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How to Visit Busch Gardens Tampa

How to Visit Busch Gardens Tampa

Figuring out how to visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, a massive 335-acre family-friendly animal theme park, is part of the fun. The entire park was designed around African and Asian themes, so it has an exotic feel. Pair that with the high thrills roller coasters, vast food selections, well-known characters, and Florida sunshine, and you have a smashing success.

With so many choices for theme parks and adventures around Orlando, Busch Gardens sometimes needs to be noticed. Disney and Universal Studios Orlando teeter for top billing, but just a short drive away is a real treasure trove. And here’s a little secret: the crowds are nonexistent if you go in January or February. Ride the coasters over and over again without long wait times.


Here are the things I love about and suggestions for how to visit Busch Gardens Tampa, and yes, every guest must have a paid ticket whether they are riding the rides or not. Walking around requires a ticket.


Ride The Roller Coasters

If you enjoy the thrills of spins, drops, rolls, and the unusual, you will LOVE the roller coasters at Busch Gardens. My daughter (Peyton) and I love Cobra’s Curse, a unique coaster that spins backward and forwards along the track. I can’t figure out how it works, but it is spectacular taking the loops and dips of the track sideways. 

Kumba is a steel roller coaster with the most loops, seven in total.


Cheetah Hunt is another one of Peyton’s preferred rides. This coaster goes across the Serengeti from 0 to 30 mph and then accelerates to 60 mph throughout the ride. It then adds helixes, enormous drops, and a heartland roll (this is all roller coaster speak). 

Montu is another thrill seeker’s delight with seven inversions, a 128-foot drop, and an Immelmann loop (a simultaneous loop and roll). 

Iron Gwazi is a new ride at Busch Gardens that plunges riders from over 200 feet into a 91º drop. This fascinating newbie to the park reaches speeds of 76 MPH. Iron Gwazi is the world’s fastest and steepest hybrid coaster.

SheiKra seems to be the top-billed ride at Busch Gardens, and after one thrill ride, I can see why. This dive coaster (your feet hang free) hits 70 MPH and has a 200 ft. drop. Wow!


More Exciting Rides To Experience

I’m saying; you will not have a dull moment at Busch Gardens. Besides the animals, shows, dining, and roller coasters, there are plenty of other rides to get your kicks on.

Congo River Rapids will take you on a whitewater rafting expedition, while Stanley Falls Flume is an oldie but goodie family-favorite water ride. Wild Surge (the tame one) and Falcon’s Fury (the colossal tower you see at the park) are drop rides that take your breath away.

The newest ride is the Serengeti Flyer, the world’s tallest and fastest of its kind, opening in the spring of 2023. I can’t wait to get on this one!

Most theme parks these days are going to a premium paid pass to get you to the front of the line once; Busch Gardens is no different. You can purchase the Quick Queue or Quick Queue Unlimited for these special perks.


Take The Skyride and Serengeti Express Train

Busch Gardens’ Skyride takes you high above the Serengeti Plain and offers fantastic views of the park. The Skyride is a great way to save steps traveling across the substantial property. 

FYI: Riders under 56″ must be accompanied by someone over 14 years old. 

The Serengeti Express Train is an old-fashioned steam locomotive that takes a 30-minute journey around the park. It makes two stops in Stanleyville and Nairobi. You can ride the complete loop or use the train to get from one part of the park to another.

We saw giraffe, rhino, zebra, and antelope on our ride. The Serengeti Express train conductor is friendly and great at making the guests laugh. The train is decorated with vintage suitcases, which I loved!

Fun Fact: Did you know there is a second Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia?


Come And Play At Sesame Street’s Safari of Fun

This family-friendly African safari adventure has kid-sized rides, games, and water attractions. There is also a character greeting opportunity, dining, and a live show at Sunny Day Theater with singing and dancing.

Storytime also takes place daily at the theater.


FYI: Join the Sesame Street gang for “A Very Furry Christmas” during the holidays when the park is transformed into a Christmas delight with festive decor throughout the park.

You will surely see your favorite beloved Sesame Street characters floating around the park, including Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Zoey, Elmo, and Big Bird.

