Adventures at Tampa Bay Busch Gardens | RTX Traveler Magazine

African Theme Park Adventure

With 335-acres of botanical gardens, countless wild animal species, world-class thrill rides and live entertainment, Busch Gardens Tampa is an unforgettable experience.

Cheetah Hunt and Serengeti Plain at Busch Gardens_web

Opened in 1959 as an animal exhibit, Busch Gardens Tampa is an African-themed adventure park with gardens, an expansive zoo and top-notch roller coasters and rides. The meticulously well-maintained park is comprised of nine themed areas to explore: Stanleyville, Bird Gardens, Morocco, Congo, Jungala, Timbuktu, Nairobi, Cheetah Hunt and Egypt.


With 24 rides Busch Gardens has something for everyone, from the requisite carnival rides  and water rides to the kid-sized rides and eight roller coasters. Of course most visitors show up to Busch Gardens for the adrenaline rush, that stomach-dropping sensation that comes from free-falling over the edge of a roller coaster at 70 mph, and the park does not disappoint.

Start your adventure at the park’s newest addition to the roller coaster lineup, Cheetah Hunt. Situated in section of the park with the same name, the ride is a triple launch coaster that blasts riders up a 90 degree track high above the park. The cart then twists and turns through the bush as to emulate a cheetah chasing prey in the wild, thrilling riders over the entire 4,400 foot track.

Next head over to Egypt where Montu will have you head over heels. Named after an Egyptian war god, the floorless coaster’s seven intense inversions after a 140-foot twisting drop along with a 60-foot vertical loop, an Immelman loop and a zero-G roll will have you begging for more.

Once warmed up, thrill seekers will want to head over to Stanleyville to take on one of the top roller coasters in the world, ShieKra. A floorless dive coaster, riders are perched off to the sides of the track, leaving feet dangling with nothing below. At the 200-foot peak of the first climb the cart slowly rolls over the edge before a brake locks the cart, leaving riders suspended face down at a 90 degree angle. Without warning the cart is released and plummets down at 70 mph, leaving everyone breathless.

For those seeking to keep their sanity and breath there are plenty of tamer rides to choose from. Spend 15 minutes watching the animals as you glide above Serengeti Plains, traversing the habitat in a cable car aboard the Skyride. Exit the Skyride and cool off with a whitewater expedition on Congo River Rapids or hop into a log flume and plummet 60 feet with Stanley Falls.  


Cheetah Run at Busch Gardens_webWhile stocked full of thrill rides the park has never strayed from its original design as an animal habitat and exhibit. With demonstrations throughout the day, up-close encounters, feeding opportunities and extensive habitats, getting to know the animals is easy.

Start your day off fast with a visit to the park’s newest animal attraction Cheetah Run. Located at the base of Cheetah Hunt, patrons will enjoy an educational introspective on cheetahs, how they live and what they eat in the wild. The show closes with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as park trainers work one of the cats into a playful frenzy before unleashing the animal on a fast-moving feather toy that is connected to  a wire and dragged across the ground. Capable of reaching speeds of 70 mph, the cheetah darts and dashes across the habitat at blaring speeds leaving onlookers awe-struck.

After experiencing Cheetah Run animal fans will love spending time viewing the natural beauty of Serengeti Plain, the park’s premier exhibit. The 65-acre habitat allows animals to roam freely and includes rhinos, zebra, antelope, giraffe and many more species.

Grab a seat on the Serengeti Railway and enjoy a train ride through the habitat or get high above the animals with the Skyride. For an additional price true animal lovers will be elated at the chance to ride through the habitat with the Serengeti Safari. Climb aboard a safari truck with a guide and experience the animals like never before.

Rambling Bayou at Adventure Island_webFOR THE CHILDREN

Busch Gardens is not just for the big kids, as the park has multiple rides and attractions designed for the little ones. The park’s newest children’s area, the Sesame Street Safari of Fun, includes all of the classic park rides like the log flume and Ferris wheel but on a smaller scale. Visitors of all ages enjoy meeting and getting their picture taken with the characters they grew up with such as Elmo, Grover and Big Bird.

If a picture does not seem like enough be sure to check the park schedule for Lunch with Elmo and Friends. Sit down with the family of characters from the show and enjoy a delicious meal and exciting lunch.

With climbing nets, bridges, crawl tubes and a multi-level maze for bigger kids, plus a water-play area for younger children, the three-story family play area in Jungala allows visitors to explore the different levels of jungle life while expending extra energy. 


Coming in 2014, Falcon’s Fury, Busch Gardens Tampa’s newest thrill ride, lets you soar and dive like a magnificent bird of prey on the hunt. Riders will climb nearly 300 feet to an incredible view of the park beneath you, then pivot 90 degrees in midair to a daring dive position, eyes fixed on the ground far below. An instant later, facing the ground, you’ll plunge at 60 mph straight down to where you started, with speed, power and adrenaline like you’ve never experienced before.

Park Tips

Get ahead in line:

The more popular rides experience shorter lines from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., when other park goers stop for lunch.

See the animals at their most active:

Visit habitats in the morning or evening when the weather is cooler.

Meet an animal trainer:

The animal trainers love the opportunity to tell you about their jobs and the animals they work with, and these up-close encounters are often scheduled around the animals’ feeding times. “Meet the Keeper” times are posted at most of the major animal habitats, or check out the schedule on the back of your park map.

Stump the staff:

Stop anyone in the park with green shirt and a name tag, and ask them for a random fact about their favorite animal. The Zoo education staff members are experts on cool information about animals.

Want to get closer?

Check out an up-close adventure or behind-the-scenes tour like the Serengeti Safari or Elephant Keeper Experience. Stop by the Adventure Tour Center, or book online ahead of time.


10165 N McKinley Dr
Tampa, FL 33612
Park hours and show times are updated each week. For more information on park hours and show times, please call 888-800-5447 and select Option 1 or visit the park’s website.

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