Busch Gardens Tampa is the Perfect Weekend Family Getaway

If you’re looking for an amazing family-friendly getaway in Florida, I highly recommend Busch Gardens Tampa Bay! We took a quick trip up there a few weeks ago and my entire family had such a blast! Read on for everything you need to know to plan the perfect trip.

Our family getaway to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

Real quick before we continue, I just want to let you know that I received complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens Tampa in exchange for sharing details about my visit. All opinions are entirely my own.

Where is Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Exactly?

Yes, I know, the answer is right in the name, smarty pants. If you’re already familiar with Tampa Bay, you can skip ahead. For the rest of you, you’ll find Busch Garden’s Florida theme park at 10165 Mckinley Dr, Tampa, FL 33612 (in Hillsborough County). It’s the orange spot on the map below.

Busch Gardens Tampa location on Florida map

Busch Gardens in Tampa is just over a 4-hour drive from Miami, just under 4 hours from Jacksonville, and only about 90 minutes from Orlando. It’s also fairly close (about 17 miles) to the Tampa International Airport for those flying in.

What is the weather like in Tampa?

The weather in Tampa is absolutely gorgeous! Temperatures are usually in the mid 70s during the day in the Fall. It does get cooler at night, but even in January, it usually stays in the 50s (with a few odd exceptions).

During the summer, daytime temps hit up into the low 90s, with nighttime temps staying in the 70s. It’s also pretty humid year-round.

We went in November, right after Hurricane Nicole hit, but we had only rain for a couple of hours in the morning. We were fine in shorts and a t-shirt for most of the day, but we did bring along lightweight hoodies just in case.  We got to enjoy the park on a cloudy day, which was pretty great! Not too hot, not too cold. Plus, it wasn’t crazy crowded. Whether that’s the norm or because of the storm, I don’t know, but the lines weren’t horrible at all.

Busch Gardens Tampa Scorpion Rollercoaster Ride

Where to stay near Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa doesn’t have its own hotel on the property, but they do partner with local hotels to offer some really great package deals. Depending on the package you choose, some of the benefits include:

  • Unlimited admission to the park
  • Free passes for kids (ages 3-9)
  • Free parking and/or free shuttle
  • Tickets to both Busch Gardens and Sea World
  • Quick Queue Passes
  • 10% off dining purchases
  • 10% off merchandise when you spend at least $50 in the shops in Busch Gardens Tampa

They partner with a bunch of different hotels in all price ranges.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Hilton Garden Inn Tampa North
  • Holiday Inn Express & Suites New Tampa
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton in Tampa USF
  • Hampton Inn & Suites Tampa North
  • Tampa Marriott Water Street
  • RumFish Beach Resort By TradeWinds (it’s a bit further away but worth it if you want to spend time at the beach, too)

There are dozens of other hotels near Busch Gardens Tampa Bay aside from their partners, so you shouldn’t have any issue finding one that fits your budget.

Now that you have a general idea of where Busch Gardens is in Tampa, where to stay, and what to expect from the weather, it’s time to get to the really fun stuff!

Things to Do at Busch Gardens Tampa

If you’re wondering “What is there to do at Busch Gardens Tampa,” the answer is A LOT. Seriously, this park is jammed-packed full of more than 50 different rides, shows, animal attractions, and more!

Scorpion Rollercoaster Busch Gardens Tampa R

Rides for All Ages

Busch Gardens Tampa has about 17 different rides, including 10 rollercoasters and two water rides. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s actually a perfect number. It’s enough that you’ll feel like you got your “thrill ride” money’s worth but not so overwhelming that you feel rushed to fit them all into one day.

My kids loved all of the rides, but the Cheetah Hunt Rollercoaster was their favorite. It was insane! So fast!! So scary!!!! But I was thrilled that even my 7-year-old was able to ride it.

cheetah hunt rollercoaster at Busch Gardens Tampa

We also loved the Scorpion and Cobra’s Curse. The latter is really unique because your whole family sits in a spinning car. Think Tilt-a-Whirl or Spinning Tea Cups but 70 feet in the air and going 40 MPH. It’s not quite as scary as some of the other coasters, though, so it’s great for kids.

A friend asked me “What is the scariest ride at Busch Gardens Tampa?” Honestly, it’s hard to say because it really depends on your fear tolerance. I thought the Cheetah Hunt was scary, but it’s only considered a “high” thrill compared to the “extreme” Iron Gwazi rollercoaster or the Kumba.

best rollercoasters at busch gardens in tampa bay

Safari, Zoo, & Other Animal Experiences

Make sure you save plenty of time to explore all of the neat animal experiences! Busch Gardens Tampa has more than 200 different species in its zoo, including plenty of Florida wildlife like pink flamingos and alligators.

Busch Gardens Tampa Zoo Flamingos

The kangaroos were my daughter’s favorite. She had so much fun feeding them!

Feeding the Kangaroos at Busch Gardens Tampa zoo

It’s fun just to walk through the animal attractions and see all of the beautiful wildlife. You can even take a train ride through Busch Garden’s Serengeti Plain. The Animal Care Center is also pretty neat. You can watch the veterinarians and trainers care for different animals. Sometimes, you can even help!

Busch Gardens Tampa Feeding the Kangaroo

Live Shows & Events

Along with rides and animal experiences, there are a TON of live shows and events all year long. Tampa Busch Gardens Christmas Town is one of the most popular. It runs from November 14 all the way through January 19th, so you still have plenty of time to schedule your trip!

