With so much to do and see at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida, it’s difficult to know how to effectively manage your time in order to get the most out of it. This theme park doesn’t just have thrilling rides, it also has entertaining shows to watch, exotic animals to observe, and beautiful landscape displays to admire.
Visiting for only one day is difficult, but doable if you plan ahead. Weekdays are less crowded, but they also have shorter park hours. Oppositely, weekends offer longer hours, but larger crowds. Summer provides longer park hours, but also bigger crowds, longer lines, and scorching temperatures. Winter in Florida has moderate temperatures, not generally dipping below 70 degrees during the day, and the crowds are significantly smaller. My trip to Busch Gardens in Tampa was during the winter on a weekday and it gave me a great opportunity to experience everything the park had to offer.
No matter what time of year you visit, do some prep work before hand to make the most of your time in the park. First, go to the park website beforehand to know when the park opens and closes on your date of choice. Next, research the shows to see what interests you. Then, purchase tickets in advance of arriving. This ensures you will have one less line to wait in before entering the park. Lastly, download the Busch Gardens Discovery Guide park app on your smart phone. The app has tons of good information like ride wait times, show times, where restaurants and restrooms are located as well as a park map.
When the day comes, arrive at the park a few minutes before it opens. You will have one of the closest parking spots and be one of the first guests in the park. This means you can most likely ride a couple of major thrill rides before having to wait in a lengthy line.
Once in the park, immediately go to a major coaster near the back of the park like SheiKra, Kumba, or Falcon’s Fury. Because most visitors don’t tackle the park in this fashion, you will have a leg up in riding more rides without waiting. If you do have any sort of a wait while riding your first couple of rides, use this time to plan out the rest of your day.
Because of the research completed in advance, you should already know what shows interest you. If one of your selected shows performs in the cafeteria-style Dragon Fire Grill, make it a point to view this show during lunch or dinner, eat while you watch, and fully utilize your dining time.
Don’t forget to refer to the Busch Gardens Discovery Guide park app that you previously downloaded. It’s a great tool to better plan your day. If there’s a show you want to see that starts in an hour, the app will help you determine if you’re able to sneak in a ride and still be seated in time for the show to begin.
Once you’ve gotten a couple major rides and a show under your belt, the park will feel much more manageable. You can slow down, enjoy the scenery and animal exhibits, and not feel like you’ve spent all day either in a line or rushing around.
When the park closes no one wants to leave, but you can extend your park time by saving the Serengeti Railway ride until the end. If you board one of the last trains out of the main train station in Nairobi you are permitted to complete the entire circle back to Nairobi. This is a win-win strategy because the animals along the ride are more active in the morning and evenings, and your time in the park will easily be extended by about a half hour. Don’t worry about foregoing the opportunity to purchase souvenirs, though. The shops in Morocco (at the front of the park) are open later than the park closing time, so you’ll still have plenty of time for last minute purchases after the train ride.
If you do a little research ahead of visiting Busch Gardens in Tampa, there’s no worry about conquering this park in one day. If you’ve allotted two days to explore, you’ll definitely feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth and maybe even sign up for one of their behind the scenes tours.