Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida, has some of the most exhilarating rides and summer activities! It’s a must-visit destination for anyone vacationing the area or even a local who has access to the park throughout the year. From special seasonal events to the favorite rides and attractions, some of which have been around for decades, a day at Busch Gardens is a guaranteed day filled with memories!
It has been nineteen years since I last stepped foot into the Busch Gardens Theme Park. That’s a long time and, to be quite honest, I don’t remember much from that particular visit (hangs head in shame). I do remember riding a few crazy coasters and going on a safari, but the rest of the day is a blur. Since our move to central Florida, however, I have been eager to go back and explore the park once again!
It was the middle son and I who had the opportunity to visit Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay on a very hot Sunday just recently. We rose early and headed over because the traffic leading to the coast is always unpredictable. I wanted to get there early enough to enjoy as many rides as possible before the intense Florida heat really set in for the day.
Well, we made it in good time and just a little after the park had opened. We were off to a great start.
My son, Aaryn, had one goal and one goal only that day. He had asked if we could hit five particular rides, all with an “extreme” or “high” rating. With white knuckles, I decided to grant him this wish because, in all honesty, it would certainly make for a few hilarious memories (I think they may have heard me screaming on the other coastline). In between all that high intensity, though, we found several opportunities to enjoy the other amazing things the park has to offer.
~ Roller Coasters ~
So, after arriving, getting through the gates, wandering through a few stores and snapping some basic photos, we headed off to conquer the extreme and high intensity Busch Gardens roller coasters!
Let me tell you. These coasters are NOT for the faint of heart, as my son will explain in his upcoming post. There are twists, turns, loops and launches that will seriously get your heart rate going. They are quite different than the coasters we are used to riding at the theme parks near us and we honestly had no idea what we were up against.
The day of our visit, we rode Cheetah Hunt, Montu, Kumba and Sheikra and I can honestly still feel their intensity when I close my eyes and visualize the ride. All four coasters were built for speed and most have exhilarating inversions ~ one of them had SEVEN!!! I have to say, though, that, out of all the coasters we rode that day, I am fairly confident that Montu was my favorite.
Historical tidbit: Remember my mentioning having been there nineteen years ago? I went back through my photos and found out that Hubby and I actually rode Montu during that visit!! I knew there was something familiar about those inversions!
The park has other coasters that are not as extreme for those who love the thrills, but cannot handle the intensity. Among them is Cobra’s Curse, which holds a moderate rating and boasts a serpent-like track and a coaster that spins forward, backward and even freely at times. Scorpion is another easier coaster to manage and is actually deemed kid friendly.
~ Other Rides ~
For those with littles, the park does have several rides that are specifically deemed “kid-friendly,” such as Air Grover, Sandservant and Wild Surge. If you’re ready to break away and give the kids some time of their own, you can jump over to Sesame Street Safari of Fun, which is an area completely dedicated to entertaining the littles in your group. They can enjoy some cool water fun, climb Elmo’s Tree House and fly through the desert with their ol’ pal, Grover.
~ The Ride that Scared Me the Most ~
While most of the extreme and high intensity rides are the coasters listed above, there is one that we braved that does not take you on flips, twists, turns and inversions ~ so to speak. I’m talking about Falcon’s Fury, a 335 foot freestanding tower that takes it guests up into the sky, pivots them forward 90° and then drops them at a speed of 60 mph! Oh – my – goodness!! The views up top are spectacular and expansive, but that pivot, though. Aaryn did it twice (here’s the video of his solo ride below). Since it didn’t look that intense when he did it initially, I decided to give it a try.
I – was – a – mess! All was safe, but the intensity of hanging there, facing the ground, for about ten seconds before you plunge 300 feet down? One and done, my friend. One – and – done! This is definitely built for those who love to challenge their fears! Wow!
Mind you ~ Aaryn loved the ride and is desperately looking for an opportunity to take his older brother. Now, THAT will be a video worth sharing!
