Opinion: ZooTampa’s ZooBrews event is worth the money
We were invited to check out ZooTampa’s ZooBrews event on March 4, 2023. This was my first-ever ZooBrews, as well as my first-ever visit to ZooTampa, and in my opinion, it is worth the price of admission.
Attractions Magazine was invited to this one-night-only event, free of charge. While I did not pay to attend this event, I approached the experience with the mindset of someone who would have to pay.
Admission to ZooBrews was $69 for ZooTampa members and $79 for non-members. There was also a VIP offering for $139. This event also had numerous open bars with generous bartenders, so the minimum age is 21.
This event began at 7:30 p.m. and ended at 11:30 p.m., but guests with the VIP package were allowed to enter one hour early. The VIP area and extra hour of live music are nice, but I personally wouldn’t purchase that option in the future, as the regular $79 admission included four hours of food, drinks, animals, and exploration.
There was a huge assortment of food offered at the ZooBrews event, and we were encouraged to come back again-and-again for more. Among the major and local food brands that participated are Ben & Jerry’s (which had vegan ice cream), California Pizza Kitchen, Wendy’s Frosties, Kona Ice, Portillo’s, Mmmm Delicious Cupcakes, Mission BBQ, and more.
It was in the low 80ºs when the event began, so grabbing some ice cream while exploring ZooTampa was a nice way to begin the evening. My personal favorite was being able to run back to the Portillo’s booth for slices of their famous chocolate cake (we did notice they did run out of cake about 30 minutes before the end of the event).
Along with these brands, ZooTampa offered their own ZooBrews food booths from popcorn and chips, to soft drinks, hot dogs and sliders. We were very glad we didn’t miss the desert court, which served mini-cupcakes, vegan ice cream, and chocolate.
I was probably most surprised by the drink offerings. Not only did the ZooBrews bartenders avoid skimping on alcohol, but the bars offered decent liquor options. I was expecting only two or three pre-made cocktails would be offered, like how SeaWorld Orlando is currently offering tasty cocktails themed around their major roller coasters (I recommend the Pipeline).
Instead, guests could order any drink they liked, and I noticed they were serving premium spirits, including Espolon Tequila and Appleton Estate Rum. When I say the bartenders are generous, I’m not kidding. For example, my drink contained 2.5 shots of tequila to 1.5 shots of orange juice. At $79 for regular admission, this is one of the reasons I think the event is worth the price tag.
At an event held at ZooTampa, you can’t miss out out on the animals. Although some of the creatures were sleeping away, others like the ring-tailed lemurs, binturongs, gharials, and red wolves were quite active. As a first-time visitor to ZooTampa, ZooBrews convinced me to come back to the zoo during the day. I wasn’t aware of the vast range of land, sea, and sky creatures waiting to be discovered.
Animal chats about panthers, orangutans, tigers, giant tortoises, and penguins were offered during the event. Here visitors could get up close, learn, and ask questions about these specific creatures. There were also wildlife connection offerings in the Africa, Manatee, and VIP areas. From my experience, no alcohol or food was barred from exhibits. While visitors were asked to put away food or drink when approaching animal encounters, the actual walk-around exhibits had no exclusions.
The ZooTampa app featured a digital map specifically for the ZooBrews event, which auto-updated to let you know the distance to nearby animals, encounters, bars, and food pickup locations. I was thankful to use a park app that was simple and just worked (I am looking at you My Disney Experience app).
I also was happily surprised to find the limited-time BugTopia event was included in the ZooBrews event, and we enjoyed the larger-than-life animatronics, the quaint interactive elements, and that familiar horror-event fog smell.
While I didn’t attend any of the timed music events, I was able to walk up to see the live bands as I came upon them, including a duo-acoustic band, energetic country singers, and a partying DJ booth. The VIP area was next to the country singers and the largest open bar at the event.
Although I was hosted for this event, I would definitely buy my own ticket in the future. For anyone who has visited food and wine-style park events (or even gone to bars in major cities like Tampa), you know prices have skyrocketed in recent years. At $79, this event wass well worth the price as I was able to enjoy plenty of food and drinks, ZooTampa was open for exploration, and filled with musicians to keep it lively. Even though the event was busy, I never waited more than three minutes for food or drinks.
If you love animals and are looking for a fun night out in Tampa (or Central Florida for that matter, if you are willing to drive a bit), ZooBrews at ZooTampa is a winner.
Head to the ZooBrews website to join the mailing list for future events.