Everyone knows the big theme parks of Disney, Universal or SeaWorld in Orlando. But the City of Tampa, about 1 hour’s drive west of Orlando, also has one of the most famous Top 10 Attractions in Florida, the Busch Gardens Theme Park. And for the perfect cool down, you can visit the Adventure Island Water Park right next door. We visited both theme parks with our 2-year-old daughter and this is our report what you can experience there.
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Where is Busch Gardens & Adventure Island located in Florida?
The Busch Gardens theme park and also Adventure Island are located in the City of Tampa on the west coast of Florida. Orlando with its theme parks is about 1 hour’s drive away, Miami 4 hours, and the open Gulf of Mexico with the gorgeous sandy beaches of St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach is about 40 km to the southwest.
The amusement park Busch Gardens (Tampa)
Busch Gardens amusement park opened in 1959 and is a mix of a zoo with 200 species and more than 12,000 animals, world-class roller coasters, and a host of other attractions, restaurants & shows. So if you like to go to a zoo and ride a roller coaster, this is the place for you. Due to the amount of animals, the theme park is one of the largest zoological institutions in the United States. The 112-hectare safari park is themed on the continent of Africa and divided into several themed areas such as Egypt, Morocco, Nairobi, Jungala, Congo or Serengeti.
Opening hours are daily from 10am to 6pm and admission currently costs $132.99 USD, or just over 130 EUR, according to the website. This is a really high price, but for the theme parks in Florida now (unfortunately) normal. Especially if you are in Florida for a longer period of time, you should always look for offers and combined tickets, for example at Attraction Tickets or GetYourGuide or on the official website of Busch Gardens. Here you can save a lot in combination, especially if you want to visit other parks like SeaWorld or Aquatica (e.g. Three Park Ticket). By the way, parking also costs another 30 USD per day. Add in the food on site, and you can get rid of a small fortune in a day like that.
A free map of the park can be downloaded here.
Busch Gardens Tampa now offers 10 different roller coasters (Iron Gwazi, Cheetah Hunt, Tigris, Cobra’s Curse, SheiKra, Montu, Kumba, Scorpion, SandSerpent, Air Grover), 2 water rides (Congo River Rapids, Stanley Falls Flume) and 2 freefall towers (Wild Surge, Falcon’s Fury). In 2023, another attraction will open, the Serengeti Flyer, a kind of giant swing at a height of 40 meters and with a speed of up to 110 km per hour.
Busch Gardens’ longest roller coaster, the Cheetah Hunt, is dedicated to the world’s fastest land animal at 1.3 kilometers long and transports passengers high above the park before hurtling down through a rocky gorge. In early March 2022, Iron Gwazi, a giant hybrid roller coaster made of wood and steel, was put into operation. It is one of the highest (63 meters), fastest (122 km/h) and steepest (91-degree drop) hybrid coasters in the world. The SheiKra roller coaster is 60 meters high and then drops steeply at a ninety-degree angle, allowing guests to experience the terrifying sensation of freefall.
We were unable to ride any of the roller coasters with our young daughter. So when we visited Busch Gardens Tampa theme park, we focused more on the animals and the kid-friendly rides.
At Myombe Reserve we were able to observe great apes up close, such as chimpanzees and gorillas. In addition, an animal keeper has just given an interesting lecture about the animals, where you learned all sorts of interesting facts. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with waterfalls, wooden walkways, spray mist and lush meadows.
In 1965, Busch Gardens Tampa opened the Serengeti Plain Animal Enclosure, the first of its kind to allow animals to live in the wild. Over the years, the habitat has expanded from 12 acres to its current size of 65 acres. The grounds can be explored either on a paid 30-minute Serengeti Safari Tour ($40 per person) or as part of a ride on the free Serengeti Express Train. During the relaxing train ride through the grounds, we got a great view of the large free-roaming herds of African animals, including giraffes, zebras, antelope, ostriches, rhinos and more. This was also a special experience for our little mouse ❤
During our walk through the Busch Gardens theme park, we were able to see and observe many more animals, such as alligators, kangaroos, penguins, fish, lions and cheetahs.
We were at Busch Gardens for several hours and saw a lot in that time. The animal facilities are for the most part very nicely laid out and with the many roller coasters there are also countless attractions. A lot of fun is pre-programmed here in any case!
The Adventure Island Water Park (Tampa)
Directly across the street from Busch Gardens is Adventure Island Water Park, also part of theme park operator SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Luckily, we picked a day when Adventure Island was really slow, so we were able to move around freely without crowds. Normally, park admission costs $83 per adult (plus taxes and fees). However, there are always attractive offers on the official website of the park, where you can save significantly even on a day ticket. During our visit, for example, the day ticket was 50% cheaper if you booked online. So it’s always worth taking a look at the website before buying the ticket on the spot at the counter. By the way, parking here also costs 30 USD per car per day.
A free map of the park can be downloaded here.
Adventure Island is an approximately 30-acre water park in Tampa, Florida that opened on June 7, 1980. The park, located directly across the street from Busch Gardens, is owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Blackstone Group. It includes ten water slides, a current channel, a wave pool and two water playgrounds. The main theme of the park is “Key West.”
For slide lovers, there is definitely a lot on offer here, whether it’s body slides, mat slides or tire slides. In the 17,000-square-foot wave pool, there’s a rolling surf with waves every 5 to 10 minutes, and on the Lazy River, you’re carried on a hoop relaxing through lush landscapes, tropical waterfalls and even rain and fog. Our highlight in the park was the large water playground, because here even our little daughter could move freely and try everything.
With the hot weather we had during our time in Tampa, the water park was definitely the perfect place for a refreshing cool down 🙂
All travelogues of our Florida round trip (2022)Sun, beaches, palm trees, sightseeing, beautiful hotels, pools and the fun of Sea World, Walt Disney & Co.... we were really looking forward to this vacation in Florida. We planed a beautiful itinerary for our almost 3 week trip through the Sunshine State, with places we mostly didn't know yet. In the following travel reports we will tell you about our experiences in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Tampa and Orlando.
➥ Miami Beach » Arrival, Route, Rental Car & Hotel in Miami Beach
➥ Miami » Our Top 10 Sights & Attractions
➥ Fort Lauderdale » Sights, Beach & Attractions
➥ Fort Myers » Fort Myers Beach, Downtown & Lovers Key State Park
➥ Sanibel Island » Sanibel Island, Captiva Island & Cayo Costa State Park
➥ Tampa » Top Sights & the best Attractions
➥ Tampa » Theme Park Busch Gardens & Adventure Island
➥ Orlando » Theme Park SeaWorld & Water Park Aquatica
➥ Orlando » Magic Kingdom Theme Park (Disney) with toddler