Tampa Tuesdays: Busch Gardens Tampa

On Saturday, Bobby and I took Emma Kate to Busch Gardens Tampa. It was our first experience in the park aside from seeing a small portion when we went for a media event a few weeks ago. I did a little bit of research to at least know what we did and didn’t want to do, and we arrived at the park when it opened at 10:00 (which I thought was late!)

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Getting on the tram at the parking lot was a little hectic as there was no one there to keep people in order, and there were no true “lines”. We had a family try and push us out of the way to get on the tram (I was holding EK in my arms!) and I had to yell at a guy to let Bobby get on the tram with us b/c he had the stroller and people were pushing in front of him. However, I tried to shake it off and not let it ruin the day. The park can’t control what other people do, and it wasn’t their fault. We made it to the front, and bag check was smooth and quick.

I wanted Bobby to get to ride at least one roller coaster, so he jumped in line for Cheetah Hunt because it said there was only a ten minute wait. I took Emma Kate to go visit some animals while we waited.

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After about 30 minutes I texted Bobby and he was still in line. I was not thrilled because Emma Kate was getting bored and wanted to go ride the train. We visited the giraffes which there was SO many of, very cool, and then waited some more.

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All in all he was gone a total of 45 minutes for a ten minute wait, so I’m not sure what happened there. Maybe it temporarily broke down and we didn’t realize. Either way, nothing we could do to change it so we moved along and got in line for the train.

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It was fun seeing the animals along the route. A very nice touch. We decided to get off at the next stop and go see the monkeys and the tigers. This guy was just sitting up at the glass staring at all the kids. Emma Kate kept saying she wanted to hold him, of course.

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We also saw a couple of sleepy tigers. I loved all the lush landscaping in their habitats with multiple vantage points to view them from.

By this time it was after noon, and we were getting  hungry. We tried to get Emma Kate to nap in her stroller as we walked down towards the Food and Wine festival area.

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I love how the booths are mainly contained to two areas so you don’t have to walk all that far to get from one to another. Also, there were no long lines to wait in which was a plus.

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We each had an 8 pack sampler card courtesy of Busch Gardens, and were ready to enjoy the festival. (These can be purchased at the booths, and also you can find festival guides at each booth with a map and list of all the food and drink offerings.)

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First up, Bobby got the lamb chops and a mango margarita, which got two thumbs up.

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We then headed over towards the two Coke booths, which are next door to an inside air conditioned area with tables. We were happy to find this spot, as it was getting HOT outside. Bobby got a couple more things to eat and I got a pulled pork slider. After a brief rest, we headed over towards the concert area where there were a lot of other booths.

Bobby tried some ribs, and I got my favorite: the bacon mac and cheese, which was just as delicious as I remembered it. Emma Kate loved it, too and kept stealing my bacon.

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We both also had watermelon margaritas, which would become our favorite drink of the festival. (I may have had three.) I may have also had a regular margarita on the rocks at the margarita bar while we were in this area.

Emma Kate had been dying to “see Elmo” in the kids area, so we went there next. This area was great. TONS to do for kids all confined to one very large space. She was so overwhelmed we weren’t sure what to do first. She rode several rides, and even did a small “water ride” by herself!

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We put her in the bounce house because she LOVES those things, but there were a lot of big kids in there and she got upset and wanted to get out. We also did the carousel, and she climbed up in a large tree house area with Bobby.

Seriously we could have stayed in this area all day and Emma Kate would have been jjuussttt fine. There was also a huge really cool looking splash pad area, but we decided to skip that one for the day because it was already getting late in the day and we were all tired. We did however have one more stop to make, the show with Elmo and the gang! EK clapped and waved, and even got to touch Grover which I think made her whole day. This area was covered and had fans which was a very nice touch on such a sunny afternoon. There were also plenty of benches and other seating around the whole kids area for moms and dads to take a rest as the kids played.

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We still had a couple of punches left on our food and wine cards, so Bobby got some steak and said it was his favorite dish of the day.

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We met up with Megan and Gabe for a few minutes and chatted at a table and people watched before calling it a day. Check out the cool topiary in the background!

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The park is really big, and there was no way we could have done everything in a day, which just means we will have to go back!

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Not five minutes after leaving the park, this one fell asleep in the car. I think that’s a sign of a good day!

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A huge thanks to Busch Gardens for inviting us back to experience the park and the food and wine festival. Don’t forget, you can experience it for yourself every weekend through the end of this month, and there is a free concert every night of the festival with your park admission! Check out BuschGardens.com for the lineup and information.

