My journey through Busch Gardens Christmas Town 2018

Full disclosure: I was given complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens Christmas Town in exchange for an article about my experience at the annual event. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not represent Busch Gardens or any other entity.

My family and I hit the road on Saturday for an evening at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for their annual Christmas Town event.  The weather on Saturday was perfect for a day at a theme park. It’s normally hot whenever I visit theme parks, but it was in the mid-60s on Saturday.

Immediately upon entering the theme park we encountered a few of the local workers dressed in excellent holiday outfits which made for great photo ops. If you are trying to take some family photos, Christmas Town is filled with props and characters to help build some great memories.

We decided to hit the ice skating show first called “Christmas on Ice”. I tried to hit this show last year, but arrived too late to enter the show. You need to arrive early if you want to watch this show, I recommend 30-40 minutes before the show at the minimum for good seats. 

“Christmas on Ice” was a really great show with some exceptional ice skaters and plenty of different themes that can appeal to families, couples, kids, and various groups. I really enjoyed this show and recommend it to anyone visiting Busch Gardens during Christmas Town.

After the show we made our way over to the Christmas Village. They relocated the village this year to the lanes by Gwazi due to construction in their old zone. There was a good number of food and drink options, but it did feel slimmed back a little.

I had a turkey panini that was excellent here, however there was quite a line and wait for food, which was definitely frustrating. I also tried the Chicken N Waffles, which were delicious but went a little too heavy on the apple butter.

I recommend hitting up Christmas Village earlier if you’re going to get food because some booths were overwhelmed by crowds and didn’t seem to have a proper system in place to handle them. It have also been the fact that the booth I was mainly at was making mac and cheese grilled cheese sandwiches, which may be logistically difficult. 

A nice added feature was wine tastings and a whiskey addition, which gives you some liquor options unless you to venture over to Dragon Fire Grill & Pub or one of their other restaurants for some libations (we eventually did). 

After we grabbed some food, we wandered over to the Serengetti Overlook Restaurant to watch the Carol of the Bells light show which is always fun and great for kids. After that we ventured back and headed towards the Sing-a-Long Train which is always one of my favorite things to do at Christmas Town and great for when you’re tired of walking and need a break.

We wanted to hit up Santa Clause and Rudolph but the wait times were over an hour so we decided to skip it since we didn’t have much time left until the theme park closed. Busch Gardens does sell priority access to these areas for $24.99 for those who would rather pay to skip the line. 

One thing we didn’t see this year that I expected to see was the snow machines, which I appreciate quite a bit living here in Florida. Hope those come back in the future. 

Overall, my family and I had a great time at Busch Gardens Christmas Town. The lights were beautiful and we enjoyed all the Christmas trees and cheer as well as all the photo opportunities to make some memories. Christmas Village could be improved a bit more logistically, but it was still enjoyable overall.

I recommend getting there early so you can get the most out of it or return back multiple times if you are a passholder and take your time going through the areas of the park and enjoying the holiday spirit.

Happy Holidays everyone!

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Busch Gardens Christmas Town happening now

Are you feeling the holiday spirit? It’s 67 degrees today in Tampa and I am already sipping on an eggnog latte. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will bring back their annual Christmas Town series starting this Saturday, November 17th.

Christmas Town favorites will return including Santa’s House presented by Coca-Cola and Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland.

New for Christmas Town this year:

  • Brunch with Santa: Christmas-themed dining experience for the whole family. Some items on the menu include fried chicken and waffles with apple butter, butternut bisque with cinnamon cream, and chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. Santa Clause will make an appearance with a photo opportunity. Adults can enjoy unlimited mimosa and “Build-Your-Own-Bloody-Mary” upgrades. The event will occur on select dates at Serengeti Overlook Restaurant 
  • “Christmas Is…” holiday show at Dragon Fire Grill joining Christmas on Ice, Elmo’s Christmas Wish, the Holiday Hills Band, Carols of the Bells light show, and Christmas Town Sing-A-Long Train
  • Christmas Town Village will be located in a new location this year. Find it inside the Gwazi Pathway with holiday merchandise and treats for-sale. The Jingle Bell Express miniature train will be in town. Winter whiskey and wine tastings will be available for adults of age. 

My favorite part of Christmas Town is all the lights and of course the snow. The holiday train is also something I really enjoy. It really gets you in the mood for the holidays.

