Team USA Olympians Visit Animal Athletes At Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Team USA Olympians Visit Animal Athletes At Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
McKayla Maroney Was “Impressed” At Busch Gardens
 

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
McKayla Maroney and Jonathan Horton at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
 
Members of Team USA visited Busch Gardens Tampa Bay on Wednesday, October 24. Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney and two-time Olympian Jonathan Horton met several of Busch Gardens’ animal “athletes.” First, Zeny the red-ruffed lemur and Tufts the African ground hornbill impressed the gymnasts with their balance skills before the duo was introduced to a group of the fastest land mammals. Maroney and Horton encountered a coalition of cheetahs at the new Cheetah Run exhibit near Cheetah Hunt, Florida’s first triple-launch roller coaster.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
McKayla and Tufts the African ground hornbill
The two Olympians will join other award-winning gymnasts this Sunday, October 28, in Tampa for the Sunday’s Kellogg’s® Tour of Gymnastics event at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, a national tour featuring Team USA’s top-performing gymnasts.
 

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
McKayla and Jonathan with Zeny the red-ruffed lemur
McKayla Maroney won the 2012 Olympic Team Gold Medal, and Jonathan Horton was a 2012 Olympian who earned the 2008 Olympic Silver Medal on the horizontal bar, and was recognized with the 2008 Olympic Bronze Team Medal.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
You have to love McKayla’s sense of humor!!
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SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Sesame Place Parks Have New Dining Options For Guests With Food Allergies

Vacationers with Food Allergies Now Have New and Personalized Dining Options at SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place Parks
SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Sesame Place Parks now catering to guests with Food Allergies!
As many as 15 million Americans suffer from a food allergy. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has introduced this fall a new line of allergy-friendly dining initiatives for guests at its 10 parks including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Sesame Place. These initiatives range from personalized service to new menu options.
“We serve millions of guests each year and are committed to provide each a great experience. For families with allergen concerns, we understand how challenging it can be to safely dine out, especially while on vacation,” said Jim Atchison, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “Our new initiatives ‘serve up’ a family experience that everyone can enjoy.”
The company partnered with the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN™) to educate and train more than 6,000 culinary employees to assist guests with allergen needs. With more than 22,000 members worldwide, FAAN is a trusted source of information, programs, and resources related to food allergy and anaphylaxis.
The new initiatives include:
  • Increased personal attention to ensure the safety of each meal. Park restaurant managers and supervisors will work one-on-one with guests and oversee the preparation of each allergen-friendly meal from start to finish. “Chef Cards,” filled out in advance by guests to outline the foods to avoid, are handed to a chef before the preparation of the meal.
  • All park restaurants are equipped and trained to take care of guests with allergen needs.
  • More menu options, ranging from gluten-free pizza to an allergen-friendly Shamu-shaped chocolate bar, enhance the experience for dining guests. For those on the go, the parks also provide prepackaged snacks such as cookies from companies that specialize in allergen-friendly foods including Divvies and Gluten Free to Go.
  • To help guests plan, detailed information on allergen-friendly services and helpful safety tips can be found online at each park’s web site. Guests can also download the Chef Cards and fill it out prior to their visit. At the parks, in-park educational handouts are available.
“We commend SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment for implementing a comprehensive food allergy training program, which we were pleased to help carry out,” said John Lehr, FAAN’s Chief Executive Officer. “Families often exhaustively research vacation options that will keep their loved ones with food allergies safe. SeaWorld has taken extra steps to educate its employees about the risks that families managing food allergies face on a daily basis.”
SeaWorld Food Allergies Sharks
For more information on the parks’ allergen-free efforts visit www.seaworld.comwww.buschgardens.com andwww.sesameplace.com. For additional resources about food allergies from FAAN, visit www.foodallergy.org.
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The Week in Review July 16 – 20, 2012

It was a super busy week at On the Go in MCO!!!

We talked about the Holidays, Giveaways, Merchandise, Miniature Golf, and more. So let’s take a look backnat all of this week’s posts!!!