We just missed it by a few days, but they were starting to set everything up when we were there, so we got a bit of a sneak peek. If you go during the heart of the season, though, the entire park is transformed into a magical Christmassy wonderland.

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Tampa Florida

If you can book your trip for the last week of December, you’ll get to see both Christmas Town AND the New Year’s Eve celebration.

Can’t travel during the holidays? No worries! There are plenty of other exciting events throughout the year. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more popular ones. Check the calendar for exact dates, as some of them (like the Kids Weekends) run multiple times.

  • Mardi Gras celebration
  • Real Music Series
  • Sesame Street® Kids’ Weekends
  • Food & Wine Festival
  • Cinco de Mayo
  • Summer Nights
  • 4th of July Celebration
  • Bier Fest
  • Howl-O-Scream & Spooktacular Halloween events

Kid-Friendly Attractions

Overall, the park is really family-friendly, Busch Gardens Tampa has two areas completely dedicated to kid-friendly fun. Over in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun, you’ll find rides featuring Grover and Zoe, “Let’s Play Together” live shows, and meet-and-greets throughout the area with different characters.

In Pantopia, kids can play games and ride the classic Carousel, the Kiddie Train, or the Bush Flyers. All of the animal experiences are also totally kid-friendly, but they also offer some really neat tours just for the little ones for an extra fee. For example, kids ages 3 and up can feed tortoises and learn from Animal Ambassadors.

Souvenir Shopping

Cap off your day with a bit of souvenir shopping at one of 11 different shops throughout the park. Make your own Build-a-Bear, find trendy boho gifts at Marrakesh Market, grab park-specific souvenirs at the Emporium, and so much more.

I highly recommend downloading a park map before you go so you can plan out your visit.

Busch Gardens Tampa park map
Credit: Busch Gardens Tampa

Where to Eat in Busch Gardens (& How to Save Money on Food)

Busch Gardens does a great job with food options and has plenty of choices even for the pickiest eaters. There are 10 different places to eat (plus Christmas Town when it’s open) ranging from quick-bite stands to sit-down restaurants. Let’s check them out. The ones with a * next to them participate in the All-Day Dining Deal (more on that in a moment).

  • Zambia Smokehouse*: Smoked and BBQ entrees, 8 basic sides, and 4 delicious desserts.
  • Dragon Fire Grill & Pub*: Pizza, chicken platters, Asian cuisine, burgers.
  • Oasis Pizza*: Pizza, obviously. They also have chicken tenders and other kid-friendly options.
  • Dragon Dog: Gourmet hot dogs
  • Pantopia Drinks and Snacks: A good mix of options, including hot dogs, chicken, and turkey legs.
  • Moroccan Delights: Ice cream
  • Twisted Tails Pretzels: Soft pretzels
  • Giraffe Bar: Adult drinks (beer, cocktails, and such)
  • Chick-fil-A®*: Same basic menu as usual, just a bit pricier.
  • Zagora Café*: Pretty limited. Just burgers (including the plant-based Impossible Burger), chicken tenders, and salad for entrees, plus 4 desserts and a few sides.

What to eat in Busch Gardens Tampa

All-Day Dining Deal at Busch Gardens Tampa: Is it Worth It?

Busch Gardens Tampa also has an All-Day Dining Pass that you can buy for $49.99 for adults (which means anyone ages 10+) or $27.99 for kids ages 3-9. Keep in mind that while it’s called the “All-Day Dining Deal,” it is NOT an “all-you-can-eat” thing.

Basically, you can eat ONE thing every 90 minutes. That means one entree (with limitations), side OR dessert, plus one drink (either a fountain soda or a bottle or water). It’s only available at the dining facilities that I starred above. The child’s pass only includes kids’ meals. Obviously, you can’t share it. It’s against the rules and could get you in big trouble!

Is it worth it? You’re really the only one who can answer that. If you’re planning on spending the entire day in the park from open to close (10 AM to 8 PM), and you think you’re going to want to sample a lot of different foods, have relatively expensive tastes, or if you just need to eat frequently for medical reasons, then it’s probably worth it since you’ll get to eat roughly 7 entrees, sides, or desserts total throughout the day.

If you’re only planning to eat one meal plus maybe a snack and you’re fine with pizza, chicken tenders, or something else that’s relatively simple, then no, it’s probably not worth it. The portion sizes are pretty decent for a theme park and the prices aren’t really that astronomical compared to other big parks, So without the pass, you could easily save money by splitting a hearty entree. Remember, you cannot do that with the pass AT ALL.

One last note about this deal. Sometimes they have sales on it during different times of the year, so it could even be cheaper when you go. For example, right now it’s 20% off if you buy it online. While I’m on the fence about whether it’s worth $50, I absolutely think that $40 is super reasonable for what you get.

Busch Gardens Tampa is a Great Family-Friendly Theme Park

Thank you again to Busch Gardens Tampa for the wonderful day! We had such a blast!  It was just what we needed to unwind a bit before the crazy holiday season. It really is a great getaway next to Tampa, which is a lovely city to visit. It was just the perfect place to go for a short family getaway to bond, have fun and enjoy the beautiful Florida weather. If you’re ready to go, check out their website for the latest deals on tickets, event info, and more.

P.S.- If you’re looking for more fabulous places to visit and things to do in Florida, check out my reviews of Plantation on Crystal River, Omni Amelia Island Resort, the RumFish Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach (which is actually one of the Busch Gardens Tampa hotel partners I mentioned earlier), and Marco Island.

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