Here is the schedule for Christmas Town 2018:

 Find more information at ChristmasTown.com.

Tampa Bay Food Fight 2018 a smashing success

Metropolitan Ministries had their Tampa Bay Food Fight 2018 charity fundraiser tonight at Armature Works in Tampa Heights.

St. Pete edged out Tampa for the best food city with chefs claiming victory from The Mill, Parkshore Grill, Locale Market, Dr. BBQ, Red Mesa, Il Ritorno, The Birchwood, and The Peabody.

Metropolitan Ministries raised $250,000 at the event and is still aiming for $300,000 as their goal to help them in their mission to fight poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

The proceeds help their Culinary Arts Program that teaches valuable skills to those seeking to improve their lives and work in the food industry.

You can donate at 
http://secure.metromin.org/site/SPageNavigator/ITB_Culinary_Arts_Program.html


Here are highlights from the evening:

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#tbff2018 #behope #tampabayfoodfight @levy.restaurants

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CL Tampa Margarita Wars happening Friday July 27th

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Creative Loafing Tampa. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not represent Creative Loafing.

Get ready to party like it is Cinco de Mayo this month. Local newspaper Creative Loafing Tampa will have their annual Margarita Wars competition on Friday, July 27th from 7PM to 10PM at TPepin’s Hospitality at 4121 North 50th Street in Tampa.

Guests will sample margaritas from more than 15 mixologists around town and vote for “Tampa Bay’s Best Margarita” while enjoying Mexican bites from top restaurants.

Margaritas are one of the most popular drinks in the United States and Americans drink up to 185,000 margaritas per hour according to The Nibble.

In fact, The United States is the number one tequila market in the world beating even Mexico. Not only that, but the South accounts for 34.9% of all margarita sales nationwide. It makes sense considering how hot it is.

Tickets start at $45 and are now on-sale. VIP attendees will enjoy an hour of early entry as well as other perks.

This event is for ages 21+ older only.

Now to go look for my sombrero.

Buy Tickets: http://tampabayeventtickets.com/events/54636603/margarita-wars-2018

Participating restaurants and bars include:

  • Beach Bar & Restaurant
  • Besito Mexican
  • Brew Bus Brewing
  • Bungalow Restaurant & Bar
  • Casa Tina
  • Copper Shaker
  • Datz
  • Epicurean Hotel
  • First Chance Last Chance Bar
  • Haven
  • Iberian Rooster
  • Parks & Rec
  • Pisces Sushi & Global Bistro
  • Rasoi Indian Cuisine
  • The Avenue Eat + Drink
  • The Bricks
  • The Living Room on Main
  • The Mill
  • World of Beer
  • & More

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/1322485457897217/

Upcoming June Wine Events at Michael’s Wine Cellar (Sarasota)

If you love wine, there are quite a number of upcoming events at Michael’s Wine Cellar in Sarasota. Spend a day at the beach and enjoy some wine at at this international boutique that has been offering wine for more than 30 years.

Monthly Casual Tasting – 6/2

In addition, Michael’s Wine Cellar has a monthly casual, walk-about tasting which will be held this Saturday, June 2nd from 2PM-4PM. Guests can enjoy dozens of international wines throughout. Admission costs $10 and no RSVP is required. Guests may register in advance or pay at the door.

Bordeaux Wine Tasting – 6/9

Looking to try some great Bordeaux wines? Michael’s Wine Cellar will have a Bordeaux Wine Tasting on Saturday, June 9th, 2018 at 6:30PM. Tickets are on-sale and cost $50 per person. Admission includes Hors d’oeuvres and tastes of more than 20 Bordeaux wines which is quite a steal. Bourdeaux, France features the most sought after wines on Earth.

Each ticket will receive a $25 voucher for purchases of $50 or more of the Bordeaux wines being showcased at the event.

Buy Tickets: http://shop.michaelswinecellar.com/bordeaux-wine-tasting.html

Wine Educational Series –  6/11

For those looking to learn more about wine, Michael’s Wine Cellar is continuing their monthly educational series on Monday, June 11th, 2018 from 6:30PM to 8PM. 3 different wines will be tasted 3 different ways. Reservations are required. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased online. Class begins at 6:30PM on the dot.

Participants can enjoy a display of cheese and fruit, as well as sliced French bread during the class.

