Busch Gardens Tampa offers a rare combination of attractions, and as a result is very popular with visitors.
The park has a large collection of roller coasters for thrill seekers, and features world-class shows, but as home to more than 12,000 animals Busch Gardens Tampa is actually one of the largest zoos in North America.
Fun Things to Know About Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida
Busch Gardens opened in the spring of 1959 as part of a hospitality center for a an American brewer who bears a name you might recognize – Anheuser Busch, which had already celebrated its 100th birthday in 1952. In the day it was a modern take on a traditional German style beer garden.
But it didn’t take long for this garden to grow.
Bringing the Serengeti to the Sunshine State
By the mid 1960s, Busch Gardens was outgrowing the quaint beer garden next to the then parent brewery, and was on the way to becoming one of the largest and most respected zoological facilities in the country. That really began to take shape when the 29-acre Serengeti Plain was opened.
This free-roaming habitat became home to some of the most iconic animals from the African plains, including giraffe, zebras and exotic bongos. And while you won’t see them running wild on the Serengeti Plain, don’t be surprised if you hear a lion roar, as their habitat is also close by.
First Coaster in Tampa, Florida
With the growing popularity of Busch Gardens, it was time to add some high-flying thrills. That came in the form of the park’s first roller coaster, a steel corkscrew coaster called Python, which opened just a few days before the United States Bicentennial in July 1976.
It didn’t take long before the thrill rides became a focus, and suddenly this once quiet hospitality had planted the seeds to grow into a world-class theme park – one that would become one of the top attractions in Tampa, Florida.
From Tampa, Florida to Timbuktu
In 1973, one of the first themed areas in the park, Stanleyville, made its debut. In it was a new water flume ride with a 43-foot drop called Stanley Falls.
Then, in 1978, the park expanded its African theme with the creation of area designed to transport guests to the markets of one of the continent’s most storied destinations – Timbuktu.
The Gardens Take Over
When Kumba® roared onto the rollercoaster scene in 1993, coaster enthusiasts around the world began to take notice. This iconic steel legend by Bolliger & Mabillard (known as B&M to ride warriors) is still a favorite today.
By the time the brewery closed in 1995, Busch Gardens had begun to fully emerge into its own identity. The park then expanded onto the former brewery’s site with Gwazi®, a dueling wooden roller coaster.
By the time the park was nearing its 50th anniversary in 2009, it was clear that this world-class theme park was entering its prime. Today coasters like 2005’s SheiKra®, a floorless, 200-ft 90° drop coaster and 2011’s Cheetah Hunt®, a state-of-the-art, triple-launch coaster, and 2014’s Falcon’s Fury, North America’s tallest freestanding drop tower, have helped Busch Gardens secure a solid spot on the list of best theme parks for coaster enthusiasts.
Today the former Timbuktu site is home to Pantopia®, a massive renovation that was completed in 2014, with all new restaurants, shows and the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America, Falcon’s Fury™.