We recently visited Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and were delighted to discover an atmosphere that was different than many of the other theme parks. On the same trip we visited Disney World and Universal Studios, so it was easy to compare and contrast all of the parks. So how does Busch Gardens Tampa Bay stand out among all the other theme parks? Read on for six reasons that make this park unique.
Busch Gardens is half zoo, half theme park. You might wear yourself out at another park going from ride to ride to ride feeling the pressure to fit as many rides in as possible. But at Busch Gardens, the transition from ride to ride is smooth because there are plenty of animal exhibits to stop and see. On top of that, all of the exhibits are designed in such a way that animals are almost always viewable. On several occasions, we have visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom and been treated to empty exhibits. But at Busch Gardens, the animals always seem to be in plain view. There are even petting zoo sections of the park and places where the animals are integrated in an organic way. For example, on one foot bridge we saw a handful of different species of birds, like peacocks and flamingos, simply sitting within a few feet of park guests. All of these up close and personal experiences create wonderful photo opportunities and magical moments for the children who might not be accustomed to getting so close to the animals at more traditional zoos.
Coasters are king. Many theme parks have a fairly even split between dark rides and thrill rides, but coaster fanatics will be happy to find that the thrill rides outweigh dark rides at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The roller coasters there, such as Sheikra, are second to none and the only American park that matches the quality of the thrill rides would be Cedar Point. Cedar Point, as many may know, is often considered the absolute best park when it comes to record-breaking thrill rides.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay offers a more low-key surrounding area. Some people like the hustle and bustle of a busy metropolitan area around their vacation destination. But there are also times when you may want to visit an attraction with a more relaxed feel. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is nestled in suburban surroundings. It’s a smaller park in a slower-paced part of Florida that offers closer access to local beaches that bring so many tourists to Florida. Universal Studios and the Disney Parks are located much further away from the beaches and more quiet areas of the state. Of course, most tourist destinations in Florida are just a drive away from a beach, but if you want to stay somewhere with a more relaxed feel that’s closer to the beach, consider booking a room near Busch Gardens Tampa Bay instead of staying in Orlando.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is very close to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stadium. If you want to surprise any of the sports-lovers in your life, it’s not a far drive to the Buccaneers stadium. In fact, it was so close we ran into it by accident when we were out driving around looking for a good place to have dinner one night. Being pirates and all, the team fires a cannon after every touchdown. Pretty cool, no? While it’s fun to take turns choosing vacation destinations, it’s also always a good idea to choose a destination that will have something for everyone. Your kids may love the animals at Busch Gardens, your teenagers will love the coasters, and you and your husband will enjoy seeing an NFL game. Of course, everyone likes the beach. Don’t be so set on going to Orlando every time you want to travel to Florida that you miss many of the other destinations.
Busch Gardens offers fun regional theming. There are several well-themed areas at Busch Gardens. There’s an intricate Egyptian-themed area complete with a replica of King Tut’s tomb and a coaster called Montu, there’s a stunning tiger exhibit in a section of the park known as Jungala, there’s the bright and carnival-like Timbuktu that younger kids will especially enjoy, a lush Morocco and many other fun visual sections of the park that offer plenty of photo opportunities and sometimes even regional cuisine and entertainment such as belly dancers. This segmented nature of the park offers plenty of chances to experience something new along with all the usual fun of a theme park and the added bonus of the animal exhibits. Each area of the park feels tucked away and closed off from the other portions of the park, so it’s almost like having access to a dozen different parks for the price of one ticket.
Busch Gardens has a unique personality. Over the years, I’ve been to many theme parks on special journalistic assignments and during the filming of a theme park-based webisode series. The most interesting thing, to me, about theme parks is that they each have a completely unique personality. Often this is due to branding and theming, but the biggest factor in the “feel” of a park is the ownership behind it. For example, Holiday World in Indiana is a family-owned business and gets passed down from family member to family member. One of their biggest concerns is cleanliness, so the park is the cleanest one you’ll ever see. Each park has different priorities that set the tone.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay feels small and well-manicured and the animals are definitely center-stage. The animal-handlers are smiling when they are interacting with you and the animals. The performers are energetic. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay avoids the stereotypes that sometimes pop up in the larger more corporate feeling theme parks. Stereotypes like rude employees, overflowing trash bins, and a park that’s simply too large to stay organized.
At Busch Gardens, at least from a guest’s perspective, the emphasis is on providing family experiences that are small enough to feel special while maintaining quality. It’s a park that has a slower pace than many other parks, but not in a way that keeps the park from being exciting. Put Busch Gardens Tampa Bay on your trip itinerary if you want to do something outside of Orlando, if you want to be closer to a beach, if you or one of your family members loves animals or if you’re looking for a more coaster-focused theme park on your Florida vacation.