Summer Nights has returned to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in a modified format, with a new fireworks & laser show and extended hours. The event is scheduled to continue on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through September 6, and includes extended hours in the evenings for guests to enjoy the park. (The event originally was scheduled to end on August 16, but was extended through Labor Day weekend.)
The park has also added some extra features since Summer Nights returned on July 17 – Big Bird will be available for photos at select times during the day on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays through August 9 at Gwazi Pavilion near the Xcursions gift shop. On August 15 & 16 and again August 22 & 23, a special presentation will be offered inside Stanleyville Theater at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. giving guests an inside look into the care for some of the animals at Busch Gardens.
As the day turns into evening, the first thing guests will notice is upbeat modern pop music playing over the park’s speakers. Also in the early evening, several special booths open in the Bird Gardens section of the park, clustered around Garden Gate Cafe.
There are a total of five locations with special culinary offerings for Summer Nights. Those include inside of Garden Gate Cafe, at the new Coke Canopy, inside of the Xcursions gift shop, and at two temporary booths set up along the path outside of Xcursions.
For guests who have leftover punches on a 2020 Food & Wine Festival lanyard, you can use them towards the food & beverage items at each of the Summer Nights locations except inside of Xcursions. At the locations that accept them, it is two punches for a full-size food item or one punch for a sampler size beverage.
The first booth guests will encounter coming from the entrance area of the park is All S’mored Up, located just outside of Xcursions.
Here, you’ll find a few varieties of the classic s’more and one adult beverage version of the treat. A look at the menu:
I tried the Cinnamon Roll S’more and suffice it to say this was an ooey-gooey treat that was delicious and very rich.
Inside Xcursions is the specialty cupcake spot and a small pop up bar. The cupcakes are pre-packaged for easy grab-and-go fun and include single and multi-packs. The bar offers a few beer and wine options for adults.
Moving down the path outside of Xcursions is Summer Lovin Bar-B-Que.
As the name implies, barbeque is the theme here with a few sandwich selections. Each comes with a bag of chips.
Here’s a look at the Pulled Pork. For the price, not a bad light meal with the bag of chips included.
Inside of Garden Gate Cafe, a special Summer Nights menu features a couple of snacks and drinks available for purchase. This location also offers fountain beverages, so stop here if you have a souvenir cup in need of a refill. Just remember to stop at the counter to get a disposable cup first for filling up.
At the brand new Coke Canopy, guests can enjoy hot dogs and some more adult beverages.
The canopy is new this season, allowing guests to get out of the sun (or in inclement weather, the rain) and keep enjoying their time. Along with the place to buy your hot dog, the bar has several drink options. You may also find some live entertainment here in the evening. On opening night, it was a quartet of steel drum players who performed several sets. Check the signage in front of the Coke Canopy for the schedule.
At 8:30 p.m. the Festival Field gates are open for guests to pick their spot to watch the new fireworks & laser show. No need to crowd around the main gate across from the Xcursions gift shop, guests also have the option to enter the smaller gate on the far side of Garden Gate Cafe or via Sesame Street through the pavilion at the back of that land.
The field itself is set up with a ton of metal bleacher-style seating, all marked with decals in three-foot sections to allow guests to remain socially distant. With the park’s reduced capacity, there should be no problem finding a seat and leaving some room between parties to enjoy the show comfortably.
The Peacock Bar returns from the Food & Wine Festival on the field, located in the pavilion next to all of the seating.
Here you’ll find a variety of beverages along with a few snack items. Leftover Food & Wine Sampler punches are also valid at this location.
An emcee on a riser under the pavilion welcomes guests onto the field and reminds everyone of safety protocols, including maintaining social distance and wearing masks properly.
You can pick up some of your own glowing items while waiting for the show to start.
At 9 p.m. on event evenings, the main attraction of Summer Nights begins – an all-new fireworks & laser show. The approximately six-minute show combines a mashup of songs, both modern and older rock & pop hits, with a myriad of laser lights beaming above the audience and fireworks in the sky.
We suggest sitting towards the back of the seating area (which would put you near the large stage used for concerts at the Food & Wine Festival). This allows you to take in the full effect of the lasers and not have to bend your neck back quite as far to enjoy the higher firework bursts.
After the show is over, guests are encouraged to exit at one of four points, whichever is closest to their seats, instead of all piling through the main exit. We suggest simply hanging out a few extra minutes to let the crowds disperse. Remember, the goal is to allow social distancing, so do your part to not clog the pathways all at once.
If it’s a Friday or Saturday, the park remains open until 10 p.m., which means you also have the option to grab another ride or two on your favorite coaster (on Sundays the park closed at 9 p.m.). Be aware that while most of the big rides remain open until the end of the night, some have shorter hours. SheiKra also closes temporarily around the time of the fireworks show since it’s so close to the area where they are launched from.
If You Go…
Summer Nights at Busch Gardens Tampa
Weekends through September 6
Fridays & Saturdays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sundays: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Fireworks at 9 p.m.
For the latest on Busch Gardens Tampa and other theme parks, attractions, and more across the region, be sure to follow Touring Central Florida on twitter @androckb & @TourCentralFL, and like our Facebook page.