ended up at the Crown Colony Cafe.
With the current passholder deal of two meals and dessert for $20, our entire lunch (including drinks) was only a pleasing $50.Everyone agreed the pizza and chicken fingers were delicious, and the view of the animals from the deck was amazing. We’ll definitely be back here again.
As we waited for our food to settle, we wandered the park, checking out the animals as we went. As we came to the Animal Care Center, we stumbled onto the end of a procedure they’d been performing.
A wild pelican had been brought in by officials with a broken wing, and while Busch Gardens was checking it out, they also discovered multiple fish hooks stuck in his stomach. When we came in, the pelican was waking up from anesthesia, and the vet was explaining to the crowd that, after the pelican recovers from the three-hour surgery it had just endured to put pins in his broken wing, they will do a second surgery to remove the fish hooks.
She said it would take time for him to heal but was optimistic about his chances to be released back into the wild again.
Happy to hear the bird would do well, we then headed over to check out the Falcon’s Fury construction. The crown is now in place at the top of the ride, and what appears to be support beams are now in place down the sides of the tower. This ride makes everything else in the park look tiny – it’s absolutely huge!
The entire Timbuktu area of the park will be converting to Pantopia with the addition of the new ride, and we could definitely see the progress they had made in that direction.
The new paint colors are going up all around, and the construction walls have expanded to include a majority of the area.
Unfortunately, when they moved the construction walls, one of my peepholes into the construction area was removed. I spoke to a nearby employee to see if another one had taken its place, and he explained that not only was the peephole gone now, but so was the employee’s path to the main office.
In the course of this conversation, he said several employees had complained about the much longer walk to the office, but that management had told him it would only be for two months. I walked away wondering if that had just happened – did he really just tell me that the construction walls will be down in two months’ time? This would put Falcon’s Fury with an opening date of mid-April. That would be incredible! (Later in the day, I also talked to another employee who hadn’t heard of the mid-April time frame, but he did tell me they would absolutely be having events for passholders to ride it before the general public!)
It was almost time for the elephant interaction area to open (it only opens two or three times a day), so we decided to check that out. This area provides guests with an unique opportunity to see the elephant trainers work with the animals on their behaviors. Rosie the elephant came over to the wall and performed some crowd-pleasing displays for us, and the favorite was when she sprayed water on the crowd.
As the crowd thinned a bit, I took the opportunity to talk to the trainer about the male elephant that recently arrived at the park but is not on display yet. She let me know that Spike should be out with the herd in the next two or three months. She explained that the elephant enclosure was designed for female elephants, and now that there is a male, there are several changes that need to be made to ensure everyone’s safety (exterior walls need to be raised to an eight-foot height, the moat that separates the public from the elephants needs to be deepened, etc.).
I asked if these modifications were the reason that Rhino Rally was closed – it’s been closed for “refurbishment” for many months now, but there are no signs of any work being done to it at all – and she replied that she was “told just the other day that Rhino Rally will be reopening on Memorial Day and staying open through Labor Day.” They are still debating on whether the track for the area will be modified with the new enclosure, or whether the enclosure will be modified around the current track that is there. Either way, though, I was happy to know the ride will reopen, as it’s a great way to get closer to the animals.
Deciding we’d had enough fun with the usual park stuff, we headed over to the Bands, Brew, and BBQ area. 30 different booths of craft beers, and many of those booths with four or five different brews to try – what’s not to like about that? We stood in a quick line to get our unlimited beer sampling wristbands and sampling cup ($30 for the wristband and a four-ounce sampling cup versus the $6.95 per 10-ounce beer charge) and started sampling. We found some really good brews from some breweries I’d never heard of and found some really bad beers from other breweries.
The barbecue sold in this area was delicious (the grilled corn on the cob won our favorite of the night). They even had a photo-op set up in the field where you could take your picture appearing to hold up Falcon’s Fury in the distance, which the kids found really cool.
We watched some of the Marshall Tucker Band concert but soon decided that, with school and work the next day, it was time to start the drive back home. But we all agreed – we’ll be back to celebrate more Bands, Brew & BBQ before the event ends on March 9.
To see who is performing at Bands, Brew & BBQ this upcoming weekend, visit the official site.
Busch Gardens Tampa trip report – photo gallery
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