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  1. Life & Culture

How Tampa Bay attractions have adjusted operations since reopening

As guidelines have changed, so have the operations at Busch Gardens, the zoo, aquarium and MOSI.

Walt Disney World opened this weekend, one of the last major attractions to reopen in Florida after the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down in March. It’s a good time to take a look at what Tampa Bay’s top attractions, museums and theme parks are doing now.

Some of them have changed operations since they first reopened. Kids can splash in the water play areas at Busch Gardens again, other places require face masks when they didn’t at first, and some hands-on touch exhibits have reopened.

Related: 5 ways Florida's theme parks will be different when they reopen

“We are making changes on a weekly basis,” said Joe Couceiro, CEO of ZooTampa at Lowry Park, which is now requiring reservations on its tram tours and masks in any indoor venue. “But I think people are really looking for a reprieve and the zoo is a good option. So we have been very cautious so we can provide a safe experience.”

Here’s some information to know before you go about face masks, timed tickets and other policies put in place to operate safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Busch Gardens has seven face covering relaxation zones scattered around the Tampa theme park where guests can take off their face masks and rest. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Busch Gardens

Since it reopened June 11, Busch Gardens has required visitors, including passholders, to make a reservation for the day they want to visit the park. All guests and staff get their temperatures checked upon entry, and face masks are required.

In recent weeks the park has added three more “relaxation zones,” for a total of seven places around Busch Gardens where visitors can take their masks off and get a breather.

Relaxation zones can be found on the south side of the Serengeti Overlook restaurant; by the Bengal Bistro in Jungala; at the Stanleyville boardwalk near the Tigris entrance; at the Event Pavilion Patio across from the park’s festival pathway entrance; at the Coke Canopy in the Bird Gardens area; on top of the Stanleyville bridge; and at the Sesame Street Pavilion in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun play area.

Related: Column: As Disney World reopens, here's 10 reasons to visit right away

The park has also reopened the water play areas in Jungala and Sesame Street. It has also resumed the Serengeti Safari tour, a $29.99 add-on that requires a reservation.

Busch Gardens is closed Mondays and Wednesdays, and the nearby Adventure Island water park is closed Tuesdays and Thursdays.

MOSI

Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry reopened on May 27, and it does not require reservations or timed tickets. It now requires face masks when inside, in compliance with Hillsborough County’s order, “and if a guest does not have one, we will give them one with a paid admission,” said Rob Lamke, the museum’s chief operating officer.

MOSI opened a new exhibit recently called “Space for Art,” with local astronaut Nicole Stott. Sponsored by the Space for Art Foundation, the exhibit focuses on the connection between personal and planetary health. Find hours and information at mosi.org.

A Bornean orangutan, Dira, 2, plays with a branch while hanging from a beam. According to caretakers, the orangutans were among the animals that missed the presence of humans at ZooTampa before it reopened May 29. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Since it reopened on May 29, ZooTampa at Lowry Park has been giving out free disposable face masks to guests. At first it was merely to encourage their use, but now that the city of Tampa has ordered masks for all when indoors, the zoo has enforced that for its indoor venues such as restaurants and gift shops.

The zoo has brought back the feeding element of its behind-the-scenes Signature Encounters, so guests can feed treats to giraffes and Asian rhinos, but now they have to use a bamboo stick instead of directly hand-feeding. There is a reservation system set up at the entrance of “Dinos Alive!,” the exhibit of life-sized animatronic dinosaurs that runs through Aug. 9. And there is now an online reservation system in place for the popular Lorikeet Landing, a free-flying aviary of colorful birds that visitors can walk through.

Reservations aren’t required to visit the zoo but are strongly encouraged because the zoo is capping its daily capacity at 50 percent and could be sold out on the day you plan to visit. Make reservations at zootampa.org.

Temperatures are checked daily for visitors at ZooTampa at Lowry Park. Michael Thacker uses a thermal camera to scan guests at a distance as they enter on the day of its reopening on May 29. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

Florida Aquarium

The Tampa aquarium reopened May 15 and still requires all guests to get a timed ticket at flaquarium.org before their arrival. There is no limit to how long guests can stay, but you need to book an arrival time so the aquarium can manage crowd capacity. Face masks are now required for anyone over age 2.

Dawn Sousa, 48 of Tampa and her daughter Makenna, 13, visit the aquarium while wearing face masks on Mother's Day. Since it reopened in mid-May, the aquarium has reopened its popular Splash Pad play area for kids. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

The aquarium’s popular Splash Pad play area is back in operation, though reservations are required, capacity will be limited to 15 children at a time and play time is limited to 30-minute time slots. Kiosks to make reservations are located by the 4D Theater, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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