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5 locations, 1 price: new CityPass gives Tampa Bay visitors theme park, animals, museums

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TAMPA, Fla. - For $119, tourists in the Tampa Bay area can visit a theme park, two aquariums, a zoo and either a world-renowned glass collection or a science museum.

It's part of a new ticket booklet called CityPass, which is already offered in 11 other cities, including New York, Toronto and Seattle.

Tampa Bay-area tourism officials announced the new CityPass program Wednesday, saying it will draw more tourists to the area for a longer period. The pass is good for nine consecutive days.

"It's bringing us to a whole new level," said D.T. Minich, the executive director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater. "This is a great value for our customers."

The announcement comes just after Walt Disney World raised the price of a one-day ticket to the Magic Kingdom to $99 before taxes for visitors over age 9.

Tampa Bay attractions are a couple of hours from the theme park hub of Orlando, but nonetheless are trying to aggressively draw visitors to the area.

Here's how CityPass works. The $119 adult ticket ($99 for kids ages 3-9) can be bought online now for use beginning May 20. After May 20, the pass can be bought online or at any of the attraction locations. Pass-holders will receive a booklet with actual tickets that are redeemable at five different locations over nine consecutive days.

Three Tampa-based attractions — the Busch Gardens theme park, The Florida Aquarium, the Lowry Park Zoo — are all included in the pass book, as is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium located in neighbouring Pinellas County. The pass-holders then also choose a fifth location — either the Chihuly glass collection in downtown St. Petersburg or the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.

Tourism officials say the CityPass pays for itself, costing less than the combined price of a regular Busch Gardens ticket plus a ticket to any one of the other locations. If a tourist were to buy separate adult tickets for all of the attractions, the cost would be about $190.

Most of the offerings are geared toward families; the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the home of Winter the dolphin, star of "Dolphin Tale," and the upcoming "Dolphin Tale 2" movies.

But adults will enjoy the Chihuly collection, a gallery devoted to the glassworks of artist Dale Chilhuly. Pass-holders who use that option can also visit the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, which often offers live glassblowing demonstrations.

Tourism officials say the CityPass in other cities is especially popular with European visitors, and hope to market the Tampa Bay pass at an upcoming tourism trade show in Germany.

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Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

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