What are you doing this weekend? Did you know that Busch Gardens kicked off their seasonal Food & Wine Festival? I mean, nothing says “Spring is Here” like good sips and munchies!! Am I right? So, get ready to sup, sip and enjoy some good entertainment as I share with you what you CANNOT miss this year at Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival in Tampa Bay!
I was invited as media to cover this event. All opinions are mine and mine alone.
The Weekends are Sweeter at the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival
I love a good weekend event. It means walking away from the computer for a bit and enjoying an evening out with Hubby. An evening like this usually involves good food, something to drink and jaw dropping entertainment. The Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival was the perfect outing ~ packing in all of the above and more. However, since this was our first time, we had no idea what to expect when we first walked through those gates. Where in the park can you find the food and entertainment? Who is taking the stage that night? What kind of foods are being offered this year? Will there be fireworks? Not to mention – are they able to accommodate food allergies and, if so, how?
Well, now that we’ve been given the opportunity to explore the festival on our own, I have a lot of those answers right here for you! Here’s what you need to know about the 2020 Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival.
Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival
Pick up a Festival Guide
Before you even take those first ten to twenty steps past the checkpoint into the park, it’s important to pick up a Festival Guide (or two)!! These little booklets are packed full of information that will show you where the 31 food and beverage cabins are located, as well as what kind of, where and when entertainment is being offered. It even has tiny little circles to check off the foods and beverages you have purchased and tried. This way, you can remember what you liked and what you didn’t (that will come in handy when you’re making recommendations to your friends). It also comes in handy if you’re a Pass Member or have the opportunity to come back to the festival several times before April 26th! Make it a goal to see how many of these circles you can fill in or give a ✔(check)!
Enjoy Watching Various Artists
While you’re munching on something delicious or sipping something refreshing, be sure to keep an eye out for the artists scattered throughout the festival area. These muralists are putting focused time and effort into creating mesmerizing masterpieces. The night we were visiting, we met Megan, who was diligently working on her larger-than-life mural of a lion. She told us that she was already a few days into the project. I mean, isn’t it spectacular?
Don’t Bump Into The Wandering Entertainment
Of course, the muralists are not the only form of entertainment you’ll find around the festival area. As you roam – plate and/or cup in hand – you may literally bump into a Strolling Musician or a Living Topiary. YES – A LIVING TOPIARY! In fact, I was warmly welcomed by one as we arrived to the festival entrance.
As much time as we spent there that evening, however, there were entertainment options Hubby and I didn’t get the chance to enjoy. I know – crazy, right? For instance, I highly recommend keeping those eyes opened and peeled for the Living Fountain and the Coca-Cola Canopy Band. (I guess I just have to find the time to go back….)
Check out my Instagram Highlights for more videos sharing the fun we had that night!
Clap Loudly For The Festival of Musicians
Every night of the weekend festival, a different musical group will take to the bandstand stage and entertain the crowds over on the Festival Field. On the night we were there, Eaglemania just happened to be energizing the audience. I love me some “Hotel California“!
Over the course of the festival, 18 different acts will take the stage at Busch Gardens. Take a peek at the list below and see if any of your favorites are coming to town!
- February 29th ~ Collective Soul
- 1 – The Commodores
- 7 – Chase Bryant & Danielle Bradbery
- 8 – Rachel Platten
- 14 – Ezra Ray Hart
- 15 – THREE DOG NIGHT
- 21 – LOCASH
- 22 – Fitz & and The Tantrums
- 28 – Home Free
- 29 – Taking Back Sunday
- 4 – Third Eye Blind
- 5 – KC & The Sunshine Band
- 11 – 38 Special
- 12 – Micah Tyler & Austin French
- 18 – Lee Brice
- 19 – Clint Black
- 25 – El Gran Combo
- 26 – Toad the Wet Sprocket & The Verve Pipe
Like being up front??? Check this out, peeps!! There are VIP Seating Packages available!!
If concerts are your thing, then you have to hear about this. Guests visiting the park during the Food & Wine Festival have the opportunity to choose their level of VIP when it comes to the concerts. So, if you’re the kind of concert-goer who likes to be up close to the action, you can choose from the following:
- Section 1 – Priority seating in Section 1 and one 5-item Sampler lanyard (I’ll explain the sampler lanyards a little farther down)
- Section 2 – Priority Seating in Section 2 and one 5-item Sampler Lanyard
- NEW! UNLIMITED Priority Seating for EVERY 2020 Food & Wine Festival concert!!
Where can you purchase these package options? Head on over to the area next to Festival Location #9 or at the Welcome Center (perfect reason why you should grab your Festival Guide first 😉).
Enjoy A Little Extra With Specialty Tastings
Here’s a unique opportunity to enjoy while you roam around the park. This year, Busch Gardens welcomes the new “Pick-A-Barrel” Tasting option. With this, Guests can visit up to four tasting bars and sample a unique variety of gin, bourbon or tequila. Each tasting comes with four samples and you can take the time to chat with one of the experts on site or create your own flight from a selection of wines and liquors. If you find you like one of the particular selections, you can ask the expert where to purchase a bottle to bring home.
