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Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (formerly known as Busch Gardens Africa and Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent) is a 335-acre (136 ha) African-themed animal theme park located in the city of Tampa, Florida. Busch Gardens Tampa is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and is the 2nd largest park in terms of attendance behind SeaWorld Orlando. The park officially features nine roller coasters and two water rides amongst other rides and animal attractions.
Alongside sister waterpark Adventure Island (30-acre (12 ha)), Busch Gardens is the anchor of Tampa's 365-acre (148 ha) amusement multiplex. Currently Busch Gardens competes with other such parks in Florida and charges comparable fees. Busch Gardens is currently accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). In 2015, the park hosted 4.2 million people, placing 11th as the most-visited theme parks in the United States.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2017)
Busch Gardens Tampa opened on March 31, 1959 as an admission-free hospitality facility for Tampa Anheuser-Busch; in addition to various beer tastings, they had a bird garden and the "Stairway to the Stars", which was an escalator that took guests to the roof of the brewery.
Busch Gardens continued to grow and in 1965, opened the 29-acre (12 ha) Serengeti Plains, which allowed the African wildlife to roam freely. It continued to focus on its tropical landscape, exotic animals and amusements to draw visitors. Busch Gardens began charging admission as the entertainment became more complex, with extra fees for the thrill rides, such as the roller coasters for which Busch Gardens is now known. On April 19, 2019, Busch Gardens opened its newest roller coaster, a Sky Rocket II named Tigris.
Themed areas and attractions
Train cars from the Serengeti Express in the foreground with the Skyride in the background
The Skyride transports guests between Cheetah Hunt Plaza and Stanleyville.
The park's main entrance. Treats can be purchased at the Sultan's Sweets and the Zagora Cafe. The Moroccan Palace is located here, as well as the outdoor Marrakesh Theater. Gwazi was the major ride in this area and a new hybrid roller coaster ride (Iron Gwazi) will take its place.
Gwazi Gliders, a small hang glider flat ride relocated from the Congo section's defunct Pygmy Village kids area.
Myombe Reserve, a 3-acre (12,000 m2) home for six lowland gorillas and nine chimpanzees located in Nairobi, opened in 1992.
Moroccan Palace, A palace themed theater nearby Myombe Reserve chimpanzee entrance. It is home for Busch Gardens's newly award-winning ice skating show, Turn It Up! The Hottest Show On Ice.
Iron Gwazi, a hybrid wooden-steel roller coaster currently under construction. In 2019, Busch Gardens Tampa announced that a new hybrid coaster would be built on the space where Gwazi once stood. It is currently being built by world famous roller coaster manufacturer Rocky Mountain Construction. When completed, it will be North America's tallest hybrid coaster as well as also being the world's fastest, and steepest hybrid coaster. Opening Spring 2020.
Sesame Street Safari of Fun
Former "Land of the Dragons" children's section of the park. Land of the Dragons, which itself replaced the Dwarf Village in 1995, was replaced by Sesame Street Safari of Fun on March 27, 2010. It contains all the attractions from Land of the Dragons which are now re-themed. It also contains four new attractions.
SheiKra, the first Dive Coaster in North America, seen descending its first drop
This section of the park is home to one the park's water rides, Stanley Falls Flume. It is also home to launch coaster Tigris, and SheiKra, which was the first and only Dive Coaster in the United States until the addition of Griffon at the sister park Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The section opened up in 1973 with the addition of the Stanley Falls Flume. The African Queen Boat Ride opened in 1977 as Busch's version of Disney's Jungle Cruise. The African Queen featured live animals, including alligators, crocodiles, rhinoceroses and spider monkeys. A colorful South American macaw rode on each boat as a first mate. There was also a cast member, dressed in African warrior regalia, who surprised each boat as it passed through a riverside village. The warrior was featured in television ads for the park in the early 1980s. In 1989, the African Queen Boat Ride was transformed into Tanganyika Tidal Wave with the addition of a 55-foot (17 m) drop that generates a giant splash. The section remained unchanged until 2005, when SheiKra opened and the surrounding area was renovated.
