Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you.
As a kid, I remember driving southwest from our vacation in Daytona Beach, Florida to Tampa Bay, where we visited Busch Gardens for the day. It was there that I went on my first “upside-down” ride – the Scorpion. I’d ride it over and over again, bringing my father on it with me. When my teenage daughter started following my footsteps of loving thrill rides, I knew I’d have to take her to Busch Gardens. Since I was a kid, the park has grown with many more thrill rides. Here’s our guide to Busch Gardens Tampa rides.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, which opened in 1959, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. The theme park has grown over the years to include lots of fun, world class thrill rides in addition to the animal exhibits located throughout the park.
It’s definitely a place I’d recommend for any family with tweens and teens. While Busch Gardens Tampa Bay isn’t exactly in Orlando, it’s definitely one of the Orlando theme parks that you may want to include on your Florida vacation. A complimentary shuttle from many Orlando area hotels is offered with a paid ticket to Busch Gardens. You can book here.
Depending on when you visit, there may be long lines for some of the most popular rides. I’d recommend looking at the park hours for the day of your visit, and arrive right when it opens. We did that for our visit, and immediately went to the rides that the kids most wanted to experience.
There are some options to skip the lines by purchasing Quick Queue. This optional ticket add-on lets you get front of the line access on the some of the most popular rides (for Tigris, the newest ride, you’ll get one front of the line access, even with the unlimited option). Pricing for Quick Queue is variable depending on the season and the type of pass you choose.
You’ll also want to consider your footwear when packing for Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Some of the rides don’t allow open shoes that can fall off. You’ll be able to store your shoes before riding, but it may be easier to wear closed-toe shoes. Lockers are also available to store your belongings if you don’t have a family member who will hold them while you ride.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Rides
This is the first ride that we went on, right when the park opened. It offers a triple launch and high speeds. I was so impressed at how smooth the ride is, even though this is definitely a thrill ride.
When we got there, the line for the ride was about 25 minutes but it was 80 minutes when we exited the ride. So I’d definitely recommend getting in line early. Once you get to the front, there’s also a separate line for the front of the ride if you’d prefer that.
Admittedly, I didn’t go on Cobra’s Curse because I can’t handle spinning. This ride, which looks like lots of fun for those who do like to spin, offers a 70-foot vertical lift and 2,100 feet of track. The ride vehicle spins around and the ride goes backwards and forwards.
Congo River Rapids
Visiting on a hot day? Then you’ll definitely want to ride Congo River Rapids. This is another ride that I have fond memories of riding as a child. It is a simulated white water raft ride, and you will get wet. Definitely store your belongings in a locker if you don’t want them to get wet.
This ride is simultaneous terrifying and incredibly fun at the same time. Ride up 335 feet after being harnessed in the ride vehicle. Then, you’ll be flipped 90 degrees so that you are facing straight down, and then will drop at 60 mph. You won’t believe how high this ride climbs, and when it flips down it’s completely terrifying. But right after it was over, we wanted to ride again! If you have a fear of heights, you’ll definitely want to skip this one, but if you love thrill rides, you should definitely try it!
My daughter’s favorite ride is SheiKra, another one that is completely smooth. No bags at all are allowed on SheiKra, so you’ll want to leave them with a non-riding friend or in a locker.
This floorless coaster has 90 degree drops and a 200 foot climb. My kids absolutely loved this one, and wanted to go on it multiple times. While there are areas where passengers can watch the ride and get soaked, riders on the actual ride don’t get wet.
Montu is such a unique experience, because it’s an inverted coaster. You’ll be hanging as you ride, so you’ll definitely want to have shoes that are secure to your feet for this one. It has 7 inversions and a 60-foot vertical loop.
The ride that started it all for me is Scorpion. It’s definitely an older-school ride, and isn’t quite as smooth as the newer rides. It’s still so much fun, however, and has a 360 degree loop.
This extreme coaster lets you experience a moment of weightlessness as it goes upside down. Unfortunately on this trip, we didn’t get the chance to ride Kumba.
Stanley Falls Flume
This traditional flume ride is a little more mild than some of the other Busch Gardens Tampa rides. It’s a traditional flume ride, so it isn’t too scary although it does have a drop. You will get wet, so be prepared.
Serengeti Express Train Ride
If you are traveling with younger kids, or want to explore everything that Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has to offer, you’ll want to take the Serengeti Express train ride. It goes through the Congo, Nairobi, and Stanleyville areas, and during the full ride you’ll be able to see animals.
This traditional skyride goes over the park, so you’ll be able to see animals and rides. It’s also a great way to get from one part of the park to the other. It’s only a one-way ride, so if you want to go back from where you started, you’ll need to get back in line to go on the ride again.
Wild Surge is a much milder drop tower. It goes up 35 feet, and gives you a nice view of the park without the crazy thrills of Falcon’s Fury. Since we went on Falcon’s Fury, we didn’t try this one, but it definitely looks like it’s more appropriate for families with slightly younger kids to ride.
Sesame Street Safari of Fun
Traveling with little ones? Then you’ll definitely want to spend some time in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun. This area of the park features rides and activities that are perfect for little ones. Rides include the Air Grover kids’ roller coaster, Elmo’s Safari, Rosita’s Djembe Fly Away, Count’s Zambezi Rally, Big Bird’s Whirly Birdie, and Zoe-Patra and the Hippos of the Nile. There’s also a water play area, shops, shows, and character greetings.
When we saw that Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s newest ride, Tigris, was opening in spring 2019, we really hoped our trip would be after the opening. Unfortunately, we missed it by a few days.
Tigris looks like such a fun ride, however. It’s Florida’s tallest launch coaster, and goes more than 60 miles per hour.
In 2020, there’s another new ride opening, so we’ll have to plan a return trip to experience it.
Keep in mind that all rides are subject to planned and unplanned closures. Check out this website to see the schedule of closings.
Festivals at Busch Gardens
When planning your Busch Gardens vacation, you may want it to coincide with one of the many festivals the park offers. These include the Howl O Scream at Halloween, Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends, and the Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival (which was going on during our trip).
For more tips on visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, check out this post.