Before we went to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Florida, we were a little worried that our children, who aren’t into big thrill rides, wouldn’t find it fun.
We were most definitely wrong.
There is plenty for both the young and the old in Busch Gardens Tampa, and we are going to prove it!
Don’t forget to download the free App before you go; it’ll help you find out about queue times, as well as give you details of the shows and park closing on the days you visit. Also, take note that tickets for Busch Gardens Tampa are available at reduced prices online, so check this out; as well as taking this article with you as well, of course… ;-)
So many rides for both big and little kids – it’s not all about the rollercoasters
Busch Gardens Tampa has A LOT of rollercoasters, as you can see from the details below BUT there are also rides for those that don’t like to be thrown all about the place all the time.
The water rides, Stanley Falls and the Congo River Rapids are excellent examples of Log Flume and River Rapids rides that the youngsters will love. However, you MUST make sure you are prepared to get wet, as both of them could very well leave you well and truly soaked!
The experience is well worth it though, as you are bound to find yourself laughing with strangers on the Congo River Rapids in particular, as you enter the geysers, and drop at just the right angle for a total soaking!
There are other attractions for the little ones, thanks to the Sesame Street tie in that Busch Gardens Tampa has, including the Air Grover, and Sesame Street Safari of Fun. The Sand Serpent is also a great rollercoaster choice for those looking for a slightly gentler day; though it was closed at the time we visited the park, so do check for its availability before you go.
If you are after the white knuckle experience, then you can’t go far wrong with the SIX main rides within the park:
Cobra’s Curse: This rides sets you, using a lift, face to face with a 30,000 pound snake, in a 40mph rollercoaster that moves you backwards, forwards, and even spins you.
Cheetah Hunt: This is a 3-minute, 4,400 feet ride that takes you all around the park; from high up to low down through a gorge – and you can see it from pretty much everywhere you go in the park!
Falcon’s Fury: A drop tower of 335 feet, that plummets you FACE DOWN to your doom – I mean for your enjoyment ;-)
Kumba: An initial 135 foot drop sets your pulse racing on this, and you need to be over 54 inches to ride it – need we say more? Just for your info, Kumba is what natives in Africa call the roar of the lion in the distance when you have crossed into his territory. Probably a sound almost as frightening as the ride….
Montu: If you like going upside down, then the SEVEN invertions on this ride should keep you happy, right? The ride even features a 60 foot vertical loop as well.
SheiKra: Teasing you after a 200 foot climb, hanging you and edging forward to a near 90 degrees drop is a pretty amazing start to this ride. Not for the feint-hearted, but awesome nonetheless.
When we visited, the queues for ALL these fast and furious rides were really, really long; even later into the evening. We didn’t visit on a weekend either, so do check out the Crowd Calendars available for the site to try and pick a quieter day if you can. If this isn’t possible, you might want to consider getting a Quick Queue ticket. You can get one that works once on all the main rides, or an unlimited pass if you think you’re gonna LOVE them.
Check the ACTUAL cost of them before you go, or buy in advance, as the price varies depending on the popularity of the park on your visit day. Prices start at $15.99 each, but rise to nearly $80 at busier times, such as bank holidays.
Animals for everyone, everywhere
The park is based around the central theme of bringing the Serengeti in Africa to Florida; and as such there are a lot of animals around the park for the kids, and the adults to take a look at.
You can use the Skyride to travel between the areas within the park because it is BIG, and those little legs might struggle otherwise.
The app does help with navigation; giving you your routes to and from the attractions you are interested in, as well as details of what is nearby for you to try; in selected categories, e.g. Shows, Animals, and Attractions.
The talks from the keepers, and the information boards are fascinating for the older guests to read, and watching the animals is just as amazing for us adults as for the children. In particular, we were fascinated by the American Crocodiles, Hippos and the Gorillas, which seemed to be watching us as much as we were watching them….
The Safari Train is a must to take in the animals within the “Serengeti Plains.”
You can even pay a little extra ($29 per person) for a four-wheel drive safari trip to get a little closer. However, a zoom lense, and a bit of luck mean that this isn’t really necessary to be able to see some amazing sights within the park.
Personally, I have always struggled with Zoos, but the educational value of being able to see the animals, coupled with the way Busch Gardens is encouraging conservation gives them sufficient brownie points to allow me to join in with the fun that the kids had while they were there.