This option is available for $24.99 per person. For an extra $5, you can grab a special tasting glass to take home with you.
**Pass Members save up to 20% on specialty tastings!
Bring Home a Memento
Busch Gardens knows everybody likes to take home a souvenir or some sort. Right? Well, they have a great selection of official festival merchandise and artisan crafts available:
- NEW! Forever Pearls: Pick out an oyster, find a pearl, and set it in your very own jewelry!
- Artisan Festival locations
- Full-sized wine and liquor bottles can be purchased in park at select locations and picked up when you exit the park
NOW, LET’S TALK ABOUT FOOD!!
Oh, I didn’t forget about the main reason for attending the festival. I just wanted to hold you in suspense and have you leave this post with your mouth watering just a little. (I know, I’m a meanie).
Anyhoo, this year’s Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival has 31 cabins scattered throughout offering a variety of good eats and sips. Trust me ~ the goal is to visit as many as you can and enjoy as much as you can throughout the course of the season. Of course, I do have a little advice to help keep costs down (it’s too easy to spend the money here).
Don’t buy each food or beverage item separately! Instead, get yourself a Sampler Lanyard!!
What’s a sampler lanyard?
This is true brilliance, to be honest. It’s a well-designed piece of neck wear that allows you to pay a set price for a designated number of items. It is truly the most cost effective way to enjoy your way around the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival.
- Purchase a lanyard at any of the designated cabins selling them (lanyard options listed below)
- Find something you want to try and order it at the cabin’s register.
- Have the team member scan the back of your lanyard and then punch a hole through the next number or numbers on your available items.
- Head over to the window to pick up your order.
- Enjoy your purchase and move on to the next cabin!
There are three lanyard options from which to choose, with a fourth one designated for Pass Members only. Each lanyard enables you to pre-purchase 5, 8 or even 12 items at a set price so that all you have to worry about which plate or drink to enjoy first! The lanyard works on food, brews and cocktail options and can be used by anyone and everyone in your party. For instance, Hubby and I each had 12-item sampler lanyards. We used Hubby’s first before starting to punch holes into mine. We tried soooo much!
The sampler lanyards can be purchased as follows:
- 5 Item Sampler – $32 (plus tax) – makes each item approx $6.40
- 8 Item Sampler – $42 (plus tax) – makes each item approx $5.25
- 12 Item Sampler – $57 (plus tax; BEST VALUE) – makes each item approx $4.75
- Pass Member 15 Item Sampler – $57 (plus tax) – makes each item approx $3.80
With our sample lanyard, we enjoyed some of the following:
To be honest, I was only a fan of one or two of the drinks we tried, but that’s purely a matter of personal preference. The food was pretty good, though, especially the Southern Fried Chicken & Biscuit Slider (with Bourbon Blackberry Jam). Oooooooweeee!
Food Allergy Families!!
It’s never easy to travel with food allergies. We know ~ we’ve been doing it for nearly twenty years. However, it is always encouraging when you find a venue that at least takes the time to keep dietary restrictions in mind.
Each food and beverage cabin at the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival is equipped with an allergen info binder. If you or a member of your party needs to take food allergens into account when ordering something to eat, be sure to ask the team member at the register if you can look at this binder before ordering. Ask your questions. Do your research. Do not order until you have confidence you are going to be safe (and you have epinephrine on hand, if you carry one or two ~ this is just common sense).
Since food allergies and sensitivities come in all shapes and sizes, there will be some who may manage quite well at the festival cabins. However, as the mom of a child who has a more severe scenario, I would encourage those with life-threatening allergies to be more discerning and cautious. There is strong potential for cross contamination due to the confined areas where these foods are being prepared.
Only YOU know your degree of comfort and can make the decision whether something is safe enough for you or your loved one. I just wanted to make sure you knew that they do at least have allergen info binders for you to review. Again – ask questions. Do your research. Make a well-informed decision.
Close Out The Night With Fireworks
There is nothing like ending a gorgeous Florida evening with a spectacular display of colors against the night sky. For each night of the festival, fireworks will cap the evening to signify the night is over. We witnessed a colorful, synchronized demonstration overhead that simply was a perfect kiss goodnight.
To see the Facebook Live I shot of the fireworks, click here: Busch Gardens Food & Wine Fireworks
Great way to end the evening here at @buschgardens!! #corksandcoasters #buschgardens
Posted by Footprints in Pixie Dust on Friday, February 28, 2020
What are you waiting for?
Whether you’re a Pass Member, local or just traveling through Tampa any weekend between now and April 26, 2020, be sure to check out the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival. Pick up a Festival Guide and a lanyard on your way in and have a blast exploring! There is plenty to do, see, eat and sip while you’re there and it’s a great way to spend a weekend!
If you’re looking for more information, check out the Busch Gardens Festival Page here: Festival Information
Learn more about the Chefs who are preparing the food for this year’s festival ~ Click Here
Take a walk around with me….
Take a quick walk with me through a portion of the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Food & Wine preview!!#hosted #corksandcoasters #buschgardens
Posted by Footprints in Pixie Dust on Friday, February 28, 2020