Busch Gardens Tampa News & Notes – November/December 2018

Check out the News & Notes for November and December 2018, with a look ahead at what’s happening at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, along with a review of some of the recent changes and news from the park. In this edition: the Annual Pass Program gets an overhaul, Christmas Town 2018 preparation is underway, and a look at Tigris construction!

Looking Ahead

Pass Member Instant Rewards: With the changes as part of the new Annual Pass program, these are the final two months for the Pass Member Instant Rewards (see below for more details). For November 2018, pass members will receive a 50% discount on the Serengeti Safari tour. In December, pass members can pick up a free commemorative ornament (while supplies last). For more details on these and other current offers, visit the Pass Member website.

Special Events: Conservation Connections series continues on November 12 at 2 p.m. with a talk from Arnuad Desbeiz, Founder & Director of the Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project, Brazil in the Gwazi Pavilion. Christmas Town kicks off November 17 and runs nightly through December 31. Guy Harvey returns to the park on December 1 and 2. The park will ring in the New Year with extended hours and fireworks at midnight on December 31.

Scheduled Refurbishments & Closures: Phoenix and Jungle Flyers are closed until further notice. Congo River Rapids is closed for its annual refurbishment through November 21. Bumper Cars will be closed from November 12 – December 21, and Wild Surge will be closed December 3 – 14. While these dates are taken directly from the park’s website, they are subject to change.

New Annual Pass Program

Announced at the beginning of October, the Annual Pass Program at Busch Gardens and SeaWorld parks has gone through some changes, with new tiered options offering different levels of benefits. Current pass members have the option to upgrade to one of the new pass options, or remain under their current pass until it expires. Those who were on the EZPay program can keep their current pass indefinitely so long as no payments are missed.

Other big changes include the removal of the monthly Instant Rewards that have been offered at Busch Gardens for the past several years. The 2018 Fun Card was removed from sale at the time of the changes, and the park has not announced if it will return in 2019.

Learn more about the annual pass program changes in our recent article.

Christmas Town 2018

Christmas Town returns to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay beginning November 17th, and running daily through the end of the year. Closing times range from 7 to 10 p.m. most nights, with a 1 a.m. closing on New Year’s Eve.

A few new things will be part of Christmas Town this season, including “Christmas is…” which replaces the long running Christmas Celebration show in Dragon Fire Grill.

One new attraction this year will be the light tunnel between Congo and Stanleyville. It will be located on the bypass that was used for the Camp D.O.A. scare zone during Howl-O-Scream, and seems to signal that Jungala will be closed during the evenings for Christmas Town.

Christmas Town Village is moving out of Gwazi Park, and will be located along the main pathway in front of the former roller coaster as construction starts there soon. We spotted the miniature train layout being installed under cover at Gwazi’s entrance this week.

Tigris Taking Shape

Opening in Spring 2019, Tigris is beginning to take shape on the former Tanganyika Tidal Wave plot. Footers are in, utilities have been installed, and work is now taking place on the station’s foundation.

A number of supports have arrived at the park, which are currently stored in an overflow lot awaiting installation.


A new permit was filed by the park with the city of Tampa near the end of October for demolition. The description mentions that specific portions of a structure and buildings will be demolished. While the permit doesn’t specify the project location within the park, we’ve heard from sources it is most definitely for the Gwazi site. Expect to see work begin soon, with the coaster opening sometime in 2020.

Walking Around

The park maps recently got a design update, with a cleaner appearance with less boxes around the edge. The names of many major attractions are now listed directly over their location on the map. The showtimes guide has also been removed from the back of the map and is now printed on a separate sheet of paper.

Look for some discounted merchandise inside Emporium, the main gift shop located near the park’s entrance. We spotted the remainder of 2018 branded merchandise available for 70% off.

All around the park, some new signs have been going up in queues for the attractions reminding guests that line jumping/cutting is not permitted.

The refurbishment at Kenya Kanteen is ongoing, with the culinary location in Nairobi still behind walls and under tarps as of this past week. No word on when it will reopen.

At the front of the park, the former Gwazi Soccer game has been converted to Slapshot Hockey. This follows the changes next door at the three point basketball game, which was rethemed and had its Gwazi name removed earlier this year.

For the latest on Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and other theme parks, attractions and more across the region, be sure to follow Touring Central Florida on twitter @TourCentralFL@androckb@Emmet_TCF, @JacobTouringCe1, and give our facebook page a like.

2 thoughts on “Busch Gardens Tampa News & Notes – November/December 2018”

  1. Hello,will they’re be any special opening for Busch pass member.
    For the Tigris coaster.do you know if new merchandise be out soon
    Before the ride opened day.i can’t wait to ride

    Thank,you Anthony jones

    1. There is usually some sort of special access for pass members when new attractions open, but nothing has been announced. Merchandise for new attractions has been available before they opened previously, so I would expect that to be the case with Tigris as well, probably sometime after the new year we’ll see a few items. We’ll keep you updated on twitter and in future articles here on the site!

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