I’m a serious lover of discount attraction passes—possibly the best invention for those of us who want to see a lot, only have a little time to do so, and are probably just a lil cheap. Okay, I may be more than just a little cheap—I have worn seven tops and coats on a plane before to avoid luggage fees; but don’t act like you’ve never done that either! My favorite of such passes is the CityPASS whose money- and time-saving benefits are offered in twelve U.S. cities + one in Canada (because cheapness has no boundaries).
But, are all those CityPASS booklets created equal? Well, not necessarily. My favorite is the New York City CityPASS which I feel offers the best and most well-rounded combination of sites and is geared toward a more adult(ish) audience. On the other hand, the Tampa Bay CityPASS appears to be geared more towards a “family” audience, of which I most definitely am not (in case my generous use of cuss words and alcohol references left any room for confusion). And sure, maybe these aren’t the first places my friends and I would hit up when visiting the Sunshine State but Ashley does love a challenge. Almost as much as Ashley loves a gd beer.
So what did I (I’m Ashley btw) learn during my week of using the Tampa Bay CityPASS as a grownup without children? Well for starters, BUSCH GARDENS SERVES FREE BEER IN THE SUMMER. But also, that though most people visiting these attractions come equipped with a stroller and/or whatever that thing is called where the baby is strapped to your body, you can totally enjoy these sites as childless adults! (Dare I say, “even more than”?) Read on to find out just how to do so.
WHY USE THE TAMPA BAY CITYPASS?
The Tampa Bay CityPASS is a ticket bundle that gets you into:
- ZooTampa at Lowry Park
- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
- The Florida Aquarium
- The Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- And either the Chihuly Collection or the Museum of Science & Industry
…at a YUGE discount. Visiting all these sites with the Tampa Bay CityPASS in lieu of buying your tickets separately saves you a whopping $112. That’s bag-checking money right there–go ahead and pack all the sweaters. Maybe even get yourself an airplane cocktail while you’re at, you baller.
Besides the savings, CityPASS holders can (most of the time) skip the stroller-studded lines and enter the parks VIP-style through a dedicated CityPASS entrance, “VIP” standing for “Very Impatient Person”. Also, the CityPASS booklets are transferable so the same people don’t have to use all of them. Let’s just say I have “Chihuly friends” and I have “Busch Gardens friends” and even though we’re all friends, I know how to divvy it up. Plus, CityPASS holders have nine whole days to use the tickets so there’s no real rush even though I’ll pretend there is because LIFE IS SHORT PEOPLE! Must. Visit. All. The touch-tanks!
HOW TO USE THE TAMPA BAY CITYPASS AS A CHILDLESS ADULT
Just because you’re a hip adult without children doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a zoo or a theme park as if you did. The key to success being: if you’re an adult that doesn’t have kids, chances are you’re more apt to act like one yourself. Besides, feeding giraffes is still hilarious. Petting zoos are still fun. Elephant poops are still funny and you know what’s even funnier? Giant elephant ding-a-lings. And you can laugh at them freely without worrying about the impression you’re making on the developing young mind of your mini-me. Just because a place is seemingly “for kids” doesn’t mean it’s not also a great time for the “kids at heart”.
BRING YOUR OTHER CHILDLESS ADULT FRIENDS
Provided you make all the right decisions regarding your dental health and proclivity for vegetable consumption, you’ll reach a certain age when you’ll find yourself knee-deep in baby shower invitations. Maybe yours is among them… but, since you clicked on this article, chances are you’re in the same boat as me: in the baby aisle at Target with a registry printout asking yourself, “WTF is nipple butter?”
But just as your buttery-nippled friends have other buttery-nippled friends, chances are childless you has other childless friends who can relate to your utter lack of nipple knowledge. The child-rearing friends in your life socialize through My Little Pony birthday parties, Gymboree classes, and what I can only assume are off-leash training sessions, so it’s time to dedicate some time to the friends you have that may also hold a small child like an uncooked Thanksgiving turkey (it’s upside down by the ankles, right?).
