We have lots of news for you today from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, including construction on new attractions, Halloween and more.

Falcon’s Fury Construction Progress

Not too much visible progress has been made yet since the park announced Falcon’s Fury earlier this summer, but be assured, construction is going on behind those walls! The ride will be the world’s tallest free-standing (meaning standing on its own, not attached to a pre-existing structure) drop tower at 335 feet and will have the “surprise element” of tilting riders at a 90 degree angle before sending them plummeting back to earth at 60 miles per hour.






Restaurant Closures

Busch Gardens’ signature restaurant, the Crown Colony and the Garden Gate restaurant both closed August 19. The park is stating the closures are only temporary due to a decline in attendance this summer (hinting that the Orlando parks with their new offerings have been pulling crowds away in addition to the intensely hot, humid and rainy summer Central Florida has been experiencing).

Crown Colony’s upstairs area was the only table service restaurant in the park, which served family-style chicken and fish meals and offers a view of the park’s Serengeti Plain.  The downstairs area, which features counter service dining as well as the Crown Colony Pub (the only full bar in the park which also added a craft beer selection this summer) will remain open to guests from what we understand. While it would make sense to close an underperforming counter service restaurant, to close the only table service restaurant in the park is unfortunate.

Some History:
Crown Colony House was originally called The Old Swiss House and was built as a replica of a restaurant in Switzerland by then Chairman of the Board, August Busch Jr. as a gift to his third wife, Trudy. The Old Swiss House officially opened in December 1964 and was a premier dining location in the Tampa Bay area in the 60s and 70s. The restaurant closed in 1982 and for the next several years was used by the park’s entertainment department for auditions and rehearsals. A two year renovation project then began, transforming The Old Swiss House into a Victorian-styled “adventurer’s club” called Crown Colony House, which opened in 1990.


The Garden Gate Restaurant.

The Garden Gate restaurant featured an all you cared to eat pizza, pasta and dessert buffet. Many remember Garden Gate was originally the Hospitality House, which was part of the park when Busch Gardens opened in 1959 as just a brewery tour and bird garden. Guests could get up to two free beers to sample at the Hospitality House. When Anheuser-Busch merged with InBev in 2008, it was announced that the free beer samples as the Hospitality House would cease. In October of 2009, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced the Busch Entertainment parks (which include the SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego & San Antonio as well as Busch Gardens Williamsburg) had been sold to the Blackstone Group, which now operates the parks under the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment name.

Let’s hope when Falcon’s Fury opens next spring that the crowds come back to this really underrated park and these two eateries are reopened.

Busch Gardens Welcomes Baby Giraffes & Endangered Baby Zebra

The stork has been making frequent visits to Busch Gardens this summer! June 11 saw the addition of a male reticulated giraffe calf to mom, Cupid. Then on June 19, a female calf was born to mom Tesa.


And if that wasn’t enough, August 5 saw the arrival of an endangered Grevy’s Zebra foal to mom Brooke and dad Two Step. The population of Grevy’s zebra has declined by more than 50% in the last 18 years, and they are the only species of zebra that are listed as endangered by IUCN Red list, which is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.


Since 2007, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has supported research and conservation of the Grevy’s zebra through a funding partnership with the Grevy’s Zebra Trust in Kenya. The Grevy’s Zebra Trust was established to address the urgent need to conserve Grevy’s Zebra in the community rangelands of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia by protecting and monitoring the zebra populations against poaching. Through this partnership, the Fund and the Trust are raising local awareness and developing a long-term community-led conservation program for Grevy’s Zebra.

Both the new baby zebra and baby giraffes can be seen roaming the park’s Serengeti Plain with their mothers.

Rhino Rally Refurb

Rhino Rally is once again behind walls for refurb through August 31. When we spoke to park president Jim Dean at the Madagascar Live media preview earlier this summer, he hinted at a possible expansion of Rhino Rally at some point in the future, so let’s keep hoping it will one day happen.


New Weekday Ticket Option

Busch Gardens recently started offering a weekeday ticket option at the discounted price of $50. This special ticket is only valid for use on weekdays but is a great deal! Definitely take advantage if you can! This ticket option is available to all guests, not just Florida residents and is valid through December 20, 2013 (any tickets purchased in advance must be used by December 20).


