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Photo Update: Tour the new Pantopia area at Busch Gardens Tampa

by Banks Lee

Busch Gardens Tampa Pantopia

By Kirstin Wright

There should have been more screams coming from Busch Gardens’ new land, Pantopia, by now, but with the opening of Falcon’s Fury delayed until later this summer, there’s just content snackers and shoppers milling about. Just because the towering, shiny, new ride isn’t operational yet, doesn’t mean  you should skip a stroll through Pantopia during your next visit to Busch Gardens Tampa.

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Busch Gardens Tampa Pantopia Guests who came to the park to take a drop on the newest thrill ride will be abruptly disappointed by this sign, which is set-up just past the turnstiles.

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DSC_0894 The maps are ready for the Falcon’s Fury debut. The “Coming Soon” placeholder that used to occupy that space on the map now has an artist’s rendering of Pantopia. After a closer look, I noticed the Phoenix is on the map with its old blue color, not the vibrant orange color it is now.

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Busch Gardens Tampa Pantopia A T-shirt featuring the falcon himself and some of the terrifying stats of his ride is available for purchase in The Emporium.

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DSC_0899 I, unfortunately, was at the park later in the afternoon so I missed the birthday party for four of Busch Gardens’ cheetahs. They turned four last month. Judging by the leftovers, it certainly looks like they had a good time.

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Busch Gardens Tampa Pantopia The overpass you cross under before entering the Pantopia foyer has what I think is a new, bronze sign. “Unlock the Wonders of Nature” goes right along with the key theme of Pantopia.

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DSC_0912 Since my last visit, the area approaching the archway into Pantopia has been decorated with lots of interesting knick-knacks. The detail in this area alone is stunning. Don’t run through to grab your seat on Falcon’s Fury without taking a few minutes to enjoy the decorations.

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DSC_0915 These doors, positioned at the base of the archway, are colorful and creative. During my visit, normal park operations were temporarily halted due to the typical afternoon thunderstorm. Nonetheless, guests were still stopping to take their picture in front of these doors on their way out of the park.

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DSC_0917 The archway appears to be finished. Months ago, I thought it looked good with a new paintjob, but all of the little things really come together to make it pop. The jewels hanging from the Pantopia sign have been added since my last visit.

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DSC_0941 One of the new shops in Pantopia, The Painted Camel Bazaar, was open the last time I was at the park, so I only took a brief stroll through, but wanted to give you an idea of the type of merchandise sold here. This isn’t your typical T-shirt/mug store. You’ll find hand-made items here and more upscale mementos with which to remember your visit to Pantopia.

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DSC_0939 Busch Gardens knows that it has a unique shop here, but still wants to keep the shopping averse among us happy with this tic tac toe game outside. This will probably also be a popular hangout area for people waiting for the rest of their party to ride Falcon’s Fury.

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DSC_0937 The only “riders” for now, however, are the test dummies who are strapped in and ready for another drop.

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DSC_0929 The wall surrounding the ride has the same message that was at the front of the park.

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DSC_0933 Behind the wall, the queue area looks to be finished and the ride regulations sign is up.

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DSC_0926 The square control platform above the seats has a new pattern.

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DSC_0935 These are just some of the fun details sprinkled around Pantopia. I was surprised how much this area had changed since my last visit. The designers did a great job of focusing on the details.

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DSC_0942 The Pantopia Theater has some new friends waiting to greet guests. Rustie (dog) and Steel (cat) are made up of some pretty interesting materials. Take a step closer and see which items you recognize.

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DSC_0947 Outside the theater where Critter Castaways played is a sign advising guests where to catch the new show this summer. The new show, Opening Night Critters, will feature real life versions of Rustie and Steel like Critter Castaways did.

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DSC_0918 Before leaving, I had to make a stop at one of Pantopia’s new places to grab a bite: Twisted Tails Pretzels. Again, the decor does not disappoint. Notice the specks of salt that dot the top of building.

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DSC_0919 The decorations inside go along with the travel theme throughout the rest of the land, but with more of a focus on ingredients.

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DSC_0922 Twisted Tails offers both snack and meal portions, which is nice. You can get your pretzel fix anyway you want it; nugget, sandwich or even wrapped around a bratwurst!

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DSC_0924 I wasn’t feeling too adventurous (or hungry) during my visit, so I went with the traditional pretzel and cheese combo. The beer infused cheese sauce I chose is one of their signature dipping sauces. I can’t say I was too impressed with either the pretzel or the cheese. The salt specks on the pretzel were good. They seemed almost toasted. Definitely not the usual salt you find on a hot pretzel. The flavor of the dipping sauce was tasty, but it was cold. Served warm, this would be a perfect complimentary item to the pretzel.

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DSC_0923 My husband got the pretzel dog, which he enjoyed. He, too, made a comment about the salt. There’s something different about it and we both loved it!

Sure, it’s upsetting that we have to wait a little bit longer to ride Falcon’s Fury, but don’t let the delay stop you from visiting Busch Gardens. From shopping, to shows, and even pretzels, Pantopia alone holds a lot for you to discover.

KWrightPicSince her first trip to Walt Disney World when she was just two months old, Kirstin has been hooked on visiting theme parks all around Central Florida. She enjoys writing and photographing every aspect of the parks; the rides, the food and the shows. She can be reached at [email protected].

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