Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Busch Gardens - Tampa, Florida

If you are heading to Florida and have a kid who likes thrill rides Busch Gardens is the place for you. The roller coasters are bigger, faster, steeper - you name it - than the ones at Disney World.  So if you have daredevils in your party it is definitely worth a trip.

One word of warning about Busch Gardens though.  It is huge. Much bigger than Disney World so be prepared for a lot of walking.  The main reason for the size is that not only does it house a large assortment of rides it also has animal enclosures.  It is pretty much a zoo and an amusement park in one.
One of the many animals on display at Busch Gardens.
My older daughter's favourite ride was SheiKra.  It has a vertical drop near the beginning which is good/bad enough but right after your get over the top of that hill they hang you there for what seems like a long time.  My daughter thought this was awesome.  I may have employed some salty language to express my opinion about that development.  It wasn't so bad the second time around.
Look at them just dangling there!  This is the SheiKra
My younger daughter liked Congo River Rapids the best.  I liked this one too.  Be warned, everyone in your party will get at least a little bit wet and one or two of you will get soaked.  Of course it was me and of course I was wearing a white tshirt when it happened.  They do have large people sized dryers right outside the ride but they cost $5.  Y'all can just enjoy the view because I'm not paying $5!
The Cheetah Run attraction.  Simple but effective!
I knew Busch Gardens had animals but for some reason I was expecting a few goats and ducks or something.  They actually have as many animals as most zoos, including lions, zebras, gorillas and elephants.   You can see the animals any time the park is open but they also have various animal encounters and meet the trainer events throughout the day so check the list of animal attractions.  The most popular is probably the Cheetah Run which is pretty much what it sounds like.  The Cheetahs run.

A nice way to spend the afternoon is to check out the animals.  No line ups!
While Busch Gardens is great for thrill seekers it does also have plenty to do for younger or less adventurous siblings (and parents).  The animals will keep kids happy and occupied for the better part of the day but there are also rides that are more suited for littler ones such as the Sand Serpent.  The Serengetti Railroad and Skyride are also fun and a nice way to rest tired feet for a while.

This is a sandstorm simulator which has no sand.  Make of that what you will. 
I went to Orlando with my two daughters and my sister's four boys and a bunch of the kids in our party said they preferred Busch Gardens to Disney World so it is definitely worth a trip.

Things to keep in mind:
  • A lot of the rides require you to secure all your valuables in lockers before boarding so you might want to not bother bringing them in the first place.  My camera was in a locker most of the day - hence the lack of pictures for this post!  
  • The all-day dining plan is pretty good.  If you do plan to be there all day it is probably worth it.  If you buy your tickets online you can get a deal - admission and the dining all day plan plus a shuttle to and from Orlando if you need it - for $99.  A regular all day admission is $89 so may as well pay the extra $10 to get food and drinks for the whole day.  In theory you can pop in and get water once an hour but the line ups can be long so I wouldn't count on doing this on a busy day.  For our lunch we waited maybe 10 minutes to get food and find a table. For dinner it took longer since the park gets busier as the day goes on.  
  • It is way less busy in the mornings.  Get there right when it opens and you can ride most of the really popular rides before the line ups get too long.  Cheetah Hunt has the worst line ups later in the day.  You can always spend the afternoon looking at the animals to avoid the ride lines.  
  • Maps and guidebooks will tell you that Tampa is 1 hour from Orlando.  They lie.  All of them. I mean, it is technically true (which is usually my favourite kind of true) but with traffic and construction it is always at least 90 minutes.  More if you happen to be going during rush hour (don't go during rush hour).  

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