“Once every century on precisely the thirteenth year… Evil comes out to play.”

This year’s Howl-O-Scream event at Busch Gardens Tampa doesn’t just have a single icon… there are 13. And they’re all dying to meet you.

So the burning question is… Who Are The 13?

#1 The Possessed


A petite figure paces through a dimly lit room speaking softly to herself, luring you in. Concerned, you inch your way closer to offer help. As you approach her, the pacing stops, but her nonsense words get louder. With her back to you, you call out to her. Suddenly the voice stops and a sinister laugh begins.

With every quick breath, her body begins to bend backwards and she screams at you in an unknown tongue. POSSESSED! As this supernatural power takes control of her body, she twists and turns until she grasps onto you. The only way to regain her freedom is to expel this force out of her and into another life form. And you seem like a good fit.

Evil chose her. And she chooses you.

#2 The Torturer


A flickering light bulb and the sound of water draining is your only company in this room. You can’t move. Your hands and legs are bound. How did you find yourself here? More importantly, how do you escape? Duct tape covers your mouth to prevent you from screaming for help. Would anyone even hear? Is anyone here? Footsteps… Then, the door opens. As the light flickers on an off you see a large figure, covered in a long black protective coat. His mask, complete with spikes. Terrified, you try everything to scream, to break free. He has you now. You are in his land of pain-inducing devices and this is his art.

#3 The Hunter


The unnerving sound of leaves crunching behind you. Something just doesn’t feel right.

Forcing yourself to believe it is your imagination, you continue on. Your heart beats faster as you try to navigate your way through the maze of dead trees. More sounds creep up behind as you begin to run through this twisted nightmare, tripping over fallen branches.

The soundtrack of your heart and heavy breathing is paused when the piercing sound of an arrow speeds past you. Then, another one grazes your leg. As you lay there, startled, you see a figure get closer with a bow and arrow pointed at YOU.


#4 The Butcher


Momma’s always been proud of her son, the Butcher. He’s always been there to protect her and help with the family business. But all that chopping has kept him from finding a love of his own. Now he’s looking for someone and he’d love to hack his way into your heart.

#5 The Banshee


It was an evening as ordinary as any. Nightfall is settling in as you make your way home from a simple stroll around the neighborhood lake to disconnect from the day. A soft voice humming catches your attention. You glance left and right and see nothing and keep walking. Then, in the distance, a figure dressed in white with long, pale hair floats by. You’ve never been one to believe much folklore so you shake it off and pick up the pace blaming your imagination.

But again, the voice sings to you. Only louder. Closer. In front of you. The soft voice has changed to a piercing wail and you fall breathless. A visit from The Banshee has sealed your fate.


#6 The Voodoo Queen


Desiree Yanes came home one night and found her husband with another woman. Enraged, she ran off and disappeared inside the dark swamplands of Louisiana. There, she crafted voodoo dolls and swore then to torment them…with unspeakably sadistic tortures. The Voodoo Queen continues to hide in the swamps of the bayou and perform her twisted Voodoo rituals for others seeking revenge.

#7 The Surgeon


It was supposed to be a simple procedure. She can fix you with every slow slice of her scalpel. Don’t let her good looks fool you. Behind that mask is woman out for blood. Unfortunately, you aren’t the one she wanted and she doesn’t have time for you. It’s already too late when you realize the anesthesia hasn’t kicked in. Accident? We don’t think so.

She’s ready to operate, even if you aren’t.


#8 The Demon


You are awakened from your deep sleep to realize that the nightmare you thought you would leave is no nightmare at all. It is all very real. The evil spirit grows and roars from the ground in front of you, preventing your escape as he taunts your every motion. His dark, growling voice tempts you. He has an insatiable drive to join the dark side with him. As he gets closer you continue to pretend this is a dream but we all know you’ve done wrong one too many times. This is your last chance.

Can you conquer The Demon? He’d like to take you back to his place. In hell.


#9 The Zombie


The epidemic is among us and is quickly spreading. The undead are slowly infesting every major city and small town. Could this be the Zombie Apocalypse?