Disclosure: I was provided free park admission for two as well as lanyards to try out the food at the festival. However, I was not asked to write a blog post about it, but we had a great time and I wanted too! Also, all opinions are my own.

**I would love it if you would take a quick second to fill out a 6 question survey about how you plan Disney vacations. Thanks in advance!**

Tampa Tuesdays: Food and Wine Festival at Busch Gardens

It’s officially spring, and that means it’s time for the Food and Wine festival at Busch Gardens! I was invited to a media event a couple of weeks ago to check out some of the amazing food offerings, and wanted to share them with you for Tampa Tuesdays.

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When we arrived at Busch Gardens, we were immediately greeted by an adorable topiary, and of course some wine!

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There was food, music, drinks, and some friendly faces.

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Servers passed around some of the offerings, while others were found at the food booths just as you would find them in the parks during the festival. The bacon macaroni and cheese was my favorite, hands down! This was just one of the many offerings at the 13 food cabins, 65+ fine wines and 70+ craft beers!

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However the duck fat truffle fries were a close second.

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Each cabin had a menu board with the food and drinks available as well as prices. Some even had pictures which I found very helpful.

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The president of Busch Gardens, Stewart Clark, spoke a few words, and it was fun to see the excitement he had for the event.

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Megan and I had to try out more wine, of course.

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Bobby tried the lobster tart.

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Then I found the frozen sangria and the mango margarita. Both were amazing, and I may have had more than one! (pictured here with shrimp and grits.)

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One of the new pavilions is called “cooking with Coke”, and I really enjoyed the pulled pork sliders with Coca-Cola® Cherry BBQ sauce.

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Mango margarita pictured below.

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No lie, after I took the below photo, a bird swooped down and stole my Key Lime Berry Parfait Mousse with churro. How rude! Also pictured are scallops and lamb chops with tabouleh. The scallops were Bobby’s favorite of the evening.

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I may have had another plate of the bacon mac and cheese. It’s THAT good.

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Something else we got to do that you can also do if you come to Busch Gardens (for a fee) is pet and feed kangaroos. It was so cool! They ate out of these little cups and were super friendly. It made my night!

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At the end of the night, we were sufficiently stuffed, and couldn’t wait to try more food at the Food and Wine Festival when it opened the next day! We haven’t been back yet, but we plan to do so soon.

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Don’t forget that in addition to the amazing food offerings, there is an awesome concert line up including names like the Band Perry, Newsboys, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are also plenty of upgrades you can purchase to make your visit even sweeter. There are festival samplers starting at $29.99, and VIP packages starting at $24.99.

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A huge thank you to Busch Gardens for the invite. This is such a fun festival that’s great for the whole family! You can experience the festival for yourself on weekends through April 30th. Concerts start at 7:00 pm. For more info be sure to check out the event FAQ page.

QOTD: Have you ever attended the Food and Wine Festival at Busch Gardens? What dish looks the best to you?

*Disclosure: I was provided free entrance into this special event as media, however all opinions are my own.

The winner of my Cabot giveaway is Susan Smith! Susan, be sure to email me at [email protected] You can check out the rafflecoptor widget in the original post to see the winner into.

Emma Kate Does Disney: Part 5

Today is my last installment of our trip, check it out:

This was our last full day at Walt Disney World (see what we did in part 4 here), and we were headed to EPCOT. Emma Kate had been saying she wanted to meet Ana and Elsa for WEEKS, so our plan was to arrive early, do the standby line for the meet and greet, and then do our fastpass for the Frozen Ever After ride later that afternoon.

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Emma Kate just so happened to wake up REALLY early, so we played on the playground at Saratoga Springs for a bit and then just decided to go ahead and drive over to EPCOT. We had NO idea they were letting people in early, so we got lucky with a short standby line for Ana and Elsa.

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We got closer and closer in line, and I started to hype Emma Kate up and get her ready to meet her favorite princesses. She said she was going to give them big hugs and smile pretty. Aaaannnddd this is what we got:

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She was TERRIFIED of Elsa and would not hug her. EK’s face just cracks me up! We moved on to Ana, and she warmed up enough to hug her, but she made it clear she was NOT happy about it.

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Bless it. Look at the side eye poor Ana is getting.

