Busch Gardens Tampa Park Guide


Busch Gardens Tampa, Park Guide & Review.

Please bear with us as we update our Guides for the 2021 season.

Jump to:
Tips and Tricks.
Days Needed in the Park.
Best Time to Visit.
Where to Eat.
Park Atmosphere.
Where to Stay.
Notable Attractions & Reviews.
Will I Enjoy Busch Gardens, is it the right park for me?

Busch Gardens Tampa (BGT), (Also known as Busch Gardens Africa) is an African-based animal theme park located in Tampa, Florida. The park currently features 8 roller coasters with number 9 set to open in 2019.
Busch Gardens Tampa opened on March 31, 1959 as marketing for Anheuser Busch. The park featured a hospitality house beer-tasting facility with a bird garden. In 1965, the park opened the Serengeti Plains, which allowed African wildlife to roam free. The big draw was the Stairway to the Stars, an escalator that took guests to the roof of the brewery, offering excellent views. Busch Gardens later added more attractions, started to charge admission, and eventually become known for the thrill rides and roller coasters we see today. The park is now owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc. 

Cheetaka Busch Gardens
Cheetah Hunt Roller Coaster

Top Tips and Tricks from AmusementInsider

-Discount Tickets to Busch Gardens: We partner with aRestravel to bring you the best ticket prices! Check them out here and you can also search for other parks and discounts in the area, as well as packages and hotels with incredible pricing deals!
-Cheetah Hunt and Cobra’s Curse will have the longest lines throughout the day, try to get to the park before opening so you can head to these two first. With Tigris now open and on the opposite side of the park, we recommend riding this new roller coaster immediately after these two.
-Arrive 15 minutes before park opening to ensure you are one of the first to experience Cheetah Hunt and Cobra's Curse, as these will have the longest lines throughout the day.
-Make your way clockwise around the park in the morning (towards the bird gardens). This side of the park will be much less busy in the early hours, so you’ll feel you have the whole park to yourself. The Kangaroos are more active at this time, and you may even run into some flamingos in the middle of the pathway. This is also the time to ride Tigris.
-If you are in the park all day, we recommend one dining pass per two people in your group. This pass entitles you to an entree, side, and drink once per hour. You’ll save money and there are plenty of food options throughout the park to use the plan.
-Bags aren’t allowed on some rides, so try to only bring what fits in a zippered pocket to avoid locker lines and fees. Some rides will require you wear a fanny pack, but they will be handed to riders at the entrance of the ride for no additional charge!
-Use the Sky Ride and the Train if you need to get to other sections of the park. You’ll see animals from viewpoints that you cannot get to from the pathways and get some great photo opportunities.
-Stay until closing if you are looking for short lines, you'll find most people have already left within the last hour of park operation, making the last hour of park operation the best time to re-ride your favorite coasters over and over again.

Days needed at Busch Gardens: 1-2 Days.

While a thrill seeker will be able to ride each major thrill attraction in about 6 hours if they get there early, there’s a lot more to enjoy in this park. From great shows to the many animal exhibits, we recommend taking it slow and going for two days instead of packing it all into one busy day. There’s also a water park across the street, and plenty to do in St. Petersburg or Tampa! Busch Gardens also has a nice selection of beer and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the scenery. Plus, visitors get two free 8oz beer samples through 2019!

Best Times to Visit the Park:

For Low Crowd Levels be sure to get early to the park or be prepared to stay until closing. The middle of the day will be busiest.
Average Busch Gardens Crowd Levels Chart by Time of Year:
Busch Gardens Tampa Chart - Least Busy Day

January, February, weekdays in October, and early November are going to have the predicted lowest crowd levels at Busch Gardens. Tuesday-Thursday are the least crowded days at the park historically. Halloween and the “Howl-o-Scream” event will bring large crowd levels during select nights in September and October. Getting to the park early can avoid the crowds on these days, as the park begins to get busy around 2:00pm to 3:00pm during these nighttime events. During concerts at the park, you can expect high crowd levels throughout the day.

For Shows & Events visit the park during one of the many festivals at the park. BGT offers concert series, beer festivals, Christmas celebrations, and more throughout the year. Usually, a visit during peak-season is required to take part in special events.