Giveaway!!! Don’t forget to enter to win your very own Customized Autograph Book by July 27th!!!

The Tinkerbell Autograph Book I made!!!

Betsy took us along as she cooled off playing the Summer Course at the Winterland Summerland Miniature Golf Course.

Join us as we play the Summer Course at Winter Summerland!

This Week LEGOLAND Florida announced that they wouldn’t be raising ticket prices!

 

LEGOLAND Florida Prices Stay The Same

In Videos this week, we got see something we thought we would never do…We got to see Vanilla Ice Perform at the Gaylord Palms Christmas in July Event! We’ll be bringing you more details about what Gaylord Palms has in store for the Holidays next week, but here is some Ice, Ice Baby goodness to hold you over…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAwYOlNPYb8

Subscribe to our YouTube Page so you don’t miss any of our fun videos, too!!!

 

On Facebook, we have added some our pictures from the Gaylord Palms Christmas in July Event to our Page. While you’re there, Like Us!!!

The Gaylord Palms will be having a Merry Madagascar Ice starting in November!

We found some great new Merchandise this week at Walt Disney World!!! First we took at look at the new Limited Edition Ear Hat Ornaments that are sure to get you in the Holiday Spirit!

WALL-E Resin Ear Hat Ornament – Front

Then we found some Halloween Trading Pins and the Halloween Lanyard out at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

2012 Halloween Pin - Duffy
2012 Halloween Pin – Duffy

In More Halloween News, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has been hard at work getting ready for Howl-O-Scream by growing some crazy pumpkins.

A member of the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Horticulture Team showing off one of their many pumpkins!

For Wordless Wednesday, we take a look at the Mickey made of Mickeys at D Street at Walt Disney World Downtown Disney West Side.

Vinylmation Mickey at D Street at Downtown Disney West Side

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Pumpkins in July? Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Is Growing “The Dark Side Of The Gardens” for Halloween

 

When It Comes to Creating “The Dark Side Of The Gardens” for Halloween,
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Horticulture Team has to Start Early


TAMPA, Fla. (July  2012) 
– As Busch Gardens began preparations earlier this year to transform the park into “The Dark Side of the Gardens” for its 13th annual Howl-O-Scream event this fall, the horticulture team realized that they faced a challenge: It’s hard to find heirloom pumpkins and winter squash in Tampa in October.

Their solution? To research seeds and plant their own heirloom pumpkin patch. Heirloom pumpkins are the antique varieties of fruits and vegetables not normally found in mainstream produce markets. Heirlooms often feature unusual shapes, unexpected colors, plus a very flavorful flesh. Busch Gardens’ crop of pumpkins is destined not for pies, however, but for the delight of park guests who will be ready for the cooler temperatures and Halloween fun that pumpkin season signals.

Pumpkins growing on a tree at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay!

“Last year was our first try at pumpkin farming which ended in miserable results due to heavy rains,” said Busch Gardens’ Director of Horticulture, Joe Parr. “This year, we started in February with raised beds of rich compost made right here at the park with zoo and landscaping debris, and are watering with a water-conserving drip irrigation system.”

It must be working: The pumpkin experiment has yielded more than 60 fruits so far, much to the excitement of the proud gardeners who coaxed the vines from seeds by hand-pollinating the flowers with cotton swabs… and who are now sharing their office with piles of pumpkins.

Some examples of the different varieties of pumpkins they have grown at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Pumpkins are all American members of the squash family and have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. When Columbus discovered America, he found the native people growing a variety of pumpkin which would come to be named Seminole. Busch Gardens’ pumpkin patch features the Seminole, as well as La Estrellas, a tropical pumpkin hybrid from the University of Florida. Both thrive in Florida’s heat and humidity. Parr’s team is also growing Rouge Vif d’Etampes (also known as the “Cinderella pumpkin”,) tiny Jack-Be-Littles,  warty, dark-green Marina di Chioggias, the 50- to 60-pound“Big Max,” and even a “Pumpkin Tree,” which is actually a rare orange eggplant with tiny, ribbed fruits.

