Just got back from a 5 day visit to Tampa & central Florida stuff.
We had a great time, and took lots of pictures.
We knew we were going during Hurricane Season, and we’ve been to Florida before so expected the daily rain. However, we just happened to catch Florida during an oddball week where it not only Rained every day (which is typical, but usually quick storm and then day continues with sun), but *every day* once the storms hit, it not only POURED, but with heavy lightning and thunder that remained for 8-9 hours – meaning that the rides at Busch Gardens Tampa (as well as SeaWorld Orlando) shut down early afternoon and just never reopened.
So although it did impact us. . it didn’t really bother us, since not only do we plan multiple days to enable us to take things at a slow pace and still get everything we want done. . .but since BGT has so many animals to look at, it didn’t matter that the rides were closed in the afternoons – we did those in the mornings – and then once weather interfered we looked at Animals (or did shows) J
We had a direct flight from Austin, and it wasn’t super early either! So we were able to get up at 6am, make it to airport and park/check in/wait at gate with plenty of time to spare. Tho the flight was almost completely full (and the flights back WERE completely full), we got lucky and ended up with the seat between us being the only open seat on the plane! (we were so shocked, we took a picture. . LOL).
Smooth flight, and Southwest gave us not only peanuts, but also the “plane cookies” (score!), little cinnamon graham cracker cookies shaped like airplanes. Good start to our trip.
Landing in Tampa, we easily made our way to the rental car place (Dollar, which we’ve always had a great time using), and timed is just right in that there was no one at the counter when we walked up -- but not even 5 minutes later the line got a good 15 people deep. . so again, all signs pointing to it going to be a good vacation!
We were out of the airport and on the way to the Hotel (using google map directions I always print out and keep with us – yeah, we’re “old school” so what?) by 2pm.
Since there really aren’t any “nice” hotels near Busch Gardens Tampa, we went with our standard mid level (and BGT partner), Courtyard Marriott. The hotel is great because you know *exactly* what you are going to get in terms of room size/layout, as well as the “Bistro” in the lobby (with standard menu), the multiple computer set ups for use and big screen entertainment area, as well as books/newspapers/magazines. Since we were staying there for 5 nights, we also qualified for the extended stay rates, which dropped the average price for the room down to between $115-$125 per night.
In the case of the Tampa Courtyard Marriott the location was perfect: only about 10 minutes from BGT using back streets, but just off of the I75 exit making very, very easy access for our Orlando, Weeki Wachee, and other activities. I’d highly recommend this place, just for the location near the Interstate.
Anyhow, check in was a breeze, and after dropping bags in the room (and lowering the AC to make the room nice and cool for when we got back), we headed out to Busch Gardens Tampa by 3:30 pm. Park closed at 9. .. so a good 5 1/2 hours to work with on the 1st day.
I had bought the “Choose your Adventure” 2-week passes from ThemeParkReview (where I’m a member of Club TPR), so a great deal for unlimited visits for 14 consecutive days for all 4 Central Florida Parks (BGT, Adventure Island, SeaWorld Orlando, and Aquatica) with parking included.. . so it made perfect sense to see what we can get done in the park on the 1st night.
As we were waiting for the tram in the parking lot (at BGT, you park across the street from the park, and trams bring you under the street to the front gate), I noticed that nothing had been cycling the entire time since we pulled into parking lot. Since you can see Montu, Cobra’s Curse, Falcon’s Fury from the lot, I asked the tram guard if they were having mechanical issues? and she said they were shut down due to lightning in the area, and had been since about 3pm.
The Sky was beautiful and the sun was out, but there were some clouds around. No big deal, we hadn’t eaten yet anways so we went to the Serengeti pub to eat something (and peeked into the full restaurant buffet on 3rd floor -- we're doing that for lunch tomorrow). . . the Pizza was acceptable, but the flatbread pulled pork was quite good. Heck, the fries were good! Nick ate them, and he almost never eats fries.
