Opened in Tampa, Florida in March 1959 by the Anheuser-Busch company as a free animal attraction alongside a brewery, Busch Gardens has since grown to a 335-acre theme park and one the nation’s largest zoos. Whether you enjoy thrilling white-knuckle rides, tropical gardens and immersive animal encounters, water adventures or lively musical shows you’ll love Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
With so many amazing attractions it can be difficult to know where to begin exploring. This guide is designed to highlight the best of Busch Gardens thrill rides, family attractions, animal encounters, live shows and dining locations.
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Best of Busch Gardens Thrill Rides
Busch Gardens is divided into African-themed regions such as the Congo, Egypt and Nairobi each featuring animals native to those regions. The rides in each area also tie into each area’s distinctive theme.
Known as the “Coaster Capital” of Florida, Busch Gardens boats several sensational rides that can be classified as “thrilling”. These rides are sure to get your adrenaline pumping:
Named after the world’s fastest land animal, Florida’s first triple-launch coaster propels you from zero to 60 miles per hour in seconds while speeding across grasslands. Meant to give riders the feeling of being a cheetah on the hunt in pursuit of prey the coaster climbs to over ten stories before plunging 130 feet only to launch again twice more in bursts of intense speed over banked turns and rolled inversions. The turning, twisting, diving dash is a thrilling 3-minute chase and the parks longest coaster with 4,429 feet of track. Intense? Very. But is so smooth and fun you’ll want to ride again and again!
“Kumba” is an African word describing the roar of the lion in the distance when you have crossed into its territory. An apt name for a ferocious coaster. This fast-paced thrill-ride features an initial 135-foot drop followed by a harrowing series of interlocking corkscrews producing three seconds of absolute weightlessness. Given the roughness of this older coaster we recommend sitting near the front of the train where the jostling isn’t as bad.
From 200 feet up, the fierce floor-less dive coaster, Shiekra holds you over the edge before it plunges a near 90 degrees straight down for an amazing start to this ride. The coaster reaches a whopping 70 mph as it loops back up, dives again and then zooms through an underground tunnel ending in a splashing finale. It’s not for the feint-hearted, but even I had to admit it’s a very smooth and exhilarating ride. Don’t worry about the watery ending, you won’t get wet as a rider.
The second roller coaster built at Busch Gardens with a 360-degree vertical loop, Scorpion has been thrilling park guests since 1980. Riders experience 3-G forces and speeds of 50 miles per hour as well as a fun helix towards the end of the ride. Another fun feature of Scorpion is the lap bar instead of an over the shoulder restraint. Something that is rather uncommon on rides with loops and which definitely adds to the thrill!
Cobra’s Curse is Busch Garden’s most recent coaster attraction. This wild-ride built around the legend of a snake king in Egypt takes you up a 70-foot vertical lift and then down a twisting track facing forward, then backward before racing into a free-spin frenzy. With a lower minimum ride height of 42” inches this is definitely a thrill ride to enjoy with the whole family.
The massive Montu coaster can be found in the Egypt section of the park. Named for an ancient Egyptian god of war the sprawling layout of this coaster features seven inversions including a 60-foot zero-G vertical loop. While the dips into and out of various trenches make you feel as though you are bounding across Busch Gardens the ride is incredibly smooth for its 20-year age. Ride in the back row for the most intense experience!
In the Pantopia part of the park you’ll find Falcon’s Fury. This unique freestanding drop tower is it’s the tallest of its kind in North America – standing at 335 feet. If that’s not exciting enough, after reaching its impressive height this ride turns its riders downward 90 degrees so that they face the ground before plummeting them toward the ground in that position. For a few seconds you’ll be flying like a falcon towards the ground at 60 mph before slowing down and returning to a normal angle. The amount of time that you are hanging in midair before dropping is variable adding to the suspense of an already exhilarating ride.
Best of Busch Gardens Water Rides
Florida’s sunny climate makes water rides a welcomed way to cool off on a hot day. Prepare to get completely soaked on these favorites:
Congo River Rapids
A seemingly gentle and relaxing 12-person raft ride turns exiting with a few surprise drops, waterfalls, and rogue water canons. You are bound to find yourself laughing along with your raft-mates as you go under geysers and drop into the white-water rapids at just the right angle to get totally drenched.
The old-fashioned log-flume ride Stanley Falls offers a more merciful experience as far as soaking goes but it is equally exciting. Take in the view from the top before barreling down the hill into the refreshing waters at the bottom.
Best of Busch Gardens Family Attractions
While thrill rides abound at Busch Gardens that doesn’t mean it isn’t ideal for tiny tykes and those who prefer tamer rides too. From classics to kiddie rides everyone will find something they love:
Grand Caravan Carousel
This Arabian stallions-themed carousel in the Pantopia part of the park is a classic merry-go-round attraction that anyone young or young-at-heart will enjoy.
These classic carnival style bumper cars are a blast!
Tree Top Trails
In the Jungala area you’ll find the Tree Top Trails a multi-level maze of rope bridges, crawl tubes and climbing nets. This area also offers a splash pad that’s great for letting little ones cool off.
Burst into the sky on Wild Surge. This 35-foot mountain crater themed attraction is a much milder version of a drop tower.
Get a bird’s eye view of the Busch Gardens in the Sky Ride. This slow ride on a gondola cable car takes you across the park and up above the Serengeti plain where you can see zebras, rhinos, and more. It’s a great way to take in the sights of the park while saving yourself some walking.
