My family absolutely loves to visit theme parks! We’re all about having a fun time and have never let having young children stop us from going out and trying new things. I recently road tripped through Florida and visited Busch Gardens Tampa with my two girls, Kennedy (3) and Rowan (1), and my mom, and we had a fantastic time! (Thank you Busch Gardens for the media tickets!) I made a video sharing my tips for making the most of your family theme park trip, but I thought I’d share some of my tips specifically for Busch Gardens here.
1. Take advantage of stroller parking. Seriously, it’s awesome! I wish more parks had a service like this! If you are a family traveling with a stroller (which, if you have young kids, is a MUST), let the parking attendant know. He/She will direct you to stroller parking, which is FREE of charge and very close to the gate. In fact, it’s right behind handicap parking and in FRONT of preferred parking, which is a paid upgrade. This means no waiting for a tram, no far walk into the park, and no trekking to the other side of the parking lot with tired kiddos at the end of the day. It’s amazing and so helpful for families!
2. Invest in an all-day dining deal. If you are planning to spend all day at a park, it’s likely you will spend a LOT of money on food and drinks. Busch Gardens offers an awesome dining option that’s a great way to save some cash. For $34.99 for adults and $19.99 for kids, you can get a wristband that will give you access to pretty much unlimited food and drinks all day. You can get a new meal every hour on the hour. It includes an entree, an extra side or dessert, and a drink – one of those meals alone can easily cost you $20. You simply have to wait an hour from your last meal purchase before you can get another. Drinks have no restrictions and are available all day, including bottled water. Those are usually $3 a pop, and I easily drank eight while at the park. My favorite restaurant was Zambia Smokehouse. The portions were generous, and the food was delicious. Put it on your must eat list, and you won’t be disappointed!
3. Plan to watch some shows. As far as theme park entertainment goes, Busch Gardens has some great options with very entertaining shows. Aside from providing fun entertainment for your family to enjoy, watching a show provides a great way to cool down, take a break from the heat, and rest your feet for awhile. If you want to catch a meal with your show, head over to Rock a Doo Wop. It’s located in Dragon Fire Grill, which has tons of options to suit any appetite. It’s great to be able to get some entertainment while you eat because it give you the most bang for your buck in regards to time.
4. Take advantage of ride swap. If big kids and adults want to go on some of Busch Gardens’ awesome thrill rides, you don’t want to leave little ones waiting forever while you wait in the long lines that can accumulate at some of Busch Gardens’ roller coasters. Busch Gardens has a VERY generous ride swap policy that is immensely helpful to families. Walk up to the ride entrance, tell the attendant you’d like to do ride swap, and you’ll get passes that will allow you to go through the quick queue line. This is usually a paid upgrade, and your family can get it for FREE. After the first group rides and the others stay behind with the kids, you just swap places and go back to the attendant, and he/she will provide another quick queue pass for the remaining people who need to ride. Not only does this ensure your children are always attended to, but this is seriously such a time saver for families that are traveling with children but who also have people that want to partake in the more adventurous offerings at Busch Gardens.
5. Bring a swimsuit or change of clothes for the kids. Busch Gardens has two water play areas, one in Sesame Street Safari of Fun and one in Treetop Trails. Visiting splash pad areas are another great way to let your kid cool down while having some fun, but you don’t want to have your kiddos complaining about soggy shorts the rest of the day. It’s always smart to bring a swimsuit or a change of clothes (or two) for attractions like this.
6. See the animals! Busch Gardens not only has awesome rides and shows, but one really cool thing that sets it apart from other theme parks is that it is home to more than 300 species of animals. My family’s favorite way to see a variety of animals was by taking the Serengeti Express Train. My girls love train rides and also loved seeing all the animals. It was also another great way to rest our feet for a bit in the middle of a day filled with lots of walking. My three year-old also enjoyed watching for animals while we ate at the Serengeti Overlook Pub.
7. Make an attractions wishlist. There is SO much to do and see at Busch Gardens! It can be hard to fit it all in during a visit, so make a list of the things you’re most interested in doing/seeing, and make those a priority during your visit. My favorite roller coasters were the SheiKra, Montu, and Cheetah Hunt, and my three year-old loved the Wild Surge and Air Grover. (Really, she enjoyed all of the Sesame Street area and could have happily stayed there all day.) My girls’ favorite show was definitely Opening Night Critters, which is a must for animal lovers of all ages.
8. Download the Busch Gardens Tampa app. The Busch Gardens app is such a great resource! Not only does it have a map along with show descriptions and times, but it also let’s you know how long ride waits are and if any rides are shut down. If you need directions to an attraction, the map on the app will detail a trail that will get you to your desired destination. Ride height requirements are provided, and you also don’t have to worry about keeping track of a paper map all day.
9. Prepare for rain. I’ve rarely visited a central Florida theme park without encountering rain at some point during a summer visit. Don’t let it put a damper on your day! Just prepare ahead of time by being aware of the forecast and when rain is predicted for the day. Use your dry time wisely, and plan to spend the predicted rain time inside enjoying a show, a meal, or both. If you want to wear a rain poncho, bring your own instead of purchasing it at the park, as that will save you a little money.
10. Save money by purchasing a Tampa Bay CityPass. For just a little bit more than the cost of visiting Busch Gardens, you can purchase a Tampa Bay CityPass and visit five top Tampa attractions. Busch Gardens, of course, is included, as well as a variety of other family-friendly attractions. You really do get a great value, so it’s an awesome way to save some money while still getting to have a fun, adventure-filled family vacation.
Busch Gardens Tampa is an awesome, family-friendly theme park that is perfect for people of all ages. Whether you’re traveling with toddlers, teenagers, or anyone in between, your family is sure to have a fantastic time! It has something to offer everyone! If you’re traveling to central Florida with your family, this is a park you don’t want to miss.
Have you visited Busch Gardens Tampa? Do you have any tips you would add to this list?
FTC Disclosure: This post is not sponsored. I was provided with two free media tickets for my family’s visit to Busch Gardens. All thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.