Kumba, a signature roller coaster to the park upon opening, entering the first interlocking corkscrew
This section, themed to the jungles of Congo, contains two of the park's most popular rides, Kumba and Congo River Rapids. In November 2006, Congo underwent major renovation, including the removal of the park's classic Python corkscrew roller coaster. Other former Congo attractions include the Swinging Vines, family swing flat ride closing in the early 1990s and the Monstorus Mamba octopus flat ride closing in the late 1990s. And the Pygmy Village kids area featuring three children's rides, a teacup ride, a kiddie swing ride relocated to Sesame Street Safari of Fun and the Gwazi Gliders moved to Morocco.
Kumba, meaning roar in Swahili, is a 143-foot (44 m) steel sit-down roller coaster with seven inversions. Built in 1993 by Bolliger & Mabillard, it remains a popular ride today. The ride was repainted in 2010, and again in 2019.
Congo River Rapids, a water ride that simulates raging whitewater rapids. The ride opened in 1982.
Opened on April 5, 2008, Jungala is a 4-acre (16,000 m2) family attraction featuring up-close animal encounters, rope bridges to explore three stories of jungle life, and a water-play area for children. Also located in this area are two family attractions: Jungle Flyers, a zip line that offers three different flight patterns above the treetops of the new area, and Wild Surge, a shot tower that launches guests above a waterfall. Another attraction is Tiger Trail, which is a walkthrough with tigers where there is also a glass turret where you can look out right in the middle of the tiger enclosure. During the Kareebu Jungala atmosphere show, stiltwalkers perform with puppets and interact with guests in the heart of Jungala.
Jungle Fliers, a zip line ride(Closed As Of 2018)
The Wild Surge, a Moser family launch tower ride.
Orangutan Outpost, a tree-top observation platforms to watch and interact with orangutans. As of 2017, Busch Gardens has 6 orangutans including 3 males and 3 females.
Tiger Lodge and Tiger Trail, Observation areas, trails and a bridge to watch and interact with tigers. Busch Gardens has at least 10 tigers. On March 31, 2013, Bzui, a female Malayan tiger, gave birth to three cubs sired by Mata. She had two males and one female. The males were named Bundar(meaning round) and Rukayah(meaning delicate). The female was named Cinta(meaning love).
Falcon's Fury, added in 2014, as viewed from the ground with the gondola ascending
A section originally themed after the malls and bazaars of Africa that opened up in May 1980 as Timbuktu. The Phoenix was built in 1984 and remains a popular ride to this day. The section was renovated in 2003. Important elements added during this facelift included the enclosing of the Timbuktu Theater, which replaced the park's Dolphin Theater with an indoor 4-D movie theater. The dolphins retired to other locations. The 4-D theater premiered with "R.L Stine's Haunted Lighthouse" film in 2003, followed by "Pirates 4D" in 2006 and "Sesame Street Presents: Lights! Camera! Imagination!" in 2010. In 2004, Das Festhaus was transformed into the Desert Grill, and the park's family-friendly Sand Serpent wild mouse roller coaster opened, replacing the Crazy Camel Trabant flat ride. In September 2014, Falcon's Fury, a 335-foot drop tower, opened, replacing the former Sandstorm orbiter flat ride. This section of the park was re-themed to Pantopia alongside the opening of Falcon's Fury.
Phoenix, an Intamin Looping Starship themed as an Egyptian cargo vessel. Currently, It is standing but not in operation. Phoenix is currently closed until further notice.
Pantopia Theater, an indoor theater that originally housed Opening Night Critters with the opening of Pantopia in 2014. In Spring 2019, it is now home to Critters Inn Charge after Opening Night Critters closed.
Caravan Carousel, a carousel with horses, camels, and chariots.
Falcon's Fury, a drop tower that has a speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) and tilts 90 degrees towards the ground. It is the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America at 335 feet (102 m).