We took our time and went out on the deck to look at Cobra’s Curse and Montu – really the views are amazing from the restaurant, and then watched the giraffes and other animals on the Serengeti plan for a bit. It was after 4:30 and everything was still down. So we walked over towards the train, which seemed to be running. . .and were told that they had just shut that down for weather, and that the train was the typically the last thing they close. (our timing sucked a bit . . poop).
There actually was a lot of thunder starting at this point, but no rain at all. . so we decided to make the best of being in the park and started looking at the animals in that section of the park (Egypt area): we watched the African Penguins, then went to the Gorillas & Chimps (the chimps were hiding inside from the thunder, but the Gorillas were out and having a grand old time).
We also went into the "cave of myths", and enjoyed (and took lots of pics of) the bats, the Bush Babies, and all the other cool animals there. Then went next door into the Jambo Junction "ambassador" animals section, and saw all the babies and the dozen or so flamingos -- so that was nice.
As we were ready to head towards the Nairobi section (elephants!) it was close to 6 already, and the train had started the engine up again, so we asked and told it would be 5-10 minutes, so went ahead and rode the train – which turned out to be perfect timing, since the first section goes thru the Serengeti plain and lots and LOTS of animals were out and about. I guess because the cloud cover had made it not quite as hot.
While on the train, pretty much all the coasters started testing, and by the time we made it back to the Nairobi station, everything (including Falcon's Fury) was running. . (two exceptions - the skyride NEVER even had buckets on it, and the flume when we passed it was drained) so we bee-lined it to Cheetah Hunt. Fairly short line, because many in the crowd had left since the rides had been down for 3 hours by that point. Operations were fantastic. They were loading 2 trains at once (which I assume is standard, based on the station set up), and they were just flying thru the short line.
After getting off, we decided instead of doing Cheetah Hunt again, we'd go to Cobra's Curse -- which was showing a 30 minute wait, but not much of a line. For a new ride that just opened, we figured that would be as short a line as we’d see the whole trip, so we got in the queue.
Great queue with live snakes to look at as you pass by as well as moving hieroglyphics on the walls. We got to the room with the giant moving mural (and good for BGT for giving lots of stuff to look at for the theming, to keep the crowd entertained). . . when the line just stopped moving. They made an announcement that storms were in the area and the ride was shutting down. (now we were inside, in the cool air (yay), and couldn't see, but from what we heard from others, it POURED for a while). We decided that we’ll wait it out, since what else would we do? Besides, we were C-L-O-S-E to getting on . . hell, after some folks left we actually ended up at the loading area for the coaster, and we could see the rain slow to a drizzle. But the thunder kept coming.
The ride ops pulled out a “CornHole” game, and kept folks in line entertained by letting the kids play (and they lined up to play, so a great way to keep people from getting crabby).
We stuck it out until 8:30 or so, and then lots of lightning started again, so we threw in the towel and headed towards the front gates (stopping for Mango Smoothies, and frosted cookies (hey, I needed the sugar).
On the way out, just before the front gate, a BGT employee asked us if we had time to do a survey. I joked that they didn't want to ask US, since our total ride count in 5+ hours was the Tram, the Train, and Cheetah Hunt. . .but I didn't hold it against them, since they can't control the weather and we DID enjoy the animals we looked at. . so the time was well used. I noted we would have stayed for the evening show, Kinetix, but since all the rides had been down almost the whole time we had been in the park, that I was pretty sure they weren't gonna do the fireworks. She said she'd go check, but as of 10 minutes earlier, they were going to.
She went and checked, and came back and said "yeah, the fireworks are on still". As it was 8:50 (and the show started at 9), despite it having been a long day with travel included. . . I talked Nick into staying for the show so we didn’t *have* to stay until close on another night unless we wanted to -- so we turned around and went back into the park and headed to Gwazi park to watch Kinetix. It’s outdoors, and therefore all the metal benches were wet, but they still had a crowd of at least a couple of thousand people.
