Theme Parks, Airports, Major Holiday Events
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THEOCHEM’S AIRPORT REPORT
Tampa International Airport (TPA) and Orlando International Airport (MCO)
The GIANT Flamingo is still here at TPA for the holiday season! Photo Courtesy of TPA
FACE MASKS, WAIT TIMES AND FLAMINGOS
Per TSA’s removal of its federal mask mandate, masks are now optional at Tampa International Airport and Orlando International Airport, effective immediately. Passengers, employees and guests are no longer required wear masks or face coverings in any of the facilities or terminals at TPA or MCO.
Theochem paid a visit to each airport to confirm this is accurate. Individual Airlines are a mixed bag however, and seem to be enforcing their own rules once you’re on the plane. CDC is still recommending face masks as an optional precaution. Both TPA and MCO are recommending you arrive 2+ hours early but we found that TSA Pre-Check lines to be moving along smoothly. The TSA Pre-Check website is reporting wait times of 5 minutes or less. We found this to be mostly accurate as of December 11th 2022.
We found most restaurants and shops to be open at TPA but you can check their status Here if you plan on passing through TPA in December. Orlando International was in full swing as well and you can check on their selection of shopping and dinning Here.
THEME PARK NEWS, DISNEY AND UNIVERSAL STUDIOS ORLANDO
EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays Discounts: 20% off food and nonalcoholic beverages is available when using cashless payment at select Holiday Kitchens at EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays––from December 12 to December 23, 2022. More Info Here.
Disney: Tron Lightcycle Run rollercoaster. The new Disney attraction is set to open at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Spring 2023. You can read the latest Here, and see photos of the construction of the new ride Here.
Universal Studios Orlando: Construction Resumes on Universal’s “Epic Universe“, the new Universal Park expansion. Read the latest Here.
Universal Closing Some Rides: The attractions that will permanently close on Jan. 16, 2023, to be removed to make way for new construction include Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster, Curious George Goes to Town, Fievel’s Playground, DreamWorks Destination and Meet Shrek and Donkey.
SPECIAL HOLIDAY EVENTS ACROSS FLORIDA
Miami – NightGarden: A Magical Light Experience
More than just a light show, NightGarden, South Florida’s smash hit holiday tradition is back and better than ever! Walk through Miami’s beautiful Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden at night while exploring a combination of lighting effects, state-of-the-art holographic technology, projection mapping, and music. Marvel at unique sculptures, interact with the talking tree, join a Fairy Quest, and much more! Click Here to learn more.
- Adult (ages 11+)
- Child (ages 10 and under) – children under 3 years of age access free
- Group Bundle (min. 6 people) – enjoy a 10% discount on tickets purchased with this bundle
- Group Bundle (min. 15 people) – enjoy a 15% discount on tickets purchased with this bundle
- Senior (65+), Student, or Military – 10% discount on tickets. Valid ID required
St. Petersburg – Enchant Christmas at Tropicana Field
A special Christmas event that includes a story-themed Christmas Light Maze (the largest in the world), Ice Skating, a Christmas Village of tiny shops, artisan vendors, specialty crafts, and boutiques, live music and entertainment, Santa meet and greet, and food and refreshment.
This year you’ll be transported to the ends of the earth by Santa’s Magic Timepiece. Stroll through lighted tunnels, travel to magical illuminated lands as you search for stars, find your way to our epic 100 foot tall Christmas tree, and look for special surprises along the way. Tickets start at $30 but specials and family discounts are available. Find out more Here.
Tampa – Busch Gardens Christmas Town
Celebrate the year with holiday cheer & gather with family and friends to create merry memories. Experience the joy of the season up close with animal encounters, thrilling rides, holiday inspired culinary delights and festive shows like Christmas on Ice. Keep the holiday spirit shining bright from day to night with millions of twinkling lights and dazzling fireworks, plus heartwarming moments with Santa and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!
Dining: The best way for guests to savor and save during the holidays is with a Christmas Town Sampler Lanyard. Indulge in holiday-inspired culinary delights with an 5, 10 or Pass Member Exclusive 12-item Food & Beverage Sampler Lanyard.
Tickets start at $40 and discounts are available. Read more Here.
Tampa – Riverwalk, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (FREE)
Celebrate the holiday season in Tampa’s Downtown at Winter Village, presented by the Tampa Bay Lightning, in Curtis Hixon Park! Located along the Tampa Riverwalk, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is transformed with the sights, sounds and activities of the holidays for children and adults of all ages.
- Ice Skating ($17)
- Tampa Theatre Holiday Classics : Film screenings held in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. This is a free event on the lawn. Seating is first come, first served.
- City of Tampa’s Santa Fest: A parade and annual Tampa Tree Lighting.
- Holiday Lighted Boat Parade: Tampa’s largest lighted boat parade! This event will happen along the Hillsborough River in Downtown Tampa.
- On Bikes Winter Wonder Ride: The Winter Wonder Ride is a holiday themed bike ride through Tampa’s Downtown.
- Curtis Hixon Park Choo Choo presented by Tampa General Hospital Children’s Hospital: The Curtis Hixon Park Choo Choo, presented by Tampa General Hospital Children’s Hospital, will be your child’s new favorite holiday activity! Climb aboard for a 5-minute ride through the park to enjoy the lights and sounds of Winter Village.
THEOCHEM LOCAL DINING – THEO-PICK OF THE MONTH
Tampa – PSOMI (psō•mí / n. bread /)
A new take on Greek! Tampa is famous for it’s Greek food and community but PSOMI takes the crown! Not your traditional Greek spot, PSOMI makes everything fresh from scratch. In addition to the spiritual Greek countryside décor, PSOMI is an artistic culinary experience. A restaurant and boutique bakery, you’ll savor incredible and uncommon Greek cuisine found nowhere else in Florida. PSOMI prides itself on it’s philosophy of philoxenia, “the art of making a stranger a friend“, and incredible food is the surest route to a friend’s heart. Our favorites from the Bakery are the Big AF Cookies, Spanakopita Quiche, and the Baklava Coffee Cake. From their selection of artisan bred we loved the Tsoureki (sweet Greek easter bread), and the Psomi (Greek country sourdough).
From the Restaurant we enjoyed the PSOMI Bagel Special (Avocado, cucumber, heirloom cherry tomato, red onion, sprouts, cream cheese and house-cured salmon), The Lamb Burger (American lamb, Greek herbs, butter lettuce, tomato, whipped feta, skordalia aioli brioche) and the Grilled Octopus Horiatiki (tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, pepperoncini, crispy za’taar chickpeas, latholemono). For more menu options check out their website Here.
PSOMI is located at 701 N Howard Ave, Tampa, FL 33606.
PSOMI has 500+ Reviews on Google rating it 4.5 starts or better and we agree!
Universal’s City Walk VS Disney Springs
Now finally the big debate, Universal City Walk or Disney Springs. Here’s our take. While both have excellent dining options, Disney Springs is more family and shopping oriented. A lot of the stores at Disney Springs are either big brands or Disney franchise related such as Starwars and Marvel’s “Super Hero Headquarters“. Universal City Walk on the other hand is more “adult focused“, with adult beverage choices tastefully available and common place. City Walk also features both dining and “City Walk Clubs” such as Bob Marley – A Tribute to Freedom, CityWalk’s Rising Star, Pat O’Brien’s, and Red Coconut Club. You can check out the City Walk Clubs Here. Both Disney Springs and City Walk are excellent, safe and family friendly choices but we probably wouldn’t take Grand Ma to City Walk after 6PM.
That’s all for December in Florida!