You cannot decide between animals and rollercoasters? Then, visit Busch Gardens, one of the biggest zoos in the USA. Zebras, giraffes and antelopes populate a vast savannah. Lions and tigers can be observed behind glass, and a jungle area lets you get close to African primates. In addition, Busch Gardens features 17 rides: from relaxing merry-go-rounds to the Iron Gwazi with top speeds of 75 mph. Thanks to this variety, there is something for everybody at Busch Gardens Tampa.
Busch Gardens Tampa in a Nutshell
The history of Busch Gardens dates back to the year 1959 and starts – rather untypically – with a brewery. In addition to their production facility, Anheuser Busch had the idea to open a 15-acre garden for visitors. Flamingos and birds of prey were the first animals, quickly followed by African species like rhinos, giraffes and chimpanzees in 1965. The first ride opened 8 years later, and in 2004, Busch Gardens´ “SheiKra” even held the title of Florida´s biggest rollercoaster.
While the park grew, its origins faded: The brewery closed as early as 1995. In 2009, ownership went to the SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Division, and the last insignia of Anheuser-Busch disappeared later that year. Busch Gardens still sees a lot of expansions – like the Iron Gwazi. This mega coaster was scheduled to open in 2020. However, due to Covid, visitors had to wait until March 2022.
Location and Directions
Busch Gardens is located in North Tampa, 2 miles from the Interstate 275. Reaching the park by car from the city center can take 15 to 30 minutes – depending on the time of day. Please note that parking at Busch Gardens is not free. Instead, fees of 30 USD per vehicle apply if you do not own an annual pass.
Alternatively, you can take the Mears Shuttle Bus, which is free for Online ticket holders. The shuttle picks up guests at various locations in and around Orlando. Due to high popularity, you should make your reservation early, though.
Reaching the park with public transport is another alternative – albeit not the fastest one: Buses from central Tampa usually take 42 minutes or more.
The opening hours at Busch Gardens vary according to the season. Most of the time, the park opens at 10 am and closes from 5 to 9 pm, so it is a good idea to check the times on the official website. There, you can also see which attractions are temporarily closed due to repairs or renovations.
Tickets and Prices
On-site, the average price for a single Busch Gardens ticket is 115 USD. However, we advise you to buy tickets online. This way, you can save up to 50 % – for example, during the Busch Gardens Flash Sales. You will also see a calendar with prices on particular days: While weekends are the most expensive times, tickets are often sold for 30 USD less during the week.
In addition to single tickets, there are many upgrades, add-ons and packages:
- For 40 USD more, you can enjoy discounts on food and drinks with the All-Day Dining Pass.
- The Any Day Ticket allows you to visit the park at any time you want – for 132 USD. You will have 6 months to redeem this ticket.
- If you want to visit Busch Gardens more than once per year, you should buy the Fun Card for 132 USD.
- Annual Passes come in different varieties and cost between 159 and 417 USD.
- With the 40 USD fast pass “Quick Queue”, you can skip the lines at Busch Gardens´ rides.
- The Two, Three and Four Park Tickets allow you to combine Busch Gardens with other parks: namely, SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Orlando and Adventure Island.
Coupons are another way to save money when visiting Busch Gardens. You can find them on websites like groupon, retailmenot and couponfollow.
Busch Gardens Tampa – Attractions
Busch Gardens features a wide variety of attractions – ranging from native and exotic animals to rides for every taste.
Busch Gardens Tampa features a whopping 12,000 animals. They belong to 200 different species and can be found in authentically designed areas:
Measuring 64 acres – or 48 football fields – Serengeti Plain takes up a majority of Busch Gardens. Here, iconic African species like giraffes, zebras, antelopes and ostriches live amongst tall monkey bread trees. There are rhinos, too – including “Winnifred”, a baby that already weighs 220 lbs. If you want to see these animals up-close, you should book a ride with the open Safari Bus. Giraffes in particular are everything but shy and like to stick their necks down to visitors. Alternatively, you can watch animals onboard the “Serengeti Express” train – albeit from a greater distance.
Edge of Africa
Edge of Africa is the second area that houses African animals – including lions. Only glass walls separate these majestic cats from visitors, so you will have a chance to admire them up-close. Hippos can be observed above and below the water; meerkats poke their heads from dugouts, and the laughter of hyenas echoes through the area. Crossing the fishing village “Egypt”, you will reach another predator: cheetahs that demonstrate their agility in a large enclosure.
Where grassland makes way for dense jungle, The Nairobi area houses two species of primates: Gorillas live in a family tribe and build “beds” from the vegetation that abounds in their enclosure. Not far from them, you can watch our relatives, the chimpanzees, while crocodiles populate an artificial lake. Admittedly, Busch Gardens´ penguins might seem a bit out of place here. However, this African penguin species feels right at home in the Sunshine State.
A colorful spectacle awaits you in the Bird Gardens, as they are home to parrots. To be more precise, you will see Lorikeets: Australian specimen that flutter about in a large enclosure and love sugary treats – perfect for visitors who want to feed them. Right next door, Florida´s flamingos present their purple plumage, and further south, you can watch kangaroos and wallabies.
Pantopia – formerly known as Timbuktu – is famous for its Arabic architecture. However, amidst authentic clay huts and markets, you will also find animals: Asian elephants roam a vast enclosure and often splash around in their pond. You want to learn more about these gentle giants? Then, the Elephant Insider Tour is perfect for you.