~ Animals ~
We didn’t take opportunity to see too many of the animals this trip. To be honest, I regret that. I can remember taking the safari ride back in 1999 with Hubby and enjoying it. I love seeing the animals, so this is simply going to have to find its way onto the itinerary for the next trip.
Busch Gardens is home to a variety of animals. There are over 300 species, ranging from exotic to endangered, calling the park home. In fact, rumor has it that this is one of the largest zoos in North America! The park is home to gorillas, cheetahs, lions, giraffes, hyenas, penguins (yes, African Penguins!! I didn’t even KNOW there were penguins in Africa!!) and more! Now, while we didn’t search the entire park for animals, we did manage to see elephants, flamingos and the African Penguins (again, who knew?). We also found my good ol’ friend, Cyrano the toucan (I met him during a media event just a few days prior at Adventure Island).
There is an animal care center right there on the grounds. Guests can pop into the air conditioned building and learn more about how the park cares for these creatures big and small. While we were there, we had the chance to hear a discussion on what and how much some of the animals eat.
Be sure to take a ride on the Serengeti Express Train!
~ Shows ~
Aside from the rides and animals, the park also has a variety of family friendly shows. Guests can enjoy a performance on ice in the Moroccan plaza and, in another part of the park, 100 furry and feathered rescue stars are ready to entertain. It’s a great break from the heat and a fabulous opportunity to sit down!
~ Food ~
Do not worry, my hungry friends. There is a TON of food to be found at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay. If you find yourself experiencing hunger pains, there is certainly no shortage of options. From the various snack shops scattered throughout the park to pubs, cafes and smokehouses, I think Aaryn and I found something to appease even the most finicky of palates.
Aaryn and I actually chose to do something simple that day, but different and unique for us. We picked up a twisted pretzel with bacon and purchased a honey mustard sauce dip to go with it. It came with homemade chips and successfully satisfied our appetite for the time we were there. Had we been there any longer, we would probably have jumped over to Serengeti Outlook. They had some fantastic looking healthier options and we could have easily shared a sandwich and a salad.
Interesting to note: On the website, if you click on Dining in the bottom bar menu and click the filter button, you will find an option named “Allergy Friendly.” While we did not take my son with food allergies to the park that day, it is at least good to know Busch Gardens is aware of food allergies and the need to provide reasonable options. Should I have the opportunity to speak with someone on staff, I will be sure to let you know what I find out.
~ Just So You Know ~
Throughout the year, Busch Gardens hosts several special events. Now that it’s summer, it’s time to get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather even later and the festivities a little longer:
- Summer Nights: From now until August 5th, the park is open late and guests can enjoy riding their favorite coasters and more under the moonlit sky. There are various dance party zones throughout the park and a summer menu to try. The night concludes with a spectacular fireworks display and special entertainment on Gwazi field on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
- Beer is Back: While I’m not one who likes beer, I have many friends who are happy Busch Gardens brought this back. During the summer and until August 5th, guests over 21 can enjoy two complimentary 7 oz beers per day. The beer selection is featured on a rotational basis.
- US Veterans and their families free until July 4th: This is a fabulous offer for US veterans and their families! The veteran and up to three guests can enjoy complimentary admission to various Busch Gardens and SeaWorld Parks around the country until July 4th. For more information on other military discounts, be sure to click here to check them out!
For more information on other annual events happening around Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, you can click here.
~ More than Expected ~
The initial intent was for Aaryn and I to enjoy the extreme and high intensity rides this go round. However, we found the park to have so much more to explore and experience. It is definitely in us to go back and, this time, we will be taking the rest of the crew. Next trip, we will find more animals, experience more thrills and perhaps catch a great show! I have all boys, so you know we’ll be exploring the food options more in depth, as well.
Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay has a lot of fun and excitement just waiting to be experienced by you! If you’re visiting Florida and are in the Tampa area, be sure to add this to your itinerary. If you’re local, get yourself over there to enjoy the fun! Summer is here and it’s time to make some memories!
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Florida
10165 N McKinley Dr
Tampa, FL 33612