Our Review of Busch Gardens
I've been going to Busch Gardens every year since the early '80's. A lot has changed since my most recent trip in February 2012. I arrived on a Friday afternoon, and was surprised at the lack of cars in the parking lot. Parking has gone up to $14 per vehicle, but parking is included if you have the Annual Pass, which is different than the Fun Card.
- Fun Cards: Pay for a day and receive unlimited park admission until the end of the year. Currently $79.99 for adults, $71.99 for children (ages 3-9).
- Annual Pass: Unlimited admission for one year from date of purchase. FREE parking. 10% savings on dining and shopping. Currently $119.99 for adults, $111.99 for children (ages 3-9) and seniors (ages 65 ).
The passes used to only be available to Florida residents, but now all US residents can purchase them. If you plan to go to the park more than once in a year, I definitely recommend them. I would spring for the Annual Pass since it includes parking and added discounts. There are also multi-park pass options.
Before I head to the park I always check the website for daily hours, show times and ride updates. That information can be found here http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-tampa/Park-Info/Park-Hours
If there is a ride you specifically want to experience, check before you go to make sure it's running. Occasionally attractions are closed for improvements and general maintenance and they always list that on their website. The only thing you can't check for in advance is last minute closures due to weather. High winds usually close the Skyride, and lightning closes roller coasters and outdoor shows.
If you want to try an exclusive park experience (for an extra cost) they have plenty of options available. One year for my birthday I did the Serengeti Giraffe Feeding experience. It was with a small group and included beer (they don't offer the beer part anymore, sigh). I definitely recommend it for any animal lover.
Ok, on to the park! There was virtually no wait for any ride, including the newest ride Cheetah Hunt. I hit that up right away since it's located fairly near the entrance. Busch Gardens offers a Quick Queue for an extra cost that allows you to bypass wait times. I've never purchased this before as I try to avoid the park on the busiest days (weekends, holidays, in season). That may be a good option if you only have one day and want to experience as much as possible.
I'm a roller coaster fan, and I really enjoyed Cheetah Hunt. It's different than other coasters because it's run with magnets. It's fast and smooth, has unexpected acceleration, is exciting for coaster lovers, and also fun for my motion-sickness-prone husband. My favorite coaster at the park is SheiKra, do not miss this if you love coasters! Kumba is an old favorite, and Montu is another go-to coaster. Gwazi is a jerky wooden coaster. I love it, even though you might exit with a slight headache because it's so rough. But that's what you come to expect from a wood track coaster. Take a chance on the Congo River Rapids, but you might end up getting soaked. I noticed they have a new blow dry system (for a cost). It's like a hand drier, but for your whole body. I might have to try that next time so I don't wander around the park dripping wet for the rest of the day. For information on all the rides check here http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-tampa/Attractions/Rides
I loved the kid's section when I visited the park as a child. The kid-friendly attractions have changed multiple times since I used to play on them, but the kid's are still having lots of fun. The family area has a new Sesame Street Safari of Fun and play area. http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-tampa/Attractions/Other-Attractions
On to one of my favorite parts of the park -- food. For dining I am partial to the Desert Grill (used to be called Das Festhaus). They always have new shows to enjoy while you are eating. This trip they had Let's Dance featuring Burn the Floor- great show. My recommendations: the Corned Beef Sandwich with German Potato Salad, Spaghetti and Meatballs, or the new Southwest Chicken Salad. It's hard to pass up the desserts, so grab one to share. Even better, hit up Sultan's Sweets on your way in or out of the park. You can't go wrong with an ice cream sundae! Another favorite dining area is the Crown Colony Restaurant that offers an amazing view of the animals on the Serengeti Plain.
Here is a good time to add how much I miss the free beer Busch Gardens used to offer. There were multiple opportunities in the park to sample Anheuser Busch beer, or taste test new products. One of my favorites was the beer tasting and snack pairing. They still have plenty of beer available for purchase, but the free beer is gone, along with the clydesdale horses. The park is not the same without them. Tear.
On the plus side, Busch Gardens has an amazing assortment of animals around the park. My favorite area is the Edge of Africa which houses hippos, lions, hyenas, lemurs, meerkats, crocodiles and vultures. You also have a nice view of the Serengeti Plain where hundreds of animals roam free in their natural habitat, including rhinos, giraffes, zebras, antelopes and more. For a closer view of the animals take a ride on Rhino Rally or the Serengeti Railway Train. Do not miss the Myombe Reserve where you can view gorillas and chimpanzees. There are cheetahs located at Cheetah Run next to the new Cheetah Hunt ride (where the clydesdales used to be). One of the newest animal attractions is Walkabout Way where you can hand feed kangaroos and free-roaming wallabies. There are many animal attractions and all information can be found here http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-tampa/Attractions/Animal-Attractions
Finally Busch Gardens offers a variety of great shows and special events. They have a new ice show called Iceploration which I recommend taking time to see. Of the special events I've been to, my favorites are Bands, Brew and BBQ, Howl-O-Scream, and Summer Nights. I also spent a New Years Eve there with fireworks and live bands, but as of now they don't have that listed as an event this year. I also met Jack Hanna after one of his special animal shows. Check out the special events, they are worth it, and most are included with your regular ticket price. http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-tampa/Events
Like most theme parks, Busch Gardens is continuously changing, but it's uniqueness and smaller crowds versus the Orlando theme parks keeps me coming back year after year.
Please note, we received complimentary admission to the park for the purpose of this review.
its amazing! especially with friends and family, so fun!
me 1 year ago
One child 3-9 free
posted 2 years ago
The rollercoasters are really fun, but the food and drink prices are expensive.
posted 2 years ago
I think Busch Gardens charges a fair price for admission, food, and parking compared to other Florida parks. Only problem is it's in Tampa and not Orlando. It's a little over an hour drive from the Orlando parks, and I guess they offer a bus to get there, but when my vacation is short, I like to stay in one place. Too bad because it's one of the best theme parks out there.
coasterfan 2 years ago
Go to Howl o Scream. I started going to it after Halloween Horror Night at Universal got way too packed. There were so many lines and crowds, wasn't scary or fun. But Howl o Scream at Busch Gardens is great. You have a chance to ride the coasters, eat, drink, and be scared. Highly recommend for teenagers and older.
Sarah 2 years ago
Cool animals + awesome roller coasters = a good time. Busch Gardens has the fun card for Florida residents which is a great deal because it costs the same as one-day admission (full price) and you can come back as many times as you want that year. The first time you use the fun card they scan your fingerprint so you can't share it with others. Also parking is an additional $10.
Derek 2 years ago
I've spent countless days at Busch Gardens in Tampa. Growing up in Florida, I had a huge selection of theme parks to visit, and BG has always been my ultimate favorite. I've been there for many of their special events including New Years Eve fireworks and live bands, summer nights, and Howl 'O Scream (all very fun). I also met Jack Hanna when he was there with some of his animals.
Best bets are:
Rollar Coaster: Shiekra and Kumba.
Water Ride: Congo River Rapids.
Dining: Corned Beef Sandwich at Desert Grill.
Animal Experience: Edge of Africa (For one of my birthdays I paid extra for a behind the scenes animal tour that included feeding the giraffes - worth every penny!)
Saddest part about BG now is no more free beer. They still sell Anheuser-Busch products, but back in the day you could get toasty for free.
Still by far the best theme park for adults, kids, college-aged, families, and retirees. If you're a FL resident, get the Fun Pass and visit all year.
Emily 2 years ago
Busch Gardens is my favorite theme park of all time! They are always running promotions -- never buy a full priced ticket.
Sharon M. 2 years ago