You’ve managed to defend and defeat hordes of zombies as you venture to your next safety spot. In an attempt to hide from a group of undead, you sneak into a cracked door of a building, watching every inch around you.

#10 The Cannibal


When Herbert Jeffries visited Fiji, he explored the lush highlands, met some hospitable tribesmen and unknowingly sat for a meal with a unique menu. He walked away with an insatiable hunger. Upon returning to the states, he walked away from his architecture practice and became a night watchman at a small New Hampshire morgue – allowing him wholesale access for dining.

But his tastes have become more refined and he requires ever fresher flesh – sashimi grade, tartar quality. You.


#11 The Psychopath


After months of testing and diagnosis, solitary confinement in a mental institution was the only option for him. But the institution had different plans for this special patient. He would now become their test subject. What harm could it do? He was already crazy and all they wanted to do was find out why.

Upon observation you feel his eyes staring at you. Into you. Bursting wide and never blinking. He murmurs and then screams out and smashes into the walls. You can’t stop staring at him. Your eyes get wider. Never blinking. You murmur to yourself and let out a piercing scream.

Has he already gotten into your head? Is it The Psychopath or is it YOU? Never in his right mind. Always after yours.


#12 The Hangman


You’ve heard the rumors of this sinister street. People have disappeared and those who made it out are said to have told tales of torture and torment, dangling from hooks, piercing into their skin. And because of a few wrong turns, you have now found yourself here. Dark. Silent. Alone. You begin to quickly walk back the way you believe you stumbled upon this lane. Two figures appear. You look around for a way out. You run in fear, losing your sense of direction as you dodge objects preventing your exit.

In this game, there is only one chance. The Hangman is right behind you. Will you escape before he takes you to his playground? He has one job and does it especially well.


#13 The Clown


Taunted by others as being a freak and shunned by others, he relied on his toys to keep him company. With no human contact, he became paranoid and very superstitious. As time passed, he began to resent his only companions and thrived on his individuality. Soon, he would take his aggression out on his toys he once dearly loved. And then, on you.

But how much harm could he do? Aren’t all clowns here to bring you laughter and joy? Not The Clown. This time, you won’t be laughing.

The Houses

Busch Gardens is pulling out all the stops this year. All the details have finally been released regarding this year’s event. Eight houses total – three are brand new (including an all new interactive experience) and the remaining five are returning favorites, some with horrifying new twists.

Death Water Bayou (NEW!)

Death Water Bayou



Deep in the bayou the Voodoo Queen mystically transforms lost wanderers into her minions of evil with black magic. Here, her night servants roam with a zombie-like hunger and seek to grow her collection. The darkest evils lurk in shadows. Get out before you fall victim to her spell.

Death Water Bayou marks the first time the park allowed fans to vote on 3 key elements that will be featured in the house. This new house looks like it will be located in Gwazi Plaza across from the basketball game.

The Basement (NEW!)

The Basement

From Momma’s secret ingredient to Granny’s bone-ground flour, Momma’s Meats’ award-winning recipe has always been a family affair that’s only created in the BASEMENT. Escape the depths of the BASEMENT before she and The Butcher turn you in to the secret sauce! She always said it took blood, sweat and tears!

We currently do not know where The Basement will be located in the park.

The Experiment (NEW!)


In this all-new experience you become a “test subject” and researchers challenge your fear tolerance and mental endurance. The test subjects endure psychological experiments and must face fear-inducing elements, from roaches and snakes to needles and darkness.

You are not just seeing the scares. In the Experiment, you become part of them. Refuse to participate and your Experiment will be terminated. What will happen if you choose to play along and test your limits? Will they push the edge on how far is too far in the study of fear? Will you survive The Experiment?

Up to four “test subjects” can challenge The Experiment at a time, and reservations are required. The Experiment is an up-charge house; admission is $50 for the first test subject and $10 for each additional test subject in the same reservation. Howl-O-Scream admission is required, but not included. The Experiment is available every night of the event and will be located in the Eqypt area of the park (the Tut’s Tomb walk-through is being transformed into this new horrifying experience).