The challenge now will be to keep the ripe fruits looking their best until September when autumn harvest displays appear in the park for both day guests and Howl-O-Scream visitors to enjoy. If properly stored, pumpkins can last up to a year in Florida.

A member of the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay horticulture team with one of their many pumpkins!

“As the summer temperatures soar,” says Parr, “it’s nice to think that October’s chill and pumpkins are coming soon.”

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An Evening at Busch Gardens

Image Copyright Busch Gardens

Living and working near the parks in Central Florida affords those of us locals an opportunity to experience the theme parks in a little bit different way than those of you who come here for vacation. We have the luxury and privilege, if you will, to visit the parks for just a few hours at a time since we have access within about 15 minutes from either work or home. Last night was one such evening for me. I work just a short distance from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and was able to make a quick jaunt over to the park from 7pm until park closing at 9. So how do you spend just a couple hours? What do you do, what do you do?

A practically perfect evening for me consists of a nice balance of seeing some of my favorite animals, riding at least one or two rides, grabbing a bite to eat or drink, and seeing what the special events are that the park has to offer. Right now there is an event running until August 12th called Summer Nights. This was my first time seeing this nighttime spectacular that features a special concert/show called Kinetix. After the show, guests are treated to an awesome fireworks show.

So, this evening started off by making a bee line for my favorite ride, Cheetah Hunt. If you have not yet experienced this roller coaster, what are you waiting for?!?!?!? It is amazing!!! You have three super fast launches at close to 60mph. I love this ride, especially in the evening and it is one of the longer coasters around at almost a mile long lasting about four minutes. This typically has a 45 minute to an hour long wait, so coming in at 7pm, I knew I had to head here first.

After Cheetah Hunt I decided to catch a show. The one I wanted to see I guess is out of rotation for the summer, so I opted to go see Pirates 4D for the first time. On the way there I was able to snap a few pics of some animals including a pretty cool one of the lion up pretty close. The movie was cute, definitely geared toward a younger audience and I guess I chose my seat poorly because the last row I was in didn’t have any of the 4D effects.

About this time I was starting to get hungry and thought it might be a good idea to get a spot for Kinetix in Gwazi Park, which is situated behind Gwazi, the wooden rollercoaster. I wasn’t starving so I opted just for a churro and a frozen coke for dinner. I know this wasn’t the best meal, but it hit the spot and was only about $5 with my passholder discount. Arriving around 8:30, I was able to find a seat on the end of one of the rows of metal benches with backs that are setup in the park. If you are coming with more than one person, I would definitely recommend getting there closer to 8pm if you all want to sit together. Keep in mind I was there on a Monday night and I’m sure it is even more popular on the weekends.

Kinetix is an incredible show featuring current pop music (LMFAO, Pitbull, Nicki Minaj, Adele, Maroon 5, etc.) performed live on stage by singers, a band, dancers, acrobats and includes some crazy stunts from balancing to aerials to trick bikes. I love the energy that this show brings from all of the performers, and it is very appropriately named with all the kinetic energy you feel from the stage. I am going to include videos below since I don’t think pictures will begin to do it justice. Please go see this and the Summer Nights fireworks show that follows. I think this is probably the closest I’ve ever been to fireworks of this magnitude.

All in all it was a great way to spend a few hours in the park. I got my thrills on Cheetah Hunt. I was able to sit and relax in air conditioned comfort, a huge plus in July in Florida, at the Pirate 4D film and was entertained. Dinner could have been much more substantial, but I really wasn’t hungry for more than the churro and frozen coke, which I got to enjoy while seated on a bench with a nice breeze while listening to pop music before the Kinetix show. That was another thing I noticed that I think is new for the summer, or maybe just in the evening, but from the time I arrived at 7pm until I left a little before 10pm the music being played throughout the park was mostly familiar pop music. I thought this really added to the fun summer vibe I felt from the Summer Nights celebration.

