I am an Ambassador for Busch Gardens Tampa. I was not compensated for this post, but my family received complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens. All opinions expressed here are 100% mine. Please see my Disclosure Policy for more information. This post may contain affiliate links.
This past year, I had the honor of being an Ambassador for Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. One of the perks of the gig was that my family and I got to visit Busch Gardens twice this year. My husband and kids helped me come up with this list of our favorite things to do there. If you’re planning a visit to Busch Gardens, make sure you add these things to your “must see” list!
1. Sesame Street Safari of Fun: This was hands down everyone’s favorite spot in the park – and not just the kids. Sesame Street Safari of Fun was loaded with kid-friendly rides, a treehouse obstacle course, a giant sandbox, and a water play area. For my 6-year-old, it was love at first sight. She’s not a thrill-ride kind of kid, so she was super happy to find rides that weren’t scary but that still made her feel brave. She is petite – only about 44 inches tall – but she was able to ride all the rides. My husband and I were able to ride some of them with her, but for the most part they discouraged adult riders when the child was willing and able to ride alone.
My 9-year-old was a little skeptical of a Sesame Street themed attraction. She thought it would be “for babies.” However, she ended up liking it nearly as much as her sister. Her favorite part was the obstacle course. I was able to join her for part of it (some parts of the obstacle course are designed for kids only), and it was pretty fun!
Sesame Street Safari also has a really cute (and short) show featuring Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover, Abby Cadabby, and Zoe. It’s in this little outdoor theater, and the rows of benches are really close to the stage, so you get a great view of the characters – plus some of them stick around after the show to take photos!
My husband and I loved Sesame Street Safari too, mostly because it kept the kids busy for quite a long time – and also because it gave us a chance for some downtime.
2. Showtime! The shows at Busch Gardens are really fabulous, if you’re into that sort of thing (which we are). During the summer, our favorite show was Iceploration, which was performed in the Moroccan Palace theater. We loved watching the ice skaters in their gorgeous costumes, and there were even some live animals in the show.
And speaking of live animals, you definitely don’t want to miss Opening Night Critters in Pantopia Theater. It features rescued domestic and exotic animals, including dogs, cats, birds, and horse, and even a kangaroo. The birds whiz right above the audience – it’s super cool. And after the show, some of the animals and their trainers come out and take photos with audience members. My girls loved that part.
One of our visits to Busch Gardens was around Thanksgiving, just before they opened their Christmas Town attraction.
Busch Gardens Tampa’s Christmas Town, the Bay area’s biggest Christmas celebration is now included with any annual pass, Fun Card, or daily admission to the park.
Guests can look forward to special entertainment, live music, festive treats, holiday shopping and thousands of twinkling lights around every turn. It’s a Christmas event that’s fun for the whole family!
The park was already decorated for Christmas, and some of the shows were holiday-themed. I definitely hope to make it back for Christmas Town next year!
3, Up-Close Animal Encounters – especially the primates! Busch Gardens Tampa is one of the largest zoos in all of North America. It’s home to more than 12,000 animals belonging to more than 250 species – more than 30 of which are listed as threatened or endangered. It’s so much better than a traditional zoo because you’re able to get up close – and I mean really close – to the animals.
Look how close we got to the chimpanzees!
They were behind a glass wall, of course, but they were literally just inches away. Same with the orangutans (although there was a huge crowd around them and we couldn’t get close enough for pictures). The gorillas were more aloof, but they were still incredibly close. And the hyenas – oh my goodness! During one of our visits, we watched the hyenas during feeding time, which was fascinating and a little scary (definitely wouldn’t want to cross paths in a dark forest with a hyena). Oh, and I almost forgot – we got to hang out right next to kangaroos and wallabies. So cool!
A great way to see lots of animals at once is to ride the Serengeti Express.
With stops at the Congo, Nairobi and Stanleyville, this relaxing ride gives you a great view of our large free-roaming herds of African animals, including giraffe, zebra, antelope, ostrich and much more.
4. Skyride: Another great way to see a lot of animals – and another family favorite – is the Skyride. Ride high above the park in a cable car and see it all! I really loved this one – I don’t really do roller coasters, so this is about as exciting as it gets for me.
I should mention two things here: 1) During both of our visits to Busch Gardens, Skyride was periodically shut down due to inclement weather (even when the weather didn’t seem all that inclement to me). Just be prepared that there might be times when this ride is not be available. 2) I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that we got stuck up in the air during a ride malfunction. My kids were a little panicked, but I honestly never felt unsafe (and I’m not exactly what you’d call calm). I thought it added to the adventure of our day.
5. Sultan’s Sweets: No lie – I remember buying ice cream at Sultan’s Sweets during a school field trip when I was a kid. It was a seventh grader’s version of heaven. Giant scoops of ice cream in waffle cones as big as my head. Rows of candy as far as the eye could see. Glass counters filled with decadent desserts. 20+ years later and it’s still my most vivid memory from that trip to Busch Gardens. (I do love my sweets.)
So did it live up to my memories when I visited it as an adult? Yeah, pretty much. Especially when I viewed it through my children’s eyes. As you make your way through Busch Gardens, don’t forget to stop at Sultan’s Sweets for a treat. They’ve got fudge, cake, muffin, pastries, and everything in between – plus Starbucks coffee as the perfect afternoon pick-me-up for mom and dad. We’re a family of chocolate lovers, and this was definitely a highlight for us.
Being a Busch Gardens Ambassador has definitely been one of my favorite blogging jobs so far. My family created a lot of wonderful memories during our Tampa vacations, and we will definitely be back! Thank you so much to the wonderful folks at Busch Gardens for selecting me as part of the team – it’s been a pleasure working with you!