Travel to Tampa Bay

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Cheetah Hunt Coaster at Busch Gardens  (Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens.)
Cheetah Hunt Coaster at Busch Gardens
(Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens.)

Florida’s Gulf Coast has plenty to offer, especially in family-friendly Tampa Bay, booming with new hotels, attractions and exhibits.

Here are a few new happenings around town:

Busch Gardens Tampa
• The park’s newest roller coaster, Cheetah Hunt, is the longest attraction at Busch Gardens, taking guests 4,400 ft. above the park, along the ground and through a rocky gorge.

• From Nov. 29 through Dec. 23, Busch Gardens will celebrate the holidays with 18 nights of Christmas Town. The event features Christmas entertainment, live music, holiday treats, holiday shopping and, of course, Christmas lights decorating the park. The event requires a separate ticket. Attractions include SnowWorld, with 15,000 sq. ft. of snow and eight new slides; Santa’s House with a Santa character meet-and-greet; and “Angels of Peace: A Christmas Journey,” a figure skating show performed to Christmas songs.

• This spring, Falcon’s Fury will open as the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America. The 335-ft. tower, the first of its kind in the world, will take guests diving straight down at 60 mph.

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At the Museum
The Tampa Bay History Center has launched an exhibit on Florida maps, running through Feb. 16. The exhibit features the largest-ever collection of Florida maps, showcasing 500 years of Florida cartography. Highlights of the exhibit include a road map dating back to 1917 and a letter by Benjamin Franklin on maritime observations with a chart of the Gulf Stream.

Foodie Hotel
South Tampa will be home to a new hotel this December, the food-focused boutique Epicurean Hotel. Created in collaboration with Bern’s Steak House, the 137-room hotel will be the first newly constructed property in the U.S. to join Marriott’s Autograph Collection.

The hotel will feature the Elevage restaurant; the spa Evangeline; a rooftop bar; a wine shop; and a culinary classroom, the Epicurean Theatre, which will host events such as craft cocktail courses, cooking classes, guest lectures and celebrity appearances.

Rates range from $169 to $299 per night for a guestroom and $219 to $449 for a suite. Guests can book for stays starting March 1. For more information, call (855) 829-2536 or visit or

Direct Flights to Latin America
Starting Dec. 17, travelers can fly direct from Tampa International Airport to Panama on Copa Airlines.

The flight will be offered four days a week on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing Tampa at 7:02 a.m. and arriving in Panama at 10:12 a.m. Return flights will depart Panama at 6:34 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and arrive in Tampa at 9:53 p.m. For more information, visit

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