AWARD-WINNING BUSCH GARDENS® CHRISTMAS TOWN™ BRIGHTENS TAMPA BAY AREA FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON STARTS TODAY
Experience NEW festive culinary and entertainment experiences, fan-favorite visits with Santa and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and more.
The holidays come to life at Busch Gardens® Tampa Bay’s Christmas Town™ including ALL-NEW festive fare, heartwarming holiday shows, and merry memorable moments with fan-favorite characters each day starting Nov. 16, 2019 through Jan. 6, 2020.
Proud to be nationally recognized as a USA Today 10 Best Theme Park Holiday Event, Christmas Town offers new experiences along with Tampa Bay traditions. The event has placed in the top 10 of holiday theme park offerings in 2017 and 2018 and has been nominated again for the 2019 list. Fans of Christmas Town can vote daily for the event now through Monday, December 2 and enjoy the following experiences and more starting Saturday, November 16.
Heartwarming Holiday Entertainment
Spirited shows and dazzling lights cover the park in holiday cheer all-season long, including an ALL-NEW show opening at Dragon Fire Grill.
-NEW The Most Wonderful Time: You’re invited to a classy Christmas soirée, complete with jazzy piano solos, a live band and heart-melting vocal performances.
-UPDATED The Holiday Sing-Along Train: This season, the park’s classic steam engine has a merry makeover, including more lights than ever. Join your Christmas Conductor for a live sing-along and raise your voice to spread cheer throughout the park.
-Christmas on Ice: A frosty fan-favorite and the longest-running holiday show at !
-Elmo’s Christmas Wish: A song-filled spectacle featuring classic holiday tunes with a special Sesame Street twist.
-Christmas From the Heart: A gospel-inspired celebration with a high-spirited finale.
-Three Kings Journey: A musical tale of the famed trail to Bethlehem.
-Carol of the Bells: Thousands of dancing Christmas lights blanket the Serengeti Overlook Restaurant and an iconic multi-story Christmas tree for a perfectly choreographed performance of “Carol of the Bells.”
Holiday Lights Reach NEW Heights
This Christmas season, park guests can take on Florida’s best thrill rides as they coast over millions of twinkling Christmas lights. The park’s newest addition, Tigris – Florida’s tallest launch coaster, is also dressed for the holidays – featuring NEW light displays inspired by the attraction. Near the Tigris realm, guests can stroll through the NEW Luminosity Lane – an immersive light tunnel synchronized to favorite holiday tunes.
Merry Memorable Moments with Festive Friends
-FAN-FAVORITE Santa’s House presented by Coca-Cola®: Families are invited for a magical visit they’ll never forget with Mrs. Claus and jolly elves at Santa’s House, all nestled in the heart of .
-Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Guests can get nose to nose with the most famous reindeer around as they greet Rudolph, Clarice and Bumble from the classic Christmas tale at Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland.
-NEW Merry Mint Lane: Park guests will waddle with excite-mint as they get a close look at penguins and other animal ambassadors at the Animal Care Center. The area’s festive makeover includes photo opportunities with NEW Peppermint Pals, tasty treats and more!
-NEW Sugar Plum Princess: ‘Tis the season for visiting royalty! Joining the Ice Princess and Poinsettia Princess, a new Sugar Plum Princess will greet guests near Sultan’s Sweets candy shop.
Festive Fare beyond Compare
From merry mealtime memories to food samples that are perfect for strolling through a winter wonderland, Christmas Town offers endless holiday flavors, including new dining experiences.
-NEW Christmas Town Samplers: Throughout the Christmas Town Village, guests can stroll from cabin to cabin to sample delicious holiday dishes and drinks. From apple pie, sweet potato fries, chicken-and-waffle sandwiches to hot toddies and NEW pumpkin thrill shakes, the best way to savor and save during the holidays is with a Christmas Town Sampler.
-NEW Breakfast with Elmo & Friends: Families can enjoy hugs and high fives from their favorite Sesame Street friends as they celebrate the holidays with family-friendly eats at Dragon Fire Grill. Available select dates in November and December, space is limited - reservations are encouraged.
