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20 Top Tips for Busch Gardens Tampa for Adults

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Florida is famous for theme parks. The hub is undoubtadly Orlando but for real thrillseekers, there is one theme park that stands above the others. Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida has a huge selection of rollercoasters and other big rides, some cool themeing, awesome animals and costs considerably less than the the big two brands down the road. It is especially good for childfree adults who just want a crazy day out for themselves. The best day at Busch Gardens has thrill rides, animal encounters and something tasty. Here are our top tips for Busch Gardens Tampa for adults.

Spending a bit of time in Tampa? Check out our fun itinerary for Tampa Bay

This post may contain sponsored content or affiliate links that help support the blog. All opinions are our own.

1.) Arrive Early and Know What’s Open

To make the most of a day at Busch Gardens we recommend arriving at the car park around 20 minutes before the gates open. This allows you time to grab your bits fom the car, hop on the trolley busses that take you to the park, and get a spot in line just in time to enter the park.

From here, make your way to the back of the park where you will find three big rides that are open from the very first admission, Kumba, Falcon’s Fury & Tigris. (It might be a good idea to have your breakfast very early, or after this first set of rides so you don’t see your breakfast again halfway over a loop-the-loop). Most people stop at the first few rides so these should all be walk on for you.

2.) Make Your Locker Choice

The locker systems at Busch Gardens are a little confusing. Guests can pay for lockers fall day as a kind of moving prospect. You make one payment and can use the lockers as often as you need for as long as you need, wherever you find them.

  • Standard (7.5″ h x 13″ w x 18″ d): $10 per day
  • Large (10.5″ h x 16.5″ w x 18″ d): $15 per day
  • Jumbo (13.5″ h x 22.5″ w x 18″ d): $20 per day

You can also hire a locker for just one stint but with so many large rollercoasters, you might want to leave your things as you run between them.

Some people just put their belongings on the side as they ride, something familiar to British theme park goers but this is of course, always at your own risk.

3.) Get Your App and Map

Every theme park worth its salt now has an app. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has a great app that is clear, simple to use. You can check park times, show times and really easily upgrade to all kinds of experiences or line skips. The map is good and has wait times on as well as ride closures. Combined with the signs, getting arouond and planning our day was so easy. Download the app before you leave the world of wifi to make sure it’s ready to go when you arrive.

4.) Stay Hydrated

You can bring in a bottle of water to Busch Gardens Tampa, but not your own cooler of drinks.

Soft Drinks – Water

There are free water stations at some of the bathrooms in Busch Gardens which is an immportant thing to remember. If you don’t like sweet soft drinks, want to save some cash or need to hydrate quickly then keep an eye out for them when you pop to the loo.

Soft Drinks – Refills

If you love a fizzy drink/soda/pop then make a beeline for a stall selling the refillable plastic cups early on. You are going to want to make the most of your drink purchase after all. For just $20 you get free refills of Coke products all day. It includes the icy slushy drinks which is quite the relief when you are full of bubbles or insanely hot.

Hard Drinks – The Bars

If you like your drinks to be a little more adult, you have a few options for a quick drink, or lesiurely pint, throughout the park. This makes total sense when you learn that the parks were orignally just a publicity vehicle for the brewery that used to own them, Anheuser-Busch. The Dragon Fire Grill & Pub, Springs Taproom and Garden Gate Cafe all offer different numbers of craft beers, frozen drinks and cocktails. They are all nice in their own way but our favourite spot for a boozy beverage is The Giraffe Bar.

The Giraffe Bar on the side of the Serengeti overlook restaurant complex serves craft beer, cider, wine and tasty cocktsails. That includes margaritas on tap and some fun frozen options too. I can particularly recommend The Hungry Tusker. It has a shot of my favourite South African liqueur; the creamy, and deliious Amarula. Head onto the balcony and as you sip, you can watch animals on the Serengeti area, giraffes in particular.

5.) Know Your Rides

Before you enter the park, if you are at all diminuative, check the height chart. This is meant to be for kids but as a five foot female, I was a little concerned that I might not make the cut. It seems that only a few rides would be out of bound for anyone four and half foot or less.

Once you are in the park, it is good to know what you are in for when you join a ride queue just in case there is a particular aspect you dislike. Here is a quick guide to the big coasters.