A few points of interest in Safari of Fun are Air Grover, a kid-sized coaster, Big Bird’s Whirly Birdie (Ferris wheel), and Rosita’s Djembe Fly-Away chair swings.

And you can’t miss Elmo’s Treehouse Trek, a three-story interactive play structure that the kids will love, and parents can enjoy a nice break.


Download the free Busch Gardens app to stay on top of wait times, show times, and upgrades.

Explore Animal Adventures At Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens is famous for its animal habitat, and it is one of the biggest draws of the park.

The Myombe Reserve houses gorillas and chimps in a lush rainforest setting, while the Edge of Africa has hippos (big cheer!), hyenas, and curious meerkats.


You’ll find tigers and orangutans at Jungle and African penguins in an underwater viewing tank at Penguin Point. Ooh and aah over ten cute sloths and Asian elephants at Animal Connections in Nairobi.

Guests can get up close and personal at the Animal Care Center. The staff checks on the animals’ health and offers an educational aspect to the animal attraction.

Walkabout Way is where you can meet the macropods (kangaroos, wallabies, and wallaroos) from 11 AM to 5 PM daily. You can even hand-feed them, which I did. Children under five are not permitted in this animal habitat.

The sheer size of Busch Gardens’ animal area makes them one of the largest zoos in North America. They are also one of around 20 animal families that have earned the Humane Certified™ seal from American Humane, “the world’s largest certifier of animal welfare.”


Need help getting around? Busch Gardens has wheelchairs and ECVs at the park’s entry for rent. You can also reserve one to be ready and waiting for you.

Replenish Your Energy Level With Tasty Food 

Busch Gardens has an arsenal of dining choices. You are always close to a sit-down restaurant experience or a food kiosk. Some of the quick-serve eateries and restaurants are:

  • Dragon Dog (QS) for hotdogs and sausages
  • Moroccan Delights (QS) for hand-scooped ice cream treats and smoothies
  • Zambia Smokehouse for bbq meats and succulent side dishes
  • Oasis Pizza for fresh-from-the-oven pizza and salads
  • Zagora Café for burgers, chicken tenders, and desserts
  • Dragon Fire Grill & Pub for a food hall experience with Asian, Mexican, and American dishes

Something I always splurge on at Busch Gardens Tampa is the All Day Dining Deal, which will run you $49.99, or $24.99 for children aged 3 to 9. The pass includes an entrée, side item OR dessert, and a bottle of water or fountain soda once every 90 minutes at choice locations. It is also a great way to experience multiple dining establishments at Busch Gardens.


Plan A Christmas Town Visit

Christmas Town is a holiday event from mid-November through about the 10th of January. Expect gazillion lights, special shows, Christmas photo-ops, Holiday in the Sky fireworks, and lots more.

For me, the chance to meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his friends was enough reason to visit. But then, I enjoyed the holiday-inspired specialty food & drinks and Santa’s Christmas Workshop shopping so much that I had to go twice.


There are ice-skating shows, Santa’s North Pole Experience, and the Holly Jolly Express train ride at this free event; free meaning you are in the door and have already purchased a Busch Gardens ticket. There is no additional fee for participating in Christmas Town activities.

Did You Know? Busch Gardens is open both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.


You won’t want to miss Three Kings Journey in the Dragonfire Grill. This fantastic show has choral-style singing while unfolding the journey to Bethlehem with brilliantly costumed interpreters.

Christmas Town Noshing

Check out Festival Walkway after 4 PM for many delicious dining kiosks showcasing holiday menus. Purchase the Christmas Town Sampler Lanyard for the most significant savings. With this, you can feast on a five ($40), ten ($55), or 12-item (Pass Member Exclusive) food and beverage food crawl. 


When I bought my pass, food and drink items were between $3 to $9 each. It averaged $5 per item with my lanyard so that I could splurge on the more expensive foods and alcoholic beverages. The food was delicious, too!

A few food stands are Cookies, Cocoa, and Cocktails, Polar Pavilion (cinnamon whiskey sour), Holiday Joy Tasting (PA Dutch cream liqueurs), Dasher’s Delight, and Wine & Truffles. Christmas Celebration has pork loin with apple demi-glaze & butternut squash purée. Dasher’s Delight has a wild mushroom tart with Boursin cheese crema. I’m drooling!