Buy tickets: http://shop.michaelswinecellar.com/wine-class-3-way.html

Wine Bar George now open at Disney Springs (Orlando)

Full disclosure: I was invited to Wine Bar George for a complimentary tasting this week to try their new menu. My history with George Miliotes dates back a few years and is outlined in this article. All opinions stated are my own and do not represent Wine Bar George or any other group.

Wine Bar George is now open at Disney Springs in Orlando.

I’ve been following George Miliotes for years when he was consulting with the Capital Grille for their Generous Pour event. His new 200 seat, 6,000-square-foot restaurant features over 130 wines by the glass, bottle, and ounce.

George Miliotes is one of only 128 Master Sommeliers in the United States of America. It is a mastery that few in the world hold. Wine Bar George is also the only Master Sommelier-led bar in Florida. The bar is open daily from 11AM to 2AM.

George has history with Disney going back to the opening of California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and managed the venue from 1995 to 2002. He created their award winning wine-list and was one of the first to make a “100 wines by the glass list” in the United States.

The food menu features seasonal items with everything made in-house. I stopped by today for a tasting of the menu and tried some of their selection as well as two featured wines with Miliotes hosting us.

We enjoyed a cheese and meat board to begin the tasting.

Wine Bar George offers a few choices here depending on party-size that range from $24-$54. Definitely a great shareable dish that is expected in a concept like this. I enjoyed their cheese selections and their cuts of meat. The chutney and mustard were also excellent.

The cheese and meat board was served with a German Dry Riesling from Selbach-Oster in Mosel, Germany. The Riesling went down great and would easily be a wine that I could sip all day. Selbach-Oster is ranked among the Top 100 wineries in Germany.

The flavor was certainly not your average Riesling and I would recommend giving this one a taste. A 6 oz. pour is $8 and a bottle is $32 at the bar.

All the cocktails have wine spirit infusions and the New York Sour featured a 12-year aged bourbon with a wine floater. Director of Beverage, Robyn Cohen, spearheaded the menu in collaboration with George Miliotes.

The other wine we tried was the Yeringberg 2013 Bordeaux-style Red from Victoria, Australia’s Yarra Valley. This was an excellent and smooth red that was easy to drink and went along well with the other menu items on the tasting list. This is a higher end wine that would normally go for around $90 a bottle at retail. They recently acquired this wine so it is not yet listed on the menu, but available.

The Mac + Cheese balls were excellent. Sometimes you’ll find that the crust will get into the inside of these creations and make a gritty texture, but that wasn’t the case at all with this dish. The Mac + Cheese was completely creamy and delicious. Great Mac + Cheese can be hard to come by.

The grilled octopus was one of the best dishes I enjoyed during the tasting. The octopus had a very ceviche-like quality to it. I would order this dish in the future. It wasn’t chewy at all. I would probably also get this dish in the future if I went for the sangria on the menu.

The chicken skewers were a top choice during the tasting at Wine Bar George. It almost reminded me of Japanese Fried Chicken or Karaage, but with different flavor profiles. This dish was truly enjoyable. Make sure to squeeze the lime on top – it really does make a difference here.

It wouldn’t be a tasting without dessert and we enjoyed a key lime dessert as well as an olive oil cake. I liked the key lime, but the olive oil cake was incredible and stood out to me among the two. I would order this again and again and highly recommend it.

I stopped at the top floor before I left to look around and Wine Bar George has great upstairs views. I’m sure it must be beautiful at night with Morimoto Asia in the backdrop.

Wine Bar George was everything I expected and more. The restaurant and bar space is beautiful and the staff is just as passionate about wine as George Miliotes himself. The wine, cocktail, and food menu all perfectly complement and contrast flavors and show a clear understanding of what makes a great restaurant.

I think there is so much potential at Wine Bar George and I am looking forward to seeing this business blossom at Disney Springs. I’ll be back soon.

Restaurant Name: Wine Bar George

Neighborhood: Disney Springs

Address: 1610 Buena Vista Dr., Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Phone Number: (407) 490-1800

Website: http://winebargeorge.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/winebargeorge/

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/winebargeorge/

Twitter: @WineBarGeorge

4th Annual Peach Festival this Saturday at Keel & Curley

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Keel & Curley Winery located in Plant City. I have been compensated for my time.

This Saturday, May 12th is the 4th Annual Peach Festival at Keel & Curley Winery in Plant City located at 5210 Thonotosassa Road.