How do you like to spend a quick few hours at Busch Gardens? Have you been to Summer Nights? What was your favorite part?

 

Check out our YouTube page here to see other great videos from around Central Florida parks and activities.

 

httpv://youtu.be/0VKupNxfOdU

httpv://youtu.be/vA9IRfaQpoE

httpv://youtu.be/C2dt-_dw6KQ

httpv://youtu.be/8e0naFF9xRQ

httpv://youtu.be/EiFemisTcjQ

httpv://youtu.be/GA-LbAtXiO8

httpv://youtu.be/xXqjyLBkvIY

httpv://youtu.be/SMAQl7Q7Q9s

httpv://youtu.be/5XrP8cNcO98

httpv://youtu.be/-uKdUyDsV9A

httpv://youtu.be/j-7f4WZisRo

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Sea World / Busch Gardens App Review

This week I’d like to focus on two great apps for smartphones from Busch Gardens and Sea World. I have often being accused of being attached to my phone while in the parks, but in this case, this is a good thing. These apps are amazing! They have some great features that I will explore a little further with a bit more detail.

First off, the layout for both Busch Gardens is similar as you can see from the pictures below. On the first screen upon opening the app for the first time after downloading it, you will be asked to choose which park location you’d like to choose from to install that specific park’s information on your phone. Seen below are the screen shots for the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Sea World Orlando. The next screen you will see is the home screen with a built in compass. The screen is broken up into categories of Animals, Search, Shows, Attractions/Rides & Wait Times, Restrooms, Stay Connected, Food and Explore More. I have also taken a picture of the park maps with some of the search options.

 

Across the bottom of each screen you have the Home, Events, Camera, Map and More options. With the Busch Gardens map above I just zoomed out to see the whole park. For the Sea World map I opted to search for the companion restrooms at the park.

Since the features are practically identical for the two parks, I will focus just on one from this point forward since I went to Sea World most recently and much of the functionality is brought out best while in the park based on GPS location.

Animals

For the Animals section you are able to sort alphabetically by name or distance from your current location within the park.

Search

Search allows you to type in a keyword and gives your results in alphabetical order, but also shows your distance and a brief description. If you are wanting more specific information about dolphins, click on the listed links.

Shows
A'Lure Directions
A'Lure

One of my favorite things about the app is the show listings. I love all of the shows Sea World to offer and the function of sorting by name, distance or show time is great! I used this to find my way to explore a new show for me: A’Lure. It directed me and kept constantly updating my distance to the show.

Ride & Wait Times

Similar to shows, Ride & Wait Times allows you to sort by name, distance or wait time if you are looking for something to ride.

Restrooms

Again with the Restrooms you are able to sort by name or distance. If you want GPS directions, just click on the name of the restroom and the app will direct you with step by step map using GPS.

Stay Connected

On the Stay Connected tab, you can get more information on Sea World by following them on Twitter, liking them on Facebook, following the Sea World blog or signing up for the email list.

Food

Much like the other categories, with Food you can sort by name or distance. Once you select a location you can see more like sample menu items and pricing.

Explore More - Up-Close Tours
Explore More - In-Park Dining
Explore More - Animal Interactions
Explore More - Adventure Camps - Sleepovers
Explore More - Quick Queue

For the Explore More section of the app you can learn more about Tours, Camps, Animal Interaction programs, the Quick Queue program and the All Day Dining Deal (which I highly recommend).

Events

Events lists upcoming things like concert series and special events for the next few months along with more information and specific dates.

Camera

I absolutely loved the Camera function of the app. It was so cool to take pictures in the park and add fun borders right then to save to your phone to upload or send to friends and family. However, this was the only part of the app that I had some issues with it acting a little buggy going back to my phone’s home screen instead of to the app’s home screen when I was done take the picture.

