The Tampa Bay Area Feature
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Busch Gardens was opened in Tampa on March 31, 1959, by the Anheuser-Busch company. It was originally designed as an admission-free animal attraction to accompany the brewing plant, but it eventually was turned into a theme park, adding more exotic animals, tropical landscaping, and rides to entertain its guests.
Today the 335-acre park has nine distinct territories packed with roller coasters, rides, eateries, shops, and live entertainment. The park is best known for its incredible roller coasters and water rides, which draw thrill seekers from around the globe. These rides tend to cater to those over the age of 10. With this in mind, Busch Gardens created the Sesame Street Safari of Fun, which is designed solely with children under five in mind. There's a lot packed into this area: junior thrill rides, play areas (some with water), and shows—all of which make it exciting for the kids.
The park is set up on a north–south axis, with Nairobi being in the center.
Your first encounter at the park is the Moroccan market (grab a map here). There are several small eateries and souvenir shops in this area. If you head west from Morocco, you'll get to the Bird Gardens, Sesame Street Safari of Fun, Stanleyville, and Jungala. Heading north you'll find Nairobi, Timbuktu, and the Congo. Heading east takes you to Egypt and the Serengeti Plain. If you get lost, there are team members available almost everywhere to help you.
For Ages 7 and Up
Cheetah Hunt. Riders zoom over 4,000 feet of Serengeti-like landscape and down through a rocky cave.
Gwazi. The largest, fastest wooden dueling roller coaster in the world boasts crossing speeds of 100 mph.
Kumba. Riders on this coaster experience weightlessness, cobra rolls, corkscrews, and inverted rolls.
Montu. This 150-foot-tall inverted coaster reaches speeds of 60 mph, and has a zero-G roll and seven inversions.
Rhino Rally. A Land Rover takes you on an off-road safari with up-close animal encounters and a raging river adventure.
Sand Serpent. It's a pint-size roller coaster with twists and turns throughout.
SheiKra. This coaster is 200 feet tall with a 200-foot vertical descent, and isn't for the faint of heart.
Wild Surge. You're shot out of a mountain crater up 40 feet and then bounced up and down, creating a free-fall experience.
For Ages 6 and Under
Air Grover. Take a ride on Grover's plane and soar through the Sahara on this junior coaster.
Bert and Ernie's Watering Hole. It's a water adventure filled with bubblers, geysers, jets, dumping buckets, and more.
Oscar's Swamp Stomp. Get wet stomping and splashing your way through this cool water area.
Rosita's Djembe Fly-Away. Rosita takes you on a swing ride that sends you above the African canopy.
Walkabout Way. You don't have to be a kid to enjoy this Australian-theme attraction, which allows you and the little ones to hand-feed a bunch of cuddly kangaroos.
Zoe-Petra & the Hippos of the Nile. A kid-size flume ride with Zoe's hippo friends gives children a river glimpse of Africa.
The park is least crowded during the week, with weekends bringing in a lot of locals. Summer and the holidays also are crowded.
Ride the thrill rides as early in the day as possible. Think about purchasing a Quick Queue pass for $14.95, which grants you no-wait access. It's good only once per ride but ensures you'll hit all the big rides quickly.
Bring extra quarters for all the locker rentals at each of the coasters.
You can pick up a map at the entrance, which lists showtimes, meet-the-keeper times, and special hours for attractions and restaurants.
Vegetarians will enjoy the veggie burgers at Zagora Café or the Colony House's delicious vegetable platter. A money-saver is the All Day Dining Deal, which costs $32.99 per adult and $14.99 per child. It's accepted at most dining venues. If eating at the Colony House, you'll want to make your reservations immediately upon entering the park.Updated: 10-2013
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Fodor's Go List 2014: Where we are going in 2014
- World Cup Fever: Start planning your trip to Brazil!
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's