Every couple of weeks, we are going to be showcasing some of the best theme parks in our new series, Park Spotlight. There are dozens of incredible theme parks across the United States, and even more internationally.
Maybe you are already familiar with the ones we will showcase, or maybe you’ll find a new park to add to your bucket list. To start us off, we are heading to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay!
It Started with Beer?
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is the first and original of the Busch Gardens parks. Though there were once four Busch Gardens parks, there are now only two: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Busch Gardens Tampa is located in Tampa, Florida. It originally opened in 1959, although back then it was much different than what you can visit today. The park was originally the site of a brewery, gardens, and a few animal exhibits including flamingos.
It was owned by Anheuser-Busch. That’s right, the beer company. They wanted to include the gardens and other exhibits along with the brewery to compete with another nearby brewery and to broaden interest. Over the years the brewery and gardens evolved into a full-on theme park and zoo. More and more animal exhibits were added, in addition to rides and other attractions. The Busch Gardens parks also changed ownership over the years and are now owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment which also manages the SeaWorld parks. Sadly, the original brewery closed in 1995.
Animals, Coasters, and a Fun…OH MY!
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay now has twenty-eight attractions including ten roller coasters. Each coaster is fun and unique. You can race through multiple launches on Cheetah Hunt, the park's longest roller coaster. You can also dive 200 feet straight down on SheiKra. You may want to try out some of the other massive coasters like Montu, Kumba, or the twisted Tigris. There are also several uniquely themed family coasters at the park as well including Cobra’s Curse. Cobra’s Curse is a family spin coaster themed around a 30,000-pound golden snake!
If coasters aren’t your thing, you can check out one of the other attractions. You can cool off on Congo River Rapids or Stanley Falls Flume. Children will enjoy the Sesame Street Safai of Fun area with kid-friendly attractions, visits from Sesame Street friends, and a splash pad. The park also features a family-friendly drop tower, Wild Surge. Although, if Wild Surge is too tame for your, check out Falcon’s Fury, a 335 ft tall drop tower that sends you plummeting down while facing the ground. The park also has a cable car gondola ride called Skyride where you can get incredible views of the park and the animals. Unfortunately, the official website currently lists Falcon’s Fury, Skyride, and the splash pad as “Temporarily Closed”, and we are unsure when they will operate normally. Be sure to check out any theme park’s website before visiting to remain up to date on what rides are currently operating.
The park also features over two hundred species of animals including giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs, tigers, lions, primates, elephants, and more. There are many exhibits throughout the park. You can hop aboard the Serengeti Express train and enjoy a relaxing ride around the Serengeti Plain to view many of the free-roaming animals.
You can view these animals from afar or opt for a more up close and personal experience with a tour (at an additional cost). The Serengeti Safari tour gives guests the chance to get a closer look at some of the animals on the Serengeti Plain on an open-air safari vehicle. You can even hand feed a giraffe! There are over a dozen other more specific tours you can choose including an Orangutang Insider Tour, Keeper for a Day Tour, and Animal Care Center Tour.
What’s Happening Now?
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has welcomed probably the most anticipated new roller coaster in 2022. Iron Gwazi, a Rocky Mountain Construction hybrid revamp of wooden coaster Gwazi, finally open earlier this year. It currently holds the title of the World’s Fastest and Steepest hybrid roller coaster. It is also North America's Tallest hybrid roller coaster. This behemoth wooden and steel hybrid sends riders over a 206 ft tall hill, down a 91-degree drop, and reaches speeds of 76 miles per hour. It also includes three inversions. You can check out an in-depth review of Iron Gwazi here.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is currently hosting it’s Summer Celebration through August 7th. As part of the celebration, the park is heading back to it brewery roots and is offering free beer samplings at Pantopia Drinks and Snacks. ID is required, of course. They also have a special Summer Celebration Fireworks Spectacular that features fireworks, fountains, and special effects. This fireworks spectacular takes place on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. You can also check out the Gwazi Beats show that has drums, dancers, and stilt walkers. The celebration also includes the return of a fan-favorite acrobatics show, Cirque Electric. They have three DJ locations throughout the park to keep you pumped up throughout your visit as well.
For further details about rides, attractions and places to eat, visit our park guide. Have you been to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay? Are you planning a visit? Let us know in a comment below or on our Facebook page!