Map

You can see the interactive footsteps on the map once you have selected your destination. Along the top you have options of searching or pre-selected categories of Animal Connections, Shows, Rides, First Aid, Restroom, Nursing Facility, Defibrillator, Drinks, Snacks & Refills, Companion Restrooms, ATM, Amenities, Dining, Lockers, Guest Information, Events, Gifts & Souvenirs, Smoking, and Clear All. You can select multiple options at the same time and can move the map around as well as zoom in and out. Also included is the ability to recenter the GPS to your current position.

More - Contact Us/General Information

If you are wanting to contact Sea World or get more general info about the park, like their address for GPS, you can find this under the More – Contact Us/General Information section.

More - Park Hours

Park Hours is pretty self explanatory and shows the hours for each day of the month when you click on the calendar.

More - Directions

The directions tab is particularly useful if you don’t have a GPS program. When I went to the Directions my phone verified my current location and calculated distance and time based on GPS.

More - Weather

There is even a built in Weather app to give you the forecast for the day.

More - Commitment

If you are wanting to learn more about Sea World’s mission and pledge to environmental education and protection, visit the Commitment section under More.

More - Car Finder
Car Finder
Car Finder
Car Finder

I think my favorite thing using the GPS was the Car Finder function. When you park your car you drop a pin to mark the GPS location of where you parked. When you are leaving for the day you can revisit the car finder to find your car! No more do you have to try to remember where exactly you parked. I found this to be very reliable and it even recognized when I reached my car.

 

All in all, I am very impressed with the Sea World and Busch Gardens apps. Even though I know my way around the parks well enough to not need a park map, it is nice to have the GPS to show you the shortest distance or alternate routes to get where you are going. There are tons of great features that these apps offer using the GPS technology and search functions. I use these apps pretty much every time I’m in these parks, especially for the show times to see what I can catch on a whim and also for wait times and exploring what is in the area. Honestly, the only thing I had any issues with was the camera function on occasion. I’d say it worked fine three out of five times I tried it. I think these are some of the nicest apps for parks in the area and wish some of the other parks would adopt some of these features and ease of use. Check them out next time you’re in the area or even if you just want to check to see what is going on in the parks in advance of your trip!

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Summer Nights Bring Nightly Fireworks to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens’ Summer Nights amps up the excitement year after year, and 2012 promises to offer even more after-dark entertainment and fun for the whole family with a new Latin-infused show at the Desert Grill and—for the first time ever—an amazing fireworks finale every night of the event.

From June 9 through Aug. 12, guests will experience extended park hours, special entertainment, high-energy DJs, and the thrill of riding world-class coasters in the dark, including Busch Gardens’ new triple-launch coaster, Cheetah Hunt.

The award-winning Kinetix show returns to Summer Nights with nightly performances of its rock-fueled blast of music and acrobatics. Kinetix’s energizing performances include live musicians, singers, dancers and artists from around the world. Their thrilling performance – along with modern music and pyrotechnic effects – will pump up the crowd every night in Gwazi Park at 9 p.m. Gates open at 8 p.m., so arrive early to ensure a good spot and enjoy the Party Starters’ pre-show interactive games and dancing.

NEW Fireworks Light Up the Sky Every Night

Celebrate the perfect end to the evening with an amazing fireworks finale. Busch Gardens lights up the sky every night of the event with an incredible aerial display set to popular music. The best views are in Gwazi Park, right after the nightly Kinetix show, but the fireworks are visible from all over the park.

 

 

NEW “Let’s Get Loud” Takes the Stage in the Desert Grill

Singers, dancers and musicians heat up Summer Nights with popular contemporary music and dance, incorporating the Latin flair of Miami’s South Beach. “Let’s Get Loud,” a Miami Dance Party, opens June 9 and will feature music and dance infused with Hispanic heat from well-known artists like Gloria Estefan, Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin.

