Grab those beads and blast the jazz music, because it’s time for Mardi Gras. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is in full Mardi Gras mode, and we were lucky enough to get in on all the festivities. Read below to check out our review of food, drinks, music, and more!
Upon entering the park, there was a photo op for guests who are ready for their close up, with photographers on standby to take your photo. Masks are required to stay on for pictures due to COVID-19 safety regulations, but it’s a great way to began the celebration with a picture to commemorate the event. As you walk through the park to get to the designated Mardi Gras area, you start to hear the sounds of New Orleans, as music is played over the speakers to get you in the Mardi Gras spirit. Purple and green lights compliment the areas surrounding this region of the park as they are wrapped on the trees, as well as purple shades that are hung from the poles to add to the colorful occasion. There are several big signs that say “Busch Gardens Mardi Gras” that are spread across the area, as well as signs on each of the stands, with masks, hats, beads, and more. Vibrant diamonds are placed in the grass areas toward the center of the area, right across from the stage. Next to that is a bead garden, complete with characters who come to revel with guests at certain periods of the day to pass out beads. Not only that, but there are flamingos who are in on the celebration and signs that pull off some great Mardi Gras puns (can’t get enough of the puns). Guests can interact and try their hands at catching the tossed beads, while also completing their bead victory with a photograph. If you thought we were done, you’re sadly mistaken. We can’t forget about the parades! We were lucky enough to catch one while enjoying our stay, and with help from the brass band (who we will mention later), it was an eye-catching display that had us joining in on all the fun! Stilt performers, a belly dancer, what more could you ask for! The decorations and events are full with the spirit of New Orleans and Mardi Gras, so your eyes and ears will not be disappointed.
Food and Drinks:
Thanks to Busch Gardens’s generosity, we were able to get a food and drink sampler to quench our thirst and satisfy our taste buds with famous New Orleans favorites. There were 10 stations, with some repeating to make it convenient to help shorten those long lines.
Here are a few mouthwatering food items to make your taste buds jealous:
Mardi Gras Cupcakes:
Cupcakes? Sign us up! Decorated with Mardi Gras colors, these cupcakes are sure to bring joy to your stomach with each bite being as savory as the next! You can have a set of two cupcakes for $5.99, or you can take a four pack of cupcakes for $9.99. The more the merrier we always say!
Although we were full and couldn’t try this delicacy, we can tell you that everyone was lining up to eat these tasty, powdered pastries of goodness! Not only that, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can inject (yes, you heard us right) Rum Glazed Bananas Foster or Bourbon Caramel into your beignet!
Okay, we’ll be honest. We were too scared to try this one for fear of burning our taste buds off with spice, but it looked so good, we had to mention it! First with the Shrimp Po’Boy, you will get crispy shrimp, tabasco pepper remoulade, and crisp cabbage and pickles. Next, the Chicken Po’Boy entails habanero glazed hot chicken, celery remoulade, cabbage and pickles. Each sandwich is made complete with Zapps New Orleans Style Voodoo Chips. If you can handle the heat, we suggest trying this!
This was our personal favorite! With only a hint of spice (we couldn’t handle more otherwise), this dish consists of rice, chicken, and andouille sausage. It was a perfect size for our stomachs to handle, and it was a perfect compliment to the dishes back in New Orleans! We definitely recommend this if you are more sensitive to spice!
Good ole’ Gumbo! Similar to the Jambalaya, the Gumbo calls for chicken and andouille sausage. What differs from the other dish is that the Gumbo is made absolute with the addition of the biscuit and that it consists of soup to warm your soul!
Don’t forget these delicious drinks to wash this tasty food down:
While there are two Hurricanes stations, each offered something different! This flavorful drink can be enjoyed either iced or frozen. It’s not too strong and the mixture is balanced for enjoyment! We tried the frozen rum and punch hurricanes and they are perfect for a sunny, warm day in Florida!
Spiced Vanilla Old Fashioned Cocktail:
The good times roll, and the good drinks keep coming! In this cocktail, it includes Woodford Reserve, vanilla, and bitters. As in the Smoked Bloody Cocktail, the outside circle of the cup is dipped in salt/spice to give it a kick. Some say that it’s strong, so tread lightly!
French Quarter Salted Caramel Bourbon Thrill Shake:
If you’re looking for the sugar mother-load, you will find it in this drink! All your favorites are wrapped into one: a salted caramel Bulleit Bourbon shake served in a souvenir cup with donuts, pretzel, chocolate, and raspberry drizzle! Can you say yum?
The Nola Float:
This was our favorite of the drinks! The Nola Float is made with Kahlua Ice Cream Swirl and Coca-Cola to bring memories of soda floats back to guests who taste this cool, creamy beverage you can eat and drink.
Smoked Bloody Mary Cocktail:
Get ready for the Smoked Bloody Mary Cocktail. First, the outer circle of the cup are dipped with salt (with a little spice), while the cocktail itself involves Tito’s Vodka, hickory, and fresh lemon. If getting the bigger size cup to enjoy, a jalapeno pepper and celery give the drink more personality, if you will. If you’re already a fan of Bloody Mary’s, we recommend this drink for you!
If New Orleans, Louisiana and Mardi Gras is known for one thing, it’s music. There are no shortage of sounds as guest stroll down the “streets” of New Orleans. Two types of bands are featured at Mardi Gras with the Zydeco band called “Docka D & The Powers that B” (Merriam-Webster definition for “zydeco”: “popular music of southern Louisiana that combines tunes of French origin with elements of Caribbean music and the blues and that features guitar, washboard, and accordion”). This band is sure to get your toes tapping with their unique display of blues music and a guy that can play a killer harmonica.
Here’s a sample of their tunes to put you in the mood:
Next, the brass band (mentioned above) come out to play. After the parade had come and gone, they serenaded visitors with more sweet New Orleans music. These talented gentlemen deserve all the praise with their artistic arrangement that made us feel as though we were home in the heart of New Orleans.
Check out their magic below!
Overall, we were very pleased with our stay and you will be, too! Reserve your chance to feel the spirit of Mardi Gras at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with select dates from January 16 through February 16! For more information at the Tampa location, check out buschgardens.com/tampa.
“Let the good times roll”