Busch Gardens Tampa Guide
Busch Gardens Florida is a theme park just 1-1.5 hours drive from Orlando.
It’s well worth a day’s visit to this African themed park. The park caters to adults and kids alike.
Busch Gardens Tampa is primarily an animal park/safari, which is home to many African animals such as hippos, rhinos, lions, elephants and giraffes (and more!)
BGT also had enough rides to go on to fill a whole day. There’s everything from the Congo River Rapids and Stanley Falls log flume ride, to the exhilerating Kumba, Gwazi, Shiekra and Montu rollercoasters.
You can take a cable car over the large plain where the animals are free to roam, or you can take a tour and see them up close. There is also a large tiger enclosure, that has rare white tigers. Be sure to visit the huge aquarium with turtles, hippos and tropical fish.
Busch Gardens in the Spring and Summer
As the weather heats up (and up, and up), the number of tourists at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay begin to increase over the typical number in the fall and winter. The good news is that most or all of the attractions should be operating; the bad news is that the crowds may be bigger.
Unlike some of the other central Florida parks, Busch Gardens is not always packed. There are days during the spring and summer where the park is empty like in the spring. It is usually hit or miss, and rain can play a big role. During March and April, many people are on spring break. What this usually means is longer lines during the week. Lines on the weekend, which are typically longer than during the week anytime of the year, may just be a bit longer.
The summer is rather random for crowds, but you do want to avoid holiday weekends, such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July if you are not looking to fight the crowds. If the Summer Nights promotion in running during June, you have time to do everything even if the park is crowded. The rides that are almost always crowded are the water rides because of how hot outside it is. Try to hit them early to avoid waiting in huge lines. Again, Busch Gardens is very hit or miss when it comes to the crowds, so just hope you are lucky.
One thing you can count on is that it will be hot and humid. Clothing for the park in the spring and summer is shorts and a shirt, period. There may be a couple cool days in the spring, but don’t expect that in the summer. It is always a good idea to wear solid shoes (sneakers) and not sandals. Sunscreen is also crucial. Another item you might want to include is a poncho, because it does rain often in Florida, and you should expect it on your visit. There are days where it will rain all day, but typically, it will pour and be over with. Since most of the thunderstorms occur in the afternoon, be sure to get to the park early, and try to get most of what you want to do in. Busch Gardens essentially shuts down when there is lightning: all of the outdoor rides will close as soon as they can get all of the passengers off.
In the late summer, it is very important to stay tuned to the weather forecasts for any possible tropical systems. If you are a tourist from out-of-state or country, you do not want to be caught in a hurricane. If you happen to be in the area already and a hurricane is coming, evacuate with all the other people.
In short, the spring and summer is a variable and unpredictable time for Busch Gardens. Typically the park is not super crowded, but there are those days that it is. Good luck and hope you pick an un-crowded day.
The Bird Gardens
So where does the word “Gardens” come from for the park name of Busch Gardens? It comes from the oldest area in the park, the Bird Gardens. Home to botanical gardens, thousands of birds, and free beer, this area is where it all began.
Today the area remains relatively the same; park guests (those 21 and older) can receive a complementary beer at the Hospitality House, and there are still birds galore. One of the unique features of the Bird Gardens is Lory Landing. Essentially it is a large, walkthrough bird cage. Anyone can enter, see, and touch exotic birds.
One way the Bird Gardens are different is the addition of Gwazi, a dueling wooden roller coaster, and the Xcursions store. Xcursions offers all kinds of nature and scientific items. Mostly, the Bird Gardens is an aesthetically pleasing area, not a place for thrills. One other attraction is the Wild Wings of Africa show at the Bird Show Theater.
Deep within the park lies the jungle land of the Congo. Inside this land the roaring beast Kumba roams and the dangerous Congo River takes brave passengers on a soaking journey. Watch out at Claw Island for the tigers, or nearby for the bite of the Python.
The Congo is one of the older areas of the park, yet still offers some great attractions. Kumba, a Bolliger and Mabillard roller coaster, is the most popular attraction, but the Ubanga-Banga Bumper Cars and Congo River Rapids also draw the guests. For young children, there are several rides at Pygmy Village. In the dining department, the Vivi Storehouse restaurant offers a variety of meals. There are also several refreshment stands.
