Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is owned by the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment group. In Florida, there is also the SeaWorld Orlando marine theme park, the Aquatica water park and the exclusive Discovery Cove in Orlando, the seasonal Adventure Island water park in Tampa Bay as well as SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks in other states.
Busch Gardens is one of the largest zoo theme parks in America, spread over 335 acres with over 2,000 animals as well as a large number of roller coasters including SheiKra, America’s first vertical dive coaster, three water rides, live shows in six different theatres and many other attractions.
Find it on the mapClick here to find Busch Gardens Tampa Bay on the Florida map.
Today it competes with Disney’s latest park in Orlando, Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
If you are a thrill ride roller coaster fan, then Busch Gardens Africa vies with Universal’s Islands of Adventure for the most fun to be had in Florida.
The park has a 19th century African theme throughout and is arranged into a number of different “lands”:
- Morocco — with its air-conditioned performing arts Moroccan Palace Theatre and Zagora Café and Market
- Egypt — home to two roller coasters, Cobra’s Curse and Montu, an inverted steel coaster
- Edge of Africa — Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, gondola Sky Ride, cheetahs, hippos and lions plus the Serengeti Overlook Cafe looking out onto the Serengeti Plain
- Nairobi — here you can see gorillas and chimpanzees in the Myombe Reserve, penguins and catch the train around the park
- Bird Gardens — with flamingos and the site of the former Gwazi duelling wooden roller coaster
- Sesame Street Safari of Fun — children’s playground (formerly Land of the Dragons) including the Sunny Day Theatre with characters from Sesame Street
- Stanleyville — home to SheiKra, Florida’s tallest roller coaster with a 200 foot 90 degree vertical drop, the second railway station, Stanley Falls Flume ride and the newest roller coaster, Tigris
- Pantopia — a fictional oasis with the Dragon Fire and Pantopia Theatres, Scorpion and children’s Sandserpent roller coasters, Phoenix looping boat ride, Asian elephants plus the Falcon’s Fury drop tower ride
- Serengeti Plain — African wild animals including giraffe and antelopes, best view is from either the train or Sky Ride
- Jungala — an African village with the other end of the Sky Ride and tigers and orangutans
- Congo — the Congo River Rapids wild water ride water ride and Kumba the 143 foot tall roller coaster with seven inversions
A previous roller coaster, the Python was dismantled to make way for the Jungala exhibit.
Busch Gardens Africa also offer a number of special educational and VIP guided tours (extra charge on top of the standard admission, reservations required) where you can get up close with the animals. You can also avoid the queues on the rides with a Quick Queue front-of-line ticket.
With either ticket you can also take advantage of the Busch Gardens Shuttle Express bus which offers a complimentary round trip service from SeaWorld plus a number of locations on International Drive and in Kissimmee to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay each day. Mears Transportation also offer round-trip services from a number of pick-up points in Orlando to Busch Gardens for those people who do not want to drive to Tampa.
Like SeaWorld, Busch Gardens currently offers free admission under the “Waves of Honor” program for active military personnel, this replaces the Here’s to the Heroes program.
Other Busch Gardens Theme Parks
There is a second Busch Gardens, namely Busch Gardens Europe which is in Williamsburg, Virginia and has a European theme. Earlier Busch Gardens parks in Pasadena and Van Nuys in California and Houston in Texas have since closed.
Busch Gardens History
Busch Gardens in Tampa started out as a hospitality attraction as part of the Anheuser-Busch brewery in 1959, offering free drinks and animal acts and celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2019.
Over time more attractions were added but the brewery closed down in 1995. In 2007, it was ranked just outside the top 10 North American theme parks at number 11 for visitor attendance with 4.4 million visitors. In 2017 it was ranked 12 in North America with just under 4.0 million visitors.
Previously known as Busch Gardens Africa, it was originally owned by Busch Entertainment Corporation who operated a number of other theme parks under the “Worlds of Discovery” banner.
As its name suggests, it has an African theme and was originally tagged “The Dark Continent”.