2019 Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Complete Guide

Busch Gardens Tampa Tips and Guide for Beginners

Thinking about making a solo trip out to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay anytime soon?

This wild and adventurous theme park is known to have some of the best roller coasters and thrill rides in Florida. Formerly known as the Dark Continent, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay invites you to seek adventures in the lush and mysterious lands of Africa.

Python Busch Gardens
Python Busch Gardens : Florida Memory

I have so many fond memories of this magnificent theme park. It was the first time I had rode a roller coaster, Python, and it was the first park I was able to explore on my own.

Busch Gardens was also a place where I created great memories with my large family, being that it was a much more affordable theme park for families to attend together.

What to Expect at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Busch Gardens was opened in Tampa, Florida on March 31, 1959 by the Anheuser-Busch company as a free animal attraction alongside a brewery. It has since become a 335-acre theme park divided into African-themed regions:

  • Egypt
  • Congo
  • Birds Garden
  • Jungala
  • Morocco
  • Nairobi
  • Pantopia
  • Cheetah Hunt Area
  • Sesame Street Safari of Fun
  • Stanleyville

All areas of Busch Gardens can be done in one day if you have a plan. I’ll be sure to give you the perfect Busch Gardens itinerary later in this guide.

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

Busch Gardens Guide with white-black striped tiger.
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How to Navigate to Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is about 70 miles from the Walt Disney World Resort (an hour and 25 minute drive). There is a Busch Gardens shuttle service that offers round-trip transportation to the park.

The round-trip fare is free with park ticket purchase and departs Orlando daily with a maximum of three stops to Busch Gardens.

Reservations are highly recommended and can be reserved by calling 1-800-221-1339 or visit Mears Destination Services online.

How to Get to Busch Gardens Tampa from Disney World

  • Travel WEST on I-4 to I-75 (About 58 Miles)
  • Merge onto I-75 NORTH via EXIT 9 toward Ocala (stay on I-75 for about 3.74 miles)
  • Take EXIT 265 toward Temple Terrace (this exit is also the exit for the University of South Florida)
  • You will merge onto E Fowler Ave/FL-582 W via EXIT 265 and stay on here for about 4.65 miles
  • Turn left onto N McKinley Dr/County Hwy-585A (stay on here for about 1 mile)
  • Make a U-turn onto N McKinley Dr/County Hwy-585A
  • Arrive and park at Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Address

The address for Busch Gardens is 10165 N McKinley Drive Tampa, FL 33612.

Busch Gardens Tampa Hours

Busch Gardens usually opens at 10:00 a.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m.; however, during the peak summer days the park may be open until midnight. Remember when planning your trip, always check the park’s website or mobile app for the current hours and wait times.

What to Know Before You Go

If you are wearing loose-fitting shoes, you should leave them at the loading platform. Any other loose articles can be placed inside any locker located throughout the park.

What should I pack for Busch Gardens?

  • Comfy Shoes
  • Small Bag
  • Breathable Clothing
  • Sun Protection
  • Small Umbrella
  • Water
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Phone
  • Park Ticket

You can get the full Theme Park packing checklist here!

Busch Gardens Rides with colorful roller coasters.
Busch Gardens Rides

Busch Gardens Roller Coasters

  • Montu
  • Cobra’s Curse
  • Cheetah Hunt
  • Kumba
  • Tigris
  • Sheikra

What is the tallest roller coaster at Busch Gardens.

Sheikra is currently the tallest roller coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay peaking at 200-feet.


BUSCH GARDENS TICKETS AND PRICES

When planning out your solo trip, you’ll want to know how much does it cost to go to Busch Gardens in Tampa?

Let’s breakdown the different ticket options you will have at the park.

Busch Gardens Parking Price

  • $20: General parking for cars, motorcycles, trucks, recreation vehicles and campers (50% off for Bronze Annual Pass Members; FREE for Silver, Gold and Platinum Annual Pass Members)
  • $28: Preferred parking (50% off for Silver Annual Pass Members; FREE for Gold and Platinum Members)

Busch Gardens Discount Tickets

  • One day admission starting at $96.32
  • Play & Dine: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay + Eat Free All Day starting at $111.53
  • Fun Card Pay: For a Day, Get All of 2019 at Busch Gardens plus Adventure Island FREE starting at $109.99
  • Tampa Bay CityPASS: Attractions include: Busch Gardens® Tampa, The Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and Chihuly Collection presented by the Morean Arts Center OR Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI). $109.00

*All prices subject to change without notice.

