'Sup! As the Frog Family's resident thrill-seeker, it is my duty (nay, my honor) to tackle all of the greatest theme park rides and share my thoughts with you, the people! If you're hoping to leap to great heights in Florida, look no further than Busch Gardens Tampa.
Busch Gardens Tampa is home to some of my favorite coasters of all time, and with the animal interactions and Sesame Street Safari of Fun, there's plenty for Lily to enjoy too. The pretty scenery makes it a winner in Mom's book, and Dad can't say no to the great food and beer. I'm here to give you the lowdown on all of the awesomeness that is Busch Gardens Tampa.
Busch Gardens Tampa Overview
Busch Gardens Tampa is the PLACE TO BE for coasters. You can literally spend a whole day just riding gnarly rides! This makes Busch Gardens Tampa heaven on earth for a thrill-seeking frog like myself. On the flip side, you’ve got the second half of the park that’s dedicated to the animals to enjoy! Busch Gardens Tampa is the ultimate vacation destination for adventurers. There are tons of exciting coasters, gorgeous scenery and fun animal interactions. The park also hosts annual events year-round, including Howl-O-Scream, Christmas Town, Summer Nights and food festivals.
Busch Gardens Tampa Tickets
You didn't think we'd leave you hanging, did you? Have no fear, the frogs are here! (Well, I guess you should have a tiny bit of fear for these wild rollercoasters.) We've got you covered with discounted tickets for Busch Gardens Tampa, including Quick Queue unlimited and more. That means you can minimize wait times and tackle ALL the coasters! The tadpoles will appreciate it, I promise ;)
Location and Parking at Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens Tampa is located at 10165 McKinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612. This is just a bit over an hour from Orlando, home to Universal Orlando Resort, Walt Disney World Resort and SeaWorld Orlando. Not a bad drive for a day trip in the midst of an Orlando vacay and toadally worth it.
General parking is $25 and preferred parking has seasonal pricing starting at $30 (annual passholders have discounted or free parking depending on which pass tier you have.) General parking is across the street from the park, so you can either walk to the entrance or hop on a tram. There's a tunnel under McKinley Drive for the trams, along with a sidewalk for pedestrians, so you can cross the busy street with ease.
Busch Gardens Tampa Attractions
Busch Gardens Tampa is home to 15 wild rides that are sure to get your adrenaline pumping ... well, don't worry, not ALL of them. There are seven coasters that we classify as "thrilling," plus a few family favorites and a couple of water rides too. The highlight for us at Busch Gardens Tampa is Falcon's Fury, a drop tower that leans you slightly forward before plummeting you 335 feet. It even scares ME, the bravest frog of them all!
In spring 2019, the park opened a brand-new ride called Tigris. It’s Florida’s tallest launch coaster that propels you forward AND backward into several loops and twists. I tested it out for you, and I can confirm it’s not for the faint-hearted. But it sure is a whole lot of fun, and it’s over before you know it!
The wooden roller coaster, Gwazi, closed back in 2015, but it's roaring back to life this year as Iron Gwazi. It's set to become North America's tallest hybrid coaster, as well as the world's fastest and steepest hybrid coaster.
Thrill-seekers will also enjoy SheiKra, a floorless 200-foot tall dive coaster that plummets you down at a 90-degree angle. On Cheetah Hunt, you reach top speeds of 60 mph, just like the fastest land animal it's named after. You really can’t miss park favorites Kumba and Montu, either.
Not to say that the tadpoles are entirely left out. In addition to family-friendly rides, such as Sand Serpent and Cobra’s Curse, kids can explore Sesame Street Safari of Fun, which includes several kiddie rides, water play areas and a bounce zone. The Jungala area of the park offers a second play area for the tadpoles, but it's temporarily closed.
While Busch Gardens has tons to offer in terms of scenery and entertainment, we definitely recommend the park's rides mainly to thrill-seekers, as the coasters are much more daring than one might find at Walt Disney World. Think of The Incredible Hulk at Universal Orlando, or any of the large coasters at SeaWorld Orlando for comparison.
Busch Gardens Tampa Wildlife
What we love about Busch Gardens Tampa is that it's an amazing zoo and incredible theme park rolled into one place. The park is home to over 200 species! My mom likes that the animals help make it a learning experience for Lily and me — especially the Animal Care Center, where you can watch vets taking care of injured wildlife. (I'm not crying, you are ...)
