It’s tempting to ignore Busch Gardens Tampa Bay during a Central Florida vacation for three reasons:
1. It’s 1.5 hours from the Orlando area
2. It’s cheaper to buy another day at Disney or Universal
3. “I can see the same things in Orlando”
Reason one is simple math, though it’s not an unpleasant drive at off-times.
Reason two is pragmatic – you do save money by tacking days onto either Disney or Universal. The Orlando parks created their ticket price structure to do just that as a way to keep guests from the competition. However, the owners of SeaWorld also own Busch Gardens, and they have a ticket price structure that includes both parks if you opt for a two-fer.
Reason three, however, isn’t true. Busch Gardens doesn’t have the fancy-schmancy things where robots raid Caribbean villages or boy wizards fly over Hogwarts. It has exciting rides that get you from here to there, and occasionally shake up your stomach.
Key reasons to visit Busch Gardens
• Coasters. If you want unique physical thrills, Busch Gardens is a must-see. And if you want a traditional amusement park with a range of wild rides and kiddie attractions, Busch Gardens delivers. While most theme parks build mega-rides every year or so to attract returning guests, Busch Gardens has focused on its coasters, and each has a unique hook. Cheetah Hunt hugs the ground through (fake) rivers and canyons. SheiKra dangles you high in the air before dropping you straight down. (Try to sit on an end.)
• Animals. While Disney’s Animal Kingdom feels a bit more real, with fences hidden behind shrubbery and the illusion of Africa perfected, Busch Gardens gets you closer to the animals – in some cases, a lot closer. You can see giraffes close enough to catch the twinkle in their eyes; lean over and almost touch meerkats; pet a herd of kangaroos. While Disney delivers a top-notch Africa experience, Busch Gardens gives visitors a better one-on-one adventure.
Repeat Orlando visitors who have visited and revisited the nearby theme parks should consider making the drive.