-NEW Taste of the Holidays Buffet: While savoring the beautiful view of the Serengeti Plain and Cobra's Curse, families can feast on holiday favorites at the park’s historic Serengeti Overlook Restaurant. This new buffet menu features returning classic favorites, like our house-signature fried chicken and pumpkin cheesecake.
The gift that gives all year – a Busch Gardens Annual Pass!
Now is the best time for Holiday shoppers to give the gift of a year of park admission including Florida’s best thrill rides, including the all-new Tigris – Florida’s tallest launch coaster, with a Busch Gardens Annual Pass.
Limited-time pricing is available now for all Annual Passes, starting at $10.25 per month for everyone on the nice list, with no down payment. Guests can choose an Annual Pass with unique benefits including free parking, free Serengeti Safari, merchandise discounts and dining discounts in addition to special limited-time perks throughout the year.
In the New Year, Annual Pass members will enjoy exclusive ride time on Iron Gwazi, North America’s tallest hybrid coaster and the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world, when it opens in spring 2020.
For complete event information, including dates, times and restaurant reservations, visit ChristmasTown.com. Be the first to know about events, special deals and future announcements by following Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
College students can now kick off the summer season with a splash at Adventure Island with a limited-time offer. For only $29.99, any college student can purchase a ticket to the park, saving 50% off the original ticket price. Students must present a valid college ID to participate in this promotion.
Additionally, starting Monday, May 20, summer is even sweeter with Buy-One-Get-One FREE treats and beverages for weekday visitors. Guests can enjoy the following BOGO offers at Adventure Island:
Monday, May 20 – Friday, May 24: Frozen Cocktails
Tuesday, May 28 – Friday, May 31: Soft-serve Ice Cream
Monday, June 3 – Friday, June 7: Pineapple Specialty Cocktails
Located right across the street from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Adventure Island is a 30-acre waterpark featuring endless opportunities to soak up the sun and experience thrill attractions like no other. For thrill seekers, the park’s newest slide Vanish Point, delivers a heart-pounding drop before sending riders through 425 feet of spiraling tubes. Guests can lounge poolside by the Endless Surf wave pool or take a relaxing trip through the Rambling Bayou lazy river. From thrills to tranquility, there are endless opportunities to celebrate summer at Adventure Island.
The exclusive discount on single-day tickets is available online now for a limited time. To purchase tickets and learn more, students can visit AdventureIsland.com/College.
Disclaimer: I am a brand partner with Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island. This information was received via press release. As always, all opinions are my own.
CELEBRATE SPRING BREAK AT OPENING WEEKEND FOR THE FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay AND ADVENTURE ISLAND
Sip, sample and splash this season with exciting experiences starting this weekend at
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island
This weekend, park guests can spring into fun at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Food & Wine Festival and the kickoff of the 2019 season at Adventure Island.
Tampa’s premier spring festival returns this Saturday, March 16 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s 5th annual Food & Wine Festival. With more than 35 delicious dishes to pair with over 100 wines, craft brews and cocktails, park guests can explore a variety of flavors while enjoying a diverse concert lineup, including acts for all tastes. Performances include the following world-class acts:
Saturday, March 16, 2019 Daughtry
Sunday, March 17, 2019 The Band Perry & Dream Chief
Saturday, March 23, 2019 3 Doors Down
Sunday, March 24, 2019 Blue Rodeo, Kathleen Edwards & Fred Eaglesmith featuring Tif Ginn
Saturday, March 30, 2019 Justin Moore & Joe Nichols
Sunday, March 31, 2019 El Gran Combo
Saturday, April 06, 2019 Stone Temple Pilots
Sunday, April 07, 2019 Josh Turner & Joe Diffie
Saturday, April 13, 2019 The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Sunday, April 14, 2019 Boyz II Men
Friday, April 19, 2019 Edwin McCain & Vertical Horizon
Saturday, April 20, 2019 Hunter Hayes & Levi Hummon
Sunday, April 21, 2019 Mat Kearney
Saturday, April 27, 2019 Walk Off the Earth
Sunday, April 28, 2019 Foreigner
The Food & Wine Festival runs weekends from March 16 to April 28 and is included with admission to the park.