The Serengeti Plain is home to free-roaming giraffes, zebras, rhinos, gazelles and more. Some of the best ways to view the animals are by hopping on board the Serengeti Express Train or riding the Skyride (temporarily closed) for a bird’s eye view. You can book a safari tour to trek across the vast plain and even hand-feed giraffes!
Find trainers interacting with a cheetah or two at the front of the park, and be sure to stop and feed the kangaroos during your visit! You'll even stroll by some flamingos and have the chance at taking a selfie with a tiger ... do it for the Instagram likes, if nothing else! Truly everywhere you turn, there are more cool animals and habitats to explore.
Dining at Busch Gardens Tampa
I'm sure you've realized by now that eating is one of our favorite things to do at any theme park, and Busch Gardens Tampa is no exception. We love the exciting flavors offered throughout the park, and we're never ones to complain about large portions! You can find burgers, sandwiches, salads, fajita wraps, BBQ ribs, international flavors and more throughout the park. With the exception of the Elmo & Friends buffet — Lily's favorite — all dining at Busch Gardens is quick-service ... except for one! (That's fine by me, because it leaves more time for fun!)
The Serengeti Overlook Restaurant & Buffet is an iconic, seasonal dining location that offers a buffet or three-course, prix-fixe menu Friday-Sunday. The signature fried chicken is a main highlight. While it is the only sit-down restaurant at Busch Gardens, reservations are not accepted, so be sure to hop in while you can and enjoy the views of the Serengeti Plain and Cobra's Curse. If you would prefer a quick bite, there is a counter-service pub section that offers pizza, sandwiches and chicken tenders on a daily basis, as well as a safari-themed bar.
Busch Gardens Tampa Tips
- Arrive ahead of schedule. Around opening, parking can get a bit backed up and be a time-consuming process. Allot about 30 extra minutes into your commute in order to hit the Busch Gardens Tampa entrance gates at your scheduled time.
- Make note of where you park. Just like most other theme parks we've visited, there is a section and row number combo to help you identify your spot. Text this to yourself to save some time hunting down your frog-mobile after a long day in the park.
- Outside food and drinks are not permitted at Busch Gardens Tampa. Save yourself the time and trouble of packing a cooler full of food and stick to water bottles!
- There are two types of lockers: Purchase the all-day, multi-use locker for ultimate ease and convenience! It's only $15/day for a standard size (which was plenty for our whole Frog Family). Splurge for the Large at $20, or Jumbo for $25! You can come back to the all-day lockers in Morocco as often as you'd like throughout the day. The second option is a single-use locker, which costs $2 for the first two hours and $1 for each additional hour. Transferable single-use lockers are also available for $8. Loose articles aren't permitted on any of the big-dog rides, so this is a must ... unless you have someone waiting to hold your bags.
- Near the alligator exhibit at the front of the park, there is a large sign of two different walking routes that displays how many calories you’ll burn and steps you’ll take. There are small trail markers along the way so you can easily keep track.
- However, if you’re feeling tired or need a break from walking, you can use the Skyride (temporarily unavailable) or the Serengeti Express Train to get around. Hop on either of the two Skyride stations in Congo or by Cheetah Hunt. The train has three different stations in Nairobi, Congo or Stanleyville.
- Take time to smell the roses ... or feed the animals. Whatever you're into! There are beautiful wildlife displays everywhere you look, even en route between coasters. Be sure to save some time to admire the lush landscaping and cute animals.
- Check out the kangaroos in Walkabout Way! This has always been one of our favorite family experiences. It's rare (and radical!) to be up close and personal with such unique critters.
- Save water rides for the end of the day. No need to get your clothes sopping wet mid-morning ... wait until later on and pack some towels and a change of clothes in the car.
- Scorpion is the ideal introductory roller coaster if you’re not quite ready for the big ones but want to tackle an upside-down loop that you can’t find on Sand Serpent or Cobra’s Curse.
- If you're planning an all-day trip to Busch Gardens Tampa, hop on the ticket package that includes all-day dining. For just over $30 more than a regular single-day ticket, you can get up to one entrée, one side item or dessert and one beverage each time through the line. No sharing ... but it's still an awesome deal!
Are you craving some coasters? Hop on our discounted tickets now and start planning your next adventure at Busch Gardens Tampa!
Related: Best Orlando Theme Park by Age Group