Easter at the theme parks, Sugar Sand Festival, and more of April's best events around Tampa Bay

Plus, Record Store Day, Gasparilla Music Festival, and more.

click to enlarge Easter at the theme parks, Sugar Sand Festival, and more of April's best events around Tampa Bay
Photo via Busch Gardens Tampa
Temperatures have returned to 80s-ish, baseball is back and car washes are an almost daily requirement to keep them from turning green—it’s officially spring in Florida.

For locals, April is typically considered the last month of the season before summer begins, and it’s packed with events and festivals to get us outside before it turns to sweaty weather.

At the theme parks

At Busch Gardens Tampa, the Food & Wine Festival and concerts continue Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through May 21. April concerts include The Fab Four, 38 Special, Air Supply, Gabby Barrett, Hoobastank, Walk the Moon and more.

For Easter weekend April 8-9, the Tampa theme park has egg hunts, themed activities, animal interactions and a special story time with Sesame Street friends.

Kids 10 and under can participate in free egg hunts on the Festival Field during select times throughout the day on April 8-9. Registration is required.

Many of the animals at Busch Gardens also get some Easter-themed enrichment, including a special version of an egg hunt for the elephants, gorillas and the komodo dragon—all formulated to stimulate their natural behaviors.

Beyond the one for kids, there’s also a golden egg hunt on April 8-9 with 40 golden eggs hidden throughout the park. Find one and then head to Guest Relations to claim a special prize. The water park across the street, Adventure Island, also has a golden egg hunt with 20 hidden around the park.

Then later this month, the park brings back Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends. Kicking off on April 28, the celebration includes expanded activities with favorites like Elmo, Cookie Monster and more.

Walt Disney World, of course, continues to have castle-load of spring events, including Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival. The experimental prototype community of tomorrow theme park also brought back the popular Eggstravaganza Egg Hunt this year, running through April 9.

Egg hunt maps are $9.99 and come with stickers to mark the spot where you find giant eggs themed after famous Disney rabbits. There are a dozen hidden around Epcot’s World Showcase. Find them all and return your map for a prize - a plastic Disney Easter egg.

For Easter, Disney hosts Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny for photos in Magic Kingdom and an Easter Procession Parade on the holiday. And through April 9, take a tour of the Disney resorts for the giant chocolate Easter egg displays. The edible art features scenes from Disney movies and popular park rides as well as classic Easter and spring vignettes and even an egg-shaped Cinderella’s carriage.

There’s also plenty to eat and not enough space to include it, so check out Disney’s foodie guide to Easter at the parks.

The end of March marked the end of Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebrations, but the beginning of The Walt Disney Company’s 100th anniversary. It feels like just yesterday that Walt and Roy Disney founded the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio on Oct. 16, 1923.

You only turn 100 once, so Disney the company is going all-out for the foreseeable future. Besides brand merchandise and themed food and drinks, Epcot is set to be the official host park in Florida for the 100th anniversary celebrations. That means a new nighttime fireworks show, the opening of Epcot’s World Celebration area by the end of the year, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse decked out in platinum outfits.

And what a coincidence, Disney World just announced it will resume annual pass sales beginning on April 20. Those who have kept their annual passes since before 2020 have been able to renew, but those wishing to buy new passes have had to wait a couple of years.

There are four levels of annual passes, and Florida residents are able to buy the least expensive option (Pixie Dust Pass) for $399-plus tax. The pass is weekday-only pass with blackout dates for the major holiday weeks.

The other three passes available on April 20 include the Disney Pirate Pass ($749), the Disney Sorcerer Pass ($969) and the Disney Incredi-Pass ($1,399).

Disney's website for a full breakdown of what’s included—and not—in each Disney World annual pass.

Around Tampa Bay

The Florida Aquarium celebrates Hoppy Easter on April 7-9, including photos with the Easter Bunny and an aquatic-themed egg hunt. The Easter events are free with admission to the aquarium.

Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Spring Shellebration pops up again this month through April 15. The event includes extended hours until 8 p.m. as well as sunset cruises, live entertainment and music and more family-friendly activities.

There’s also a bubble show with Blaise Ryndes from "America’s Got Talent." Ryndes doesn’t just create different sizes and shapes of bubbles, he also builds bubble sculptures.

Spring Shellebration is free with aquarium admission, but the sunset cruise is $35.99 per person and includes complimentary beer or wine for adults and soft drinks for kids.
Perhaps the biggest spring event in the Tampa Bay area, the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival begins April 8-23 on Clearwater Beach.

Using an artistic element that’s readily available on the beach—ahem, sand—the festival showcases the work of 14 world-class sculptors. This year’s theme is “DECADES…A Blast from the Past!” Think trends and cultural pieces from the 50s, 60s, 70, 80s and 90.

If this year’s poster is any indication of what we’ll see, there will likely be sand sculptures of lava lamps, astronauts, Rubik’s Cubes, disco balls, roller skates and old technology like VHS tapes and cell phones with buttons.

Tickets to get inside the 21,000-square-foot tent housing the sand sculptures start at $14 per person. However, there are free beach concerts, live music bars, cornhole, sand sculpture demonstrations, fireworks and more during the festival.

The other big spring to-do is the Gasparilla Musical Festival, which finally unveiled its lineup at the end of last month.

This year’s headliner is Run The Jewels, featuring Killer Mike and El-P. The modern rap duo just announced a 10th anniversary tour and are set to play Tampa on Saturday, April 29.

The likely headliner for day two, April 30, is Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. The band will also headline the Newport Jazz Festival in August.

Other acts set for GMF 2023 include Chromeo, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Local Natives, Cannons, Rising Appalachia and more. Some Florida favorites include GMF alum Flipturn, The 502s, Tampa singer-songwriter Shelby Sol, Pusha Preme, Summer Hooper, Shevonne & the Force, George Pennington and more.

Tickets for GMF are available now starting at $50 for single-day admission. Find the full lineup, tickets and more information at GasparillaMusic.com.
Music lovers should also mark their calendars for the annual Record Store Day on April 22. This year marks 15 years of Record Store Day and celebrating the people and culture of local shops.

There are nearly two dozen local record stores in the greater Tampa Bay area participating in RSD this year, and dozens more around the state.

That means there are a bunch of places to snag Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross/Jigsaw Puzzle,” Stevie Nicks’ “Bella Donna Live 1981”, Taylor Swift’s “folklore: the long pond studio sessions”, Underoath’s “Voyeurist: Digital Ghost,” the “Dance Mode!” collection of songs from Bluey and more RSD exclusives, first releases, special editions and more vinyl and LPs.

Find the full list of RSD 2023 releases at RecordStoreDay.com.

Many popular local shops—like Daddy Kool Records and Bananas Records—also bring out live music, food trucks and other vendors. Expect lines and crowds at all local shops, and plan ahead for parking and a list of titles you hope to get.

After celebrating local record stores, on April 29 it’s all about patronizing local bookstores with Independent Bookstore Day.

The event marks 10 years this year with parties, exclusive books and bookish gifts and more festivities at local bookstores around the country. So far in the Tampa Bay area, Portkey Books (Safety Harbor) and The Gilded Page (Tarpon Springs) have Independent Bookstore Day plans.

Don’t worry, even if your favorite book shop doesn’t have specific Indie Bookstore Day plans, the day is all about shopping local for your next read.

About The Author

Chelsea Zukowski

Freelance contributor Chelsea Zukowski is a Tampa Bay native who started her journalism career in 2014 at the Tampa Bay Times, working her way up from editorial assistant to entertainment reporter and copy editor. After four years in print, she moved on to broadcast as a digital producer with 10 Tampa Bay-WTSP,...
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