One of the easiest ways to get to the area is to take the Serengeti Express. Its station can be tricky to find; it is located across from the Ubanga-Banga Bumper Cars. The train is an excellent way to get to the back of the park without spending the energy to walk all the way there.
One of the smallest, yet most pleasant areas of the park is the Crown Colony. It is home to the Crown Colony House Restaurant, which offers both cafeteria and sit-down style dining, plus an amazing view of the Serengeti Plain. Also, the world famous Clydesdale horses make their home here, as well as the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. One of the easiest ways to access the area is by way of the Skyride. Take it to Stanleyville from the Crown Colony, or vice-versa.
Since the Crown Colony is right next to Egypt and contains the entrance to the Edge of Africa, it is likely that you pass through the Crown Colony several times a day. Although there is not a whole lot to do there, spend a few minutes to check everything out, or just go and take a look at the view from the House Restaurant.
Edge of Africa
Imagine a trek through the African Pridelands. All the animals and open space. At BuschGiraffes eating Gardens Tampa Bay, you can get this experience without leaving the continent with the Edge of Africa walkthrough exhibit. A typical journey begins first with a stop at the hippo pool. It is home to thousands of fish, hippos, and the deadly Nile crocodile.
Next stop is the hyenas, who look very similar to household pet dogs. Then the journey takes you to the king and queen of the Pridelands: the lions. A male and female lion live in the exhibit. The female lion often likes to sleep in the the back of a prop truck. As the journey comes to a close, there are meerkats and a vulture up close, and giraffes, antelopes, and more out in the plains.
Definitely plan to take around thirty minutes on your trip to explore the Edge of Africa. Check the park map for times where a zookeeper will be at certain animals.
One of the newest areas of the park (created in 1996), Egypt is also one of the smallest, featuring just a couple attractions and shops. Have no fear as it also contains one of the park’s best roller coasters, Montu. To find Egypt, just head towards the towering dark blue coaster track and a massive wall covered with hieroglyphics.
If you have some free time, be sure to walk through Tut’s Tomb, a recreation of the site of the Egyptian King that was discovered by Howard Carter. If you feel like winning something, test your skills at the various games in the area. Need something for your kids to do? They can dig all they want at Sifting Sands. Akbar’s Adventure Tours, a motion simulator, is no longer operational.
Land of Dragons
While Busch Gardens Tampa contains high-tech thrill rides, the park also features a wonderfully themed area for children. If you have children, be sure to take them to the Land of the Dragons. The area features tons of kiddie sized attractions including a Ferris wheel, carousel, a massive tree house playground, plus more attractions.
Situated on the outskirts of the Land of the Dragons is the Living Dragons exhibit. Busch Gardens features two of only a few Monitor lizards in the country. The Monitor lizards are the largest lizards on the planet and are the rumored source for mythical dragons.
More than likely, you’ll enter Busch Gardens Tampa Bay through Morocco. After all, it is the newly renovated main entrance to the park. Out in front are two new ticketing buildings and all of the guest relations buildings. Unless you are looking to purchase something, there isn’t much to do in Morocco. It is home to numerous shops where you can buy items African style items to Budweiser memorabilia. Morocco also features a candy shop, an ice shop, and the dining facility, Zagora Cafe.
The one attraction in Morocco is KaTonga, a musical show, located in the Moroccan Palace Theater. This building used to hold the World Rhythms on Ice show; in 2004, after a remodel of the building, a new Broadway style show, KaTonga, took its place.
Imagine yourself in the jungles of Africa, mist filling the air, observing the most advanced mammals next to humans. Since most people cannot afford to experience these awesome creatures in their natural environment, it has been recreated in Tampa with the Myombe Reserve.
Inside the lush, humid jungle live two species: the chimpanzee and gorilla. Within each habitat, a family of each species lives. These habitats are designed as to give guests the unique experience of observing these animals in a somewhat natural environment. Often, the animals will come up to the glass.
On the edge of the Serengeti Plain lies Nairobi. Animal exhibits fill the area, ranging from elephants to tortoises. Even the main attraction, Rhino Rally, heavily involves animals. Nairobi also features the Backbones of Life exhibit, where you have the opportunity to view ancient animal artifacts.