Zombie Mortuary (returning house)

Zombie Mortuary


No one remembers how the epidemic started, but now, The Zombie and his undead friends live here. They infest this small town funeral home and feed on the fresh flesh and brains of mortuary mourners to satisfy their insatiable hunger. Avoid the walking dead or you may find yourself deeper than six feet under.

Zombie Mortuary will be once again located next to the Timbutu Theater. The entrance is between the theater and the Sand Serpent coaster.

Circus of Superstition 3D (returning house)

Circus of Superstition


You’ve tried to avoid black cats and sidewalk cracks, but all those years of bad luck caught up with you! The Clown challenges you to survive 13 superstitions in their 3D Tent of Terror, but it will take more than luck to escape his whole new dimension of fear.

Circus of Superstition 3D will be located next to Jambo Junction in the Nairobi section of the park.

Blood Asylum (returning house)


As lightning rages and thunder crashes outside, “The Creature” escapes from his holding cell at the Oglethorpe Asylum for the criminally insane. Now this sadistic deviant is running rampant, skinning his former cellmates and turning the mental hospital into his own torture chamber. This serial killer’s bloody playground will drive you out of your mind with fear.

Blood Asylum will be again located across from the Crown Colony House (using the former Ackbar’s Adventure Tours building).

Ultimate Gamble: Reversal of Fortune (returning house with a new twist)

Under sleek Vampire reign, the once-vibrant Ultimate Gamble casino glowed. Now werewolves have overthrown their mortal enemies and are running rampant in the casino. The carnivorous beasts have caught on to the scent of fresh blood inside the closed casino. Will you make it out alive before your luck runs out?

We currently do not know where this house will be located, but in past years it was in Gwazi Park (behind the Gwazi roller coaster).

Nevermore (returning house)

Beating hearts, swinging pendulums and a raven’s cries haunt the manor of Lenore, creating a demented and twisted nightmare. Step inside to experience the gothic terror that maddens the lord of the house and feel delusion overcome reality. Find your way out of this horror story before paranoia authors your final chapter.

We currently do not know where this house will be located, but in the past it has been behind the Tanganyika Tidal Wave boat ride.

Scare Zones

Three all-new scare zones have been announced:

The 13

The 13

Once every century, on precisely the thirteenth year, evil comes out to play. Thirteen evils, to be exact. The #7 Surgeon, #4 Butcher, #11 Psychopath, #13 Clown, #6 Voodoo Queen and their demented friends will torment and terrorize you the moment you enter the gates. This your chance to find out: Who are the 13?

Harvester’s Haunt

Harvesters Haunt

An unnerving soundtrack of banjos, fiddles and harmonicas fill the fields with haunting bluegrass music. Something just doesn’t feel right. You realize you’re not alone when you discover a hoard of sadistic scarecrows. They’re looking to harvest a few lost souls. Will you escape their reach or be theirs forever?

Pain Lane

Pain Lane

Torture, torment and pain line this sinister street as The Torturer and The Hangman stalk their prey in the shadows of this dark and sinister alley. Here, pain-inducing devices are the toys of the twisted and screams are surrounded by haunting silence. Will you escape this playground of pain before The Torturer and The Hangman find you?


Other Howl-O-Scream Entertainment & Offerings


The classic monster mash-up Fiends will be performing nightly at the Desert Grill in Timbuktu. Captivating creatures of the night will infect you with dance fever and keep your pulse pounding with their deranged dance party. But when Dr. Freakenstein’s naughty nurses start operating, the diagnosis is always “code pink.”

Club 13 Escape the hordes and head to the transformed Marrakesh Theater to drive yourself mad partying at Howl-O-Scream’s dance club.  This nighttime dance playground keeps the energy pumping all night long with non-stop music, premium signature cocktails, drink specials and food from popular Tampa eatery, the Taco Bus.

Howl-O-Scream Shop of Horrors (shop will also be open during regular day hours)

This year, the Howl-O-Scream shop of Horrors will be transformed into The Butcher Shop. Your “one-stop-shop” apparel and trendy tees featuring Howl-O-Scream favorites, including The 13 and the infamous Naughty Nurses.  You can also purchase or pick up your Front-Line Fear Passes here. You can also visit this year’s new Voodoo Village Market, located next to The Experiment in the Egypt area of the park by Montu for even more Howl-O-Scream gifts.