 

On Fridays and Saturdays, the Party Starters will host dance challenges all day throughout the park and pick the most outgoing guests to compete in the Dance-Off competition that evening. The Dance-Off will be a three-round competition starting at 7 p.m. in the Desert Grill. The audience picks the winner with “the best moves” by applause, and first prize is four tickets to come back to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Don’t forget that Busch Gardens is the place to be this summer ­– both day AND night – with brand-new attractions that offer exciting entertainment for everyone. Busch Gardens just opened its biggest ice show ever, Iceploration, bringing to life an all-new adventure filled with world-class skaters, original costumes, amazing aerial performances, master puppetry and live animal stars. The park’s new Animal Care Center welcomes guests to closely observe and even take part in the animal care experience in this new state-of-the-art facility. And the park’s newest mega-attraction and Florida’s first triple-launch coaster, Cheetah Hunt, launches riders from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds. If going from zero to cheetah is not your speed, guests can watch as Busch Gardens’ cheetahs sprint several times a day in Cheetah Run.

Park hours for Summer Nights are extended until 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Summer Nights is included with a day’s paid admission or any annual pass.

For more information on Summer Nights and Busch Gardens, visit BuschGardens.com or call
1-888-800-5447.

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SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Parks Say Good-bye to Plastic Bags

In a press release earlier this week SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay released the following information.

Paper or plastic? Soon there will be just one choice at the 10 theme parks of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment — paper — as the company eliminates plastic shopping bags within the next year. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment will be the largest theme park operator to make this commitment.
Park gift shops will offer paper bags made from 100 percent recycled paper or guests can choose to purchase reusable bags.
 
“This is a significant change for our company, one we hope will provide a model for our industry overall,” said Jim Atchison, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “Eliminating plastic bags is an important statement about our commitment to the environment, as well as the need to help protect marine animals from debris. It also allows our guests to play a direct part in making a difference on our planet.”
 
This move will keep an estimated 4 million plastic bags from entering landfills and the environment each year. Approximately 1.4 billion tons of trash, including plastic bags, enters the ocean annually. Wildlife such as endangered sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their favorite foods.
 
The company began exploring the concept at SeaWorld San Diego in 2011, when the park discontinued the use of plastic gift bags to mark the opening of its new Turtle Reef attraction. SeaWorld Orlando is eliminating the bags this month in conjunction with the opening of its new attraction, TurtleTrek.
 
Opening April 27, TurtleTrek combines naturalistic habitats (sea turtles and manatees) with the world’s first 3-D, 360-degree dome theater film. The film immerses guests in a sea turtle’s extraordinary journey.
 
Another Refreshing…and Renewable Change:
Also adding to the ways park guests can consume responsibly, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and The Coca-Cola Company introduced paper cups for guests made with 85 percent renewable resources as part of a new 10-year partnership. Guests use more than 13 million paper cups each year throughout the 10 parks.
 
About SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment
The 10 parks of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment inspire 23 million guests a year to celebrate and conserve the natural world. Through up-close animal encounters, educational attractions and innovative entertainment, each guest leaves with a heightened sensitivity to the world around them and an awareness of the plight of animals in the wild.
 
The company, headquartered in Orlando, Fla., owns and operates SeaWorld Orlando, SeaWorld San Antonio, SeaWorld San Diego, Busch Gardens Tampa, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Discovery Cove and Aquatica in Orlando, Adventure Island in Tampa, Water Country USA in Williamsburg and Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa. near Philadelphia.
 
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment also is a global leader in animal care and conservation. The company has rescued more than 20,000 orphaned, injured or ill animals over the past four decades and contributed more than $50 million to conservation worldwide. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment is a portfolio company of Blackstone.
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The SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay PreSchool Pass Is Back!!!

Children ages five and younger can now explore the wonders of Africa and the depths of the ocean for FREE with the new Busch Gardens & SeaWorld Preschool Pass. Little ones will experience kid-size thrills at Busch Gardens’ Sesame Street Safari of Fun and SeaWorld’s Shamu’s Happy Harbor play areas, get up close to their favorite furry and feathered friends, and see new shows brought to life.

