SeaWorld in Orlando and its sister park, Busch Gardens in Tampa, are hosting Bands, Brew and BBQ now through the weekend of March 5th. Each Saturday, SeaWorld hosts a musical act and offers a wide array of BBQ and other tasty dishes from vendors like Smokey Bones, Four Rivers Smokehouse and Texas Cattle Company and plenty of beer. Your best bet is the $20 tasting card, which lets you choose 12 specialty brews to sample from the beer garden. The portions are supposed to be three ounces; they filled up my cup to the rim every time, so my husband and I easily shared our tastings.
So how exactly does Brew, Bands and BBQ work? Click the photo at left for a slideshow overview. This special event is included with your park admission, and I recommend arriving early even though the main concert does not start until 4:30 p.m., especially if it’s a popular act. REO Speedwagon appears on Feb. 26 and Josh Turner ends the season on Mar. 5. We came out for Willie Nelson and made the mistake of leaving late. The parking plaza was crazy and Preferred Parking was sold out (first time I’ve ever seen that). Fortunately things calmed down considerably once we got into the park. Surprisingly, the Manta roller coaster line was only 25 minutes; I imagine everyone was heading farther into the park to seek out beer and brew and try to get a good concert seat. We planned to just listen to the concert from afar, but personally, I would opt for the VIP ticket if I wanted to sit in the stadium. You get food, reserved seating a a beer sampler. Click here for prices and more information on the SeaWorld site.
On our way to the food and beer I tried my hand at the goblet pitch, which is my favorite game, and scored a giant, sparkly Shamu, so he accompanied us for the day. First off, we tucked into some gator nuggets and beef brisket with mushrooms, then got a BBQ plate with baked beans and a biscuit. The food items start at around $6.99 to $8.99 and go up to around $12.99, and you get a full meal for the price. I wished they had sample portions because I would have liked to try more of the different offerings, but alas we were more than full after the beef, gator and BBQ.
There was entertainment throughout the area too. I watched kids line dancing with Shamu and met one of the SeaWorld animal ambassadors, a gorgeous bald eagle.
We bought a sampler card and headed off to the beer garden once we were suitably fortified with food. You simply decide which beers you want to try, visit the appropriate stands, and they serve up your brew and bunch a hole on your card. When you reach 12, you’re done (unless, of course, you buy another card). The generous portions made the dozen samples perfect for my husand and I to share. They had everything from pale ales to dark lagers, but my favorites with the fruit flavors (blueberry beer and the apple and pear hard ciders).
It was almost time for Willie’s concert to begin, so we finished up our beer and headed back to the food stands to buy some strawberry shortcake (I also had to try the corn on the cob with jalapeno butter) and grab a seat near the monitors. SeaWorld conveniently set up monitors and speakers so you could hang out in the food area if you didn’t want to be in the mob at Bayside Stadium. Many people also brought blankets and sat out on the grass. The weather was gorgeous so it was a leisurely, park-like atmosphere. Willie did all his popular hits, and I was amazed at how well he still sings. He put on a real crowd-pleasing show.
We left a bit before the concert ended to avoid any parking lot crowds. On the way out, we met a family with a little girl who asked where I got my big stuffed Shamu as they were looking for one, so I sent him home with her so we wouldn’t have to maneuver him into the back seat of our car.
Click the photo at left to see the slideshow of our day.
SeaWorld has plenty going on even when there is no special event. Click here to read about the sea lion tour and click here to read about the penguin tour. Click here for more of my articles, and click here to follow me on Twitter.