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. 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.
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. The Serengeti Express, a train ride, also offers opportunities to see the animals on the plain
At the Animal Care Center, you’ll be able to see zoological professionals interact with the park’s menagerie. 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 park has an impressive lineup of roller coasters. If thrills are your thing, check out some of Busch Garden’s headliners.
- Cheetah Hunt – A wonderful launched coaster that simulates a cheetah on the prowl. Along with other park rides, it is one of Florida's best roller coasters.
- Montu – One of the world's best inverted coasters
- Kumba – An old-school, but still well regarded steel multi-element coaster
- SheiKra – The floorless diving coaster is among the best steel coasters anywhere.
- Cobra’s Curse – The family coaster includes an elevator lift and a series of spinning car elements.
- Falcon’s Fury – It's not a coaster. But the drop tower ride, which includes seats that tilt downward just before they plummet to the ground, is among the most thrilling rides in the world.
What‘s New at Busch Gardens Tampa?
In 2020, Iron Gwazi was supposed to open, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the plans. Instead, it will likely open in 2021. Built using some of the structure of the former Gwazi, the wooden-steel hybrid coaster is poised to shatter records as Florida’s fastest, tallest, and steepest coaster. It will also be the fastest, tallest, and steepest hybrid coaster in the world.
What’s to Eat?
The dining at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a notch above typical theme park fare. Favorites include the Zambia Smokehouse for yummy BBQ and Dragon Fire Grill & Pub for international fare. Busch Gardens' full-service location, the Serengeti Overlook Restaurant, offers a buffet and a-la-carte options accompanied by stunning views of the animals on the Serengeti Plain.
Location, Operating Hours, and Admission Info
Busch Gardens is located at 10165 N McKinley Dr. in Tampa, Florida.
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.
The park is open every day, year-round. Operating hours vary. Check the park's Web site for more info.
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 website. 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, SeaWorld Orlando, Discovery Cove, and Aquatica water park.