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Summer Nights at Busch Gardens Tampa: Python Encounters, Delicious Food, Fireworks, & Ice Skating Show

Written By Grant Duvall / Photos by Ellie Logan

    On May 24th, both Ellie Logan and myself were invited to Busch Gardens Tampa to experience their new event for the summer, Summer Nights.  Also featured were the Red, White, and Brews food and beverage offerings.  I had not been to Busch Gardens since 2019, so I was beyond excited to experience Busch Gardens at night.  At around 5:15, Elle Logan and I were invited in, bursting with excitement to see what surprises awaited us.

We were greeted with a small feast of cocktails and food.  Because I'm a huge fan of dessert, we started with cupcakes.  I tried a fried Oreo cupcake, which had a nice crisp and the flavor of the amazing fair snack that I know and love!  I wanted to try the other three cupcakes, but there was too much to try!  As I was trying a fruity margarita, which was a little too sweet for me, I met a python ambassador who was educating the awesomeness of snakes.  Sadly, it wasn't Hulk Hogan with his 24-inch pythons, although he does reside in Tampa, but this was the next best thing!  Other food highlights were the beef kabobs, which had a very nice seasoning on them and the fried mac and cheese.  The true standout though was the Doritos street tacos, which were bursting with cheese, meat, and sour cream.  Absolutely incredible, and it was served in a Doritos bag.

Following that, we were invited to see the second-ever performance of their new ice skating show, "Rhythm of Nature: A Magical Journey on Ice."  I was so excited, as the poster showed lions, zebras, monkeys, and other animals.  Of course, these would be portrayed by ice skaters, as I'm pretty sure that lions and zebras are probably not great ice skaters.  I bet monkeys could probably figure it out though.  Before the show started, Vice President of Entertainment Christine Morgan showed a video of Luna the Orangutan getting a C-Section to deliver her brand new baby Stella.  That was heartwarming, and Stella, who should be going on exhibit soon, is absolutely adorable. 

We were then treated to a making of video of the ice show, showing how much work the skaters put into this production.  The show itself was a little confusing, but we pieced together that it was about a young man, Takari, who had a dream about all sorts of animals and how he fit in with them.  Each segment was a different animal sequence, accompanied by modern music like High Hopes and Fireflies.  The snake segment was really neat to watch, as all the skaters were wearing silver outfits and holding onto each other mimicking a snake.  There was silk work and aerial acrobatics as well, but the true highlight was when the zebra and the lion had a battle, and the lion spun the zebra very close to the ice, to the point where I was very worried for her safety.  Of course, these are trained professionals so everything went off without a hitch.  I absolutely loved the show.  This would be a great one for anyone to watch as it's a cool building from the ice, so a great break in the summer.  

We were then given free reign around the park, so of course we had to ride Iron Gwazi, which I had never been on before.  This sucker is intense and not for the faint of heart.  You're out of your seat more than you are in it, as it has at least 14 moments of airtime, as well as moments being held upside down at high speeds.  This is easily the best coaster at Busch Gardens, and with a height requirement of only 48 inches, would be a very fun coaster to take a child on who has never been on one.

Multiple shows are happening this summer, such as a Cirque show, however, a lot of those shows were not running at the time I was there, so I'll have to return to see them.  There was a giant boombox though complete with stilt walkers and glowing neon-type outfits blasting music and dancing, and everyone who was watching it had the time of their lives.

Lots of specialty beer is around the park, and Elle introduced me to a cider company called Keel and Curley, which is easily the best cider I have ever had.  The watermelon and king cake ciders were incredible, and while they are pricey at $15 a pint, well worth every penny as they are so delicious.  If you are there to drink, these are surefire bets.

Lastly, we had to witness their new fireworks show, Summer Nights.  I had never seen a Busch Gardens fireworks show, and having just seen the new one at Disney the week before, I wasn't expecting much.  When we entered the viewing area, there was a large grassy area where kids were playing, had light-up hula hoops, beach balls being thrown around, dancing, and stilt walkers lit up in fun colors.   It felt like a country fair, where kids were legitimately having fun. 

Contrast that to the prior fireworks show I had seen where kids were anxious from standing in one spot and upset, these children were having the time of their lives.  It was truly magical.  The fireworks were only about 7 minutes, with modern music as a backdrop, but I kid you not, these fireworks went HARD.  Nonstop launches, very loud, and against the backdrop of Iron Gwazi even more spectacular.  It felt as though all the fireworks from a traditional show an hour from Busch Gardens were placed in one 7-minute show and it was more exciting than any fireworks show I had ever seen.

With that, our time had ended.  Busch Gardens truly has outdone itself and is really a place that people should be going on every single trip to Florida.  With incredible shows, rides, animals, food offerings, and entertainment, Busch Gardens stands up with the best of them and is a five-star experience.  On behalf of Elle and myself, we are so grateful to Busch for giving us the amazing opportunity to experience Busch Gardens and all of its new offerings.  Keep it creepy!


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