Howl-O-Scream Photo Ops

Snap the perfect party pics at exclusive photo opportunities with our Pin-Up Scream Girls in Moroccan Village and the Naughty Nurses in the Desert Grill.

Darkheart’s Games of Skill

Test your luck in this unlucky 13th year in Darkheart’s Games of Skill; located in the Timbuktu area of the park.

Howl-O-Scream will run every Thursday, Friday and Saturday starting October 3 through October 26, 2013. On these nights, the event will run from 7:30pm to 1:00am. The park is also holding its traditional “Freaky Preview” weekend on Friday, September 27 and Saturday, September 28 from 7:30pm to 1:00am both nights. Howl-O-Scream is a separate ticket event. Costumes are not allowed. Regular day admission to Busch Gardens is not valid for admission to Howl-O-Scream. To purchase tickets for Howl-O-Scream, visit http://seaworldparks.com/en/howloscream-tampa/Book-Online.

NOTE: Howl-O-Scream is intended for mature audiences. This year’s event contains intense adult content such as violence, gore and blood.
Howl-O-Scream TIPS

We highly recommend adding the Fright Feast option if you can. Fright Feast is a dinner buffet held inside the Desert Grill restaurant that includes a performance of the popular FIENDS show while you dine (the last few years they’ve also had very popular a taco bar… need we say more?). You also get 30 minutes of early access to the houses before the event is open to the public as well as front of the line access to the houses until 8:30pm. That’s a total of 90 minutes! Adding this option allows you to go through most of the houses at least once, then you can spend the rest of your evening enjoying the scare zones and experience Busch Gardens’ amazing collection of roller coasters in the dark.

Around The Park

Let’s close out today’s update with some photos around the park.
















That’s what’s going on at Busch Gardens. Are you ready for Halloween? Upset about the closure of the park’s only table service restaurants? Looking forward to saving lots of money on weekday tickets? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Haven

    I am always in support of nice table service dining locations for theme parks. As a 70’s SoCal child, I can remember always stopping into the table service restaurants that many of the parks offered at the time, such as: The Tahitian Terrace, Blue Bayou, Town Square Cafe & Cafe Orleans at Disneyland, Das Alpenhaus at Magic Mountain, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott’s Berry Farm, Victoria Station at Universal Studios, heck for that matter my local JC Penney even had a cafeteria in it! Anyway, sitting down for a nicer meal that was served was always a welcomed event for my Mother and even for me as a roller coaster enthusiast 7 year old! I think we miss the Tahitian Terrace the most. Having a well themed, large, table service restaurant in any park is a welcomed addition for those of us who like to take some real time out. I also remember how disappointed I was when they announced the closure of Busch Gardens in Van Nuys. This happened right at the dawn of the “Coaster Wars” and I often wonder how this lovely little park would have turned out in an alternate universe where it had expanded and stayed open. I hope to visit Tampa Busch Gardens someday soon as it looks very beautiful and friends who have gone say it has a good selection of rides, especially coasters. I actually looked into this summer, but the lack of a full service resort hotel nearby made me choose another destination. With Dollywood’s addition of a resort hotel coming soon, I will FINALLY be checking that pretty park out when the project is complete.

  • Monkeyofframp

    I’ve had annual passes to the park for over a year and never realized that there were two restaurants at the Crown Colony Building. There’s a restaurant, AND a freestanding bar which we assumed was the Crown Colony AND Crown Colony Pub.

    We’ve also walked past the Garden Gate Restaurant, 1. Because it was closed. and 2.
    I’d rather not fill up on cardboard pizza. Opting instead to walk clear across the park to the Zambia smokehouse.

    Like Disney, with the introduction of the “meal plans” the quality of food parkwide has diminished.

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      I agree the pizza at Busch Gardens is…. not good. But a lot of the other food the park’s restaurants serve is actually pretty good. I personally really like the pasta at the Desert Grill (they serve spaghetti & meatballs and chicken alfredo). The turkey and meatball sandwiches they serve are decent too. And the BBQ at Zambia Smokehouse is pretty good for a theme park.