A big thanks to Busch Gardens for inviting me out to their VIP/Media event today!
Here's a look at some of the yummy food, drinks, and fun sights from the festival:
Looking for more fun?
Located right across the street from Busch Gardens, guests can make a splash at Adventure Island, opening for the 2019 season on Friday, March 15. With 30 acres of water-drenched fun in the sun to explore, Adventure Island offers the ultimate combination of high-speed thrills and tropical, tranquil surroundings for guests of all ages.
Guests are in for the slide of their lives on Adventure Island’s newest slide, Vanish Point®. Inspired by the point on a wave where water and gravity form a perfect partnership, the crest of this 70-foot drop tower challenges riders with two 425-foot wave paths. Guests can step into one of two skyboxes to face their fears as the floor disappears beneath them or take the horizontal 455-foot long slide ending with a high speed finale.
Best Ways to Play
Pay for Day, play ALL YEAR at 2 parks- For a limited time, guests can buy a 2019 Busch Gardens Fun Card and get an Adventure Island Fun Card free! Block out dates apply, offer ends March 31.
MORE VALUE, MORE OPTIONS WITH ANNUAL PASS - Pick your way to play in 2019 with a Busch Gardens Annual Pass, starting at $10.99 a month for Florida Residents. Guests can select from four Pass levels for the benefits they want most – including FREE parking, discounts on merchandise and food, as well as animal encounters – to gear up for a calendar full of special events plus EXCLUSIVE Pass Member ride time for the opening of Tigris: an exciting new attraction coming in 2019. Add more parks – Get a 4-park Pass to Busch Gardens, Adventure Island, SeaWorld and Aquatica, starting at just $15.99 a month.
FREE Preschool Card- Kids 5 and younger can enjoy FREE admission to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island throughout all of 2019 with the Preschool Card. There’s never been a cooler time to be a kid! Florida residents only, other conditions apply, visit BuschGardensTampa.com to register.
Be the first to know about new events, special deals and future announcements by following Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s blog and social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Disclaimer: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay provided me with free admission to their VIP/MEDIA event and allowed me to try many items of my choice from the festival in exchange for my posting. As always, all reviews and comments are my own.
Halloween Spooktacular returns to SeaWorld Orlando this fall on September 22. Guests of all ages can join everyone’s favorite furry friends from Sesame Street as The Count, Elmo, Abby and others take the stage in “Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween.” Families will also enjoy a Halloween Dance Party and meet whimsical characters inspired by the sea. For this special event, children can dress in their Halloween costumes and take part in fun-filled trick-or-treating in the park.
The daytime Halloween fun takes place every Saturday and Sunday starting September 22 through October 28, 2018and is included with park admission. Event hours are 11 a.m. to park close.
Halloween Spooktacular Highlights Include:
Upgrades to Your Spooktacular Day at Seaworld
Best Way to Play:
For Spooktacular event days on Saturdays and Sundays through October 28, children between the ages of 3 and 9 will receive a free ticket when a full-paid adult single-day ticket is purchased.
Just Around the Corner:
For more information, park hours and to purchase tickets and passes, visit SeaWorldOrlando.com. Events and times are subject to change. Follow SeaWorld Orlando on Facebook, Instagram and the SeaWorld Orlando Blog for the latest park updates and information.
As many of you readers know, John and I took a one-week vacation in California. Most of that time, we were staying on Disney property, enjoying a Disneyland vacation. During our time at Disneyland, we took one of their tours, “Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps.” This tour was recommended to me, and I am so glad it was!
Living near Walt Disney World, here in Orlando, I have taken a few of their tours over the years, but I decided I wanted to take this tour since it was my first time at Disneyland and it was the one park Walt Disney himself actually walked in and experienced.