Serengeti Express Train
Taking the old-fashioned steam train ride through the expasive Serengeti Plain is another great way to rest tired feet while taking in prime viewing of all the exotic animals as they roam about. This relaxing train ride winds through all major areas of the park. With train stations stops in the Congo, Nairobi and Stanleyville this is a great way to see the Serengeti up close while you ride from one side of the park to the other.
Sesame Street Safari of Fun
The Sesame Street Safari of Fun area is aimed at preschoolers. With kid-friendly rides such as the Air Grover junior coaster, Elmo’s Tree House obstacle course and Bert and Ernie’s water play, little ones will stay entertained for hours. Kids are met with colorful characters all over. There is even a themed show starring Sesame Street friends and featuring fun songs and audience participation.
Best of Busch Gardens Shows
Speaking of shows…There are several entertaining options throughout the day at Bush Gardens featuring world-class performers and a few animal rescue rising stars. When you need a break from the rides (or some AC) check out one of the spectacular shows on offer:
Turn It Up
The hottest show on ice “Turn It Up” vibrantly celebrates skating with contemporary choreography aerial moments and electric pop music. You’ll find yourself alternately impressed by the athletic jumps and lifts and wanting to sing and dance right in your seats!
Rock A Do Wop
The Dragon Fire Grill hosts several shows throughout the day so if you can time your meal break to coincide with one of the productions. The Rock A Do Wop show features live musicians, singers and dancers performing rock songs that will give you a blast from the past.
Best of Busch Gardens Animal Encounters
There’s more to Busch Gardens than amazing rides! In fact the park is based around the central theme of bringing the Serengeti in Africa to Florida; and as such It’s home to more than 12,000 animals belonging to more than 250 species – more than 30 of which are listed as threatened or endangered. Enjoy taking little detours between your ride adventures to check out all the animals in their state-of-the-art habitats. Their presence in the park adds so much to the atmosphere. Truly everywhere you turn, there are habitats to explore and animals to encounter. Be sure check the keeper times on the back of your park map to see special animal behaviors and feedings.
Go down under to meet the animals of Australia in Busch Garden’s Kangaloom within Walkabout Way. Enjoy the up-close and personal opportunity to feed kangaroos, free roaming wallabies and wallaroos right from the palm of your hand. Be warned they have coarse tongues and tickly whiskers but they are adorable, and the experience is one you won’t forget.
Animal Care Center
The Animal Care Center in the Nairobi section of the park features a state-of-the-art facility where guests can view animals receiving treatment, x-rays, and other forms of medical and physical care. You can also find sample animal charts to scan to learn about the process of caring for each animal’s condition. For more, you can even check out an Animal Care Center Behind-the-Scenes experience.
Edge of Africa
Edge of Africa is a walking safari experience themed around an African village on the southern edge of the Serengiti Plain. Stroll along boardwalks and paths that deliver up close views of majestic lions, hippos, hyenas, meerkats and more. You can also book one of the safari tours for even more in-depth animal encounters for an additional cost.
Make lots of new, feathered friends at Lory Landing. Inside this free-flight aviary you can hand-feed colorful lorikeets from a sweet cup of fresh fruit nectar as they perch on your hand. You’ll find photographers on hand to capture this exciting interaction for you. You can then purchase these photos as a souvenir.
Best of Busch Gardens Dinning
Enjoying all those attractions will work up quite an appetite. There are many great places to eat offering a wide variety of food from small stands and quick counter-service restaurants to full service sit-down dining.
Zambia Smoke House
You’ll know you are near the Zambia Smoke House in the Morocco Village area by the smell of the savory aroma of smoked meat. You’ll find fantastic ribs, beef brisket and rotisserie chicken all prepared on a wood fire fresh each day. Sides such as baked beans and corn on the cob compliment the meats and warm bread budding offers a little authentic taste of Africa for dessert. The outdoor covered patio is the perfect place to view Shiekra while enjoying lunch or dinner.
Kenya Kanteen located in the Nairobi Village area serves hot dogs, turkey legs and fries, on the patio overlooking the Serengeti Plain. It’s also a great spot to grab a treat and enjoy some people watching. Don’t miss out of on the decadent funnel cake sundaes!
Twisted Tail Pretzels
Grab a delicious pretzel and beer at Twisted Tails Pretzels inside the colorful Pantopia area of the park. This is also a favorite stop for a refreshing icee on a hot Florida day.
Serengeti Overlook Restaurant
Serengeti Overlook Restaurant & Buffet is an iconic, seasonal dining location that offers several different options. Choose from a nicer full-service dining room (the only full-service eatery in the park) or the counter service floor where you will find items like BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, pizza and salads. Both options offer exceptional views of the Serengeti Plain.
Nearly immediately after entering the park you will find Zagora Café. Here you can dig in to standard theme park fare like chicken tenders, hot dogs and burgers or just grab a cold beverage.
Dragon Fire Grill
Dragon Fire Grill features a food court feel with various counters serving different styles of food. Portion sizes are plentiful and the food itself here is pretty tasty but the best part is being able to relax in the air conditioning while enjoying an entertaining live show along with your meal.
Now you know all the best Busch Gardens has to offer and you’re ready to get packing!
Look for even more Busch Gardens Tampa tips coming soon and check out our complete guide to How to Have a Terrific Time in Tampa with Kids and how to use the Tampa Bay City Pass to save on multiple attractions! Busch Gardens is included along with Zoo Tampa, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Florida Aquarium and the Clearwater Aquarium where you can visit Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale movies.
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