Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Events

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.

   
Comments
Plan your weekend April 27-29: Jeff Dunham, Flo Rida at Busch Gardens, Sunscreen Film Fest, dragon boat races, Green Thumb Fest

Plan your weekend April 27-29: Jeff Dunham, Flo Rida at Busch Gardens, Sunscreen Film Fest, dragon boat races, Green Thumb Fest

Plan your weekendAthletes St. Anthony’s Triathlon: Elite professional athletes and Olympians from around the world will be at this St. Petersburg race this weekend, one of the premier triathlon events in the country. There’s a big incentive, with ca...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for April 26

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for April 26

American Stage in the Park: The Producers: Mel Brooks’ classic cult comedy sees a down-and-out producer and his accountant scheme to produce the most notorious flop in theater history. Through May 13. 8 p.m., Demens Landing, 100 First Ave. SE, St. Pe...
Updated: 8 hours ago
‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is stunningly dark, but it’s still wildly entertaining

‘Avengers: Infinity War’ is stunningly dark, but it’s still wildly entertaining

What does Thanos want?That question lies at the heart of Avengers: Infinity War, the at-once dark, maddeningly open-ended yet fiercely entertaining new chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which pits the titular global do-gooders — still s...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

Performances, songwriting get ‘Waitress’ from serviceable to filling — plus, there’s actually pie

TAMPA — A lonely and changeable sky illuminates the top of the stage through most of Waitress, running this week at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. The neon lettering of Joe’s Diner reflects days and nights that don’t differ en...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Top things to do this week in Tampa Bay: Jeff Dunham, Victor Wooten and Sinbad perform jazz

Top things to do this week in Tampa Bay: Jeff Dunham, Victor Wooten and Sinbad perform jazz

PUPPET MASTER: Jeff DunhamCelebrated ventriloquist Jeff Dunham is no dummy. The record-breaking comedy superstar sells out arenas around the world, bringing along his ill-behaved puppets including grouchy Walter, Achmed the Dead Terrorist, redneck Bu...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opens first Tampa restaurant, Nebraska Mini-Mart grab-and-go coming soon

NOW OPEN: TEX-MEX CHAIN CHUY’SThe Austin, Texas-based Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s opened its first Tampa restaurant on Tuesday, giving away free Chuy’s for two for a year to the first 50 customers. I know, we missed it, it’s a bummer, but we can still visit...
Updated: 11 hours ago
This week’s best concerts: Flo Rida, Queens of the Stone Age, Bay 2 Beach Festival and more

This week’s best concerts: Flo Rida, Queens of the Stone Age, Bay 2 Beach Festival and more

ROCK ROYALTY: Queens of the Stone AgeWhen Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme got in trouble recently for kicking a photographer at a show, local fans might have seen it coming. During a gig here in 2014, a fan got up on stage and tried to gree...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

Jobsite cues up ‘1984,’ ‘50 Shades’ parody’s Danielle Trzcinski premieres ‘Little Black Dress’

MINISTRY OF JOBSITE: 1984When selecting an adaptation for George Orwell’s 1984 (there have been a few of them), Jobsite Theater had to strike the most controversial one off the list. That version by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan ran for 125 perfor...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for April 25

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for April 25

Foo Fighters: The hard rock band led by Dave Grohl tours in support of the group’s new album Concrete and Gold, which debuted at No. 1. But expect some classic hits like Times Like These, Best of You, and Monkey Wrench. 8 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Uni...
Published: 04/24/18
The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

"Stay thirsty, my friends," the most interesting man in the world is coming to Tampa to tend bar on Friday. Jonathan Goldsmith, the face that launched a thousand memes, will be slinging cocktails at Tampa’s trendy Hall on Franklin, the food hall anno...
Published: 04/24/18