Obviously, I want to preserve the “magic” of the tour for everyone, so I won’t go into too much detail – which is SO hard for me! I will however, try to give you a little bit of information so that you can decide if this tour is right for you.
We did the 9:30am tour; perfect because it wasn’t too hot yet. We checked-in next to City Hall, at the Tour Gardens Kiosk. During check-in, we got to place our lunch order (included with the tour), received our name badges, and then waited for the rest of the group to arrive. Once everyone had their headsets on, we began out 3+ hour tour. Our guide was Amy, and she was so full of Disney love and energy!
We learned about Walt’s dreams coming to life, hidden tributes he placed around the park, his love for his wife, Lillian, and his grandchildren, significance behind many of the classic rides we see in the park today, and so much more.
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do this tour, was to see Walt’s apartment, which I had learned about on a WDW tour years ago. Seeing his apartment made me much more emotional than I ever would have thought. Hearing the stories from our apartment tour guides had me choking up too. At one point, I was looking out the window of Walt’s apartment and saw the parade pass by with Mickey, Minnie, and some other characters, tears welled up in my eyes, feeling what I could only imagine was 1% of what Walt felt when he finally saw his dream come true.
Cameras and phones are not allowed during this part of the tour, until the very end, when the guide can take a photo of you in the apartment. This was such an exciting thing for me – I made sure to get one with just me, as well as one with John.
We then ate our lunch, which was from Jolly Holiday Bakery. I highly recommend the Matterhorn Macaroon for dessert– so yummy!
Our tour ended here, but not after receiving our special pin for taking the tour – how awesome is this pin?
So, if you are wondering if you should take this tour, my answer is YES.
For more information, including pricing, be sure to contact the Disneyland reservations number.
I am a true foodie. These days, they say everyone is a self-proclaimed foodie, photographer, critic, but I have literally been obsessed with food and taking pictures of food for most of my life. I was cooking up my own recipes, without measurements, since as long as I can remember. My specialty before I was 9 years old was sautéed mushrooms and bananas foster (sans alcohol of course). My mom used to arrange for me to go to houses of stay-at-home mothers that were amazing cooks, just so that I could cook with them and learn new recipes. If there was a cooking class offered at school, I would take it. Some of my best memories are cooking with my grandmother or at these women’s homes. I was never one for recipes, which is partially why I am not a fan of baking (unless I am super stressed or angry.) Further, I was always the child/teen ordering the crazy adult meals when friends and others my age were ordering usual kid foods – chicken nuggets, burgers, fries, you know what I’m talking about. I literally had no interest in foods like this, and still don’t. My dad loves to tell the story of when I was around the age of 4-5 and would ask the server, “what is the shrimp of the day.” Our local country club literally put shrimp cocktail on the menu because I ordered it so much, then soon took it off since I was probably the only child ordering it. My favorite foods growing up: Indian, sushi, hibachi, and Thai. Things kids these days eat, but definitely didn’t during my childhood.
Like I said earlier, I always loved to take pictures of my food, which everyone always thought was so strange; something thanks to Instagram and Yelp, is now very popular. I loved to guess what things were made with, and always took great pleasure in being correct. One of my dreams growing up was to be a chef or a food critic for a magazine, so that I could continue with my passion for food. Obviously, I never became a chef, and my passion for actually cooking has sort of fell by the wayside, but my love for good/interesting/different food is still alive and strong.
Now that you are caught up…
Knowing all of the above, John decided to make our anniversary celebration at Disneyland even more magical and full of pixie-dust, by booking us a dinner at the Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel’s Napa Rose restaurant…at the Chef’s Table! I’ve always wanted to have a Chef’s Table experience and this one was unlike most I had ever heard of.
There are 3 areas of 4 seats set up around the open kitchen area in Napa Rose. John and I sat at the first area, closest to where everything was really “happening.”
We worked with Francisco, one of the Sous Chefs, letting him know our allergies/food restrictions, so that he and the Chef de Cuisine could help come up with our special dinner for the evening. As I’m sure you’ve guessed (or read on my Instagram), I have food restrictions, so we were a little worried I may have stumped them, but guess what? I didn’t! From our table, we had the best view of all the different chefs. You had the one making salad, the one making the scallops and other side dishes, the one making the cheeseboards, etc. It all looked so amazing and we couldn’t wait to see what our meals were going to be!