Nairobi does also feature several shops and the Serengeti Express Railway Nairobi station. This is the main loading and exiting station to begin your train ride around the park. Nairobi brings the world of African animals to Florida.
The face of Stanleyville has completely changed. What was known as the area for getting soaked is now the area for an adrenaline rush. Stanleyville is home to SheiKra, the tallest roller coaster in the state of Florida, and is now the prime location of thrill at Busch Gardens. With the new renovations that came with SheiKra, the theming in the area has also been greatly enhanced. The new Zambia Smokehouse, built with SheiKra, is a prime example of the excellent theming.
Stanleyville is still also home to two great water rides: the Tanganyika Tidal Wave and Stanley Falls. A hot Florida day, these rides will cool you down fast, but watch out for the big lines. If you take the Skyride in the Crown Colony, you’ll end up here (or vice-versa). The Serengeti Express should return to operation in Stanleyville very soon. Its station is located right next to SheiKra.
Smack-dab in the middle of the park is the desert kingdom of Timbuktu. Within its walls lie two roller coasters, two thrill rides, a show, and numerous children’s rides. Very recently, Timbuktu under went a renovation project. All of the buildings and rides were repainted to give the area a fresh new look. The Das Festhaus (German name in an African themed park just doesn’t mix) restaurant was renamed the Desert Grill to make it fit in. Timbuktu is a very vibrant and active area.
Scorpion, the larger of the two roller coasters, is a Schwarzkopf single looper that was built in 1981. It’s an older ride, but still an enjoyable experience. In 2004, Wilde Maus was moved from Williamsburg to Tampa, becoming Cheetah Chase. Small in size, it’s a great ride for the family. For those looking for a big thrill or those who feel like losing their lunch, there is the Sandstorm and the Phoenix. If rides are not your thing, you can always tackle the midway games to try to win various prizes, play more games at Sultan’s Arcade, or watch the fourth dimension film, “Pirates 4-D.”
Top 5 Roller Coasters At Busch Gardens
There are also many rides and roller coasters from the tame to the terrifying! 3 of Busch Gardens’ roller coasters are in the top 50 best steel coasters in the world! Those being Montu (10th), SheiKra (19th) and Kumba (27th). Hold on to your hats! These rides are for coaster enthusiasts!
Cheap Tickets to Busch Gardens
Whether you plan on visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Florida for one day or multiple days throughout the year, check out the various discounts on offer. Book ahead and get discount tickets for Busch Gardens.
On the link below you’ll find:
- Buy one day – get one free
- Multi-park or combo tickets for Busch Gardens Florida + SeaWorld Florida
- Florida & Georgia Residents discounts
- Military discounts and free entry.
Busch Gardens Map
Plan your next trip to Busch Gardens Florida with this handy map and directions tool. Busch Gardens is located in the north-east suburbs of Tampa, about 8 miles north of Downtown Tampa, and about 1-1.5 hours from Orlando along I-4 West.
Use this interactive Busch Gardens map below to view the park’s location. Use the zoom bar on the left hand side of this map to zoom in and out, or simply left click anywhere inside the map to drag the map in any direction. Click on ‘Satellite’ to get a bird’s eye view over the theme park.
Also view a theme park map of Busch Gardens to see where all the attractions, show theaters and ride are within the park.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
3000 E Busch Blvd
Tampa, FL 33612
Use this link to find Busch Gardens address, directions and park map.
Busch Gardens Park Map
These maps or ones very similar are given for free at the entrance to the park. When you visit make sure to pick one up so you can find your way around all the attractions.
Directions from Orlando
It takes approximately 1.5 hours to travel to Busch Gardens from Orlando.
- Start out going WEST on I-4
- Turn on to I-75 NORTH
- Go NORTH on I-75 to exit #265 (Fowler Ave)
- Once on Fowler Ave, keep left until you reach McKinley Dr (this should be the first traffic light after the University).
- Turn left on McKinley and continue until you see signs for the parking entrance.
Busch Gardens Opening Times – the park is open 7 days per week, 9am-9pm throughout the summer, but check the link to check opening times for particular days.
Best times to visit. Use this FREE printable calendar for the best days and months to visit Busch Gardens Florida and other Orlando theme parks.