      The funny thing is I prefer the churros at Busch Gardens over the ones at Disney. The Busch ones are always soft and taste fresh. Last couple times I’ve had a churro at WDW they tasted stale. Maybe just bad luck but on two separate occasions? Makes you wonder a little.

  • Eric Davis

    Wow great update Aimster! I love the photos, and I must say it is sad to see the Colony Restaurant close down. It was incredible, and the views unparalleled. I hope it does reopen soon.

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      I agree. I personally never got the chance to eat at upstairs of the Crown Colony since I usually visit the park by myself and their meals are served family-style. If/when it reopens I definitely want to finally check it out. I have a friend who worked up there so now she’s trying to find another job (hopefully the park can find another place for her).

  • Rick Wright

    Thanks for the update, Amy. It’s hard to find news about one of our very favorite parks! I’m hoping we can squeeze in a visit to Howl-O-Scream during our trip in October. It was definitely a highlight of our trip last year!

  • Eagleman

    Enjoy your report…Thank You

  • RD Sussmann

    I’m really kind of sad to see the table dining option close (even if temporary) from the park, as I tend to prefer sit-down type dining when I’m at a park. Hopefully they will realize the error in their ways, and come up with a better solution (Fixed hours, etc.) to re-open it sooner rather than later.

    Beautiful shots as well, Amy. Needs more Schwarzkopf, though… LOL

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      Well, the park is already back to their usual hours now that the “Summer Nights” promotion has ended. Weekdays they’re now open 10am-6pm and weekends it varies. Most Fridays & Saturdays they’re open 9am or 9:30am to 7pm or 7:30pm and Sundays is usually 9:30am to 6pm. Once How-O-Scream starts, the hours Thurs-Fri-Sat will see the park closing at 6pm to day guests and then HOS starts at 7:30pm.

      Oh and Scorpion was down the day I was in the park, otherwise I would have gotten photos of that little beauty as well.

  • SpectroMan

    Really sad to see things closing at BGT. It’s such a wonderful park with a LOT of history. I try to visit any time I go to WDW. The weekday deal is fantastic; I hope it helps. Still not thrilled that Cheetah Hunt obliterated the Clydesdale viewing building, but since that whole concept is dead I guess it was justified.

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      It was actually the Cheetah Run habitat that took over the Clydesdale hamlet. The building is still there, just “backstage” now and used as deluxe accommodations for the cheetahs. The Clydesdales were going regardless when InBev bought Busch. That was part of the plan before Cheetah Hunt/Cheetah Run was even announced.

  • BGTFans

    A good recap of some of the news at the park in the last few months.

    One note: Death Water Bayou will be located behind Zagora Cafe. The pictures you have are of the new ladder climb challenge game being built near Gwazi, confirmed by VP of Merchandise Brian Kilpatrick when I chatted with him a few weeks ago.

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      Where Nightshade Toys was previously located. Got ya. I didn’t know because all the signage for the houses that I could find was under cover so outside of the ones I knew for sure where they’d be (The Experiment, Blood Asylum, Circus of Superstition & Zombie Mortuary), I didn’t know what was going where. Do you know what house is going to be where Alone was in previous years? The Basement perhaps?

      But… another game? Ugh. They already have a new soccer game next to the basketball one. Do we really need another game in that same area?

      • BGTFans

        Death Water Bayou – behind Zagora Cafe
        The Basement – behind Xcursion store in Bird Gardens
        Circus of Superstition 3D – Nairobi pavilion (across from train station)
        Blood Asylum – former Akbar’s Adventure Tours (across from Crown Colony House)
        Nevermore – behind Tidal Wave in Stanleyville
        Zombie Mortuary – behind Timbuktu Theater and Sand Serpent
        Ultimate Gamble – Gwazi Park
        The Experiment – Tut’s Tomb in Egypt

  • almandot

    Was just there on Wednesday. Beautiful day. Wasn’t as blistering hot as it usually is, and yet it stayed sunny all day without raining at all. Park was deserted with 5 minute wait times for anything you want. I don’t blame them for shutting a few things down, at least it wasn’t the rides. It speaks highly of them that them shutting something down is news versus certain Disney attractions that used to be labeled “Seasonal offerings” aka only when attendance is high and some food locations that are still seasonal offerings with fill-in restaurants for peak season.

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