Busch Gardens Annual Pass Options

  • Busch Gardens only starting at $6.99/month
  • SeaWorld or Adventure Island + Busch Gardens starting at $9.99/month
  • SeaWorld + Busch Gardens + Adventure Island or Aquatica starting at $11.99/month

*All prices will vary based on the plan you choose.

Find more Groupon Busch Gardens tips here!

Busch Gardens All-Day Dining Plan

All you can eat and drink at Busch Gardens.

  • Adult: $39.99
  • Child: $19.99
Colorful Pantopia Busch Gardens with red roller coaster Scorpion in background.
Pantopia Area of Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Quick Queue

You can skip the line on major Busch Gardens rides and attractions. Prices start at $19.99 and varies based on how busy the park may be that day.

Below are the current attractions included in the Quick Queue system:

  • Falcon’s Fury
  • Cheetah Hunt
  • SheiKra
  • Montu
  • Kumba
  • Stanley Falls Flume
  • Congo River Ride
  • Cobra’s Curse
  • Scorpion
  • SandSerpent
  • Tigris (one-time use only)

*Prices subject to change.


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BUSCH GARDENS TOURS

Safari Tour at Busch Gardens with zebras, giraffes and more.
Safari Tour at Busch Gardens

Elephant Insider Tour

45-minute walking tour with specialized trainers.$29.00

Elite Adventure Tour

The ultimate VIP experience of Busch Gardens where you can customize your own 7-hour tour. $199.00

Guided Adventure Tour

An in-depth tour of the whole Busch Gardens theme park, complete with front of the line access, lunch, 30-minute off-road wildlife safari, the opportunity to feed giraffes, and more. $99.99

Heart of Africa Tour

75-minute guided tour where you will get up close and personal with wild animals of Africa. $29.00

Keeper for a Day Tour

You will work with zoological staff caring for giraffes, antelope, birds and more! This hands-on experience last 6.5 hours. $249.00

Penguin Insider Tour

Guided tour with specialized trainers. $29.00

Serengeti Safari

Open-air touring vehicle that takes you through the Serengeti plain. $39.00

Tiger Insider Tour

30-minute walking tour with specialized trainers. $29.00

Aldabra Tortoise Insider Tour

You’ll be able to get an up-close encounter with one of the largest tortoises in the world on this 30-minute walking tour. $19.00

Cheetah Insider Tour

30-minute walking tour that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to care for cheetahs. $29.00

Gorilla Insider Tour

You’ll get to come close to these endangered species on a 30-minute walking tour. $29.00

Roller Coaster Insider Tour

This one-of-a-kind tour allows you to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the coasters are maintained each day along with a bird’s eye view of Sheikra.

The roller coasters included on this 2-hour tour are SheiKra, Cheetah Hunt & Cobra’s Curse. $69.99

*Discounts available for Pass Members. Prices subject to change.


11 EASY BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA TIPS

Busch Gardens Tampa Rides (17 Things You Must Do – Episode 15)

1 – Get there early

Arrive 45 minutes prior to park opening is the best way to maximize your day, especially if you’re trying to do it in one day.

Hipster Power Tip: Book a hotel near Busch Gardens such as Home2 Suites by Hilton here and explore Tampa Bay before heading back to Walt Disney World.

2 – Dress appropriately

Florida weather is mostly hot and humid except for the beautiful months of December, January, February, and March.

3 – Find quiet, shaded spots

The Edge of Africa and Myombe Reserve are two, usually serene, sitting areas. The great thing about Busch Gardens is the availability of hidden spots tucked away throughout the park that also offer great views and shade.

4 – Go during the weekdays

To avoid the frustration that a crowed day at a theme park can bring, I suggest avoiding holidays, the weekends, and the summer.

This is the time that both locals and tourists flood the park bringing unbelievable attraction wait times and difficult navigation throughout the park.

The best days to visit Busch Gardens are Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

5 – Bring quarters for the Busch Gardens locker rentals

This tips is especially important if you’re traveling solo and you want to ride roller coasters.

6 – Download Busch Gardens Map

Map out your day prior to your visit.

