We’ve got lots of news and photos for you from Busch Gardens Tampa, where Pantopia has opened but the big new ride has been delayed.

Pantopia Officially Open

Pantopia officially opened to the public on May 1st. This remake of the former Timbuktu section of the park is an amazing oasis of color and kinetic energy. Let’s take a tour!

Welcome to Pantopia!

Lots of interesting trinkets and artifacts are scattered throughout this new land.

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Color, color everywhere!

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The main shop in Pantopia is the Painted Camel Bazaar. The shop is decorated with items the fun-loving proprietors have collected on their journeys over the years. If you look closely, you might spot a couple tributes to the former land Pantopia now occupies.

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The Painted Camel is your home for apparel, jewelry, toys and of course Falcon’s Fury merchandise.

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The savory scent of sausages and other meats cooking will pull your nose in the direction of the Dragon Fire Grill.

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The Pantopia Grill is right next door and features pretty much the same menu from when it was the Desert Grill (ribs, pasta, sausages, etc).

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During my visit, I checked out the all-new Twisted Tails Pretzels. If you like soft pretzels, this place is for you! They have pretzel sandwiches, pretzel hot dogs, pretzel nuggets and of course your normal soft pretzels as well.

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The pretzels are made right there in-house and you can watch as they’re made. I tried their signature Bacon Pretzel Fury, which is 2 giant thick cut slices of bacon wrapped in a pretzel and served on a stick. It was absolutely delicious! I picked up a side of beer-infused cheese for dipping as well (other dipping sauces they have are regular cheese, mustard, beer-infused mustard and sweet cream cheese). They also have a great selection of craft beers on tap, including local favorite Cigar City and a Twisted Pretzel Wheat beer by Shock Top.

While visiting Pantopia, guests may encounter some of the lands interesting inhabitants – acrobats, magicians… you might even come across an impromptu bubble party!

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The Pantopia Theater isn’t open yet. Workers are still putting on the finishing touches and the animals are still learning their new tricks for the new “Opening Night Critters” show.

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The brand new kettle corn stand rounds out the new additions to Pantopia. Besides the salty-sweet treat, the stand also offers corn dogs and other fare. Kettle corn samples are available upon request and if you’re a kettle corn fan (I know I am), you know nothing is better than freshly made kettle corn.

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Falcon’s Fury Opening Delayed

The opening of the Falcon’s Fury drop tower ride has been delayed. The park has run into some technical issues with the break system during testing and are in the process of working out the kinks. A new opening date has yet to be announced by the park, though once they do, we’ll pass this information along to you post haste, dear readers!

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This also means the passholder preview days the park announced last month have been postponed.

Refresh Market

A new beverage location, Refresh Market, recently opened next to the train station by ShiekRa. Refresh Market features a variety of Gold Peak teas and Minute Maid lemonades. I gave the pomegranate lemonade a try and it was very tasty!

Crown Colony Reopens

Some good news here, folks. The upstairs portion of the Crown Colony restaurant reopened earlier this year for the season. The restaurant features family-style fried chicken and fish meal as well as sandwiches, burgers, salads and more, while offering amazing views of the Serengeti Plain while you dine.

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In other news, the Garden Gate has been returned to being a pizza and pasta buffet after some experimenting with the location.

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Burn The Floor: Untapped


The popular Burn the Floor dance troupe is back at Busch Gardens for an all new show!

An eclectic Moroccan-influenced club that has become Pantopia’s gathering place for artists from around the world. Marta, the club’s owner, hosts fiery Flamenco performers, passionate guitar players and raucous tap dancers.

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This is the best Burn the Floor show yet. It’s nice to see a bit of a storyline included to draw the audience in. The dancing is also top notch, especially the tap dancers.

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Burn The Floor: Untapped performs several times daily at the Pantopia Grill (formerly the Desert Grill). This show is a limited engagement, running through mid-August, so be sure to check it out when you visit the park this summer! 

Baby Boom

Busch Gardens is in the midst of another baby boom!

The park recently welcomed the arrival of three Marabou stork chicks. The first two chicks hatched on April 3, and the third chick hatched on April 5.

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First-time parents Fig and Reba took turns watching over the eggs for 30 days, which is the incubation period for Marabou storks. Fig was also hatched at Busch Gardens more than 10 years ago.

Two of the chicks, along with the parents, can be seen on the Serengeti Plain area of the park. Guests can catch a glimpse of Busch Gardens’ newest feathered residents by taking a ride on the Serengeti Railway or on a Serengeti Safari.

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The third chick is behind-the-scenes at the state-of-the-art Animal Care Center. Marabou stork parents typically raise two chicks, so the Busch Gardens animal care team, with the guidance of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), made the decision to hand-rear the third chick.

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All three chicks are healthy and steadily growing as they approach their first month at Busch Gardens. Marabou Storks can reach a height of 60 inches with a 7 to 9-foot wingspan. Their bill can reach lengths of 14 inches.

Sunday, April 27, Busch Gardens welcomed a southern three-banded armadillo baby to the Animal Ambassador Team.

This is the second baby born to mother Zowie and father Ollie. As Animal Ambassadors, both of the parent armadillos live in Jambo Junction, in the Nairobi area of the park. They are often part of educational talks and presentations to camps and school programs.

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The baby was able to walk and roll into a ball within moments of its birth. Southern three-banded armadillos are the only species of armadillo that can fully roll up into a ball. The baby armadillo currently weighs 118 grams, which is about the weight equivalent to an average cell phone.

A southern tamandua was born April 23rd. Tamanduas, or lesser anteaters, are native to Central and South America. Right now, but the mother and pup are behind the scenes with Busch Gardens’ animal care team.

And to round things out, three reticulated giraffe babies were born March 12, 14 and 18 to mothers Bititi, Tequiza and Celina – two females and one male. At birth, the females stood at 5 feet 6 inches and weighed more than 100 lbs. The male stood at more than 6 feet tall and weighed nearly 150 lbs. All three calves are currently behind-the-scenes but will be on Busch Gardens’ Serengeti Plain in the coming weeks.

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New Born Giraffe

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Refurbishment Schedule

Here’s the current refurbishment schedule for the park:

Pantopia Grill: May 13
Hippos of the Nile: Aug. 18-22
Gwazi Gliders: Aug. 25-29
Tidal Wave: Sept. 2-19
Rosita’s Fly-A-Way: Sept. 22-26

May Pasholder Deal

During the month of May, passholders can get a free fashion bracelet with any purchase of $12 or more at the Painted Camel Bazaar in Pantopia. Just present your pass at the time of purchase to receive your free gift.

Passholder “Friends and Family” Ticket Deal

Now through July 21, 2014, Busch Gardens passholders can purchase single-day admission tickets at a $20 discount for friends and family (up to 6 tickets). This is a great deal!

Around The Park

And we’ll end today’s update with some photos around this beautiful park. Next time you visit central Florida, don’t forget Busch Gardens is just an hour away down I-4 from Orlando.

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During my visit, I ran into none other than the President of Busch Gardens, Jim Dean. Always encouraging to see him out and about in the park.

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The meerkat habitat is currently under rehab as the little critters are getting some new dirt to dig around in.

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And that’s our update from Busch Gardens Tampa. We’ll be back again soon to cover the opening of Falcon’s Fury.