Southeast Asian vibes await you at Jungala. Here, you will see Bengal tigers that are among the largest tiger species – reaching up to 10 feet. Unlike many other cats, tigers love to swim and can be observed above and under water. Another attraction are the Orangutans: As these apes only cover short distances on the ground, their enclosure features “o-lines” for climbing and swinging from branch to branch.
Busch Gardens Tampa is home to 17 rides – ranging from rollercoasters and wild water rides to freefall towers and play areas for children.
If you love to scream in excitement, the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens are perfect for you:
- Montu holds the record of North America´s biggest inverted coaster. Here, visitors dangle in the air for extra-thrills.
- Not far from its name giver´s enclosure, you will find Cheetah Hunt: the park´s longest thrill-ride with top speeds of 62 mph.
- An even faster ride awaits you at SheiKra: This rollercoaster reaches up to 70 mph and boasts an almost vertical plunge.
- Tigris imitates the power of a big cat – catapulting guests into the air with 60 mph.
- Extra-strong G-forces are guaranteed by the Scorpion with its 360-degree loop.
- Florida´s legendary steel coaster Kumba not only features rapid turns, but also 3 seconds of absolute weightlessness.
- The wagons at Cobra´s Curse change their spin depending on the weight of the passengers. This way, every ride will be different.
- Iron Gwazi is the pinnacle of excitement. Opened in 2022, this colossus boasts a height of 206 ft, near vertical drops and up to 76 mph.
Do you want to cool off on a hot day? No problem, as Busch Gardens features two wild water rides. Congo River Rapids simulates a boat ride on Africa´s untamed river – including chutes – while Stanley Falls Flume sends you down a waterfall. Afterwards, you can dry off by riding the park´s two freefall towers. In addition to the family-friendly Wild Surge, there is Falcon´s Fury: a monster that drops its passengers from a height of 335 feet. For a more relaxed experience, man the Skyride cable car to soar above Busch Gardens and watch animals in the distance.
Busch Gardens is not only suited for adrenaline junkies. The park also features many attractions for children – among them, a charming merry-go-round with carnival vibes, a water playground and the rather tame rollercoasters SandSerpant and Air Grover. If you really want to treat your little ones, take them to Sesame Street Safari of Fun: Here, children can let loose on a bouncy castle, walk over rope bridges and cuddle with their heroes from Sesame Street. Elmo, the Cookie Monster and Co. offer interactive shows where little visitors can join in on the dancing.
Busch Gardens Tampa – Shows and Events
No matter the season – thanks to a wide variety of shows and events, there is always something to see at Busch Gardens:
- The Food & Wine Festival in spring offers culinary treats and selected wines.
- Or do you prefer a tasty lager? Then, the Bierfest in summertime is perfect for you.
- On the Fourth of July, visitors can see one of Tampa´s biggest fireworks at Busch Gardens
- Trick or Treating and costume parades are organized on Halloween.
- During Kid´s Weekends, little guests can get close to their heroes from Sesame Street.
- Christmas Town amazes with festive lights, holiday treats and the figureskating show “Holiday on Ice”.
Busch Gardens Tampa – Restaurants and Shops
Animal encounters and thrilling rides make you hungry? Then, you have come to the right place! Busch Gardens Tampa is home to 10 restaurants, cafés and bars for every taste:
Guests who prefer American cuisine cannot go wrong with the burgers and chicken tenders at Zagora Café. Oasis Pizza serves Italian specialties, the Dragon Dog features gourmet hot dogs, and barbecue rips are a favorite dish at the Zambia Smokehouse. Afterwards, treat yourself to some ice-cream at Moroccan Delights – or have a drink at the Giraffe Bar while watching Busch Gardens´ long-necked animals.
Of course, there is no shortage of shops: At the Marrakesh Market, you will find oriental souvenirs. African wood carvings fill the shelves at Nature´s Kingdom, and several other stores offer merchandise with the Busch Gardens emblem. Alternatively, visit the Build-A-Bear Workshop and create your own stuffed animals.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to go to Busch Gardens?
The prices depend on the season and the particular day. On average, tickets sell for 115 USD at the park. If you buy them online, though, you can save up to 50 % with discounts like the Busch Gardens Flash Sales.
What can you do at Busch Gardens?
Covering an area of 336 acres, Busch Gardens is home to more than 200 animal species – including giraffes, lions, apes and colorful parrots. In addition, there are 17 rides for every age, as well as restaurants, shops and a Sesame Street-themed children’s area.
How much time do you need at Busch Gardens Tampa?
Busch Gardens Tampa ranks among the biggest theme parks in Florida, so simply walking through it will take at least 1.5 hours. Due to long queues at the rides, you should stay for a minimum of 4 hours – or 6 hours if you want to experience everything this park has to offer.
How far is Busch Gardens from Orlando?
Busch Gardens is located 83 miles from Orlando, so motorists should account for a 1.5 to 2.5-hour drive – depending on the time of day.
Should I get the Busch Gardens Fun Card?
With the Fun Card, you can visit Busch Gardens as often as you want within a year. However, unlike annual passes, Fun Cards do not come with free parking.
Can I bring water bottles into Busch Gardens Tamp
While food and drinks – with the exception of baby food – are not allowed at Busch Gardens, you can bring your own water bottle. If you have allergies or special dietary requirements, you should contact park security at the entrance.