Busch Gardens/Tampa Trip

Old Mar 17th, 2005, 07:06 AM
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Busch Gardens/Tampa Trip

We will spending two days at Busch Gardens and then two days at a beach. We've been to Anna Maria Island and loved it but would like to try something different.
Should be stay at one of the BG hotels for that part of the stay and then move to a beach hotel (i.e., is BG fairly close to the beach?) I also need beach and beach hotel suggestions. I would prefer a more resort type hotel for the beach.
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Old Mar 17th, 2005, 08:26 PM
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We stayed at Clearwater Beach; as I remember it was quite close to BG, so that you could easily return there after a day at the park.
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Old Mar 17th, 2005, 08:45 PM
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I am not crazy about Clearwater, as it is a bit crowded. However, if you have small children , there's a lot to do in the area. I prefer the St Pete hotels and since you like resorts, I would suggest the Island Grand or the Don Cesar and neighboring property for great beaches, food and friendly atmosphere. Not nearly as touristy or crowded as Clearwater or Treasure Island. I liked Busch Gardens, but was ready to escape after a day. Remember, this place has a shuttle along the beach and most hotel shuttles will take you anywhere. No need for a car,. really.
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Old Mar 18th, 2005, 06:27 AM
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Hi, Keysmom. Welcome to Tampa.

I like BG alot but agree with Linda that it is a one-day trip, unless you opt for some of the park-sponsored events such as early morning feeding trips into the veldt, etc. Or if they have their excellent Zoo Camps for kids when you go (summer). Adventure Island next door is also a one-day trip if you visit when it is open, a terrific water park, lots of fun for all.

The hotels around BG are not particularly notable although they are likely a good value for tourists and would be OK for a night to just collapse after a long day at the park (I've never stayed there as I live in Tampa). BG is at least 40 minutes to the gulf coast, maybe more with all the traffic we've had. But BG has an interesting spot for family-style dinner (fried chicken) so if you decide to stay at the beach I'd plan on staying for dinner so as not to get into all the Tpa-to-SP PM rush hour traffic (if they take reservations, get an outside table that overlooks the veldt).

The Don Cesar is an historic property, really remarkable and romantic, but your kids would probably prefer either the TradeWinds or the Alden in SPB. SPB is not like peaceful Anna Maria, there's lots of excitement for the kids. Other "resort type" hotels are available in Sand Key. There you can be just outside the Clearwater beaches in a beautiful setting but close enough to go for the Pier sunset activities and the Clwr. restaurants. But I would not recommend Clwr. during spring break (now to mid-April).

I also recommend Treasure Island (a don't agree with Linda that Treasure Island is crowded! What?!?). It has a very deep beachfront, lots of hotels, lots with kitchens, but no resorts. Lots of kiteflying all the time. There's a drum circle there every evening. The city has events such as sand castle contests and music, fireworks, lots of things going on, esp. in summer. But be prepared for a small trek through a sea-oat-landscaped beach front. We used to set up camp at the shoreline in the AM with chairs, blanket, and umbrella, and leave it all day going back and forth as needed until sunset (now we have a property in Sunset Beach at the s. tip of TI so go there instead). The good news is there's plenty of beach to go around and it is not crowded like Clearwater.

Keep us posted on your plans and I'll give you some kid-friendly things to do. Cheers!
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Old Mar 18th, 2005, 06:46 AM
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I agree with TG. Busch Gardens is one hour drive time from Treasure Island or SPBeach. TI is less crowded than either SPBeach or CWBeach. Very family oriented, a little more built up than Anna Maria, but you still get that family atmosphere.

TG, one little detail I've noticed before: I think (that is, I hear) the drum circle is only on Sunday evenings just before sunset, not every day...this is great fun by the way, for any age. You can bring anything from a pot and pan to a $2000 drum set, and you will be welcome! Who doesn't like to bang things?
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Old Mar 18th, 2005, 06:51 AM
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If you are spending two days at BG I would recommend getting a hotel close by (check out Doubletree suites). It is not an easy drive from the beach to BG, it could easily take an hour of drive time each way depending on traffic. We have done this many times both staying at the beach and at BG hotel. The doubletree is sufficient for one nite and is only 5 minutes away.
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Old Mar 18th, 2005, 06:54 AM
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Joan, you are right about that Sunday-only drum circle. And about banging too
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Old Mar 21st, 2005, 09:19 AM
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Thanks for all the great tips. We've decided to just do BG and Adventure Island this trip. We'll come back when we can spend a bit more time on the beach. So it looks like the Doubletree, fried chicken on the veldt (I hope the chicken isn't from "slow learners" at the park) and whatever other great BG tips you can offer.
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Old Mar 21st, 2005, 03:52 PM
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Just a few BG tips. One is Mel's Hot Dogs, a chicag-style place just outside the park. A locals favorite and many will eat there before going to BG (or after) because the food is cheap and quick.

Be sure to get the schedule for the entertainment and note the different venues. All the shows are good, and the one in the main theatre is broadway-style musicals with effects (I'm not too crazy about the trained dolphin show).

You can get discounted tickets to BG by booking on-line in advance. Ad. Island used to allow coolers which was a good way to cut back on expenses but I believe they've stopped that. I hope your trip is a good one.
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