Five amazing courses…and paired perfectly with wine!
We elected to have wines paired for us during our meal. This is an additional fee, but for the amount of wonderful wines you get, it was well worth it. The Chef’s Table is a 5-course meal and you need to come hungry, because it’s a lot of food! They also try to prepare two completely different meals per person, so that you can sample from each other if you’d like. Disclaimer: all meals are different and change, so my meal described below may not be the same you will ever see, should you do the Chef’s Table at Napa Rose. The meals described below were what I received, not John.
Fresh made breads and lavash – amazing. Along with a tasty amuse-bouche.
Salmon with a strawberry dust, summer corn relish, elote fritters, and watercress – I’m VERY particular about salmon, and this was DIVINE. Cooked just the way I like it and the strawberry dust, it really brought it to another dimension.
Farmer’s Market tomato salad with roasted octopus and lemon crème. -- Oh. My. Goodness. This was probably the best octopus I had ever had. Everything about this dish was literally amazing and probably my favorite dish of the night. I didn’t want it to end.
Roasted chicken with English peas, Parisian gnocchi, and morel mushrooms. – This dish was good, although I’m not huge on chicken dishes. Unfortunately, many of the options had pork, which I do not eat.
Lemon cucumber and oh so good!
Prime New York steak cooked a perfect medium-rare, with bone marrow fritter, onion fondue and mustard crème. – At this point I was dying I was so full, but the food was so good I forced myself to eat it all. I couldn’t imagine heating this up in a microwave- nope, I was eating it.
I honestly cannot recall what my dessert was, but it was a custard or cream that was a little tart, and super wonderful. It was literally screaming “MICHELLE” at how perfect it was for me.
As we were celebrating our anniversary, the server also brought out some freshly made macarons, which were probably the best I’d ever had.
My Chef’s Table experience was one I will never forget, and I hope to experience again. This meal is now up there as one of the best meals I’ve ever had, coming close to my number 1, which is Remy on the Disney Fantasy. The quality of the food, the excitement of having something specifically prepared for you, and being able to interact with the chefs, was just such an amazing experience.
The cost is very reasonable at $100 per person, and an additional $55 per person for the wine pairing. You would never get something this lavish at WDW for these prices and I believe we paid more at Remy.
Eating at Napa Rose outside of the Chef’s Table
We ate at Napa Rose on our last evening in town, this time at a restaurant table. The views are gorgeous, the servers are wonderful, and the quality and food was just as great as at the Chef’s Table. It was a different experience, but still a great one, if you want to do something more intimate. We did their 4-course meal, which costs the same as the Chef’s Table, but allowed us to try so many other things, rather than just one dish. We also split the scallop appetizer, because after staring at them from the Chef’s Table all night, we needed to taste them – sure enough, amazing!
I highly recommend Napa Rose, whether it’s for cocktails, dinner, or the Chef’s Table. I can’t wait to return!
Stay tuned for more posts regarding my trip to California!
Many of you Walt Disney fans may know that trains played a very big role in Walt Disney’s life, hence the trains in the parks. But did you know that Mickey Mouse was in fact created by Walt while he was on a train from New York to Hollywood after he lost the rights to his character, Oswald? Yep – it’s true! After finding out that he no longer owned the rights to Oswald, he sent a telegram to his brother, Roy Disney, letting him know he was headed back and all was OK (which wasn’t true, they were about to lose everything), and then came up with what is now one of the most famous characters of all Disney characters, Mickey Mouse! After this, Disney’s life changed forever, and it is now a household name most love and cherish. So, if you’ve ever heard the quote, “I hope that we never lose sight of one thing – it was all started by a mouse,” you now know what it means (if you didn’t before).
