Being a Floridian has many benefits. We have the beaches, year round sunshine, Publix supermarkets, and about a half dozen of the best amusement parks. Central Florida in particular is home to one of the well known theme parks in the world, but one park that often times gets overlooked is Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay.
Busch Gardens is known for it’s superb zoo and animal rehabilitation facilities along with some of the best roller coasters and thrill rides in the states.
A little fact about me you may not have known is that I actually worked at Busch Gardens throughout high school and college. And with over three decades visiting this African themed amusement park, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in most things Busch Gardens. So I thought it was only right to share some of these insider tips with my readers.
Insider Tips and Tricks for Visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Utilize the interactive app to plan your day
When visiting any theme park, it always helps to know the layout of the park beforehand and prioritize the attractions you don’t want to miss. Thankfully, Busch Gardens has a fully interactive app that allows you to constructed a plan to tackle as much as possible throughout the day. It uses real time to keep you up to speed on wait times for attractions, and show times, and even has a car finder feature for when it’s time to exit for the day. You can utilize the app to purchase tickets, and pay for merchandise or food and drinks while inside the park. There’s also GPS capabilities to help you navigate throughout the park.
Upgrade Your Parking
Unknown to many is the different parking options. If you are visiting the park with a stroller, you can ask for stroller parking, which is much closer than general parking, at no additional charge to avoid the transport with the courtesy trams. Also available is preferred and valet parking. These are both offered at an additional charge. Just ask your parking attendant and they’ll be happy to assist you.
Visit the Animals First
If you are interested in viewing the animals while visiting Busch Gardens, be sure to catch them when they are most active during the early morning. Also, some of the animals have designated times when the zookeeper is present in the enclosure with the animals, like the alligators. These times are listed on your map and the interactive app.
Hit the big coasters during peak lunch hours
Typically, most guests will take a lunch break between 11am and 2pm. If you plan accordingly, you can utilize this time frame to visit the usual crowded, big coasters to avoid the extended wait times. In my experience, the waits can decrease by as much as 20 minutes during the peak lunch times. Grab a pretzel or popcorn to enjoy while you walk to one of the thrill rides like Cheetah Hunt or Sheikra, then eat your full lunch after you’ve gotten your kicks.
Start in the Back of the Park
If you arrive at the park during the opening hours, be sure to trek to the back of the park nearest Congo River Rapids and Kumba to beat the crowds. Typically this part of the park isn’t heavily explored until after 10am. If you get a jump on the masses, you can get in a couple rides before the queue lines fill up.
Minimize Your Carry Ons to Maximize Time & Money
Almost all the thrill rides at Busch Gardens require riders to rent a locker to store their personal items, like back packs, purses, and/or cameras, while riding.. This policy is annoying, but it is in place for security reason. It can slow you down if you’re constantly in and out of the locker rooms for each ride, and the nickel and dime experience is such an inconvenience. But, if you minimize your personal items to the point where you can stick them inside your pockets (think cargo pants), you won’t be forced to rent a locker at every roller coaster. Even better, you can wear a fanny pack or running belt (like a flip belt) to secure your items. Ride policy does allow the waist pouches on rides because they remain secured by the ride’s harnesses. You may not look the coolest on that particular day, but you won’t care, because you’ll be enjoying the thrill rides to the extreme.
Avoid the wait for the front line and hit the back of the coasters for a surprising experience.
The front line for most roller coasters usually fills up first and can add an additional 10-15 minutes to your attraction wait time. People love the idea of being in the front of the coaster for thrill rides. But what most people don’t know is the back seat is the best spot on most roller coasters. Technically, it’s a personal preference, but if you like the feeling of weightlessness and the whip of the coaster, that’s where you’ll want to sit. If you don’t believe me, read this article here. Of course, if you prefer to have a front row seat for all the action, definitely take the time to ride in the front at least once, but don’t neglect to experience all the twists and turns from the back row’s perspective, and the good news is, the wait can be much much less than the front. Even more so, the middle of the coaster can offer an even quicker wait time.
Use Baby Swap to Ensure an Equally Enjoyable Experience for Everyone in Your Party
Many people don’t know about the child swap option for parents and parties with younger children. All you have to do is inform the attendant at the ride entrance that you’d like a child swap queue card. They will present you a card with a ride time and allow a portion of your party to enter the ride’s queue from the quick queue line to expedite the wait time. After the first group of riders exit the ride, they would then pass the child swap card to the other riders for admittance into the ride’s quick queue. This way, everyone in your party gets to ride everything equally.
Utilize the In-Park transportation to Get Around
Both the train and the sky ride can offer extremely valuable rest to the weary park-goer. The sky ride can transport passengers from the back of the park, through the Serengeti where the animals can be seen from overhead and the train has four stations at which to board to then transfer at a later station. In my experience, it’s best to board the train in Nairobi for a full Serengeti safari tour then exit near Stanleyville next to SheiKra. On a day when park attendance is high, the Congo station near Kumba and the Bumper Cars tends to be the least crowded for entry. Also it’s good to note that strollers can be taken on the train and sky ride , but they would need to be folded up for transport.
Escape the Elements (Like Rain & Heat) inside Attractions
Few places offer refuge from the elements at theme parks. Spots like gift shops and restaurants are always an option, but those locations get overcrowded and overrun with small children during peak operation hours. In case of thunderstorms or extreme heat, it’s good to know just where to seek out for cover and protection. Undoubtedly, the indoor entertainment options are the best, like Madagascar and Iceplorations, but you can also find shelter inside the tiger viewing area in Jungala and near the Treetop Trails (which is great for the younger kiddos). Another great hiding place for groups with small children is inside Sesame Street’s children’s play area. There’s a covered play area with everything from a sand box, a bouncy house and jungle mazes to keep the kiddos occupied during rain or excessive heat. Park benches offer a nice retreat for tired parents and guardians.
Book Your Tickets Online In Advance
You can save $$$ and time at the ticket counter by printing your tickets out from a home computer. There is also a baggage check before entry into the parks, so we can revisit my tip about avoiding bags and personal items to expedite your time upon arrival. Having your tickets printed and ready for the turnstiles is just really great planning that will reap you a lot more time inside the park.
Take Advantage of Pass Holder Benefits
If you are not already a season pass holder with Busch Gardens or Sea World, you may not be aware of the amazing deals they offer. Every month as a pass holder, you receive discounts, deals, freebies and special offers on everything from meals, adult beverages, in-park experiences, pictures, admission for guests and commemorative items. What this equates to is more fun, memories and adventures inside the park and the sister parks, like Aquatica, Adventure Island, Discovery Cove and Sea World. You can check out this web page for more information on pass member benefits and instant rewards, or you can take my word for it.
Do you have any tips or tricks for visiting Busch Gardens?
What attractions most appeal to you when visiting a theme park?
Do you like to explore everything at a theme park or just pick a couple attractions?
*** This post is in no way sponsored by Busch Gardens or Sea World Adventure Parks. I’m just a big fan. ***