Busch Gardens Tampa is an amazing park. There is a lot to do here: from world-class roller coasters to Safari, shows and more. The Food&Wine Festival is just the perfect time to visit the park as you can enjoy everything it has to offer and for the same price of admission, also experience this wonderful festival which any foodie would love, gaze in awe at the event’s topiaries and see a rockin’ concert. This was my first visit to the Food&Wine Festival and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much there is to see, taste and do here:
Food, wine & beer tasting
The #1 tip is to get one of the Food&Wine Festival samplers. They are absolutely worth it and will save you a lot of money. I got the 5 item sampler which costs $30, but there are additional samplers for 8 items ($38) and 12 ($55). For me, the 5 item sampler was enough as I don’t usually drink wine/beer. The culinary options are awesome and everything I tried was very tasty:
Smoked Beef Brisket on a Spiced Corn Waffle with Amber Bock BBQ at Gourmet Lodge (no.10) – if you can only try one thing – this should be it! It was SO GOOD! the beef with the sauce and waffle all merged together perfectly. It’s a surprising combination as well. Simply delicious!
Griddled Cheesecake Sandwich at Gourmet Lodge (no.10) – this is the vegetarian equivalent of the Smoked Beef Brisket. Simply awesome! It’s crispy on the outside and tender inside. Sweet, but not too sweet. I loved it!
Duck Taco with Sweet Chili Sauce at Tasty Taqueria (no. 15) – A good, tasty taco. It’s nice if you’re into Tacos.
Baked Brie with Strawberry Fanta Syrup at Cooking with Coke Pavilion (no. 22) – The Baked Brie was a bit of a surprise for me as I didn’t know what to expect from the Coke Pavilion. It was actually pretty nice! I loved how the freshness and juiciness of the Strawberries with the Fanta syrup and sauce worked together with the baked brie. It really made this dish a success.
Bison Slider on Brioche Roll with Spicy Sriracha Ketchup at Southern Station (no. 6) – this is sophisticated a delectable hamburger.
When it comes to topiaries- what Busch Gardens lacks in quantity, they make up for in quality. Hugely impressed by the sheer size of some of the topiaries – namely The Spirit of Spring and the Octopus Garden (made from 65,000 individual plants!). They are incredible and indeed larger-than-life. They also have a small stand next to each other with some fun facts about each topiary, which I thought was a nice touch. The Topiarazzi at the park’s entrance was so funny! How often do you see a topiary that takes pictures of YOU ?! Haha
The living topiaries are an additional unique element. They create arches, change forms and make great photo opportunities!
Gifts & Games
The Food&Wine Festival has a nice selection of carnival-type games and gifts that are themed appropriately around wine and food. The highlight for me was the Delightfully Delicious candles by Sarah Wood. These candles not only had a wonderful aroma, but also looked like real mouth watering treats, pies and cakes!
Art of Food – At the time of my visit – I had the opportunity to see Dean Murray creating his awe-inspiring icy works of art in front of my very own eyes. Murray was very friendly as he explained about the process and how these can be achieved. Even with the explanations, I’m sorry – this is still true magic! 🙂
Ted Yodder – I’ve never heard or seen a dulcimer until that day and was completely mesmerized by the enchanting sound and music of Ted Yodder. Came to the Garden Gate Cafe to hear one or two songs and stayed for the whole show! That’s how good Yodder is.
Living Fountain – The show is about a beautiful statuesque fountain coming to life. It was unbelievable, together with the matching soundtrack. The performer was moving very gracefully and was keeping her playful spirit at the same time, interacting with the water – which the kids laughed and had fun with.
Medley of Musicians
There’s no better way to end your visit to Food&Wine Festival, than a cool concert! For the month of April, these are the concerts – Hunter Hayes (4/8), Days & Matt Nathanson (4/9), The Band Perry (4/15), Newsboys (4/16), Gilberto Santa Rosa (4/22), Lynyrd Skynyrd (4/23), Bachata Heightz, Justin Quiles & Milly Quezada (4/29), Tribute Bands performing the best of Jimmy Buffett, Queen, Bon Jovi & Prince (4/30).
Good flavors all-around
Busch Gardens Food&Wine Festival never ceased to surprise me! The food was great, the larger-than-life topiaries were incredible. Definetly coming back next year!!
Busch Gardens offers a very convenient shuttle service from Orlando which makes it easier to get to the park at Tampa Bay. The concert, however, starts after the ride leaves, so if you’re planning on seeing one of the concerts you will need to go by car or stay at the area.
The Food&Wine Festival is open Saturdays & Sundays, until April 30. Concerts start at 7pm each Festival Day.