Anyway, I think I derailed on my story a bit – see what I did there? I’m so punny :-P
On our second full day in California, we left Los Angeles early in the morning and caught the Amtrak train to Anaheim. We went a little bit “fancy” and took business class, which I have to admit was really nice. This was my very first train experience, and I have no idea what coach is like, but we had free WiFi, coffee/water/OJ, and snacks. Our suitcases were checked (included) and we had lots of legroom; something you rarely see when traveling these days.
Taking the train was a very neat experience, one I hope to do again in the future, perhaps cross-country. It was a great way to see the beautiful mountains and the areas we passed, such as Glendale and Downtown Los Angeles.
The ride was about an hour and a half due to stops, but we arrived at the gorgeous station in Anaheim, grabbed our luggage, and ordered a Lyft to head to our hotel at Disneyland. Being the huge Walt Disney fan that I am, it feels kind of nice knowing I travelled to his first park, his greatest dream come true, the same way he used to travel.
Well, until next time…be sure to stay tuned for more posts about my California adventure!
I’m back from California and WOW what a trip it was! On the first day of John and my anniversary trip, we spent the day with John’s sister, exploring Los Angeles, CA. This was my first visit, so I was very excited to see all the sights and spots I always hear about in movies/TV – such as Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign, Santa Monica Pier, etc. I decided the best way to make sure I see everything in our one day in town was to take a Starline Tours Hop On Hop Off bus.
If you have never taken a Hop On Hop Off Tour bus, you are missing out! In the past, I took a similar bus tour in Vegas and San Francisco, and it really allowed us to see and learn SO much. They have multiple tickets, but a 24-hour ticket allows you on any of their bus routes in a 24-hour period (if you have more time, I suggest the 48-hour ticket so that you can see and do even more!). We did the red and yellow routes on our visit.
We started our day around 11am in Hollywood, first checking out Grauman’s Chinese Theater, taking pictures of some of the stars on the Walk of Fame, and getting a glimpse of the Hollywood sign from the Hollywood and Highland Center.
From there we grabbed our first Starline Tours bus. When you get on the bus (it’s a double decker!), you are given headphones and then you chose your seat. I suggest grabbing one of their maps, so you can plan out where you want to get off and sightsee. I always go for a seat up on top so that I don’t have any windows blocking my view. Once seated, I plug my headphones in so that I can listen to their audio tour guide and learn all about the area I am visiting.
On this tour, we got to see all sorts of places, including famous buildings, restaurants, streets, and beautiful views of the mountains. We saw the coveted “Beverly Hills” signs, Rodeo Drive, the hotel made famous by the movie “Pretty Woman”, the SAG building, the Tar Pits, LACMA, etc. We hopped off and on, grabbing some ice cream at Salt & Straw (delish!), exploring Melrose, and shopping at the famous Farmer’s Market, just to name a few.
Halfway through our tour, we switched from the red route (Hollywood) to the yellow route (Santa Monica). On this tour we were able to pass by Fox Studios and some other buildings where movie scenes had been filmed. Once we got to Santa Monica, we hopped off the bus and spent a few hours exploring the pier, riding the Ferris wheel, and grabbing lunch. We then got back on the bus to head back to Hollywood. Once back in Hollywood, we finished the red route tour, seeing even more, such as the famous Pink’s Hotdogs and the awesome street art that have become famous selfie taking spots.
I am so glad we took the Starline Tours Hop On Hop Off buses for our one day in Los Angeles, because in 8 hours, we saw and did SO much. Even John’s sister, who lives in LA, couldn’t believe how much we were able to accomplish and learn about the area. It’s a huge plus not having to drive everywhere you want to go, sit in traffic, pay to park, and deal with having to use a GPS to get around. I love that I can just get right on the bus, go where I want to go, get off the bus and explore, then get back on to continue my travels. I also love that they provide an audio guide so that as I’m riding on the bus, I get to learn about the area, the places I am seeing, and fun history tidbits – something I wouldn’t get if I just took a car out for the day. I HIGHLY recommend using Starline Tours Bus when visiting Los Angeles (or any of the other cities they have buses in). Next time, I want to try one of their celebrity sighting tours!