It’s my belief that we all deserve to have the kind of unbridled fun that kids (and parents of kids) get to have, regardless of how many tiny humans have sprung from our nether regions. Snatch up your other childless friends and a handful of Tampa Bay CityPASSes and go wild knowing there isn’t anyone to make you wait an hour after eating. Ride roller coasters and laugh at elephants; meet dolphins and drink free beer; hang out with kangaroos and relish being the only booger-free adults in the room. I promise it’s more fun than complaining about millennials over expensive cocktails in a dark bar.
ACTUALLY LEARN SOME REALLY COOL SH!T
When you visit sites like zoos, aquariums, and museums as an adult (as opposed to when you were a child) and as an adult without children of your own, you actually have the ability to learn about what you’re looking at. Visiting a zoo or aquarium as a child is entertaining—animals are cute and weird and sometimes really funny if you can catch a monkey sticking his finger up his own butt. But what it is not, is educational. Visiting these places as an adult with children (and I’m totally basing this on thorough outside observation) is stressful—forget what’s on display; you’ve got wild animals of your own to keep track of, more than one of who will try to emulate what that monkey just did. Kids don’t care, and parents just want to make it out of there alive and with as many children as they showed up with.
Visiting these places as a childless adult yields you all the freedom of learning all the cool sh!t—much of it relating to animal sex changes, interestingly enough. There are so many amazing things to learn about the animals at ZooTampa, Busch Gardens, and the Florida and Clearwater Marine Aquariums and simply walking by all those placards without so much as a pause is saddening. They don’t display those amazing animals simply to be looked at. Instead, they should be considered representatives of their species for the greater education of the public. They’re intended to be learned about!
Using the Tampa Bay CityPASS as a childless adult means you have all the time in the world to read about the 200-year-old Galapagos tortoise and ask the trainer about kangaroo sleeping habits. You’re free to read all the plaques and posters and even find out firsthand what it feels like to be slapped with a purple giraffe tongue. You’ll be amazed by what you’ll learn about the animals you’ve walked past a hundred times. And as far as the Chihuly Collection goes, never in a million years would I bring a child to a MUSEUM OF PRICELESS GLASS anyway, so…
GET ALL THE HOLLYWOOD DISH
Included in the Tampa Bay CityPASS is admission to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the home of Winter—the adorable bottlenose dolphin with a prosthetic tail and star of the 2011 movie Dolphin Tale. If you have children and/or live in Florida, you already know the story of Winter. However, if you’re a child of the 90s who has yet to procreate and you don’t reside in Heaven’s Waiting Room, just know Dolphin Tale is kind of like Free Willy with less awesome Michael Jackson soundtrackage and more… gan Freeman.
In December of 2005, Winter was found stranded on a Florida beach tangled up in fishing line from a crab trap. She shouldn’t have survived, but she did. Eventually the damage proved too serious and her tail fell off. She shouldn’t have survived, but she did. Again. She learned to swim without a tail, then eventually with a prosthetic one. Ever since, Winter has become a worldwide symbol of resilience and hope, especially for those with physical disadvantages. [pause to wipe away tear] As you can imagine, the movie they made about her is rated PG.
At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium you can meet the real life Winter and her pelican co-star Rufus. You can frolic in the same spaces the movie was filmed and even learn how to aid in the rescue of a stranded dolphin. That’s all fun and games but, using the Tampa Bay CityPASS as a childless adult, you can get the real Hollywood scoop. While the tour guides and animal trainers are being all cutesy with the kids and faking enthusiasm answering the same questions for the 300th time that day in the most G-rated way possible, you’ll get the real dish. In a great example of what I like to call “Finally! I get to converse with a childless adult!”, you’ll learn movie-making secrets, the differences between the movie and how it all went down in reality, what Rufus’s real name is (I mean, why even change it?), and like, how cool is Harry Connick, Jr. in real life… rrreally? The aquarium’s employees will be so jazzed to talk with you, you’ll have TMZ beating down your door when you get home.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ALL THE PERKS OF BEING A CHILDLESS ADULT
With great big pregnancy boobies comes great responsibility. You’re in charge of a human life now. You have to remain alert, proactive, and at least mildly sober. Because of this, there are certain things you just can’t do while leading the charge of a herd of wild babies. In contrast, using the Tampa Bay CityPASS as a childless adult, the responsibility of having no responsibilities falls directly on you.