Busch Gardens Tampa Map
Busch Gardens Tampa Map

This is a great way to make a note of your must do’s and also a way to help you see and experience as much as you can if you’re only there for a short visit.

7 – Pass on Preferred Parking

Try to get to Busch Gardens early and park near the tram station in the regular parking section.

If you pay for an upgrade to preferred parking, then there is a possibility that you may get placed in the back of that lot and will have to walk quite a distance to the front gates.

8 – Find Busch Gardens discounted tickets and special deals

Websites such as CityPASS, AAA, Undercover Tourist, and local businesses are perfect places to start!

9 – Grab a Birthday Pin

If it’s your special day, be sure to stop by guest relations for a special birthday pin to wear at the park.

10 – Purchase the Busch Gardens Quick Queue Pass

This is a most important tip if you’re going on a busy day. The Busch Gardens Quick Queue will allow you to bypass the long wait times on the peak days at the park.

11 – Purchase the All-Day Dining Deal

For one low price, you will get a band that allows you to eat at participating restaurants all day. Each time you eat, your meal will include: 1 entrée, 1 side or dessert, and 1 fountain drink, tea or water for each visit.

Basically, an all you can eat day at the park!

Busch Gardens All-Day Dining Restaurants:

  • Zagora Café
  • Serengeti Overlook™ Pub
  • Bengal Bistro
  • Dragon Fire™ Grill
  • Zambia Smokehouse

According to Busch Gardens, sharing is prohibited and may lead to revocation of your dining pass if found in violation of the rule.

Solo Theme Park Traveler Tip: If you see a family struggling to get a group photo, offer to take their picture. In return, someone from their circle might reciprocate the offer to you.


BUSCH GARDENS ITINERARY for ONE-DAY

Busch Gardens itinerary with each ride and attraction.
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  1. Download and go over the park map.
  2. Plan to arrive prior to the gates opening.
  3. Check out the famous Florida gators in Morocco.
  4. Join the Cheetah Hunt.
  5. Ride Cobra’s Curse.
  6. Experience Montu.
  7. Enjoy a stroll on the Edge of Africa or in the Myombe Reserve to relax.
  8. Take the Skyride over to the middle area of the park.
  9. Ride Sheikra.
  10. Conquer Tigris!
  11. Have lunch at Zambia Smokehouse.
  12. Ride Stanley Falls.
  13. Conquer the Congo River Rapids
  14. Ride Kumba.
  15. Dive into the Scorpion Roller Coaster
  16. Ride the Phoenix.
  17. Experience the Sand Serpent Roller Coaster.
  18. Conquer Falcon’s Fury.
  19. Grab a delicious pretzel and beer at Twisted Tails Pretzels.
  20. Catch up on any park shows that you want to watch.

BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA EVENTS

Christmas at Busch Gardens Tampa (Theme Park Tour)

Food and Wine Festival (March and April)

Coasters, music, food, drinks, fun and more can all be experienced in this standout Busch Gardens annual event.

This event is included with park admission.

Summer Nights (June, July, and August)

Experience the terrifying roller coasters at night and party with other Hipsters as DJs play your favorite tunes throughout the night.

This event is included with park admission.

Howl-O-Scream (September and October)

Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Howl-O-Scream Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

The Dark Continent inspired theme park transforms into a terrifying, bone-chilling event where you’ll scream your way through the park.

A separate ticket is needed for this event. You can read how to conquer Howl-O-Scream like a pro here!

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens (November and December)

Christmas Town Busch Gardens with wooden toy soldier
Christmas Town Busch Gardens

Christmas treats, Santa’s house, Rudolph and more can be found in this annual Winter Wonderland experience right in the heart of Tampa Bay.

Christmas Town is included with park admission.


BUSCH GARDENS RIDES, ATTRACTIONS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Busch Garden Cheetah Hunt. Green and Yellow Roller Coaster.
Busch Garden Cheetah Hunt

Before you visit Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, you must know all the rides that are available for you to enjoy!

Busch Gardens Tampa Thrill Rides

Cheetah Hunt, Cheetah Hunt Area

Triple launch coaster with cheetah like speed and the park’s longest ride (4400 feet).

Thrill: High

Height Requirement: Minimum of 48”

Cobra’s Curse, Egypt

Spin coaster, featuring a vertical lift that takes you through the dark legend of the King Snake.