I want to thank Starline Tours for hosting us on their wonderful tour as it really made the start of our trip just fabulous! To learn more about Starline Tours and to book your own tour, check out their website here: www.starlinetours.com.
Stay tuned for future posts to learn more about our week-long vacation in California!
Disclaimer: Starline Tours provided me with tickets to take their Los Angeles tour in exchange for my review; however, as always, all comments and opinions are my own.
If you’ve been following my social media posts for the past few weeks, then you probably know that John and I are celebrating our 9th anniversary in CALIFORNIA! Ok, so to be honest, it’s a few weeks before our actual anniversary, but you do what you gotta do right?
My first time visiting...
This is pretty much my first REAL Southern California experience. Back in 2009, I went on a road trip from Atlanta to Seattle, and my time in California was pretty much a day and a half – for the entire state! Yea, so needless to say, I wouldn’t count that as having “visited” California. In November I finally got to travel to Northern California to visit places like the Apple campus (huge Apple fans in my home) and San Francisco, to celebrate John’s birthday. Now I get to visit Los Angeles and… DISNEYLAND!!!
Some of you might be thinking, “but Michelle, you live in ORLANDO, home to Disney WORLD, which is MUCH bigger and MUCH MORE exciting than DisneyLAND.” Well, guess what? I disagree – I can’t wait to see the original park that inspired Walt to make Disney World. I can’t wait to walk the paths he walked, see the original dream come to fruition in person, and experience California Adventure – we don’t have that here you know! I even booked us the “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour” which allows us to see his apartment within the park! So, to me, this is a huge deal and I am super geeking out over here!
But first, Los Angeles!
Before Disneyland, we will be spending a day and a few hours in Los Angeles. We’ll be visiting John’s sister and going super touristy – because again, it’s my first time and I want to see everything I’ve always dreamed of seeing! I cannot wait to see Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame (especially Lucille Ball’s star), Rodeo Drive, Pink’s Hotdogs, etc. and we’ll be seeing all of this using the Starline Tours Hop On Hop Off buses – something I LOVE doing when visiting a new area – you learn and see so much!
Thanks to some of your suggestions, I plan to check out some other spots, such as the carousel that inspired Walt Disney to make Disneyland, visit Griffith Observatory, and hopefully check out Santa Monica Pier. Don’t worry – I will be sharing everything on social media and then later in blog posts, so you can travel with me!
I’m looking forward to sharing my adventure with you all and I hope that you will enjoy following along too. If you have any suggestions of MUST-SEE, MUST-DO, MUST-EAT in LA, Anaheim, and/or Disneyland, please comment below – I’d love to hear from you!
Be sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook!
Yesterday John and I made the short trip from Orlando to Tampa to explore another theme park this area has to offer – Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Most of you know already that John and I are originally from Virginia, so Busch Gardens Williamsburg was always our “go-to” place for fun growing up; I was an annual passholder for most of my life. I had visited the Tampa location a few times when I was vacationing in Florida as a child, but that was a long time ago. John had never been to the Tampa location, so I was very excited to bring him with me and experience the fun together!
For those of you that don’t know the difference between the two parks, the Williamsburg, VA location is themed as European countries (imagine a European Epcot, if you will). The Tampa, FL location is themed as Africa, and has tons animals!
After making our way into the park and purchasing our meal plan (I will talk about this more later), we began our adventure. If you are lucky enough to be in the park in the earlier part of the day, I highly recommend catching the cheetah run. This is when they have one of their cheetahs come out and it runs after one of their toys to show you their speed. It’s an amazing way to see just how fast these animals can run, but also get to see them pretty close up. Now, I have seen cheetahs in a park or zoo before, but they are usually far away and sleeping, so this was an amazing sight to behold.
We continued our adventure by riding the Cobra’s Curse roller coaster. I was scared to death to ride this coaster, but it ended up being a lot of fun! It has some twists and turns (literally the cart will move around), but my favorite part was when we got to the very top and could look out onto the Savannah and see the Giraffes. We then rode Montu, which is similar to one of my childhood favorites in Williamsburg, Alpengeist.
