Back in June I introduced you to the all new Busch Gardens Summer Nights. We have attended their Summer Nights in the past and always enjoyed ourselves and especially loved their Kinetix nighttime show. This year, Busch Gardens decided to spread the Summer Nights fun throughout the park and while we would miss Kinetix, we thought it would be a great way to generate more fun and excitement throughout the park. Unfortunately, while the concept was solid, we felt the execution was flawed. Summer Nights ended at Busch Gardens on August 6, and we attended August 4, hopefully the plans will be re-tooled for a bigger and better Summer Nights next year.
Turn It Up Ice Show
We attended the 8pm showing of the Turn It Up Ice Show at the Moroccan Palace Theater. Entering the well-air conditioned theater was a relief after spending a few hours out in the summer Florida heat with a heat index of 101°! The show was good, what I could see of it. The man in front of us kept switching seats with his kids because they kept complaining they couldn’t see. At times his daughter was standing on his lap impeding his view so he leaned way out into the aisle to try and record video of the show. At one point he and his 2 kids left their seats to sit on the floor in the aisle but a worker came and told them to get back in their seats. I had to stop trying to shoot Instagram videos because in every 60 sec video, he got in the way!
I was having trouble finding words to describe the show beyond saying it was good is just lame. As we exited the theater, my husband described it as something we would expect to see on a cruise ship but not good enough for a theme park. I agreed, and told him I was using his words.
Party Zones, Rides and Food
We arrived at the park at about 5:15pm, there is no posted start time for Busch Gardens Summer Nights. We headed over to ride Cobra’s Curse since Ron has never had the chance to ride this yet, and he wanted to ride on an empty stomach. The sign said 30 minutes wait time so we made a quick trip to the restrooms before getting in line. As we walked up to the queue there was an announcement that Cobra’s Curse was having technical difficulties. It is the only coaster in this mostly coaster park that I will ride so we were bummed 🙁 We left the ride area and headed to the first party zone.
We weren’t ready to eat yet and the food offerings in this party zone were the least interesting to us mojo pork with beans and rice, jerk chicken empanadas, and chicharrons. We are anti-alcohol so we paid no attention to those offerings. At this time there was a DJ pumping out typical party tunes including the ChaCha Slide. No one was dancing though a few people were trying to walk and do the moves. There was no party feel at all. We came back at about 9pm to see if the atmosphere had changed and the DJ was gone and there was Latin music playing through a very poorly PA system. No one was spending time in the party zone, everyone was just passing through.
After our first visit to the Fiesta Festa we hopped on the classic Sky Ride and traveled over to Stanleyville and the Vibin’ Village. Here another DJ was playing the ChaCha Slide and he had a few people actually dancing. The food choices here were chicken mafi with peanut sauce, tamarind shrimp watermelon cooler, and smoked chicken pocket with harissa. I ordered the shrimp and Ron got the Chicken Mafi. The Tamarind Shrimp Watermelon Cooler was rather flavorless and only had 3 shrimp in it. The Chicken Mafai with Peanut Sauce was ok but it too was short on flavor. The sauce on the outside was good but the meat itself fell flat.
Next we wandered over to Jungala where we saw 1 tiger. The Ron waited in line for the Ubanga Banga Bumper Cars. We felt sorry for the poor guy working this ride. He was alone and he had to measure kids to see if they were tall enough to drive, count cars and people, deal with parents telling him their kids were taller than his measurement said they were. Run across the floor to the exit which is also the special needs entrance and meet with people waving yellow papers at him and put up with the 7, yes 7 people who left things in cars on their previous rides! There was at least a 5 minute turnover between each ride because this one poor guy had to do everything himself.
After the bumper cars we headed to Pantopia and Luau Landing. The food offerings here were Huli Huli Chicken, Hawaiian Barbecue Ribs, and Pineapple Cheesecake Parfait. I love Huli Huli Chicken and I make it at home, so I ordered that and Ron got the ribs. Again, in both dishes flavor was lacking. We were disappointed, after the wonderful food we had at the Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival this past spring, we came with high expectations and the Summer Nights food just didn’t compare.
While we ate we watched the Luau entertainment which consisted of 2 guys playing drums to tracks while a dancer and a stilt walker tried to teach little kids to hula. Again, not the party atmosphere portrayed by the Busch Gardens advertisements. We stopped in at Twisted Tails and got an order of Pretzel Bites and an order of Cinnamon Pretzel Bites. The regular pretzel bites were delicious, buttery, and soft, the best food we ate all night. The Cinnamon Pretzel Bites were hard and seemed stale, like they had been sitting under the heat lamp in the grab and go section too long.
At the end of the night, for us, we decided we wanted to ride the train and then stop in at Sultan’s Sweets for the pineapple soft serve we had seen advertised when we entered the park. We arrived at the train station and were informed that the train had left 5 minutes earlier and would be back in 40 minutes!!!! Obviously we didn’t wait to ride the train. We headed to Sultan’s Sweets and when we ordered the pineapple soft serve we were told they had run out, 2 1/2 hours before the park closed! Not a great way to end and already underwhelming evening.
Mom Maven’s Thoughts
As I said earlier the concept was good but the execution was flawed. Busch Gardens wasn’t designed with multiple open areas for party zones. Trying to create them in busy walkways between rides was just awkward. The entertainment staff was too small and didn’t get the people who were in the areas involved with the dancing. We brought glow necklaces and bracelets with us because the ads show a fun nighttime glow party. We were the ONLY people we saw all night with any glow gear on, we didn’t even see vendors selling it trying to create the atmosphere.