  • Cheetah Hunt a speed ride with three launches that whip you up to 60mph in a second or two.
  • Cobra’s Curse  A small coaster that goes forwards, backwards and also involves a spinning ride car.
  • Montu An inverted coaster (hanging) which involves seven loops or rolls.
  • Scorpion A cute little coaster that has a loop-the-loop. It is from 1980 and has a nice gravity le moment.
  • Sand Serpent A small car coaster whipping you around tight corners, jamming the brakes on in a rather alarming way. It is reminicant of the Rattlesnake at Thorpe Park or Indiana Jones at Disneyland Paris.
  • Kumba  A huge steel coaster with a roaring noise and seven twists or loops.
  • SheiKra – This rollercoaster has two foward facing drops (90 degrees from the floor).
  • Iron Gwazi – A hybrid coaster with a 62m hill that turns into a 91° drop. You’ll lose your seat
  • Tigriss – A small ride that packs a punch with inversions and super speed both forwards and backwards.
  • Seregeti Flyer – A huge swing ride. Sit on the side away from the queue for animal views, and towards it for park views.
  • Stanley Falls Flume – A classic log flume with minimal themeing but a nice drop.
  • Congo River Rapids – A river rapids with jets, waterfalls and those cheeky water guns controlled by other parkgoers.

6.) What to Bring in Your Park Bag

Here are a few items you won’t want to leave at home when visiting Busch Gardens:

  • Sun Cream/Sun Block – Florida is hot and sunny much of the time and you don’t want to get caught out and burn. Don’t forget to reapply if you get wet.
  • Your Phone – Stay connected, play games when you are bored in the queue, take loads of pictures videos and use the Busch Gardens app for getting around etc.
  • A Portable Charger/Power Bank – This is one option for keeping your phone powered up. There is a charging station located in Panotopia, next to the Scorpion Coaster and Falcon’s Fury drop ride. You will need to bring a plug and cable and can’t move as it charges so the power bank is a better option.
  • A Waterproof Phone Cover or Pouch – If you want photos or videos from your water rides then you will need to protect your device.
  • A Poncho – Yup, waterpoof ponchos can look silly but it rains in Florida sometimes and there water rides to contend with. A poncho keeps your bag dry in a way a rain jacket wouldn’t. so if you aren’t utilising the lockers, this is a must have.
  • Sunglasses – Don’t forget to take them off on the big rides!
  • A Water Bottle – If you are planning to save on drinks then this is a must.
  • Plasters and Painkillers – Good for bumps, bruises and blisters that appear throughout the day..
  • A Fan – I used to think these Mini fans were madness but when you are stood in a line with no breeze they make a world of difference to keep you cool.
  • Harness – It is possible to wear an action camera on the rides if it is properly secured on a chest or wrist harness.
  • A Payment Card – Busch Gardens is cashless. You can bring cash and load up a prepaid card but it is much easier to just bring one along with you.
  • ID – If you are over 21 and want to drink, bring something to prove it!

Of course, you could be one of the cool kids and just have your phone but I wouldn’t cope!

7.) What to Wear to Busch Gardens

This is a little weather dependant but as it is most often warm in Florida, that is what we shall assume:

  • Clothes – No joke. Shoes, shirts and shorts must remain on…no matter how soaked they get. We recommend light, quick drying fabrics, no jeans or thick cargo shorts.
  • Comfortable Shoes – You will be walking and running and standing alot so choose your footwear wisely. You will be warm so don’t wear anything super thick or tight and your feet might get wet. love my jellies as we all know but walking sandals is a good bet.
  • Lanyard – If you have a Quick Queue pass, access pass or Photo Key, this is the easiest way to keep hold of it. Busch Gardens uses printed cardboard passes so they need a little looking after. Don’t forget to tuck it in when riding.
  • Shorts with Zip Pockets – These allow you to keep an essential or two with you on the rides. If you want to take photos or play games on your phone until you board, this is the most secure way to keep it on you.
  • A Hat – This is a good way to protext yourself from the sun but remember that a hat is very likely to fly off on rollercoasters so don’t leave it on when you ride.
  • Dress with Shorts – You can absolutely wear a dress to Busch Gardens Tampa but to preserve your modesty as you clamber on and off ride seats, and prevent chub rub, wear some shorts underneath!
  • No Costumes or Masks – These are just not allowed and that includes the Halloween events etc as well.
  • A “Proper” Top with No IP – You can’t wear anything with the park’s IP on so the kiddies don’t get confused. You must also avoid swearing, nudity or offensive slogans on your attire.
  • No Exposed Undies – Just keep your smalls to yourself.
  • Avoid Hair Clips and Earrings – Both of these thingscan be ripped off, or jabbed into your head and neither of these is pleasant!

