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. 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.
- Cheetah Hunt - A wonderful launched coaster that simulates a cheetah on the prowl. Along with Montu, Kumba, and SheiKra, it is one of Florida's best roller coasters.
- 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
Location, Operating Hours, and Phone
Busch Gardens is open year-round. Operating days and 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 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
With any paid ticket, there is a complimentary daily bus shuttle between Busch Gardens Tampa and Orlando-area hotels offered through Mears Destination Services.
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.
Nearby Water Park
Adventure Island is operated by Busch Entertainment and is across the street from Busch Gardens. It requires a separate admission ticket.