The musical portion of the show is VERY "cruise ship" (one of the musicians plays a key-tar!), and the male and female singer were only so-so ... but the acrobats were all quite good, and the jump-rope team was impressive as hell. . . and yeah, the fireworks near the carcass of Gwazi (the shut down wooden coaster in the center of the area) were very enjoyable. The fireworks aren’t even close to Disney level, but they were very pretty, and very big. . so great job for a non-Disney park.
So we ended the night on a great note, and headed back to the hotel for some good sleep – since I was determined that we’d get to the park at open on Monday and head straight for Cobra’s Curse.
good sign to start the trip: ONE empty seat on the plane, and it ended up being between us (score!!)
We like Courtyard Marriott. . you always know exactly what you are gonna get room-wise, including always a fridge
view from the room. .and we actually did swim in the pool once despite the evening rain every day!
on our way to the park, and it's not even 3:30. . we're excited
looks busy, we're at the very back of the F lot. . but wait. .nothing seems to be running?
a pic no one has EVER taken. . but you can see the clouds coming in, which is why everything was closed.
from the balcony of the Serengeti Pub, since we hadn't eaten yet, that's our first stop for a light snack.
Cobra's Curse from the Pub. . and darkening skies.
Montu from the Pub
empty cars, waiting for storms to pass
as you can see, over US, the sun was out, but the clouds were coming in. . .even tho no actual rain fell from this particular system (not until later).
not realizing there's a whole BUNCH of flamingos elsewhere in the park (that we'd see when we actually made it elsewhere in the park), we were excited to see these dozen or so. . but I'll spare you the multiple pics, LOL
we're on a ride! (the train).
it's not moving, yet, but it's about to!
NOW we're moving!
pics from the Serengeti plain from the train. . .
the whole family of Rhinos were out and about, instead of just sleeping in the shade, due to the overcast afternoon!
ShieKra from the Stanleyville train station.. I wouldn't get to ride this until Thurs, but I DID get to ride multiple times.
the coasters started testing while we were on the train.
we had our eyes on Cobra's Curse to see if it would start up too.
but went to Cheetah Hunt first. . the line was relatively short.
Unfortunately, as noted, shortly after we got off, and in line for Cobra's Curse, it started to pour and everything shut back down.
. . but it stopped raining after 8:30, and as we were told the evening show & Fireworks were gonna happen we made our way to Gwazi Park (in the shadow of the shut down coaster) to see a show that has gotten raves.
over here is where the fireworks will be later (the show is in front of us, then you turn around to watch the fireworks)
the show building. . it was humid, but the dancers (in the aisles prior to the show starting) were energetic, and kept the crowd engaged.
they do their best to make a spectacle, and the acrobatics in the show are pretty astonishing.
Last edited by bert425 on Sun Jul 17, 2016 4:07 pm.
I'm curious, but with the knowledge of rainstorms and such wet stuff, does anybody bring a small collapsible umbrella? Or does everybody just usually head for any cover they can immediately find? Or bring along rain ponchos, perhaps?
Nrthwnd wrote:I'm curious, but with the knowledge of rainstorms and such wet stuff, does anybody bring a small collapsible umbrella? Or does everybody just usually head for any cover they can immediately find? Or bring along rain ponchos, perhaps?
we ALWAYS carry rain ponchos in our back pocket (as fake wallets), but have never actually used them.
there were many, many folks wearing the ponchos in the park, most of them the BGT official ones. . so they must sell a ton of them.
but very few umbrellas -- tho we did see some.
Since we're not gonna do anything other than wait it out, usually, we just find a covered place to hang out, and chat up other folks waiting out the rain. It makes the time fly, and we make some friends that way -- tho *I'm* the chatty one, Nick tends to be anti-social.
Looking good Bert - I love BGT and can usually find enough to see / do that rain doesn't really mess up the day (although Cheetah Hunt two February's ago in the rain at just above freezing was pretty chilling.)
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