TAMPA — Wondering when you can take your kids to visit with Big Bird, Ernie and Elmo at the new exhibit at Busch Gardens?
Mark your calendars for March 27. That's when the new Sesame Street Safari of Fun debuts in the old Land of the Dragons play area, which opened in 1996. The date was revealed during a press tour Thursday at the theme park.
And if the idea of seeing the Sesame Street gang — all done up in safari gear or wearing tribal necklaces and face paint to keep with the Busch Gardens theme — isn't enough to send your kids over the edge, this will: They will get to dine with the characters, get up close and personal during photo ops and see them scurrying about during a parade that happens five times a day in the play area.
All of this will be in a 21/2-acre area (double the size of the Land of the Dragons play area) that has one entrance, so they can't get out the back. Safari of Fun is specifically targeted at families with tots 3 to 5. Donnie Mills, executive vice president and general manager of Busch Gardens, says the team has been working for about two years to bring this new concept to fruition. Mills said the area was a way for Busch Gardens to improve its offerings for some of the youngest visitors to the theme parks. He says they are constantly looking for ways to keep the park product and guest experience fresh.
Sesame Street and the SeaWorld/Busch Gardens theme parks have a long history. There are 10 parks in the family and currently one, Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa., is devoted to the Sesame experience. Parks in California and Williamsburg, Va., have a Sesame component. After Busch Gardens Tampa opens its area, SeaWorld in Texas will be next. Orlando's SeaWorld will add a Sesame Street show in the spring.