Quietly, Busch Gardens Tampa has opened a “new” land in the park, Pantopia. Formerly the Timbuktu section of the park, Pantopia brings new life into easily what was the most dated section of Busch Gardens.
According to legend, a “Key Master” dropped into the land via hot air balloon. Everything inside the land is his creation along with the residents who currently reside there.
Each of these doors tells the story of who lives behind it. The theming is an eclectic mashup of countries from around the globe.
Just beyond the door is transportation plaza where the residents have parked their various vehicles.
Busch Gardens is following an industry-wide trend to increase per cap spending by offering premium merchandise as well as food and beverage to increase their per caps.
Lynx Frozen Treats offers a selection of beverages and fresh fruit smoothies, an item often requested in theme parks.
According to the story, an explorer named Frosty Krystallos crashed his plane into the side of a shed. He decided to make the best of it and paint it blue and white and offer frozen concoctions to passers by.
Twisted Tales Pretzels also comes with its own unique backstory.
Apparently an artisan baker was traveling through Pantopia and came across two lemurs with their tails intertwined.
He loved the design of their tails linked together so much, he designed the pretzel as we know it today.
In addition to traditional pretzels, they have pretzel dogs and even pretzel sandwiches along with a selection of dipping sauces.
Next door to Twisted Tails Pretzels is Dragon Fire, which was not yet open on the day of my visit. This location will feature ribs, sausages and kabobs.
Around the corner is Pantopia Grill, which hasn’t changed much from the previous Desert Grill Restaurant.
Even the menu remains almost identical to what was offered before.
Pantopia Grill’s dining room still doubles as a theater for the very popular “Burn The Floor” dancing show.
Pantopia Grill’s lobby features a phone charging similar to what Disney is testing down the road in Tomorrowland. While the Magic Kingdom service is free to rent one of these charging lockers, Pantopia will charge you $2.99 for the same service.
Pantopia also features several unadvertised shows where performers seem to come out of nowhere and bring the place to life.
The Pantopia Theater currently houses nothing. At one point, this was the dolphin show at Busch Gardens. It was then converted into an indoor 3D movie theater where R.L. Stine’s Haunted Lighthouse as well as Sesame Street 4D played.
These sculptures were assembled by the residents of Pantopia using scrap metal that travelers to the land had left behind.
Yea, about that new ride, we will get to that in a minute.
The theming of Pantopia is definitely a bit out there, but is a refreshing change from the previous Timbuktu section of the park.
The Painted Camel offers an eclectic selection of merchandise that is rather unique for a theme park.
The store’s name sake comes from a camel that children can design sections of in exchange for a $3 donation to the Sea World and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.
However, the store has a very interesting assortment of items, some of which I have never seen in a theme park before.
For example, you can mix and match your own teas combined with flavored sugars and bring them home to brew yourself.
They even carry about twenty different flavors of “scented sticks”, which seems like an odd souvenir to bring home from a theme park.
Even the light fixtures that hang in the windows are not just for decoration, they are actually for sale!
And yes, they are prepared for the opening of Falcon’s Fury which is currently slated to open late Summer/early Fall.
In a statement released by Busch Gardens “Due to a delay in the fabrication of key component parts, neither the manufacturer nor Busch Gardens are able to complete the lengthy testing processes needed to open the ride to the public.”
It goes on to say, “The safety of our guests and team members remains Busch Gardens’ top priority and none of these delays involve the safety system. The ride has been safely operated in the initial stages of the testing process and all other elements of the park’s newest re-imagined land Pantopia are now open to guests.”
To add some extra capacity for the summer months, Rhino Rally has been resurrected from the dead.
Even though the ride is now incredibly short, thanks to the finale being cut from the attraction, it still gives guests an extra attraction to see live animals.
Meanwhile, Pantopia is definitely worth checking out, if you can stand the heat of Busch Gardens. They have hired people to walk around the park and spray guests with a fine mist of ice water. Not kidding. It’s hot out there.