On our recent trip to Florida (though it was a couple of weeks ago now, crazy how fast time is flying by), was so fun. We got to experience a lot of new things and see a lot of things that we hadn’t seen before. When planning a trip to Orlando, I think that most people just focus on just that area. But as it is fairly central, then it is quite easy to see a few other places close by. So this time, we wanted to venture a little further out than just Orlando itself. So Tampa, just about an hour away from Orlando, was a top choice for us.
But what is there to do in Tampa? It is close to some stunning beaches, but what else can you do there? Enter, Busch Gardens! The husband used to travel to Florida nearly every summer as a child, but the Busch Gardens park is not one that he ever got to go to. I’ve just been to Florida twice before but neither times involved a trip to Tampa. So we were all looking forward to going. All I knew about it is that it has plenty of animals, so I knew my animal obsessed three year old would love it.
The park was really easy to find, and parking was sign posted and simple to get to too. I abhor having to pay for parking at this kind of thing, as how else are you going to get there? But it was the case at every park that we went to. So you just have to think about the cost of parking when budgeting for a trip ($15 – which in fairness, is less than parks like Disney and Universal).
The parking is located about a five minute walk from the main entrance, and we just walked it. There is a shuttle bus to the entrance, but there were long lines, so I’d honestly just recommend walking over, especially if you are arriving right for the opening time of the park. Once you get through the security and ticket barriers we were just welcomed with such colour! It was bright and colourful and we were excited for the day!
We visited Busch Gardens as one of the last parks on our trip, and I was pleasantly surprised just how varied the rides are. There are plenty for little ones (which parks like Universal seemed to be lacking), with even a Sesame Street area of the park. But there was plenty for teens and adults too, white extreme rides at that. So it makes a good choice for thrill seekers, as well as families. I was really impressed with the choice.
Max (5) loved the Congo Rover Rapids the best, and Chloe loved Elmo’s Safari Go-Round. The sky-ride wasn’t working when we were there but the land train was. I’d recommend going on one of those as you get to see all of the animals in the masses of land that the park has. The kids were so amazed by it all, and they came quite close, but can still just get on with their normal grazing. You can pay extra to have a safari experience to feed the giraffes, for example, but we didn’t do it. It looked like a lot of fun, though. You can also walk through the safari area to see lions, hyenas and hippos that you don’t see on the land train. It was a big plus for my kids, and us. It isn’t often that you see animals like that quite close up.
I am a bit of a wuss on some big rides. If there are too many loop-da-loops then it just gives me that early pregnancy feeling! So I din’t go on too many of the large rides. The husband went on basically all of them, though. It kind of worked out well too as he was a single rider so could get on quite quickly (same for when I went on by myself). The most intense ride that the husband went on was SheiKra – so if you love big rides, then that is the one for you. There are many of them though, including Kumba, Cheetah Hunt, Falcon Fury and Cobras Curse. Falcon Fury in particular was pretty intense. It is a two drop ride, akin to Tower of Terror. But you face the ground until the very last minute!
Like with all parks, there are little food carts for snacks and drinks all around the park that we did take advantage of. But for our main meal, we had heard that the Serengeti Overlook Restaurant was the place to visit. The location was perfect as you are elevated and can overlook the Serengeti, as you might imagine! It was a buffet meal and it was so nice to not have to choose between burgers and fries, or burgers and fries. So I’d recommend going there to eat if you want some fresh food, like fish and salads.
The only negative I have about the restaurant was the service if you weren’t in the main part of the restaurant. We started out sitting outside but it was quite windy so we asked to go inside. We were put in an empty part of the restaurant, without the Serengeti view. We were fine with that as we just wanted to keep the kids happy. We did get a little forgotten about, though, for drink refills etc. But the food was of really good quality and I’d like to think that our experience was just a one off.
There were a selection of shows to see in the park. As we were only visiting the park for one day, we only managed to squeeze in one show. I wish we had seen more though as the one we saw, an ice skating show, was amazing! It was like a journey around the world and it was so cleverly done. Really stunning!
We had such an amazing day and we’d definitely want to visit again if we make it over to Florida again. The mix of animal attractions and awesome rides made for a really interesting and varied day. It made it perfect for us too, as the kids could see some of the animal attractions while one of us went on one of the bigger rides. The layout of the park was great, with different areas of Africa being the main themes. So you can visit Morocco and the Congo on your journey. The whole park was bright, clean, and lots of fun!
Have you ever been to Busch Gardens?
*our park tickets were gifted in exchange for a review. All opinions are our own.