2019 Events:
Real Music Real Masters: Monday-Saturday, January 7-March 16. The longest-running concert series at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay returns in January with incredible live music spanning from the 1950s to today, plus all-new entertainment.
Food & Wine Festival: Weekends, March 16-April 28. A world of taste awaits at the fifth annual Food & Wine Fest. Wine, beer, cocktails, and food have an additional charge, while the music acts during the fest are free with park admission.
Sesame Street Kids' Weekends: Weekends, May 4-May 19 & Weekends in October. Celebrate Spring and then Halloween with your favorite Sesame Street Characters.
Summer Nights: May 31-August 10. Explore the park after dark with extended park hours every night. Dance the night away at themed party zones throughout the park and take on Florida’s top thrill rides in the dark.
Independence Day Fireworks: July 4. Live entertainment and fireworks light up the night on the Fourth of July.
Bier Fest: August 24-September 15. This festival blends the local Tampa Bay craft scene with time-honored traditions to create a unique food and beer celebration. Enjoy live entertainment and contemporary fare that pays homage to a traditional Oktoberfest with a modern spin.
Howl-o-Scream: Select nights in September-October. Howl-o-Scream is a yearly Halloween fright fest. This adult-targeted event transforms Busch Gardens into a late-night party with haunted houses, scare zones and a live show.
Christmas Town: Select days in November-December. Celebrate the Holidays with Santa, Rudolph & more while enjoying the Christmas environment.
New Year's Celebration: December 31. Ring in the New Year with music, fireworks, and thrill rides for the whole family.
(Information from Busch Gardens, all events subject to change)

Where to Eat in the park:

Busch Gardens has plenty of quick-service restaurants that feature good options. We recommend the Zambia Smokehouse near Sheikra’s signature splash-down pool or taking it easy at the Serengeti Overlook Restaurant. We also recommended getting one meal plan per every two people in your group. As long as you don't split up throughout the day, you’ll save a ton of money and the food options on the plan are above average.

Park Atmosphere: 

Busch Gardens is known for its large animal habitats and thrill rides. There is an average amount of tree coverage and plenty of places to sit and relax in the shade or air conditioning. There’s a lot for the thrill seeker, a lot for the zoo lover, and a lot for young kids. If you do not fit any of those categories, you may have less to enjoy while at the park.
Busch Gardens lacks indoor rides, and over the years we’ve found it has lost a number of excellent full-time shows and replaced them with seasonal festivals, concerts, and limited-offerings.

Where to stay: 

We recommend staying at a hotel with transportation to and from the park. You’ll save on parking at the park and avoid some walking. We have also partnered with aRestravel to bring you the best hotel offerings and prices in the Tampa area. We recommend the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites, Tampa, save up to 20% if you book in advance. This hotel is closest to the park and offers complimentary shuttle service!

Montu Inverted Roller Coaster

Notable Attractions 

Roller coasters:
Cheetah Hunt: We rank Cheetah Hunt in the 90th Percentile of coasters worldwide. Multiple launches, elevation changes, trenches, and scenery along the path of the ride make for one awesome coaster. The river section is one of the most enjoying sections of a ride ever! Over the years we've found Cheetah Hunt to get a little more shaky in certain rows, but sitting in the front takes care of this rattle. Read our full review and score of Cheetah Hunt here.

Cobra's Curse: Cobra's Curse is a great ride for the whole family. Don't worry if you usually get sick on spinning rides, this one doesn't spin enough to cause any trouble. It's smooth and has a lot of fun elements to it that make it a must ride for your family.

Kumba: Kumba is one of the first Bolliger & Mabillard coasters ever built, it's over 25 years old! B&M is known for their smooth rides and high-capacity coasters. Kumba has aged quite well, but it has gotten a little rough over the years. Sit in the front seat for the best experience, this coaster still is regarded as one of the best in the world.

Montu: Montu is one of the best coasters in the world and consistently ranks high among enthusiasts! Made by the same company as Kumba, this inverted coaster features strong elements, is very smooth, and has a long layout. There's many low-to-ground elements and trenches that the coaster dives into on many occasions. Montu is a must-ride and is the best coaster in the park!

Sand Serpent: This wild mouse roller coaster is smooth but can be a bit jerky from side to side, as most wild mouse rides are meant to be. If you're looking for another coaster the whole family can ride and have a laugh about, this is the one.

Scorpion: Scorpion is a ride that many people skip while at the park. It is an older model roller coaster (1980), but it isn't as rough as many people believe it to be. It has some moments of discomfort but nothing out of the ordinary. Many kids ride this as their first upside down coaster, as you only need to be 3' 6" tall to ride.