The event has FREE admission. It event will run from 8AM-6PM and feature U-Pick Peaches & Blueberries, Food & Craft Vendors, Peach Cider, Peach Wine and Blueberry Wine Bottle Specials for $10, Live Music, and more.

Some of the vendors include:

  • Stanford’s Jerky
  • Ben’s Soft Pretzels
  • Jessi’s Flaming Fruit Sauce
  • Lobster Maine-iacs
  • Alessi Bakery
  • Cotton Kraze
  • Aunt Neci’s
  • The Tea Jug
  • The Best Thai Food
  • & More

Parking costs $5.

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/552397481827222/

 

Cinco de Mayo: The Tacos and Tequila Party + Social at The Ritz Ybor

Looking for some plans for Cinco de Mayo in Tampa? The Ritz Ybor is hosting a Tacos and Tequila Party + Social on Saturday, May 5th, 2018. Tickets range from $10 to $45 per person.

Taste your way through ten street taco stations & Tequila Cazadores stations. Sip on signature margaritas and cerverzas. Enjoy a 93.3 FLZ Live Broadcast w/ Rose from The KANE Show.

General Admission includes one tasting at any taco & tequila station. Foodie Admission includes three tastings at any taco & tequila station. Super Foodie Admission includes tastings at all ten taco & tequila stations.

Additional taco & tequila tasting tickets will be available for purchase at the event.

This event is for ages 21+ only. Please drink and drive responsibly.

Event name: The Tacos and Tequila Party + Social

Venue: The Ritz Ybor

Address: 1503 East 7th Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605

Date & Time: Saturday, May 5th, 2018, 7PM-10PM

Cost: $10-$45

Buy tickets: http://tacostequilatampa2018.eventbrite.com/

Parking: The Centro Ybor parking garage is conveniently located directly behind The RITZ Ybor, while a 717 Parking Lot is conveniently located across the 15th Street from the venue. The Broadway parking lot is located diagonally from The RITZ Ybor with its entrance on 8th Avenue between 14th & 15th.

11th Annual Blueberry Festival wraps up this weekend

Full disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Keel & Curley Winery in Plant City. I have been compensated for my work. Any opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect Keel & Curley Winery.

Keel & Curley Winery’s 11th Annual Blueberry Festival will wrap up this weekend on Saturday, April 21st and Sunday, April 22nd. Last weekend drew thousands to the blueberry farm in Plant City.

Families and friends spent the day out on the farm picking blueberries and drinking blueberry wine and beer as well as food from trucks and vendors. Vendors were selling blueberry butter, blueberry jam, blueberry hot sauce, blueberry grilled cheese sandwiches…to name a few.

Keel & Curley is Florida’s second largest winery and makes over 20,000 case of wine a year. It is essentially Florida’s wine country located just over Interstate 4 on Exit 17 near Dinosaur World.

Joey Fatone from *NSYNC showed up last Saturday at the event and wowed visitors as he cooked up some hot dogs and Brooklyn food aboard his food truck Fat One’s Hot Dogs and Italian Ice. He was friendly and took plenty of pictures with fans and guests alike. The food truck will be back this weekend to wrap up the festival.

Guests can enjoy:

  • FREE ADMISSION
  • U-Pick Blueberries (8AM-4PM)
  • Live Music
  • $10 Blueberry Wine
  • Two Henry’s Brewing Co. Blueberry Beer & Cider
  • Limited-Edition Strawberry Shortcake Wine
  • Food & Craft Vendors
  • Kids’ Activities
  • & more

Event Name: 11th Annual Blueberry Festival

Venue: Keel & Curley Winery

Address: 5210 Thonotosassa Rd., Plant City, FL 33565

Dates & Time: Saturday, April 21st, 8AM-6PM, Sunday, April 22nd, 8AM-4PM

Ages: All ages welcome

Cost: FREE to attend, $10 parking

Facebook RSVP: http://www.facebook.com/events/896744867165660/

TBBW: 81Bay Brewing Co. and American Social Beer Dinner – 3/7

Join 81Bay Brewing Co. and American Social Tampa for a special craft beer dinner this Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 at 7:30PM for Tampa Bay Beer Week 2018.

Tickets cost $50 and includes 4 courses of food and 5 craft beers as well as hors d’oeuvres paired by American Social Chef Jay Jones and 81Bay Head Brewer Hayley Brown. Enjoy dining on the waterfront of Tampa Bay at this event.

Buy tickets: www.eventliveus.com/purchase/event/752422