Thrill: Moderate

Height Requirement: Minimum of 42”

Falcon’s Fury, Pantopia

Pivot 90 degrees in midair to a face-down dive in the tallest (335 feet) freestanding drop tower in America.

Thrill: High

Height Requirement: between 54” and 77”

Read all about Busch Gardens Falcon’s Fury ride here!

Kumba, Congo

Hear the ferocious roar of the lion in this classic must do roller coaster.

Thrill: High

Height Requirement: 54”

Montu, Egypt

The Egyptian god named roller coaster with seven inversions.

Thrill: High

Height Requirement: Minimum of 54”

The Phoenix Pantopia Busch Gardens orange and blue swing ride.
The Phoenix inside Pantopia at Busch Gardens
Phoenix, Pantopia

A classic swing boat ride that can go in a complete circle.

Thrill: Moderate

Height Requirement: 48”

SheiKra, Stanleyville

Floorless 90-degree dive roller coaster straight down at speeds topping 70 mph.

Thrill: High

Height Requirement: Minimum of 54”

Scorpion, Pantopia

The second roller coaster built at Busch Gardens with a 360-degree vertical loop.

Thrill: Low

Height Requirement: Minimum of 42”

Tigris, Stanleyville

This if Florida’s tallest launch roller coaster with a height of 150-feet and a speed maxing out around 60 miles per hours.

Thrill: High

Height Requirement: Minimum of 54”


Busch Gardens Animal Encounters

Myombe Reserve with gorilla statue
Myombe Reserve at Busch Gardens
Animal Care Center, Nairobi

This animal nursery features a state-of-the-art facility where guests can view animals receiving treatment, x-rays, and other forms of medical and physical care.

Lory Landing Aviary, Bird Gardens

Features a free-flight aviary for up close encounters and a flamingo lagoon accompanied with a beautiful tropical backdrop.

Cheetah Run, Cheetah Hunt Area

Come face-to-face with the fastest animal on land.

Edge of Africa, Egypt

Walk through the quiet African-inspired village while you watch and learn about the majestic lions, crocodiles, hippos, hyenas, and more.

Elephant Interaction Wall, Nairobi

Meet the powerful creatures face-to-face.

Jungala, Jungala Area

Get up close with Bengal tigers and orangutans.

Penguin Point, Nairobi

Check out the African Penguins who live in warmer weather and water temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees.

Myombe Reserve, Nairobi

Get lost in this quiet reserve filled with gorillas and chimpanzees.

Walkabout Way, Bird Gardens

Go Down Under and have a hands-on experience with kangaroos.

Official Busch Gardens Tip:

For Lory Landing, purchase a cup of nectar on your way in to the habitat to hand-feed the lorikeets. Also check the keeper times on the back of your park map to see special animal behaviors, feedings.


Busch Gardens Water Rides

Busch Gardens Congo River Rapids
One Brave soul riding through icy cold waters on a January day.
Congo River Rapids, Congo

Prepare to get soaked on this thrilling river adventure through waterfalls and deep caves.

Thrill: High

Height Requirement: Minimum of 42”

Stanley Falls, Stanleyville

Get pleasantly refreshed on this classic water log-flume ride.

Thrill: Moderate

Height Requirement: Minimum of 46”


Family Friendly Attractions

Grand Caravan Carousel, Pantopia

Arabian stallions-themed carousel.

Thrill: Low

SandSerpent, Pantopia

A family fun “wild-style” coaster filled with drop, sharp curves, and more!

Thrill: Moderate

Height Requirement: Minimum of 46” with a possible companion.

Serengeti Express Train, Nairobi

Travel around the park and watch exotic animals roam about. The train has stops in the Congo, Nairobi and Stanleyville stations.

Thrill: Low

Height Requirement: None

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Skyride, Cheetah Hunt Area and Stanleyville

Get a bird’s eye view of the Busch Gardens in the cable car

Thrill: Low

Height Requirement: Riders must be 56” or accompanied by a supervising companion.

Ubanga-Banga, Congo

Classic carnival style bumper cars.

Thrill: Moderate

Wild Surge, Jungala

Prepare to be launched out of a 35-foot mountain crater in this drop tower attraction.

Thrill: Moderate

Height Requirement: Must be at least 42” tall to ride alone or 38” tall and accompanied by a supervising companion to ride.