After a bite, while hiding out from the torrential downpour of rain, we began exploring the animals part of the park. We got up close and personal with hyenas, tigers, lions, elephants, gorillas, and more! Busch Gardens really had an amazing way of setting up these areas so that you can get very close. In the hyena area, there is a little car that kids (and adults) can sit in, and the hyenas will sometimes come over to the car and stand on top, giving you a great and seriously awesome view. In the tiger area, they have a little glass box you can look out of and the tiger might come and sit on top of the box! We saw both of these things happen while we were there, and it was truly awesome.
As luck would have it, it was Jack Hanna weekend during our visit, and due to the crazy rain, we decided to take a break and catch his last show of the day. This was seriously a great show. Jack Hanna is very knowledgeable, funny, and very honest. I loved the message he gave at the beginning of his show on why places like Busch Gardens, Sea World, and other zoos are so important to have. He asked the question of how can someone learn to love something and want to fight for it, if they have never had a chance to see it or learn about it? This really spoke to me. Aside from his great words, the animals that he brought out were just amazing. From South African Penguins, to Kangaroos, to Cheetahs, a sloth, and more, I was in love and in amazement.
After the show, we caught one of the trains and did a full tour of the park. The best part of the train is that it takes you to areas you cannot get to any other way. You actually get to ride out on the huge savannah and see animals up close. We were lucky enough to have zebras, giraffes, and rhinos walk right next to our train! We even got to catch a glimpse of baby Winifred (a rhino) – adorable! For those of you concerned, they do slowdown and/or stop the train if an animal walks on the tracks.
We ended our long day with a ride on the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, more yummy food, and checking out the Summer Nights area of the park. They are still doing the free beer promotion (2 per person) for all attendees, so be sure to check that out this month!
Before I end this post, I want to circle back to the meal plan I mentioned in the beginning. You do NOT need to buy a meal plan to eat at the park, however, I HIGHLY recommend it! It’s such a great deal. The “All-Day Dining Deal” is $34.99 (pass members save 10%) and you literally can eat and drink ALL DAY. Here’s how it works: When you buy the meal plan, you get a wristband. When you go to one of the participating restaurants (there’s many), you get to choose 1 entrée, 1 side or dessert, and a drink (soda, tea, or Dasani bottled water). You go to the register, they ring it up, scan your band, and you are good to go. Literally ONE HOUR after they scanned your band for your food, you can do this again. YES, I am saying EVERY hour, if you really wanted to, you could have another entrée, side or dessert, and drink. This also means you can go back just for a side, or just for a dessert! And get this, the drinks – those are unlimited! So, if you are walking around the park and you think “man, I am super thirsty,” you can go into a participating location and grab a bottle of water (or tea/soda). Amazing right? One meal and a bottle or two of water and you have literally paid for the band. John and I were at the park for at least 8 hours and we had at probably 3 full meals, and LOTS of water (yay Florida heat!). Some other perks you get with the meal plan is the ability to get BOGO on wine, beer, and other snacks that are not part of the meal plan. So, we were able to get a beer and some fresh pretzels BOGO. Also Dippin’ Dots and a Shamu bar BOGO. Honestly all, this deal is a must and I always purchase it at Seaworld too!
Although the weather was pretty gross thanks to Subtropical Storm Alberto, we had a wonderful time at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, I didn’t know about the kangaroo feeding until it was too late, so I guess we will have to make another trip! An easy drive from Orlando and a whole lot of fun, why wouldn’t we go back?
A special thanks to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for allowing us to visit the park for the day – it was definitely one for the books!
I received complimentary entry to experience Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in exchange for my review. As always, all comments, thoughts, and opinions are my own.
Hi! I'm Michelle. I love traveling, trying new restaurants, meeting new people, going to the parks, and playing with my dogs. I'm also super Disney obsessed - parks, cruise lines, movies - I love it all!
I host monthly networking events in the Orlando area for all women to attend. I look forward to meeting you at our next GNO!