8.) Time to Dine

Dining All Day?

At Busch Gardens Tampa, All Day Dining can be had for just $49.99. This allows you to sit and enjoy a meal every 1.5 hours. “A meal” consists of one main dish (from a small selection at each included eatery), one drink, and one side or dessert. This seems like a great deal BUT how often are you sitting to eat when you have one day in a theme park full of fun rides? Some of the snack spots in the park aren’t included in All Day Dining so unless you are really planning to sit down and eat full meals, or just have tiny bits of everything on offer, it won’t pay for itself. Oh, and there is NO sharing or you’ll get in torule.

We ate breakfast before our visit, had some pizza from Oasis Pizza at lunch which cost us around $14 each, and then ate dinner after the park closed. It is not open until 22:00 like some parks so going for a meal after park hours is quite normal. The food outside of the park was also much better quality so worth the extra effort of driving into town for our evening meal.

Some food spots that are worth trying, especially if you don’t have the dining plan:

  • Dragon Dogs has some regular hot dogs and a couple of more unusal options. You can mobile order here so it is real quick service option.
  • Moroccan Delights doesn’t do what it says on the tin. This is actually an ice cream shop with cones and shakes on offer.
  • Twisted Tail is the popular spot that sells big, soft pretzels in both sweet and savoury varieties along with canned cocktails, seltzers beers and wines.
  • Chick-fil-A seems to be the most popular option at the park and always has a line. We avoid it as a matter of principle but I hear the chicken burgers are very tasty.
  • Coaster Coffee is for those that just can’t function without their Starbies.

9.) Meet the Animals

If your main reason for visiting Busch Gardens is to some of the 2,700 resident animals then get to the park early. As the day warms up, the animals slow down. There are plenty of animal enclosures dotted throughout the park (alligators, cheetahs, orangutans and gorillas can all be spotted easily). Some other wonderful ways to see the Busch gardens fauna include:

  • Animal Connections – This walk through attraction is a building full of smaller animals. The stars have got to be the pink flamingoes and gorgeous sloths. If you visit at the right time you can help feed the animals…just elbow the kids out of the way first. Free.
  • The Serengeti Express – This is most chilled out way to see the animals. Hop on the train and enjoy a trip along the side of several animal eonclosures, only seen from the train. Free.
  • Serengeti Safari – This is a 30 minute game drive in the Serengati Plains area. You may get to feed giraffes if you are lucky, and spot soe more of the large animals, like zebra and rhinos out here. Charged.
  • Keeper Talks – To learn more about some of the animals that live here, check the app for the keeper talks. The people who look after the animals will treat you to some fun facts and special secrets. Free.

10.) Seek the Shade

It is going to be a long day and there isn’t all that much shade when you are walking around the park. If you are sitting for a rest, waiting for a locker or anything else really, take the chance to snag some shade. This isn’t the time to be topping up the tan.

11.) Run for the Train

The Serengeti Train doesn’t come very often. It slowly puffs around the park and takes about 30 minutes to do the full loop, which is nice when you need a sit down, or to see the animals. It is rubbish to wait for it though, so if you hear the whistle, it is worth running for!

12.) Skip the Shows

This is only relevant if you only have one day. If you have longer, then the shows are lovely excuse to sit down in some air conditioning, or out of the rain. The ice skating show is amazing with gravity defying jumps and stunts, cool costumes and a great soundtrack.

13.) Consider the PhotoKey

There are so many big ride in Busch Gardens Florida that you aren’t going to be creating a cute reel of you as you go round (a la content creators for The Mouse). This might actually be one theme park where buying a photo pass is worth it. For $50 you’ll get a whole day’s worth of photos both on the rides and from the photographers that are dotted around the park. In terms of rollr coasters, that makes it around $5 per snap…and that’s pretty good value. You can preview your snaps at one of the PhotoKey kiosks and link hem to your card and/or order some cute phyiscal products (keychains etc).