Busch Gardens Shows

  • Opening Night Critters, Pantopia
  • Rock A Doo Wop, Pantopia

For the Junior Hipsters

  • Air Grover, Sesame Street
  • A is For Africa
  • Jungle Flyers, Jungala
  • Kareebu Jungala, Jungala
  • Sesame Street Safari of Fun, Bird Gardens
  • Tree Top Trails, Jungala


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BUSCH GARDENS RESTAURANTS

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Dining at Busch Gardens is way better than the early days. The addition of the Zambia Smokehouse has made for pretty satisfactory theme park dining experience.

Although the offerings haven’t reached to the levels of its counterparts in Orlando, you will have a variety of places to choose from.

Bengal Bistro, Counter Service, $, Multiple Cuisines

Jungala

Cheetah Snacks, Counter Service, $, American

Cheetah Hunt Area

Dragon Fire Grill, Cafeteria Style, $, Multiple Cuisines

Pantopia

Garden Gate Café, Counter Service, $, American

Bird Gardens

Ice Cream Parlor, Counter Service, $, Ice Cream

Morocco

Kenya Kanteen, Counter Service, $, American

Nairobi

Kettle Corn, Counter Service, $, Popcorn

Find in Pantopia

Pantopia Grill, Cafeteria Style, $$, American

Located in Pantopia

Refresh Market, Beverage Service, $, Beverages

Stanleyville

Serengeti Overlook Pub, Quick Service, $, American

Egypt

Serengeti Overlook Restaurant, Buffet/Full Service Restaurant, $$, Variety Cuisine

Egypt

Serpent Snacks, Counter Service, $, American

Egypt

Sheikra Sweet Treats, Counter Service, $, American Sweets

Stanleyville

Sultans Sweets, Counter Service, $, Bakery

Morocco

Twisted Tails Pretzels, Counter Service, $, Pretzels

Pantopia

Zagora Cafe, Counter Service, $, American

Morocco

Zambia Smokehouse, Cafeteria Style, $$, Barbecue

Stanleyville

Zambia Smokehouse Busch Gardens with large Sheikra roller coaster.
Zambia Smokehouse Busch Gardens

* $ ($14.99 and under), $$ ($15 to $34.99), $$$ ($35 to $59.99), $$$$ (over $60)*


BUSCH GARDENS SHOPS

If you’re an avid theme park souvenir collector, then you’ll be happy with the wide range of knickknacks, trinkets, and apparel available within the park.

You will also find African crafts and clothing in the Morocco section of Busch Gardens.

Check out the shops below:
    • Abby Cadabby’s Treasure Hut
    • Caravan Crossing
    • Cheetah Gifts
    • Cobra’s Crypt Marketplace
    • Cookie Monster’s Trading Post
    • Cub’s Closet
    • Emporium
    • Gwazi Gifts
    • Kariba Marketplace
    • Marrakesh Market: Inspired Threads
    • Merchandise Kiosks
    • Montu Gifts
    • Nature’s Kingdom
    • Painted Camel Bazaar
    • Sahara Trading Company
    • Tiger’s Treasures
    • Tropical Wave
    • Xcursions

FINAL THOUGHTS

Sheikra Busch Gardens Red and Blue Roller Coaster with white wine.
Sheikra Busch Gardens and Wine

Busch Gardens is one of my favorite theme parks to go to, especially on my solo excursions.

It offers such a wide range of attractions and exhibitions that can be enjoyed by anyone. I personally enjoy the nostalgic factor of the classic theme park days in Florida that Busch Gardens so eloquently includes within its gates.

To end this guide off I want to list a few Pros and Cons of the park. Please feel free to leave any of your tips and stories about Busch Gardens in the box below.

Pros of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

  • Easy parking
  • Free charging stations
  • Great emphasis on the preservation of nature
  • Lots of thrill rides with great animal habitats in one park

Cons of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

  • Approximately an hour and a half from Orlando
  • Park is very dark at night
  • Park map on website is sometimes outdated
  • Lacks a variety of theme park dining options

Don’t forget to get up to 50% off or more on Tampa Bay’s 5 best attractions at CityPASS.com for your next vacation.


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Are you interested in more theme park guides? Check out more articles below.

Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

NikkyJ

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