They really are trying to “do their bit” too with their Animal Care Center on site that looks after over 60,000 animals, which eat over 4,000 pounds of food A DAY! And the site even has its own TV Show now, following the lives of the exotic animal doctors in the Zoo; Wildlife Docs.
Excellent and affordable food, particularly compared to *some* Florida parks
Note: Busch Gardens Tampa DOES NOT allow you to take food into the park at all. You can get away with snacks for the kids, but we’d be very surprised if you managed to smuggle in your lunch/dinner ;-)
As with all theme parks, it is a bit of a worry trying to find something to eat that suits both the young and the old BUT there are two excellent choices within the Busch Gardens Tampa park; the Serengeti Overlook Restaurant, which has an amazing view of the Serengeti animals from inside. The price for the Buffer is $22 per adult, and $15 for kids under 10, and includes a dessert; from a choice of four. There is salad, breaded fish, and chicken, Quinoa, curry, and stew. Something for every palate at a price you can afford; and is a lot less than one of the other parks in the region that I shan’t mention ;-)
If you aren’t keen on this, and would like a bit of a dining experience for the kids as a bit of a treat, you could try the lunch with Elmo and Friends, which is $19.99 per adult, and only $9.99 for a child. This is a slightly cheaper option if your kids are a little younger, and there are means you would be happy to eat too, from a Stronganoff to Breaded Chicken for the little ‘uns.
Food Hack: The park does offer an all day eating plan, which could work out good value if you are eating twice in the park. However, as we were an hour away from Busch Gardens in the Orlando area of Florida, we decided to pack a lunch in the car and eat it on the way home. This worked perfectly, and kept the costs down for us all. Keep the food in a cool place in the car, and in a cool bag, so it hasn’t melted by the time you get back to it.
Original shows to delight all
The park hosts a few shows during the course of the day, and by far and away the best, and most popular, is the Iceploration show; a journey across the planet told through ice skating. This show is a lovely, original idea, and though the storyline tieing the locations together is a little weak; the ice dancers, costumes, lights and music more than make up for this. Both you and the kids will love the show, and might even want to see it again! ;-)
One thing we did think was un-necessary, was the use of real-life animals in the story, which happened a few times during the 30 minute show. It was almost a “look what we can do” rather than important for the story, and really just made us feel a little uncomfortable.
Perhaps Busch Gardens should consider stopping it? It seems to add nothing to the show; and we would have expected them to be above such “cheap” tricks to impress.
A is for Africa is another show for the children, and worth a stop if you have smaller kids, and perhaps to balance this out, the adults might introduce the younger generation to the joys of 50s and 60s music through the Rock A Doo Wop show too!
Playgrounds for the little ones to give the bigger ones some chill out time
Finally, the park has its own playground, Jungala, that your kids can REALLY get stuck into, including the Wild Surge ride, Jungle Flyer, and a network of ropes, bridges, and platforms to keep them entertained in the Tree Top Trails. If you have slightly older children, you might even be able to take a breather while they explore *chance would be a find thing.*
My son (who is nine) loved this area in particular, and was gutted we didn’t have time to go back there. We had already spent over an hour with him playing there, so there is plenty for them to get their teeth into, and want to come back for more.
Just be prepared for the tears when you try and go…. ;-)
Overall, the kids loved the park, and we would recommend going there if you have a free day, and a little extra money while you are in Florida; as it isn’t cheap for a family of four to get in – at $90 per ticket, or $105 if you include the dining option. That comes to nearly $420, plus the $20 parking fee when you get there. Baring in mind that you can get access to some of the other Florida parks for a much longer period for not that much more, you need to think carefully about how you spend your money.
However, if you are saving on entry to other parks with a multi-day ticket, you could do a lot worse than spending a day here. We still didn’t manage to do everything we wanted to, without going on a single rollercoaster all day!
Anyone that worries that this park is all about the coasters, is missing the point. Busch Gardens is about thrills, and spills, mixed with animals and conservation action, go take a look for yourself and you’ll see exactly what we mean.
It is also worth noting that the park does offer vacation packages, including stay and entry to the parks which represent good value if you are in the area for a period of time.
However you choose to do visit though – Enjoy – just like we did.
Note: We were given complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens Tampa for the purpose of this article, but all opinions are our own. American Sky provided us with a press discount for the holiday.
Photo source: Photographs of the rollercoasters, the tigers in the water, and the safari jeep were provided by the press office, all the others are copyright KiddyCharts