14.) Parking at Busch Gardens

Parking at Busch Gardens is $30 a day or at least $45 for prefered parking. Prefered is closer to the entrance and has some shade. You can catch the free trams from the regular parking lot or walk…but it isn’t a very nice walk. It is along a hot pavement, under a bridge wth the trams going past (the petrol fumes were quite intense). Try and park near the tram if possibe. The extra steps might not feel that important at the beginning of the day. when you still have plenty of pep in your step. However, 10 hours later, your feet are probably going to be a little sore and suddenly, that extra 300m can feel like 300 miles.

15.) When to Visit Busch Gardens

Visiting Busch Gardens Tampa on a Monday or Tuesday in generally less busy. Less people travel during the week and local kids are at school. It is also affected by the overflow effect from other theme parks in the Orlando. Usually, people will start their week at Disney or Universal and migrate to Busch Gardens on Friday and Saturday.

We would normally suggest avoiding big holidays. I would have expected Spring Break to be included with this but if you play your cards right, this can still be a good time to visit. March has lovely weather, the Food and Wine festival and a buzzy atmosphere. Defintely avoid the winter holidays, any long weekends if you can and the beginning of the school holidays. (If you are from Europe, the end of August is a good time if you handle the heat and humidity as local schools have usually gone back).

16.) Fun for Foodies

The food and Wine festival takes place in March and April with extra tasting stalls and even music concerts. if you want to take part, make sure you check the calendar. However, this also makes the other weekday dates around them less busy as locals like to visit on the special days.

During the festival a whole section of the park is dedicated to delicious treats from around the world. Visitors buy a special tickets that incudes a set number of samples (10-15 usualy). Then you can peruse the stands and pick your tasters. In 2023, this included wines from South America, wine flights with four different European varieties and cocktails on the drinks sides. In terms of food, there were loads of Latin flavours to explore with Cuban tacos, Brazilian saffron chicken, encebollado stew and mole beef & sweet plantains. It all sounded so good!

17.) Question the Quick Queue

Dont’ buy the Quick Queue in advance unless you are here to ride the rides multiple times. We seriously considered purchasing the passes but the queues were all under 30 minutes, with plenty of big rides just a 5-10 minute wait. It woulld NOT have been worth it. If you are planning to visit during a busy time then look into it. If not, turn up at the park and gauge the crowds first, you can purchase them on the day.

18.) Rain, Rain, Go Away…

…you can come another day. If rain ruins your day at Busch Gardens Tampa (and we don’t mean that the drizzle made your frizzy), you will receive a free visit to the park. This ticket must be used within 1 year of your original visit. This is great if you are around for a while or live locally but annoying if you’re visiting from elsewhere.

19.) Park Closure Tips

The park attendants let people join the queues p until about 10 inutes before park close so if there is something you want to ride one last time, aim to get there with 20 minutes before park closure just to be sure. You never know, there might be a chance to go round twice if you’re really, really lucky.

You can refill your drinks cup right up until park closes so don’t forget to load it up as you leave with one last yummy beverge. We took some diet cola with us but saw plenty of people filling theirs with slushies for the road.

20.) Adventure Island

If you have more than one day then consider bundling your ticket with a visit to Adventure Island. This is a waterpark owned by the same group. It has one of the longest lazy rivers in Florida (the perfect place to chill) and ten awesome slides (the perfect place to thrill). Some of the slides are only open at the weekend so check out their website to ensure there is enough to keep you occupied if you are here during the week. From the tiki bar to cabanas that you can pay to rent for the day, you’ll have a super time.

Final Thoughts on Our Tips for Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa is a brilliant theme park with some epic exhilieration and decent cocktails, making it perfect for adults. By following our tips for Busch Gardens, you will hopefully have fun and save money avoiding spending on things that aren’t worth it, and instead focusing on the things that are to you. Do you want a whole lot of photos, a whole lot of food or a whole lot of goes on the rides? Whatever a visit means to you, Busch Gardens Tampa remains a must-visit destination for those seeking an action-packed and memorable getaway in Florida.

Rosie xx

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