Preparing for your wild Busch Gardens Tampa adventure
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay somehow often gets overlooked in favor of the Orlando parks, but if your family is into AWESOME family-friendly rides and animals (at a very affordable price), this is a top choice. Busch Gardens has something for the whole family, including some of the best (and when we say best, we mean exhilaratingly-terrifying) thrill rides and roller coasters in all of Florida!
Plus, the park’s African-themed wild life offers tons of fascinating, up-close experiences sure to leave your kids wide-eyed with excitement. Much like the park’s annual Bier Fest keeps dads wild with excitement. 😉
And while surely no family has the exact same preferences, we’ve got some insider tips enabling your family to enjoy the park to the MAX!
Book your tickets in advance online
A no-brainer really. It saves you time and cash. Sometimes you can even grab a promo code floating around online for decent discounts. Just google “busch gardens promo code”. You can often find great deals over at Groupon!
Alternatively – depending on your level of dedication – you could consider becoming a season pass holder to secure some amazing deals, discounts and freebies on a monthly basis. (A season pass would also give you access to sister parks like SeaWorld, Adventure Island, Discovery Cove and Aquatica.)
Got it? OK, let’s go!
Breakfast at Another Broken Egg (7:30am – 8:30am)
Yep, you read that right! Today is going to be an early morning as you want to arrive at the park first thing. And it will be action-packed, so you better fill up properly. But first, make sure you pack light. You want to bring along some water bottles for today’s adventure at Busch Gardens, but skip the cooler altogether, as outside food and drinks are not permitted. And don’t forget your swimsuits, along with comfy shoes, sun block, sunglasses and a hat. (Don’t worry, there are lockers at Busch Gardens, so you can lock your belongings away before hitting the rides.)
All set? Head to Another Broken Egg, a local favorite with a great breakfast selection for the whole family. We recommend the cinnamon roll French toast and scrambled eggs, or the chocolate chip pancakes for the little ones. For adults, the lobster and brie omelette or the granola fruit and quinoa power bowl makes for a good start to the day!
Arrive at Busch Gardens (9:30am) *Park opens at 10am
It takes about an hour to drive to Busch Gardens, and the ideal time to arrive is between 10am and 12 noon in the first hours after opening. (You want to allocate some time for parking as well.) The general parking is right across the street from the park. Try to park next to the tram stop and hop on the tram to the ticket gate. This will minimize your walk to and from the car.
OK folks, time to get WILD! To get the most out of your time at the park, it makes sense to draw up a game plan.
Start by downloading the park app + map
The park’s interactive app is a great tool to help you plan your day and cram in as much as possible. (For example, it lets you check wait times for attractions, show times, as well as pay for stuff. Plus, it comes with a neat car finder feature, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting where you’ve parked the car!)
Take advantage of the multi-use lockers
Bags are not allowed on most rides, so you want to purchase the all-day multi-use locker starting at just $6/day to stash all your belongings safely. It also allows you to transfer your locker rental to the various locations near each ride for a seamless visit.
Travel hack: Luckily, bum bags/fanny packs never really went out of fashion in Florida and is the perfect accessory for your valuables, as it is allowed on most attractions.
Visit the animals in the morning
For animal lovers and aspiring little zookeepers, it makes sense to visit the animals first, as they are most active in the morning. (Check the app, so you don’t miss the awesome zookeeper talks!) Our family loves feeding the giraffes followed by a visit to the bird-sanctuary to feed the lorikeets. And the kangaroos *hop, hop, hippity-hop* spellbind us every time.
Afterwards, let your kids take a play-break in Elmo’s ginormous treehouse over at Sesame Street Safari of Fun. Speaking of trees, over at the Tree Top Trails, your kids can climb ropes to their hearts’ content.
Beat the lines at big coasters during lunchtime
Is that even possible? Hear us out! Consider hitting the big rides during lunch hours, when most other theme-park visitors are abandoning the queues for grub hunting. Stealthy like a leopard! It can save you some serious waiting time. Just grab something to snack on and then enjoy a full meal once you’re done.
One suggestion is to walk the park in a counterclockwise path, ticking off Cheetah Hunt, followed by several of the park’s best rides next to each other. If you have some “must-do” rides, it makes sense to do them as early as possible to try and dodge the long lines.
Here we’ve listed some moderate rides that most kids will enjoy:
- Air Grover – (Height minimum 38”)
- Scorpion – (Height minimum 42”)
- Sandserpent – (Height minimum 42”)
- Cobra’s Curse – (Height minimum 48”)
Take the train through Serengeti / Jump on the SkyRide cable-car
The park offers two awesome means of transportation, giving small and big feet a well-deserved break. It’s a great way to spot some animals – from the ground, or from above – while catching your breath after all the excited screaming. Another big plus is that you can bring your stroller both on the train and SkyRide (as long as it folds up.)
Save water rides for the end of the day
Who doesn’t loves water rides?! They are especially welcome under the Floridian sun, and we recommend that you save them for last. No need to get your clothes sopping wet mid-morning, but wait until later in the day and pack some towels and a change of clothes in the car. Another option is to pack quick-dry clothes and just wear sandals (the strappy kind, as they need to be strapped to your feet for the roller coasters!)
Our kids love the Stanley Falls Flume (Height minimum 46”) and Congo River Rapids (Height minimum 42”). For more splashing around, visit the Jungala and Sesame Street water play areas.
Check indoor attractions (and escape the heat)
There are always great shows on at Busch Gardens, which offer a welcome respite from the sun. (Or, a sudden thunderstorm, for that matter.) Two of our faves are Critters Inn Charge and Rock a Doo Wop, hands down. For those travelling with young kids, the Sesame Street children’s play area also offers shelter complete with jungle mazes, a bouncy house and sandbox, so they needn’t get bored. WIN.
Purchase the All-Day Dining Plan – it’s a MUST
What about grub, we hear you say? Since outside food and drink (save for water bottles) are not allowed in the park, we highly recommend that you get the all-day dining plan. It is so worth it! And it practically lets you eat and drink as much as you want (well, once per hour anyway) at no less than seven locations throughout the park.
Get the Quick-Queue Junior card
Potentially the best $9.99 you’ll ever spend in your life. It lets you skip the line once at each kid ride. There is no better way to spend an additional $9.99 per ticket, honestly. Trust us on this one.
Round off your day with a meal before you head back to the car (especially if you did the All-Day Dining Plan). If not, grab something easy (drive through) on your way home. Everyone will be totally exhausted and ready for bed after an exciting day.
Top tip: Are your kids five years or younger? Bingo! That means that they can enjoy Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Adventure Island for FREE. All you have to do is register online in advance for the Preschool Card and redeem in-park. (Valid until December 31, 2022.)