Full disclosure: I was invited to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for a complimentary media preview of their new Giraffe Bar and to experience the safari for this story. All opinions here are my own and do not represent Busch Gardens.
I have visited Busch Gardens Tampa Bay since I was a little kid. I rode the, now torn-down, Gwazi on the first day the right was available with my best friend of 4th grade, Richard. I had a fun card over the summer in middle school and would hangout at the theme park with my friends to pass the time. One time we must have been on the Kumba coaster at least 30 times in a row.
Along the way Busch Gardens has grown and changed as it adapts to the growth of Disney and Universal Studios in Orlando. The Africa themes have given way to a variety of events and other add-ons over time. One thing I never did too much was spend time with animals and I admit I have always been more of a roller coaster guy when it comes to theme parks.
However, when I first received notice about the coming Giraffe Bar I was immediately excited. Why has no one does this before? I thought to myself. The animals are literally right there and somehow there was no way to enjoy a drink and observe them.
I visited the theme park for a media visit recently to check the new bar and to get the backstory. First, media guests were invited on a safari tour to actually visit with the giraffes. I have always read you can do this, but never opted to and honestly it is one of the best things I have ever experienced.
Being up close and personal with the giraffes and being able to feed them was very calming and also the amount of knowledge the tour guide knows about each animal down to their habits and details is incredible. If you have a chance to go on the safari at Busch Gardens on a visit, I definitely recommend it.
Once the safari came to an end we headed over to visit the new Giraffe Bar which is now in soft opening to the public.
Inside there were bottles of wine on display, bartenders preparing drinks, and plenty of food to taste. The bar was previously a quick-service cafe for busy theme park-goers looking for a quick bite to eat. The location of it right next to the sky ride is ideal for those shuffling back and forth across the theme park, plus it isn’t too far from the park entrance either.
Sports fans will be happy to know that there are plenty of televisions planned for them to enjoy the latest sports games they might be missing while out with the family or friends.
The craft beer menu is focused on local with Big Storm Brewing, Green Bench Brewing, Brew Bus Brewing, and 7venth Sun on tap. No doubt these selections will rotate, but its clear Busch Gardens knows its audience. Wines served has a focus on sustainability and there are also African spirits for sale as well.
Cocktails are available on tap and there are also frozen drinks available which were my favorite. Theme park collectors will find merchandise and take-home giraffe gear also for sale. The food I tried was tasty including a delicious giraffe shaped pretzel, some quality popcorn, cupcakes, and chicken wings.
Many opted to simply grab a drink inside and relax around the bar, but I wanted to experience the real thing and so I grabbed a drink and headed outside and grabbed a table to see if I would be able to see any giraffes or animals and although it was later in the evening and the sun was setting, which by the way was glorious from this spot, I managed to see one giraffe and another animal in the distance…not quite the same as the up and personal safari, but still enough to make it an experience.
My favorite frozen drink was The Hungry Tusker made with Amarula African Cream Liqueur, Hula Hawaiian Dark Rum, Coconut, Pineapple. The Amarula Trust Conservation Fund the drink benefits safeguards and works to protect African Elephants.
It was there as I sipped my drink and watched the animals move around in the dusk that I thought to myself, this is a great reason to push through crowds to a theme park and I only wish they built this sooner. I plan to go back.
Find more information at buschgardens.com/tampa/dining/giraffe-bar/.