Making the most of a day at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, including rides, animal interactions, food, and more.
I have fond memories of visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay when I was a kid, so on our recent family vacation to Tampa, I knew I had to take my kids there. Busch Gardens kindly provided us with two tickets to review the park, and we purchased an additional two. During our visit, we learned quite a few about how to maximize our visit, so here are our tips for making the most of your day at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
Disclosure: At least some of this trip was either comped or provided at a media rate. Post may contain affiliate links. A purchase/clickthrough made through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us. All opinions are our own.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay: Making the Most of Your Day
Arriving at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Before planning your trip to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, I definitely recommend checking out park hours. On the Saturday that we visited, hours were 10am-7pm. To optimize your day, you’ll definitely want to arrive close to opening. We had planned to arrive around 9:30am. After being in line to pay for parking, being led to a parking spot, and waiting for the tram to the park, we got to the front gate right around opening time. If you are in need of tickets, you can purchase them either from a self-service kiosk or from the manned ticket booths. Premium parking is also available at a higher parking fee.
After going through a bag check and metal detector, we were in the park right when it opened.
Tickets for Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Tickets for Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Florida, as well as parking can also be purchased online. That can be a great way to save time and money. In addition, the CityPASS can be a great option for saving money, especially if your plans include the Clearwater Marine Aquarium or any of the other popular Tampa attractions. You can purchase the CityPASS and also get admission to other attractions, like the Florida Aquarium and the Lowry Park Zoo.
Add-ons at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
In addition to regular tickets to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, you’ll find a number of add-ons.
Quick Queue – By purchasing the Quick Queue ticket, you’ll get “front of the line” privileges for the following rides (one per ride). Some of these have pretty high height requirements (my small 10 year old son couldn’t ride them), so check those before purchasing: Falcon’s Fury, Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, Montu, Kumba, Stanley Falls Flume, and Congo River Ride. There’s some fine print associated with the quick queue purchase. During our visit, we definitely didn’t need quick queue, but I would definitely consider it if it were peak season.
All-Day Dining – With all-day dining, you’ll get up to one entree planner, one side item/dessert, and one drink (either a Coca-Cola® fountain drink, iced tea or 20 oz. Dasani® bottled water). Every hour, you can go through the line. We didn’t eat much during our day, so it wasn’t worth it for us.
Other add-ons include PhotoKey, where you’ll get access to the photos taken throughout the day, the Serengeti Safari, and the Elephant Insider Tour.
If you carry a bag when visiting theme parks (and most people do!), you’ll need to put your bag in a locker when going on many of the rides (unless someone doesn’t ride). You can purchase a locker rental for the day (it was $5 when I was there), and transfer the rental to the various locations near each ride. It was easy to do, and it was nice not to have to worry about our belongings.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Rides
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay offers fantastic thrill rides. My kids, especially my daughter, love rides, and they absolutely loved the rides at Busch Gardens. They include big drops, upside-down loops, and big thrills. Their favorites were Falcon’s Fury, which includes a 300+ foot drop, Cheetah’s Hunt, which reaches speeds of 60 MPH, and the Scorpion, which is a more traditional roller coaster with a big upside-down loop.
The park also includes a few fun rides for younger children, including the Air Grover featuring Grover from Sesame Street. There’s also a skyride that goes across the park, and a train ride.
The lines did seem to get longer as the day went on, so I definitely recommend making a plan for the day. Prioritize the attractions, and then go to them in order. Keep in mind that the sections at the back of the park may open later in the day. We went on Cheetah Hunt first, and the line grew quickly after that. The line for Cobra’s Curse also got long early in the day.
Animals at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
My kids also love animals, and they really enjoyed seeing the animals throughout the park. It was a nice way to rest up between rides. Their favorites were the meerkats, the giraffes, and elephants, the flamingoes, and the huge hippo. If we had more time, I definitely would have booked the safari, because it looked like a great way to get up close to the animals.
Food at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
We had lunch at the park, and found it to be pretty good. We had breakfast before arriving, and were definitely hungry by lunch time. Lines weren’t too long, and there were a good number of food locations throughout the park. Most of the food is offered at quick-service locations, so you can get right back to the park. During busy times, I’d definitely recommend getting in line early.
Special Events at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Throughout the year, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay offers a number of special events. While we were there, the Real Music Series was just wrapping up, and the Food & Wine Festival was just going to start. Other popular events include the Howl-O-Scream festival, the Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends, and Christmas Town.
Hotels Near Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
If you are traveling to the Tampa Bay area, you’ll want to choose a family-friendly hotel. The Hyatt Place Busch Gardens is nearby and highly rated. We stayed at the Westin Tampa Bay, which was a short drive away. You could also stay in Clearwater, and easily drive to Busch Gardens.
In addition to the CityPASS card, you can also get a great price at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay by checking out this $21 off offer at Undercover Tourist. See some of the best places in Florida to visit here.
Have you been to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay?