Lately I’ve seen a number of great deals to Busch Gardens Tampa. $45 Discount tickets are on Daily Getaways and there’s a targeted AMEX offer for $20/$100 online ticket purchase. The timing couldn’t be better to share Busch Gardens Tampa tips as Deal Girl and I were invited to visit just last week.
Our verdict: Busch Gardens Tampa is an antidote for an overdose on Orlando “magic”.
Busch Gardens features all of the requisite items any theme park lover requires: six (!) roller coasters will placate any thrill seeker. Our favorite was Cheetah Hunt, which is over 3/4 mile long and goes from zero to 60 right off the start. I’m also a fan of the classic Congo River Rapids which started off our day with a splash.
We also enjoyed our visit to Sesame Street’s Safari of Fun. Even though Deal Girl is 10 and I’m, well, well over 10 we had a blast climbing through the rope maze. And I’ll neither confirm nor deny that we rode Grover’s Roller Coaster twice in a row…because we could.
However, our favorite part of Busch Gardens didn’t involve any of the rides: the animals stole the show. From the lories who camped on Deal Girl’s head to the joey learning to hop we spent hours enjoying the animal antics. Exotic species appeared around every corner like this white peacock just hanging out with the flamingos.
Busch Gardens is also just plain pretty. The park is thoughtfully laid out so we never felt packed. Topiary hid around every corner.
Busch Gardens Tampa Tips
- Buy your tickets online and print them before you get there. You;’ll not only save money, you’ll breeze right into the park by skipping the will-call line. You’ll save a bit on parking (but no time) by buying that in advance as well.
- Download the Busch Gardens Tampa app from Android or Apple before you arrive. We found wait times in the app to be more accurate than those listed on the rides themselves. It’s also got a cute “passport to fun” scavenger hunt.
- I’d skip the quick queue- on days it’s affordable (as low as $16) you won’t need it. On a peak day like when we visited it was over $60 for the base and $79 for the unlimited. Unless you’re REALLY into rides you’ll find plenty to do with shorter lines. We did three coasters, the log flume, and the river rapids among other rides and with the app didn’t spend more than 15 minutes in line on any of them. Lines did go over an hour in the afternoon for those who were willing to wait. It just wasn’t an issue for us and I don’t think would be for most families, either.
- As with most parks, you’ll get the most out if your visit by getting there right at open.
That said, if you have to choose between open and leaving in the afternoon and arriving late and staying till close, I’d stay til close. The animals were SO much more active once it started cooling down.
I’m on the fence about the All Day Dining deal.
For $35 ($20 for kids) for all you can eat and drink it looks great on paper. However, the strings attached are (almost) deal-breakers.
- To start, you can only use the deal at the four main-service restaurants, but not the nicest sit-down one- where I would have preferred dining.
- You also have to go through the entire line even if all you want is a bottle of water. That meant we didn’t even activate our all you can eat bracelets until almost 4PM as it wasn’t worth 20 minutes to us to get that bottle of water or ice cream cone.
- Snacks are only included if you, again, go through the entire line at one of the four designated restaurants. This effectively takes your dippin’ dots, funnel cakes, and all of your other standard theme park fare off the table. You do qualify for buy one get one free on selected snacks with the bracelet, but only after you have been through a main line once to get the actual bracelet- the ticket for the deal isn’t enough to qualify for the discount.
- That said, we still got our money’s worth out of the bracelets by having lunch just before 4 and dinner right at 8PM closing. We just didn’t get the extra value I was expecting. Our hotel had breakfast included- if it hadn’t and we had arrived at open the deal would have made more sense.
- Busch Gardens Tampa’s food quality is also pretty high for a theme park. Even basic items like wraps featured unexpected ingredients and were full of flavor.
Ways to save on Busch Gardens Tampa tickets
- You should get something off the retail at any time of year.
- If you’re military, you qualify for a free ticket! Busch Gardens also gives free passes to preschoolers at certain times of year. Check out Busch Gardens’ website and local ads for discounts.
- Other solid sources are Groupon, Best of Orlando, and Undercover Tourist (another frequent AMEX offer partner).
- CityPass might be your best deal if you have multiple days in Tampa- we loved the Chihuly museum in St. Pete which is also on the CityPass.
- If you intend to visit any other Seaworld Parks including Busch Gardens Williamsburg I’d highly recommend considering the multi-park platinum pass. Three days and you’ve paid for the entire year.
Are you a fan? What Busch Gardens Tampa tips do you have? Please share in the comments as I know we’ll be back to visit soon.
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