Busch Gardens Tampa with Grandchildren Part Two: The Perfect Itinerary

mapGrandpa and I took our older two grandchildren, ages ten and seven, to Busch Gardens Tampa over Spring Break 2014.  Busch Gardens is a wonderful combination of an interactive zoo and roller coaster park. We thought it might be crowded during a holiday weekend, and we were pleasantly surprised.  This park is most appropriate for older grandchildren.  The seven year old is tall so made most of the minimum 48 inch height requirements.  If your grandchildren do not reach 48 inches, this is not the park for you.  Yes, there is a Sesame Street area, but it is just like any amusement park with your typical boats, cars and planes that go round and round on a track.  There were many strollers, mostly parked at the average shows, which are geared for the younger set.  With our grandchildren, we skipped all the shows.

Our grandchildren gave Busch Gardens a ten!

This is part two:  the perfect itinerary.  Please see the first post on planning a trip to Busch Gardens.

The thirty acres of Busch Gardens can be tackled in one long day.  The park is usually open for twelve hours.  The first thirty minutes the park is open, roller coasters open are limited to Cheetah Run and Gwazi.  That is fine for the first day, as I am going to recommend you head to Cheetah Run first anyway.  It is such a great roller coaster that the grandchildren will want to go more than once.  Thirty minutes are then over.  However, it is better, especially if you have a Fun Card, to do a second morning at Busch Gardens.  On the second morning, the older grandchild headed over to Cheetah Run again with grandpa, but the younger wanted to go feed the kangaroos again.  That is open at 9 am for the younger grandchildren.  More about kangaroos later.  Adventure Island Water Park is the subject of another post.

Download the park’s interactive map before your visit to get the lay of the land and to follow the suggested itinerary below.  Work through the itinerary so you can see how the park lays out.

There are boards throughout the park which give you the times of animal feedings, animal lectures, and even operations on animals in the zoo hospital.  Pay attention to the boards as the times are throughout the day, and you will be near one of the special animal programs while on the itinerary.  These boards also give you wait times on the most popular rides.

Suggested Itinerary:   This itinerary is for one LONG day.  At the end are recommendations for a second morning, to wait and do the Serengeti Safari on the second day.  If not, watch the time and make sure you are at the Serengeti Safari Outpost in Nairobi 30 minutes before your scheduled tour, to use restrooms and grab a drink and a snack.  There is a lounge area where you wait for you to get off your feet before the safari and lockers are provided for your possessions.  No food or drink or backpacks or purses are allowed on the trucks.  Everyone has a camera or cellphone to take pictures.

Please refer to the interactive map as we go through the itinerary:

The park has ten areas.  Each has attractions, dining and shopping shown on the interactive map.  There is a skyride that goes over the park.  Skip it unless you are tired.  There is a train that goes around the park.  Skip it unless you are tired.  They say it takes 30-45 minutes, but can take up to an hour.  We were tired and were planning a second morning, so we took the train and the grandchildren and we rested.  It was okay for a ride and excellent for a rest.  I would not recommend using the train to go from one area to another as it is slow.

Stop at all of the animal habitats along the itinerary route.  We took lots of pictures of the animals which are much closer than you can see in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.   The animals are mostly behind glass, so close you can almost touch them.  As a matter of fact, our ten year old grandson reached to touch the glass, and the white tiger on the other side roared.  As he jumped, everyone roared—with laughter.

This Grandma does not do rides.  I held everyone’s backpacks so we did not have to use the available lockers.  One cannot take anything on the roller coasters because of the loops and corkscrews.  There was enough people watching and animal watching while waiting to keep this Grandma very busy.

Pick up your copies of your maps, your tickets for the Safari and passes just through the entrance.  Then turn right and immediately to through Egypt to Cheetah Hunt.    Stop and see the cheetahs behind glass panels, where you feel you can almost touch them, and take pictures.  Go on Cheetah Run roller coaster.  You must be 48” tall.  They check.  The seven year old went.  Yes, it has one upside down loop and one corkscrew, but is the tamest large roller coaster in the park.  It is a Linear Synchronous Motor (LSM) Launch Coaster, which uses the force of repelling magnets to launch riders from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds. Grandpa and the grandchildren commented on the propelling with speed.   Yes, the seven year old went on it once and not again.  We watched the Cheetahs while Grandpa and the ten year old went again and again without lines at 9 am. Even the seven year old gives this roller coast a 10.

We then went to Montu, the tallest and longest inverted roller coaster in the world, with seven upside-down loops, in Egypt.  Because it was early morning, there was no wait.  We were starting to wonder if we had bought our super duper passes unnecessarily even though there is a limited number and it was a holiday weekend!  You must be 54” to ride.  While the seven year old and I were waiting we did not look at the attractions like King Tut’s tomb.  It is a very fast ride.  Our grandson gave Montu a 10.  Grandpa, who loves, or I should say loved, roller coasters, was glad he did not want to go again.

From Egypt, we walked to Nairobi.  Again, stop at all of the animal habitats you see.  This is where the Serengeti Outpost is to take the Serengeti Safari.  Stop at the Animal Care Center, the animal hospital and go in.  Watch an operation or two.  It is cool inside and very educational.  Check the schedule to see if you want to come back and watch more.  Our grandchildren gave this a 10.  Then stop at the elephants.  We saw the animal trainers working with the elephants.  We watched for about ten minutes of the long program.   Rhino Rally is a recommended attraction, but was closed.  We inquired and were told that the park is expanding the animal habitat areas and may not reopen this popular ride.

Next, you will reach Timbuktu.  It is actual less walking than it seems looking on the map.  Our grandchildren went on SeaSerpent, a five-story “wild mouse”-style roller coaster 8 times.   It has a 46” height minimum.  Again, they check.  They give this roller coaster a 10.  Grandpa went once.  We did not do any of the other rides, nor did we watch the show.  There were lots of strollers at every show, so they are popular with families with smaller children.  As they are all just rated average, we did not want to spend the time.

This area of the park had detours due to the impending opening of Falcon’s Fury.  The opening has been delayed past May 1, 2014.

Next, go to the Congo, where Kumba roller coaster described as plunging riders from 110 feet into a diving loop, where you get a full 3 seconds of feeling weightless while spiraling 360 degrees, before tearing through one of the world’s largest vertical loops. Yes, of course, it has a 54” minimum height.  Our grandson gave this a 10 also.  At this point we were happy that we had the super duper pass.  Grandpa said he would get it again as it allowed children to be children and have immediate gratification of going on a ride again and again without the thirty to ninety minute waits.  The bumper cars are bumper cars.  We skipped the Congo Rapids to do a last roller coaster before lunch at Stanleyville, knowing we would backtrack and do water rides after lunch.

We went through Jungala several times, back and forth, viewed animals and did nothing else.

From the Congo, walk south into Stanleyville.  The star of Stanleyville the floorless SheiKra, described as where for 200 feet up and 90 degrees straight down, you can view the world – with a zero floor and a water-feature finale which happens so fast neither grandfather or grandchild could remember the splash while on it.  Yes, of course, it has a 54” minimum height.  Our grandson gave this a 10 also.  He said it looked worse than it was.  He LOVED this roller coaster and went on it 6 times in two days.  I do not know if Grandpa was happy about that.    Grandpa mentioned being in the first row of eight riders across and watching  as the roller coaster inches over the edge of the large drop and stops so you are looking straight down as it releases.

After a lunch of better than expected ribs at Zambia Smokehouse, we did, or I should say, Grandpa and the grandchildren did all the water rides.  Yes, they went alone again and again.  Yes, we brought towels and a change of clothes.   Two  water rides Stanleyville are  here are the Tanganyika Tidal Wave,, where it is described as a ride that ends in a drenching 55’ plunge.  Minimum height 48.”   The grandchildren went on this several times in a row.  They then did Stanley Falls Flume, described as a boat ride featuring a 40’ drop.  Minimum height 46.”  The grandchildren went on this several times in a row.  We walked back to Congo while they were still wet, and they went on Congo River Rapids, riding round boats going down rapids, themselves (42” minimum height) twice and got soaked even more.   We took a break, they changed and we had snacks.

Next is Sesame Street Safari of Fun.  Our seven year old at 48” was too tall for most of the rides.  We skipped this.

It was now on to Bird Gardens, and we were surprised we were at 4 pm and close to the time of feeding the kangeroos, which we did.  Our grandchildren refused to go into the Aviary which looked wonderful.  Walkabout Way is described as hand feeding and petting kangaroos and wallabies meant for ages 5 and up.  We all loved it.  As in all areas of this interactive zoo, it was well maintained and clean, the animals were healthy and friendly, and it was pure fun.  The flamingos were bright orange, and as we walked by, we read, as we did in other areas, about the flamingos and wondered if they were fed salmon, as they turn the color of their food, usually shrimp pink.

We were exhausted.  We had done so much do to our super duper expensive Quick Queue Unlimited passes.  But Gwazi roller coaster remained.  Gwazi is described as one of the largest and fastest wooden roller coasters in the southeast.  It has a minimum height of 48.”  Our seven year old granddaughter chose not to go on it and her brother and grandfather said it was a wise choice.  It was the least favorite roller coaster in the park, not only because of the hour, but being wooden, it was noisy and shook, not like the new metal and modern roller coasters everywhere else in the park.  Yes, all the rest got a 10 from our grandson.

On our way out of the park through Morocco, we stopped at the first store our grandchildren would enter, Sultan’s Sweets, of course, and had ice cream, and reviewed our wonderful day at Busch Gardens.

Yes, they wanted to return the next morning and we had booked the Serengeti Safari for 11:30 am the next morning.  See the first post about this amazing animal adventure.  Grandpa and our grandson did Cheetah Hunt and SheiKra roller coasters several times.  This Grandma and our seven year old granddaughter headed for the kangeroos.  Because there were so few people there first thing in the morning, the kangeroos were wandering among the guests and we loved it again.  After the Safari and lunch at Crown Colony, it was off to Adventure Island.

We will return and are planning at least one more visit this year on our Fun Cards with






















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