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Busch Gardens Tampa

Great Coasters, Great Animals, Great Gardens

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Baby meerkats nurse with their mother at the Edge of Africa exhibit at Busch Gardens Africa in Tampa

Baby meerkats nurse with their mother at the Edge of Africa exhibit at Busch Gardens in Tampa.

©Arthur Levine, 2008. Licensed to About.com.
It's a thrill ride park. It's a zoo. It's a botanical garden. It's three parks in one! A bit out of the Orlando theme park nexus, it's worth the hour-and-change drive to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The African-themed park features some world-class thrill machines, including the highly regarded Montu inverted coaster and the wonderful floorless diving coaster, SheiKra--one of the world's best steel coasters.

With the exception of Rhino Rally, a land and water safari ride (that features comical tour guides in the vein of Disney's Jungle River Cruise skippers), the park lacks the super-duper E-Ticket attractions found at Disney and Universal. But it does offer some great shows, some eye-popping garden displays, and a menagerie of African animals that offers wonderful ambiance and truly sets the park apart.

Be sure to allow time to explore the animals. The orangutan and tiger exhibits in Jungala offer some terrific up-close experiences. And the Edge of Africa exhibit, which borders the 65-acre Serengeti Plain, allows guests to view animals such as lions, meerkats, rhinos, and giraffes in natural habitats. For a special treat (and an extra fee), consider the Serengeti Safari Tours which takes guests aboard open trucks into the Serengeti Plain for real close and personal interactions with the animals.

The dining at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a notch above typical theme park fare. Favorites include the Desert Grill, which features live entertainment along with the fare, and the Zambia Smokehouse for yummy BBQ. Busch Gardens' full-service restaurant, the Crown Colony, serves meals family-style and offers stunning views of the animals on the Serengeti Plain.

Location, Operating Hours, and Phone:

Tampa, Florida

Busch Gardens is open year-round. Operating days and hours vary. Check the park's Web site for more info

1-888-800-5447

Admission Policy: For the latest discounts and special ticket offers, buy direct from Busch Gardens and SeaWorld.

General admission includes access to all animal exhibits, shows, attractions, and rides. Admission to the nearby Adventure Island water park requires a separate ticket. Discount combo passes for both parks are available. There is a discount for children. Busch Gardens also offers a discount for passes purchased in advance online at its Web site. The park frequently offers deals such as two days for the price of one admission or buy one day and get a season pass. Check with Busch Gardens for current offers. Busch Entertainment also offers multi-park ticket deals to its Florida attractions, including Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove, and Aquatica water park.

If you are planning to visit other parks, consider getting a bundled, discounted ticket that includes admission to SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. Bus transportation between the two parks is complimentary for ticket holders. Or you might want to get the Orlando FlexTicket, which features 14 days of unlimited admission to 6 parks, including the two Universal parks, SeaWorld, Wet 'n Wild, and Aquatica as well as Busch Gardens. It also includes bus transportation between Tampa and Orlando. It's a good deal if you are able to visit all six parks.

Special Tours and Programs:

For extra fees above the cost of general admission, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay offers a number of in-depth tours and programs, including a Serengeti Safari Tour that takes guests on open-air trucks for up-close and personal interactions with the animals on the park's 65-acre Serengeti Plain. It also offers guided tours, some of which offer front-of-the-line access to the major rides. Advance reservations are recommended for the tours.

Getting to the Park:

Busch Entertainment offers a daily bus shuttle between Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando. The cost is a reasonable $10 per person. The shuttle is complimentary for those who purchase multi-park tickets, including a two-park SeaWorld and Busch Gardens pass and Orlando Flex Ticket (see Admission Policy above).

Directions:

From Orlando:
I-4W to I-75N. Make sure you head NORTH (even though it sounds counterintuitive!) on I-75 to the Fowler Ave exit #265. Bear left on the exit ramp onto Fowler Avenue. Left on McKinley (after the University of South Florida) to the park.

Hotel Information:

Find Busch Gardens Hotel Accommodations
Compare rates for Tampa-area hotels at TripAdvisor.

Featured Attractions:

  • Rhino Rally ride
  • Montu, one of the world's best inverted coasters
  • Kumba steel multi-element coaster
  • SheiKra, a floorless diving coaster--among the best steel coasters anywhere
  • Serengeti Plain with free-roaming animals
  • Edge of Africa safari experience
  • Jungala land with animal exhibits, rides, and play area

See the Park:

Nearby Water Park:

Adventure Island is operated by Busch Entertainment and is across the street from Busch Gardens. It requires a separate admission ticket.

New at the Park

  • New for 2014:
    Falcon's Fury
    Read about the new drop tower ride coming to the park in spring 2014.
  • New for 2012:
    Iceploration
    Read about the new ice skating extravaganza coming to the park in February 2012.
  • New for 2011:
    Race as Fast as a Cheetah on Busch Gardens' Coaster
    Read about Cheetah Hunt, a new launched roller coaster, coming to Busch Gardens Tampa in spring 2011.
  • New for 2010: Sesame Street Safari of Fun
    The furry stars of the long-running PBS program get their own African-themed land at Busch Gardens complete with rides, interactive play areas, a live show, shops, and restaurants. As you'd expect, Safari of Fun is geared to the preschool crowd. Highlights include Air Grover, a kiddie-sized coaster, The Count’s Zambezi Rally, a jeep ride that treks through jungle and desert landscapes, and "Lights, Camera, Imagination!," a 4-D movie (which is located in the park's 4-D theater, not in the new Safari of Fun area). The play areas offer water-based and dry fun. Fans can dine with Sesame Street characters at select breakfast and lunch seatings.

Halloween Event:
Howl-O-Scream
Info about the annual spooky festival.

Official Web Site:

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Online

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