Make us your home page
Instagram

Lowry Park Zoo's new Sunset Celebration extends hours on weekends

It is July in Florida, so you probably have noticed that it's insanely hot. Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo noticed, too.

Although families like mine haven't used our zoo passes since the heat index hit the triple digits, the new Sunset Celebration at the zoo beckoned to us over the weekend.

The zoo is open until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights through Aug. 6. The extended-hours event is included in its annual pass and "pay for a day, come back all year" programs. Tickets for admission after 4 p.m. on event days are $19.95.

Habitats in the Asian and African realms of the zoo, along with Primate World, are illuminated after dark. A few shows have been added, including a 6:30 p.m. barnyard animal display at the Wallaroo Station — where the popular splash pad, my toddler can tell you, is most assuredly open and operating into the evening. Rides were operating until dusk, too.

The crowd picked up a bit around dusk, but was never a crush of humanity. We finally got to experience the behind-the-scenes Expedition Safari tram ride after years of avoiding long lines. Even the animals seemed more relaxed in the evening — the sloth bear more slothy, the elephants more playful.

Here's a quick guide to the experience, which was sweaty but much more comfortable than a daytime zoo excursion:

The entertainment

We were greeted by performers on stilts and soon encountered selfie-friendly acrobats dressed as monkeys. Zookeepers had a steady stream of animals out and about — we saw parrots, snakes, porcupines and a horse as we zigzagged through attractions.

The DJ in the blessedly cool Safari Lounge was a total kid-pleaser, and sent me on a flashback to middle school dances.

A sunset jamboree at the elephant and giraffe area in Safari Africa featured dancers, bagpipes and a toast — champagne or apple juice, no charge.

The newly remodeled event yard has live music from a tribute band (Jimmy Buffett for opening weekend, but that will rotate) at 8 p.m., followed by a laser light show finale at 9:30 p.m. My 2-year-old wasn't going to make it past 9 p.m., but the light show looks super cool in photos.

The food

Lowry Park has specialty dining set up throughout the park and a dining plan option for this event. A couples plan ($21.95 for members, $24.95 regular) gets you five meals or drinks, while the family plan ($34.95, $39.95) gets you 10.

Word to the wise: Don't be lured by the air-conditioned Safari Lodge for this plan, as we were. That location had pretty standard cafeteria pizza. Get your meals at one of the specialty stands outside and take it into the cool lodge to eat. I can vouch for the roast pork and red beans. We heard others happy with street tacos and barbecue from different stations.

Pro tip

The zoo is asking guests to exit through the event yard, not the front gates. I can only hope that knowing this saves one other family with a cranky kid from walking back and forth twice to get to the parking lot.

Lowry Park Zoo's new Sunset Celebration extends hours on weekends 07/12/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 12, 2016 5:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New podcast: Don't forget your goat leggings, Dragnet fans!

    Blogs

    The Stuck in the '80s podcast returned on Sunday with an episode on "Underrated Movies from 1987" - this time June of that year. This week, we celebrate the pure goodness of Dragnet and Roxanne

  2. Hernando Events for June 30-July 6

    Events

    30 Friday

    Free Zika training: Presented by the Hernando Computer Club, the training is for those who wish to assist in the effort to find a cure for the Zika virus. Club members are volunteers for World Community Grid and are donating their devices' spare computing power to help scientists find a …

  3. Boy Scouts to head up Temple Terrace's 4th of July parade

    Events

    TEMPLE TERRACE — Volunteering is a major priority in scouting and prepping teens to become leaders is the primary purpose of the Boy Scouts' Eagle Scout program.

  4. Lutz lends old-fashioned feel to 4th of July events

    Events

    LUTZ — Attendees of the Lutz 4th of July celebration will take a step back in time with a parade, games, races, music and the election of the Guv'na of Lutz.

  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 28

    Events

    The Art of the Brick: An elaborate display of more than 100 pieces of Lego artwork including the life sized sculpture of a man ripping open his chest, a 20-foot-long T-Rex skeleton, a giant skull and replicas of famous works including Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona …

    This artwork called "Swimmer" by artist Nathan Sawaya is part of The Art of the Brick exhibition coming to Tampa June 23- Sept. 4. It will be open for free.