Busch Gardens has introduced their own Food and Wine Festival to rival that at Disney’s Epcot. In 2018, the festival runs over nine weekends (Saturday/Sunday) from March 3 through April 29 and admission is included with a standard ticket, Fun Card or annual pass.
The festival area opens at noon on festival events days and there is a preview day on Friday, March 2 with the Florida Orchestra featuring the Mambo Kings.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been running a Food and Wine Festival since 2013 during May/June but 2015 was the first year for an event of this kind at the Tampa park.
It follows the same format as Williamsburg, where guests are be able to try out a variety of individual appetiser sampler sized portions priced at around $3 to $7 each from around 13 food cabins located around Gwazi Park and the Bird Gardens.
Each cabin offers several different dishes within a theme along with beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). In total there are around 35 different food items, plus more than 65 wines and over 50 craft brews to choose from.
The food cabins open at noon each day (Saturday/Sunday) and close at 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 p.m. on Sundays.
You can also purchase full sized wine bottles to take home with you as well as cooking and gardening related gifts from a number of artisan festival cabins leading up to Gwazi Park.
A cashless wristband linked to a credit card allows for easy payment.
In addition to the food and wine kiosks there are also a number of demonstrations from talented chefs and other artisans.
In 2017 Busch Gardens introduced a series of larger-than-life topiaries of animals, birds, marine mammals and insects located throughout the festival area plus special Coca-Cola inspired festival games including Coke bottle ring toss and Coke “can crush”. New for 2018 is a living statue fountain.
Most of the festival activities take place in and around Gwazi Park and the Bird Gardens area.
As well as providing the opportunity to sample food and drink from around the world there are also live music concerts each day of the festival.
Food & Wine Festival Concerts
Each day of the event, there is live music on the Coca-Cola Stage followed by a live headline music concert at Gwazi Field. The headline concerts start at 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays. The main concerts typically run for about one hour.
The provisional line up for the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival 2018 is as follows:
- 3 March 2018 − Sister Hazel & Edwin McCain
- 4 March 2018 − Grupo Niche
- 10 March 2018 − The Fray
- 11 March 2018 − Southern Uprising Tour
- 17 March 2018 − Olga Tanon
- 18 March 2018 − Goo Goo Dolls
- 24 March 2018 − Better Than Ezra & Tonic
- 25 March 2018 − Michael Bolton
- 31 March 2018 − Boyz II Men
- 1 April 2018 − Natalie Grant
- 7 April 2018 − Hank Williams Jr.
- 8 April 2018 − TLC
- 14 April 2018 − Bret Michaels
- 15 April 2018 − Kool & The Gang / The Commodores
- 21 April 2018 − The All-American Rejects
- 22 April 2018 − Cole Swindle
- 28 April 2018 − Flo Rida
- 29 April 2018 − Kaleo & Bleachers
Food & Wine Festival VIP Seating Package
You can purchase one of two VIP Seating Packages. The tier 1 package gets you closest to the stage and prices start at $44.99 per person with the Tier 2 package from $34.99. Both Tier 1 and Tier 2 packages include a Sampler Lanyard good for up to 5 items from the food and drink menus.
Food & Wine Festival Sampler Lanyards & Tastings
As well as buying individual samplers, you can also purchase a lanyard for five, eight or twelve choices of food, wine, cocktails or craft brews from the various cabins. Note that the All Day Dining Deal is not valid at the food festival cabins.
A five-item sampler is $29.99, the eight-item is $39.99 and the twelve-item is $54.99 (all plus tax).
You can also indulge in a range of specific drink Tastings but you must be 21 or over to participate.
The cheapest is the Sweet Wine Tasting which gives you five samples of sweet local Florida wines from $16.99. There is also a four sample Tequila Tasting or Bourbon Tasting from $24.99. You can also combine the Sweet Wine Tasting with either the Tequila Tasting or Bourbon Tasting from $34.99. All prices are plus tax.
The samplers and tastings are only valid on Saturday/Sunday Festival dates and expire on the last day of the festival. If you buy VIP concert seating then the price includes a five-item sampler lanyard.
Pass Member Discounts
Pass Members get a 10% discount on the VIP Seating Packages, Sampler Lanyards and Drink Tastings. Note Pass Members can also purchase an exclusive 15-item sampler lanyard for the price of a 12-item sampler.