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.

Color, color everywhere!







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.














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






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


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).











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.








IMG_9711 IMG_9712


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!





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.




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.



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!








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.

Garden Gate

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



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.















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.





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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


New Born Giraffe


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.





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.

Jim Dean
Jim Dean

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



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

  • CaptainAction

    Amy, thanks for the photos and story. Looks like an interesting place. Very unique. Do you have photos of the inside of some of the restaurants and buildings? The outside looks pretty cool and I’m curious what the interiors look like.
    Thanks again.

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      Glad you enjoyed the update!

      There’s photos inside Twisted Tails Pretzels in the article. It’s a counter service restaurant so not much to show other than what I have. I did take photos of inside Painted Camel -Unfortunately my editors somehow missed those and they weren’t included (but that will be fixed shortly). The inside of the Pantopia Grill looks the same as it did when it was the Desert Grill (it’s also kind of dark in there and hard to take photos). Those are really the only buildings you can enter in Pantopia. The rest are just facades and doors that don’t open. Once the Pantopia Theater opens I’ll get some photos in there. Very interesting to see how that turned out as when I was there for the Falcon’s Fury hard hat tour, the theater was completely gutted when we visited.

      • CaptainAction

        Thanks Amy. I’ve never been to this park but your story interests me. Any interior photos would be much appreciated. Thanks.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Cap, you should totally go to Busch Gardens. There’s a lot to do there, and it has a kind of homey charm to it. I will say this: it kind of splits the difference between a full on theme park and a Cedar Point styled amusement park, so it’s not quite as thematically complete as the former nor as fully exciting as the latter. But it’s well worth a visit.

    • WDWfanBoston

      Captain: Bravo for an interesting, inquisitive post. It’s a great improvement over your normal, repetitive complaints.

  • Rick Wright

    Great update for one of my favorite parks. Can’t wait to get back there. Thanks Amy!

  • AaroniusPolonius

    I’m unsure if I like the acid trip Timbuktu revision, but I certainly think it’s a complete and total effort on the company’s part.

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      Seeing it in person helps. Before, the land was themed to a dry desert and it honestly felt lifeless and bland. With the change to Pantopia, this area of the park has new life breathed into it. It’s quirky, fun and energetic.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Yeah, I didn’t really dislike the dry desert look, actually. It might be interesting to see if this is the direction that Busch Gardens is going in, going forward. They’ve always suffered a bit with regards to thematic elements, as their budgets and coaster emphasis doesn’t lend itself well to a fully transporting theme park experience. Pantopia might very well be a solid start to a new “interpretations of Africa” for the park.

  • BlahBlahson

    Question…does the “Random Ultra-Patriotic Ramp” between the Pantopia Theater and the Bumper Cars still exist unchanged? I couldn’t tell from Photos. That would be the North Entrance of Pantopia now I guess.

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      As of right now, it’s no longer there and normal music was playing in that area when I visited the park last week.

      • BlahBlahson

        Thanks for the answer.

        Such an underrated Park. The only thing missing from Busch owning DAK in every category is a DarkKastle quality dark ride.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Blah, the only two metrics where DAK “beats” BG is theme excellence and being Disney. BG has so much more to do, with a mass of animals and attractions within its borders.

        It’s truly sad that BG is as overlooked as it is. Totally an all-day theme/amusement park experience.

  • Tielo

    I like Bush Gardens a lot. Unfortunately it’s a bit out of the way when you are in Orlando and I’m not able to visit for a full day anymore.
    I especially always liked their show and the Burn The Floor show looks up there. It brings a lot of class to the park and I would love to see it at Sea World or other parks in Orlando.
    Thanks for the great photo’s!

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      It’s not out of the way as much as you’d think. It’s only an hour out pretty much straight down I-4 (when you get near Tampa you have a couple options – Take I-75 north to the Fowler exit and take that west to McKinley (which takes you straight to the park) or taking the exit near the FL State Fairgrounds (which is a bit trickier if you don’t know the area). There are also buses/shuttles that take you to the park from Orlando and bring you back that evening. I see those buses in the parking lot every time I visit plus pass them on I-4 when I’m traveling to Orlando myself.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        …and besides, Florida is both built for driving and it’s expected that you speed! You’ll get there in no time!

        Aside from ShiekRa (which took at least a decade off my life,) Busch Gardens has a superior collection of coasters than basically any park in Florida, and probably ranks in the top five coaster parks in the country. That you can also see an entire zoo of animals is kind of icing on a very thrilling cake.

  • SpectroMan

    Thanks for the great update! Pantopia looks really pretty? Did they manage to add any additional shade to that sunny section of the park?
    Great news about Crown Colony. I’d rather it be seasonal than become a thing of the past. And with Rhino Rally again open, too? Summer sounds like a great time to be at BGT except for the heat!

    • Amy VandenBoogert

      Rhino Rally was behind walls when I visited the park last week, but I did see them testing (a vehicle going by behind the elephant habitat). Not sure if it was yet another refurb or if it had to do with the minor flooding that happened at the park last Friday. Tampa got some seriously heavy rain that day and the area around Busch Gardens was flooded. We’re talking almost fully-submerged cars on the streets. The trench on Cheetah Hunt you dive into after the Figure 8 tower was totally under water as well. Can only imagine the trenches on the Montu coaster were similar. That they got the park dried out and back to basically normal the following day is nothing short of amazing.

  • Melonballer

    I am a big fan of Busch Gardens. On my last trip to WDW I came down early so my relatives and I could go spend a day there. The coasters are terrific and the animals experiences are just amazing. Being able to really see the cheetahs and hang around to photograph them was awesome. Over at DAK you just drive by them with maybe a quick stop.

    The new color over at Pantopia is excellent. It reminds me of bright fruit colored drinks and iced treats.

    If I had to choose I would pick BGT over DAK any day.

  • Buffett Fan

    We avoided Orlando last year, in favor of a couple of days at Sarasota Beach (Siesta Key State Park is worth the drive, by itself). Then, did three days at Busch Gardens and Adventure Islands. With a 12-year old and a two-year old, it was the perfect park (Coasters + Sesame Street). While we did repeat a few things in the parks, we truly were able to enjoy 2+ days in Busch Gardens. Adventure Islands is the perfect family water park (very clean, great picnic areas/shade).
    Plus, we picked up a very affordable Ticket, Hotel Package and had a Meal Plan for one day included. The Food was good and they offer unlimited food. (You can pick up an entree and drink every time you are willing to go through the line + Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner were include) This was only available at selected restaurants, but it includes Zambia Smokehouse, which is very good.
    The only improvements/cautions. Thunderstorms (which happened every afternoon in the summer) tend to shut down the theme park for an hour or more. Adventure Island has an overly-cautious policy of only allowing one person on a slide at a time. The participant must exit the water before the next participant can use the slide. This leads to ridiculous wait times on the longer slides. Adventure Island also had the most interesting parking lot I’ve seen. It appears that they paved over ski moguls.
    Otherwise, check out BGT. Staff was awesome during our visit.