Laissez les bon temps rouler!!! Oh, yes, friends ~ it is time to let the good times roll and Mardi Gras is in full swing at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida. Hubby and I had the chance to jump over to enjoy the fun and taste some of the celebratory deliciousness opening weekend!
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Let The Good Times Roll
Busch Gardens Mardis Gras 2021
Festivities kicked off on January 16th and happens on select dates through February 16th. It’s probably common knowledge that Mardi Gras is the indulgent celebration that occurs right before Ash Wednesday on the Catholic calendar, the day the Lenten season is recognized all over the world. As Catholics (and various other Christian denominations) prepare to enter forty days of some form of personal sacrifice or another, Mardi Gras is their last “hurrah” to let the good times roll.
At Busch Gardens, this particular festive event is smaller than some of the others, such as Christmas Town. However, it is still packed with tons of food to eat and fun entertainment to enjoy.
Hubby and I popped over around noon, when the Mardi Gras culinary booths opened to Guests. We had already prepared our day ~ which booths, which foods, and what path we were going to take around the park to burn some of those calories we planned to ingest!
There are ten booths in total, serving up options such as jambalaya, po’ boys, hurricanes, and beignets. There are even a few “impossible” options ~ and we gave one of them a try (our thoughts in a minute).
We started off with a fun competition between the jambalaya with chicken and andouille sausage and the “impossible” jambalaya, which had no actual meat in it.
As you can see, there is a stark contrast in the ingredients and I will say ~ one in taste, as well. The chicken and andouille jambalaya had a tiny kick to it, but nothing compared to what most people would expect to taste in the dish. It was good, though. I enjoyed it. Hubby thought it was a little bland and wasn’t a huge fan.
With regard to the “impossible” version, it was pretty much veggies and “dirty rice.” In fact, it is just that – okay, mushrooms and rice with a brown gravy. It really had no “jambalaya” taste to it whatsoever and no kick. Had it not been called “jambalaya,” I think it would have been okay.
The Po’ Boys
We also gave both the pork AND the chicken po’ boys a try and definitely came out with a common favorite. While both were good, the chicken was packed with so much more flavor. It was fried and lathered in an habanero sauce, so there was a lot of taste to enjoy in that sandwich. The pork, however, lacked in this area big-time. It was not bad, per se ~ just tasted like straight up shredded pork with nothing on it ~ the slaw didn’t even add enough. Again – good if you like your pork bland…but we were looking for something to “wow” us.
The Braised Brisket
This was a quick share that deserves some credit. There was some good flavor in this dish, but it was extremely salty. It wasn’t a top choice, but I’m glad we grabbed it and gave it a try. The biscuit was fresh!
Here is where things got better. We tried four different desserts, though one could probably be considered a drink.
Right off the bat, we could not turn our backs on the mini “king” cupcakes. Complete with plastic babies and candied fleur de lis, these sweet treats were fresh and delicious.
We also shared a serving of the bourbon caramel beignets ~ TO DIE FOR!!!! Oh, my gosh. I could have eaten those all day, but I would gained back the entire seven pounds I had already lost this year. These were probably THE best option in my book ~ especially paired with a Bourbon and Cream coffee. I went in knowing I wanted to have these and was not disappointed.
I was just sad that I had to share.
Later in the day, we each picked up our own final dessert for the visit. I grabbed the Mardis Gras Waffle Cone Sundae, while Hubby gave the French Quarter Salted Caramel Thrill Shake a try. I liked mine – Kahlua ice cream swirl with salted popcorn, chocolate drizzle, whipped topping, and sprinkles ~ but it didn’t look like I expected it to look. It was more of just soft serve ice cream with a little Kahlua and popcorn in it.
Hubby’s choice, on the other hand, rocked it! While he had the smaller version because we used a punch on our sampler lanyard, it was a delicious combination of bourbon salted caramel, pretzel, and chocolate and raspberry along with a spiced mini donut. It was the perfect way to end our day there.
I can’t forget the drinks!!!!!
Now, we didn’t go all out this trip. Neither of us are really “drinkers,” but – yes – you have seen us grab a libation from time to time during some of our dates. This time, especially since we are REALLY trying to lose weight this year, we shared a frozen Rum Hurricane. There was a Punch Hurricane available, too, but these are, of course, not the only adult options. You can get either of these frozen or iced. I prefer ice. However, I love my husband and he enjoys the frozen version, so I obliged.
It was very good – just hard to drink because it was frozen (hence the reason I liked iced better…lol). It had tons of flavor, gave my husband the perfect brain freeze, and you could taste just enough of the rum to enjoy the next few hours.
Other options for alcohol indulgence include:
- Spice Vanilla Old Fashioned. This intrigued me, but, again, we were trying to be good (Booth 6)
- Smoked Bourbon Peach Sour cocktail (Booth 7)
- Smoked Bloody Mary cocktail (Booth 9)
- Big Easy Taps (Booth 10)
- Bourbon and Vodka Tasting (Booth 2)
- Variety of other cocktails – Strawberry Daiquri, Piña Colada, Tampa Vice, Gold Coin Mojito, Green Fairy Margarita (Booth 4)
We were able to hear some Cajun tunes on the main Coca-Cola stage, catch some beads in a very socially distanced manner while visiting the Bead Garden, and groove to the sounds of Bourbon Street beats while standing in line to get our beignets. As a way of introducing each session with the fairies and jazz band, a short Pop-Up Parade escorts them in. It has some crazy colorful characters and some absolutely festive dancing going on, but they come out to a particular location, stick around for just under five minutes, and then circle back around to where they came.
As noted above, Hubby and I had a game plan for this adventure. We knew what we wanted to try and were able to get everything on our foodie list. However, you also read up there that we are trying to lose weight together this year (and it’s going very well!). However, we didn’t want to deprive ourselves from enjoying the day together. In between some of our indulgences, we made sure to walk through all the park’s nooks and crannies, catching various animals and watching roller coasters speed Guests through the air. It’s a great park to stroll through and there are at least a couple of miles of park to enjoy. Towards the front of the park, there is even a giant map that helps you to plan your trek if you are so inclined to do so. Hubby took a look, planned it all out for us….
and then we got sidetracked ~ over, and over, and over again….
Needless to say…
Hubby and I had a good time visiting Busch Gardens Mardi Gras event. It’s a smaller affair, but definitely packed with vibrant color, Cajun food, and lively entertainment. We were able to fit in several hours of fun, casually taking in all the event had to offer.
Is this going on your must do list before Lent hits? What kind of Cajun foods do you enjoy? Have you ever been to New Orleans to enjoy Mardi Gras in person (I haven’t ~ so I’d love to hear what you thought)?
Busch Gardens Mardi Gras even takes place on select dates now through February 16th.
Reservations are required to visit the park, so secure your spot today by heading over to:
Sampler Lanyards are available:
- Five item sampler – $34.99
- Ten item sampler – $49.99
- Pass Member exclusive – 12 item sampler for $49.99
Culinary booths open at noon most days the event is taking place.
Health and safety measures are in place, such as mask requirements, the need to social distance, and the availability of hand sanitizer throughout the park.
Should you choose to attend the event, I hope you have as much fun as we did exploring the event and the rest of the park!