In order to fulfil this obligation, you and you alone are required to take advantage of all the things available that the parentals among you might miss, including:
- BUSCH GARDENS OFFERS THEIR 21+ VISITORS FREE BEER ALL SUMMER.
- Both Busch Gardens and ZooTampa serve alcohol in the first place.
- Busch Gardens offers shows and live music and entertainment that few children could sit through.
- Just the Chihuly Collection in general—don’t bring your kids here. I didn’t even trust myself in there.
- The Chihuly Collection also offers a 40-minute glass-blowing presentation that no child is sure to love.
- Watch live animal feedings at ZooTampa that come with pretty gruesome warnings for those with children. 🤘🏼
DO ALL THE THINGS YOU WANT, AND SKIP WHAT YOU DON’T
Just because sites likes zoos, aquariums, and theme parks tend to err on the side of “family-friendly”, that doesn’t mean you have to oblige them. In fact, you can still have a fabulous-for-adults-too time while skipping the kid-friendly zones altogether. Except the petting zoos. You must visit the petting zoos. It’s never not funny when a goat head-butts your ass.
You can ride all the “big kid” rides with their 70 mph speeds and 200-foot drops (and even do so until you’re on the brink of vomiting if you wish) and skip the Air Grover—the Sesame Street kids’ coaster because, and I don’t know much about Sesame Street, but doesn’t Super Grover crash a lot? You’re (probably) over 48 inches tall—the world is yours! There are no limits as to what fresh hell you can put your body through! You can watch the live bands with your free beer and skip the animal comedy show. You can walk right on past the guy taking pictures in a penguin suit and go watch some African painted dogs rip apart a rabbit. You can pass on the chance to dig up your own seashell and head straight to the gift shop because you have a job, spending money, and the gift shop at the Florida Aquarium is phenomenal!
GET OUT OF YOUR “DOING THE SAME THING OVER AND OVER” SLUMP
Let’s face it: we all get into a slump. We develop routines and we become “regulars”. Eventually, we all inherit our very own Cheers. But as nice as it is to have this steady, comfortable, reliable existence, it’s also BORING AS HELL. (And you know it.)
I say, get out of this slump and change it up. Instead of spending the weekend binge-watching and bar-hopping (as per usual), grab a Tampa Bay CityPASS and hit up the Florida or Clearwater Marine Aquarium instead. Ditch your Amazon shopping cart and head to the Chihuly Collection where you’re also, hopefully, not buying anything. Recruit a group of friends for a day at Busch Gardens instead of having them over to help plant vegetables in your garden to yield a lot more yesses than nos for a change.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PROXIMITY
You don’t need to dedicate entire days or weekends to using the Tampa Bay CityPASS. Yes, they’re only good for nine days but there are many opportunities to use them in close proximity to other things/places. For instance:
- The Florida Aquarium is super close to Ybor City (another great way to spend a day) and is at the start of the Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.4-mile walkable/bikeable path weaving through museums, shopping, entertainment, and dining like my personal favorite, the Columbia Café.
- The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is small enough for a quick visit on your way to Clearwater Beach—voted the #1 in the U.S. on TripAdvisor’s list of best beaches.
- The Chihuly Collection is another quick stop located smack in the middle of the bustling and revitalized downtown St. Pete area surrounded by adorable shops, street art, the most amazing Cuban food stand, and, naturally, I’ve gotta rep the Hofbräuhaus.
- ZooTampa and Busch Gardens are close enough to each other to do both in a single day—and I can vouch for that because that’s what I did. (When you skip all the family-oriented parts, you have so much more time for other things. And by ‘other things’ I mean FREE BEER.) Have lunch at Taco Bus in between where you’ll get the best service ever and free empanadas on Thursdays.
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