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I die. Of course when we left she said she wanted to go hug Elsa…too late kid. We will try again when we go back in April and see if it’s any different. I think Emma Kate was just a bit overwhelmed.

After the princess photos, we headed over to ride the Nemo ride, and then check out the aquarium.

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EK was going through a hardcore Nemo phase so she loved this ride.

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After this, we rode Living with the Land. This is always a favorite of mine. I’m a total nerd and love seeing how they grow their fruit and veggies.

We walked around the world showcase and got some food and wine offerings. My dad tried sushi in Japan, and we all got food in Italy, and I had a glass of alcohol. Emma Kate was starting to get tired from her early wakeup, but it was time for our Frozen Ever After fastpasses. Our plan was to ride the ride, then let her nap in the stroller while we ate some more food and walked around.

We got in the fastpass line, and right as we got up to the front to get on a boat (we were literally the next ones to get on)…the ride broke down. I kid you not. We were in the loading area, so we just stood there for awhile, me holding Emma Kate. They turned all the lights on, evacuated people off the ride, and people began leaving. About this time, poor EK started to fall asleep in my arms. I decided to sit down against the wall with my dad and just let her sleep. We had nothing else to do, so may as well hold our front of the line spot and wait.

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Because we were right where you board and no longer in the actual que, we had plenty of space and started talking to a cast member from Norway who had been here for a few months. He was a super nice guy with zero accent, and he said he had worked very hard on his English. We talked about the differences in our countries, etc. all while waiting for the ride to come back up. Finally, about 45 minutes later, they started letting people board. Emma Kate woke up and was very confused, but she got to see the ride.

We were all pretty tired by this point, but we had to make one more stop for my favorite drink.

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I couldn’t hold my huge toddler and drink my drink, so I put her in the stroller and she was NOT happy about it. She cried the whole way to the parking lot, which was super fun for everyone. Poor thing needed a longer nap.

We watched some football, took Emma Kate to the playground, and got ready to have friends over. A few years ago when we were staying club level at the Grand Floridian, my parents struck up a conversation with a nice couple and they have kept in touch. When we stayed at Saratoga four years ago, they come over one night and we BBQ’ed out by the playground and had a great time, so we did it again this trip!

Saratoga has a really nice covered pavilion with fans and picnic tables right next to the playground, we we all hung out while my dad cooked and Emma Kate could play. After dinner, they went home and Emma Kate went to bed. my mom watched her while my dad and I walked to Disney Springs (have I mentioned I LOVE the proximity of this resort to Disney Springs?)

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We walked through some of the shops and watched a show up on the stage. Then we decided to get ice cream from Ghirardelli and not tell my mom. However, my dad made a huge mistake and paid with his credit card, and my mom saw the bill when it came in so we were busted! Anyway, it was delicious, and a nice relaxing way to end out trip.

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The next morning, I got up early and went for a quick run before we left.  I had not had the chance to run the whole trip since I was with Emma Kate 95% of the time, but I didn’t want to pass up a chance to run somewhere different. I went out while it was still dark, and it was so nice and peaceful.

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After I got back and showered, we loaded up the car and started our long (long long) drive home. With it being my first time to take a toddler to Disney, I learned a lot.

It was Halloween, and we decided to stop and spend the night in Destin to break up the trip. We went to the beach that afternoon and Emma Kate was not a fan of the sand.

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I found out that there was trick or treating at the outlet mall, so that’s exactly what we did!

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The next morning we went back to the beach and Emma Kate hated it even more than the day before and wouldn’t step foot on it and wanted to go “bye bye”.

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We stayed out all of 15 minutes and then I took her to the pool while my mom and dad stayed at the beach. Confession: I will admit I was a little frustrated. I had so been looking forward to spending the morning on the beautiful Destin beach, and here I was, finally there, and I got to see it for ten minutes. Then I was stuck at the freezing pool (the hotel building cast a shadow on the pool) by myself just me and Emma Kate, cold and pretty miserable for over an hour, just being frustrated I wasn’t in the sun on the sand and had no idea when I would be back. I had my little pity party then got over it and we played until my parents came. We stayed for a bit longer, then headed up to the room to pack up and drive home.

We made a bunch of mistakes, and will know better for next time. While Bobby and I have only taken her on day trips to Disney since we’ve moved to Tampa, we have made adjustments and Emma Kate has done a lot better overall than she did in October. We will be taking her back in April for a few nights and I know we will have a great time!

QOTD: Have you been to Destin? Have you ever trick or treated at a mall?