All About Florida’s Other Theme Park: Busch Gardens

Photo Credit: StockSnap from Pixabay 

If you’ve read our previous article about Disney World, and it seems like it may not be for you or your family, you can head over to the next best thing in Florida: the equally family-oriented Busch Gardens.

Located in Tampa, Florida, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a 335-acre African-themed animal theme park. It is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. It is the second-largest park (in terms of attendance, after SeaWorld Orlando) after Disney World. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay opened on March 31, 1959.

The park officially has nine roller coasters and two water rides. Popular roller coaster rides at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay are Tigris, Montu, SheiKra, Sand Serpent, Scorpion (Busch Gardens’ oldest roller coaster) and Kumba. All roller coasters are African-themed and located in different areas of the park. 

A new roller coaster ride, Iron Gwazi, is set to open in Spring 2020.

The water rides are Congo River Rapids and Stanley Fall Flume. A third water ride, Tanganyika Tidal Wave, closed on April 10, 2016.

There are actually two Busch Gardens amusement parks in the United States: one is located in Tampa Bay and the other is in Williamsburg, Virginia. Both parks hold annual events such as Howl-O-Scream and Christmas Town.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a 383-acre theme park located in James City County, Virginia. It opened on May 16, 1975 and is adjacent to the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

The Williamsburg park’s theme is European-inspired. The landscaping of the park is European-themed and known for its roller coasters Griffon, Alpengeist, and Apollo’s Chariot (won 4th place 2012 Golden Ticket Award for Best Steel Coaster).

Similar to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a park that features live animals roaming freely like in an African Safari. The park has nearly 12,000 animals representing more than 300 species. It boasts an Animal Care Center, a state-of-the-art facility that allows visitors to view animal care being conducted from treatments to x-rays.

There were previously two parks in Van Nuys, California (1964-1979) and another in Houston, Texas (1971-1973). The name “Busch Gardens” comes from the gardens of Adolphus Busch (of Anheuser-Busch), located in Pasadena, California.

Originally the parks were developed as marketing vehicles for Anheuser-Busch. Hospitality houses were initially featured with samples of Anheuser-Busch products. Stables that housed many of the company’s Clydesdale horses that were associated with Anheuser-Busch since 1933 were also included. The rides and attractions were later added to the parks and over time were developed into full theme parks (intended to promote Anheuser-Busch).

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment was created as a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch Companies to run the various parks in 1959.

InBev, the new owners of Anheuser-Busch, sold the amusement parks in 2009 to the Blackstone Group. The Blackstone Group has kept the traditions of the Clydesdale horse stables, however, they are not affiliated with the beer company. 

Currently, Busch Gardens competes with other theme parks in Florida and charges similar, competitive fees. Busch Gardens is accredited by AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums).