Pantopia at Busch Gardens Tampa: Tour the park’s newest land and learn its secrets
By now, almost everyone has heard of the new ride “opening soon” at Busch Gardens Tampa, Falcon’s Fury. This 335-foot-tall drop tower, with a 90-degree pivot so you’re facing the ground on the way down, has everyone talking. But did you know that Busch Gardens has redone the entire area surrounding the new ride with dramatic new theming, new shows, and fantastically good new food?
After over 35 years as Timbuktu, the land has been completely revitalized and is now called Pantopia.
Dramatic orange, purple, and blue paint colors really set Pantopia apart from the rest of the park. Your old favorites are found here (the Scorpion rollercoaster, the Sand Serpent, the Phoenix, Busch Fliers, etc.), and, later this summer, the new Falcon’s Fury will be opening to add to the rides located in this area.
But there’s so much to be found here that’s brand new – and utterly captivating.
Pantopia: The backstory and a quick tour
In a time long forgotten, a strange and mystical Key Master dropped from the sky at this very spot. The legendary doors of Pantopia tell the rich history of the travelers that have both come before – starting with the mysterious Key Master himself – and that are currently still residing in this land. Guests can explore these doors and learn all of the area’s myriad secrets. (If you look around, you’ll see thousands of keys placed throughout Pantopia – in the walls, in the artwork, on the statues… everywhere.)
The excitement builds as you make your way through Transportation Plaza, where the caretaker here has created sculptures from the tuk tuks, trucks, planes, bikes, and wagons other travelers have left behind.
And just around the corner is Botanica, an oasis of intricate botanical sculptures that captures the flowing patterns of animal feathers, fur, and scales, representing all the elements of Pantopia.
Finally, the last of the new stops is the Sitting Place, a modern-day watering hole whose trees are covered in twinkling lights and lanterns.
Pantopia: The new shows
The Pantopia Grill (formerly known as the Desert Grill) has the same great food on hand, but an all-new show to go alongside it. “Burn the Floor: Untapped” is a new production set to music that will get you dancing in your seat. There is such a variety of music (they go from the Italian hit “Volare,” to an amazingly good version of “Stairway to Heaven,” to Brian Setzer’s “Jump, Jive, an’ Wail”) that there’s sure to be something for everyone. And depending on where you sit, you might even find yourself up close to one of the dancers! (Hint: look for tables near the front with “Reserved Seating” signs on them and no benches – that’s where the dancers will be.)
The Pantopia Theater has had many names and seen many shows over its many years at Busch Gardens, and now it’s home to an all-new animal performance. The animals from the long-running “Critter Castaways” are taking on showbiz now and are starring in “Opening Night Critters.” The premise is simple – two stagehands are trying and break into show business, and all the animals are there to help them – but the animals’ behaviors are anything but helpful: there are dogs sweeping the floor, birds singing into microphones, cats running amuck… and, surprisingly enough, there are even skunks, pigs, kangaroos, and emus to help lend a paw.
Pantopia: The new foods
A new grab-and-go snack area has emerged in Pantopia: Kettle Corn. Don’t let the name fool you – it has much more than just kettle corn: soft serve ice cream, Loaded French Fries, hot dogs, salads, and one of the largest Icee selections in the park. Located next to the Pantopia Theater, it’s a great place to grab a snack while waiting on the next “Opening Night Critters” show.
The main food attraction in Pantopia, though, is Twisted Tails Pretzels. I know what you’re thinking: pretzels have been in theme parks forever – what in the world could be the attraction here? Trust me when I tell you that these are pretzels like you’ve never seen before: hot dogs wrapped in pretzels, pizza pretzels, and, best of all, the Bacon Pretzel Fury – and this just begins to scratch the surface of what they offer.
In the interest of making sure I could accurately report on this place for you, my family tried many of the different selections here, and I can honestly say that not only was there not one bad thing on the menu, but also that you have to try the beer-cheese dipping sauce for their pretzel nuggets – it was amazing!
Busch Gardens has truly outdone itself with this newly revitalized area, and once Falcon’s Fury opens, this will be the place to be in the park. If you haven’t been to Busch Gardens recently, you need to come back to experience the magic of Pantopia as soon as humanly possible.
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