The pass is valid for all of 2012 at both SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Kids are welcome to experience all there is to do for the preschool set, including seasonal events such as Summer Nights at Busch Gardens, SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular and festive holiday events at both parks. New this year, Busch Gardens will delight guests with its biggest ice show ever, Iceploration, premiering Feb. 2. And SeaWorld is introducing an all-new festival this year, “Just for Kids!” featuring concerts by Lazy Town, Max & Ruby, the Doodlebops and Choo-Choo Soul, along with plenty of family-friendly fun and activities on Saturdays Jan. 14 through Feb. 4.

Parents and older kids can join in on all the excitement with a Fun Card, which invites guests to pay for a day and play all year through Dec. 31, 2012, with no blackout dates.

The Free SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Preschool Pass is an online-only offer, available here. It is exclusively for Florida residents ages 5 and younger and is valid for unlimited admission – with no blackout dates – through Dec. 31, 2012 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and SeaWorld Orlando. The Preschool Pass does not include parking or Premium Passport discounts or benefits.

After registering through either park’s website, registrants can pick up the Preschool Pass for their child by bringing a printed confirmation and a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate to any ticket window at Busch Gardens’ or SeaWorld’s front gate.

“Must-see” preschool attractions at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Preschoolers will delight in Sesame Street Safari of Fun, a sunny, funny play land, filled with moments that your family can share for the first time — like a first coaster experience aboard Air Grover. And everyday smiles can be repeated again and again: clapping along to original shows, splashing in an expansive water play area and enjoying kid-size rides.

Also available in Sesame Street Safari of Fun, families can Dine with Elmo and Friends on select days and enjoy special event dining experiences with the characters to mark holidays, character birthdays and more. Beginning in March, opt for the Family Fun Buffet, offered on select days. It’s the perfect way to feed your hungry family during your busy day and not miss out on any of the fun! Enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet along with the chance to meet beloved Sesame Street characters between 12 and 4 p.m. on select days in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun Dining Pavilion. Reservations are not required.

In February, children’s imaginations will go wild when Iceploration takes the ice. The all-new, 30-minute show combines ethereal ice skating, larger-than-life puppets, amazing costumes and even animal stars. Iceploration opens Feb. 2, 2012 with shows daily in the Moroccan Palace Theatre. Another family favorite at Busch Gardens is “Critter Castaways,” in which a cast of unlikely characters – including dogs, cats, parrots and exotic animals –  come together to create a side-splitting show with surprise twists that will have the whole family laughing.

There are plenty of animal encounters and pint-sized rides for families with young children to enjoy as well. In Jungala, families can connect with the jungle through a three-story play land, enjoy a water play zone and come face to face with exotic and endangered animals. At Jambo Junction, guests can have up-close interactions with animals such as flamingos, lemurs and sloths. And in Timbuktu, a carousel and other junior rides will delight those not ready for the major coasters. And what preschooler doesn’t enjoy a train ride? You and your little one can journey across the Serengeti Plains to view zebra, rhino and giraffes aboard the Serengeti Express.

Some additional features that Busch Gardens offers families with young kids include stroller parking and reduced prices on kids’ meals in 2012.  Parking spots are available within our preferred parking area designated strictly for guests with strollers, so they can bypass the tram. No additional fee is required, and spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis to guests who request them at the parking tollbooths. At the park’s restaurants, kids’ meals are now just $5.99, including a drink, making it even more affordable to not only entertain, but also feed your little ones at Busch Gardens.

SeaWorld loves kids, too

And don’t forget that this awesome new FREE Preschool Pass also includes admission to SeaWorld Orlando. Just a short hour’s drive away, SeaWorld’s littlest guests can enjoy the wildly popular 4-acre play area, Shamu’s Happy Harbor.  It’s a kid’s dream come true, complete with kid-size rides, a 4-story net climb, and a great place for parents to relax in the shade. The park’s first family-oriented roller coaster, Shamu Express, can be found here, along with many other kiddie rides to explore.

And that’s in addition to all the wondrous animal encounters at SeaWorld. Your family can meet penguins, dolphins, fish, rays, sharks, and, of course, Shamu!

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