More 2023 Busch Gardens Special Events

There are many noteworthy holiday events or seasonal happenings at Busch Gardens, such as:

  • Real Music Series (free musical entertainment) Jan 17th through Feb 26th (no Mondays)
  • Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends Jan 27th through Feb 12th AND April 28th through May 21st (Friday through Sundays)
  • Mardi Gras Jan 14 through March 5th
  • Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival March 10th through May 21st (select dates)
  • Cinco de Mayo May 5th through May 7th
  • Viva La Música May 12th through 21st (new Latin celebration)
  • Summer Nights May 26th through Aug 6th
  • Bier Fest July 21st through Sept 4th (Friday through Sundays)
  • Howl-O-Scream AND Spooktacular Sept 8th through Oct 31st (select nights)
  • Christmas Town Nov 13th through Dec 31st

Rock Out To Free Concerts

Busch Gardens’ Real Music series is a great way to see incredible musical performances for free; the price for attending these events is included with your admission.

Again, the crowds are virtually nonexistent in January and February, so you almost have a private show. One year, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits sang Happy Birthday to me. 

Real Music series concerts in 2023 include tribute bands to Queen, Journey, Elton John, Prince, Elvis, and Billy Joel.

Food and Wine Festival bring big-name headliners like Flo Rida, Dustin Lynch, Kansas, and Maddie & Tae.

SeaWorld Orlando is the sister park to Busch Gardens. It is another vibrant and exciting park to visit.

Feed The Birds at Lory Landing

Lory Landing is a great way to see lorikeets and parrots at arm’s length. You can purchase a cup of nectar to feed the birds but beware, as they will swarm all over you. It’s pretty intense but great for pictures. The birds are so colorful and pretty.


Busch Gardens has charts hanging around so you can quickly identify the different colored birds; a big thumbs up in my book.

Try Theme Park Shopping

You can pick up some cool souvenirs at Busch Gardens between the multiple shops. XCursions has unique gifts from around the world and Guy Harvey merchandise. Painted Camel Bazaar and Marrakesh Market are where I buy delicious-smelling soaps, hand-painted tops, fun earrings, and gourmet food items.

Make your child’s dreams come true at Build-A-Bear-Workshop, with signature clothing items available. Then, treat yourself to home decor, African carvings, and instruments at Nature’s Kingdom.

Pro Tip: Air-conditioned kennels are available for paid boarding your pet at the front of the main parking lot. A rabies certificate and tags are required.


New Busch Gardens Unique Tours

Busch Gardens has several unique tours to get an in-depth look at their fantastic park. Currently, those available are Serengeti Safari, Roller Coaster Insider, Animal Insider (cheetah, orangutan, hippo, elephant, penguin, gorilla, tiger), Keeper for a Day, Elite Adventure, Private Rhino Safari, and Sloth Encounter.

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The 20+ Best Places to Visit in January That Should Be On Your Radar | Chapter Two Collective

Tuesday 22nd of January 2019

[…] of Florida, why not consider a trip to Busch Gardens? There’s one in Florida where you can take advantage of the state’s great weather. […]


Tuesday 22nd of September 2015

That coaster looks nauseating..


Tuesday 22nd of September 2015

Exhilarating. ;) Though I have to say Cedar Point has the best daring coasters.

Stacey Valle

Monday 21st of September 2015

Busch Gardens looks amazing! I never heard of this before, and I don't mind going since I absolutely love animals and roller coasters. :)


Tuesday 22nd of September 2015

I know, the best of both worlds! Plus decent food. ;)

Anna and Thiago

Monday 21st of September 2015

Wow it seems to be an amazing place to visit! We love amusement parks and ther would be a place of our choice for sure!


Tuesday 22nd of September 2015

Me, too! Ahhh, to be entertained all day. ;) Thanks for visiting.


Saturday 19th of September 2015

I went there years ago and remember it being more of an amusement park, but possibly I missed part of it. Nice pictures !


Tuesday 22nd of September 2015

I'm guessing they have changed a lot over the years because I remember it more than way, too, from the past. ;) Thanks!

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