Sheikra: Sheikra is the first dive machine to go upside down. This smooth coaster features an exciting drop, high speeds, and it's fun to watch by non-riding spectators as the train splashes through a pool of water. It's on the shorter side, but worth a ride every visit to Busch Gardens.

Tigris (NEW for 2019!): Tigris is a smooth coaster that is a minute of pure-adrenaline. Forward and backward launches, a barrel-roll element high off the ground with lots of hangtime, and fun throughout! View our POV of the new ride below!

Congo River Rapids: This is a fun ride for the whole family, about half of the boat will get soaked, and there are no big drops on this ride. In the colder weather they turn the waterfalls are off, but there is still a chance you may get soaked.

Falcon's Fury: This drop tower has tilting seats that make the ride that much scarier. As if being 335-feet in the air wasn't enough, how about falling while facing straight towards the ground.

Serengeti Express: Definitely take this train ride to get glimpses of the animals that you can't get from anywhere else! A great way to get around the park as well with multiple stops. Stay on board or hop off at your leisure.

Skyride: Another ride to get some incredible views of the animals from. Not for those with a fear of height. A great transportation device to use around the park.

Stanley Falls Flume: You will not get as wet on this log flume ride as the River Rapids, but it does feature a couple small drops.

Will I enjoy Busch Gardens?

Thrill Seeker: 9/10 Most of the roller coasters at Busch Gardens Tampa are custom for the park and one of a kind. Enthusiasts from all over flock to the park for some of the most highly-regarded coasters in the world. Montu, Sheikra, Kumba, and Cheetah Hunt.

Young Kids: 8/10 A lot of walking for children, but a lot to do too. Educational animal segments are located around the park and plenty of rides for the younger kids that can’t fit on the coasters yet are available.

Older-Generation: 8/10 With show offerings and some low-motion/slow-moving rides like the train, there are plenty of activities to fill up your day with. Plus there's beer, food, animal talks, and seasonal music offerings that you will love!

Non-Thrill Rider: 8/10 There’s seasonal shows, animal exhibits, the sky ride, and the train. Plus a nice selection of food and beer. The animal exhibits feature open spaces for the animals in most areas, and many live educational segments from animal techs.

Transit/Walkability: 9/10 Busch Gardens Tampa has a sky ride as well as a train that take you to different sections of the park. With multiple boarding locations scattered around, there’s no need to have to walk to every location throughout the day. But don't let that fool you, you will still do a LOT of walking.

Current Wait Times: 

For wait times of popular roller coasters, rides and attractions, we recommend the official mobile app. You can check the app while you’re in the park and avoid some of the longer lines.

Do you have any questions for our experts? Ask below and we are happy to help, usually replying within the day!

Does Busch Gardens still have free beer?  Busch Gardens is celebrating the year of beer, offering two complimentary samples of beer to every guest over 21. Grab your free beer at the Garden Gate Cafe or the Serengeti Overlook Pub. Usually a light beer and Yuengling are on offer.

Do I need a skip the line pass for Busch Gardens if I’m only there for one day this summer?  Depending on when you visit, a “Quick Queue” may be recommended. You’ll be able to do all the major rides in a day without a Quick Queue, but you may not have time to see the great lineup of animals and shows that the park offers.

Are the roller coasters smooth?  Most of the rides are very smooth here, we recommend reading our reviews above of each ride to get a better idea of which ones to skip if you do not do well on rough rides, if you are not one to normally ride rough coasters, you are safe to ride pretty much every coaster here.


  1. BUT WHERE do I get free beer!!!!

  2. Hello, Do you know how long the train ride is?

    1. 10 minutes? Maybe 20-30 round trip. I think it leaves every 15 minutes or so depending on the season

  3. Why do you recommend All Day Dining for 1 of every 2 in your group? How does this work?

    1. The dining plan allows you to eat once every hour and gives you quite a bit of food, share each meal and have a 3-4 meals instead of just eating once or twice during the day. Hit the dining places during the off hours so you aren’t waiting in line. I’ve actually shared one meal plan with four people before and we were all plenty full at the end of the day.
      Plus you get to sample more of the food at the park; try the BBQ near Sheikra, my personal favourite.

    2. The site says it is strictly prohibited. Is it that they just don't care or check?

    3. there's no way for them to monitor who's eating what :) they price everything well enough so it covers any "losses" with people sharing a dining pass.


No spam or outside links unless they pertain to the article or add to the discussion.