Alligators and crocodiles can be observed here up close. In Curiosity Cavern, guests can view mammal and reptile exhibits. Visitors to Nairobi can meet the Animal Ambassadors who travel the country and make educational appearances at Jambo Junction. The area also contains Myombe Reserve, a tropical rainforest that is home to Western lowland gorillas and common chimpanzees. In 2012 the Animal Care Center opened, allowing guests to observe actual veterinary procedures, as well as meet the stars of Wildlife Docs, Busch Gardens' Saturday morning television show. The main train station at Busch Gardens is located at Nairobi. Another popular attraction here is the Asian elephant exhibit. Nairobi used to have a safari truck ride called Rhino Rally, similar to Kilimanjaro Safaris at Walt Disney World. The attraction closed in 2015.
Animal Care Center, a nearly 16,000-square-foot (1,500 m2) attraction, allows visitors the chance to view the Busch Gardens' veterinarians at work in a new state-of-the-art veterinary hospital. The major visitor aspects of the facility include a nutrition demonstration kitchen, treatment rooms, a clinical lab and an interactive diagnostic activity. Behind the scenes the veterinary hospital also includes the animal nutrition center, animal recovery and holding rooms and vet offices. The park's former animal care center was located behind the scenes.
Elephant Interaction Wall, the Nairobi section of the park has five female and one male (arrived from the Calgary Zoo in 2013) Asian elephants. The females are named Tina who is 50 years old, Rosie who is 49 years old, Simba who is 51 years old, Carina who is 47 years old and Carnaudi who is 29 years old. There are daily interactions at the Elephant Interaction and Husbandry Wall or during the Elephant Keeper Experience.
Edge of Africa/Cheetah Hunt Plaza
Crown Colony House
Edge of Africa, otherwise known at Cheetah Hunt Plaza, is the smallest section of the park. It features a restaurant, The Serengeti Overlook Restaurant and Pub, the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, and the Skyride station.
Cheetah Hunt, a multi-launch steel roller coaster that opened in 2011. A suspended monorail previously occupied Cheetah Hunt's station.
Cheetah Run, an animal exhibit located next to Cheetah Hunt. It replaced the Clydesdale Hamlet. In May 2011, Cheetah Run opened. Cheetah Run is home to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay collection of cheetahs. There are running demonstrations and Meet a Keeper sessions throughout the day. In addition, the exhibit has interactive screens with cheetah facts. One of Cheetah Run's most notable residents is Kasi, a male cheetah, who was paired with Mtani, a female Labrador Retriever, from 2011 to 2013 when they were young. Mtani now lives with a zookeeper and Kasi has been paired with a female Cheetah. As of 2013, Busch Gardens has 14 cheetahs.
Montu, being the fastest and tallest inverted roller coaster upon opening, seen making its way through the last series of corners
Bedouin tents, authentic handicrafts and art create an Egyptian marketplace feel. The primary attraction of the Egypt-themed area is Montu, an inverted steel coaster. Tut's Tomb, a former audio guided walk-through tomb excavation closed in Winter 2013 and the interior was gutted to make way for the queue for Cobra's Curse. The former Golden Scarab Gift Shop was converted into a gift shop at the exit of the attraction.
Busch Gardens is Tampa's largest zoo, with more than 200 species of animals.
Animal Care Center
A state-of-the-art facility that allows visitors to view animal care being conducted from treatments to x-rays.
The Wildlife Docs, an Emmy nominated television series that follows animal caretakers treating more than 12,000 different animals living in Busch Gardens Tampa.
A free flight aviary that shows over 500 tropical birds from around the globe including parrots, flamingos and others. The original section of the park opened in 1959. The area for the most part remains mostly gardens and animal exhibits. A staple attraction that once stood in this section was the brewery. However, the brewery closed in 1995 and Gwazi now sits where the brewery was located. In 2014, the Bird Gardens theater was demolished and the former show (Critter Castaways) is now housed in the Pantopia Theater under the new name "Opening Night Critters".
Lory Landing, an open aviary habitat that invites guest to walk around and be visited by lorikeets. Purchasing nectar is an optional part of the habitat, providing an experience of hand-feeding the birds.
The three newest members of the lion pride include a male named Kembe and two females named Shaba and Shtuko. They arrived at the park as cubs in 2013 from a zoo in Africa. Another pride of lions at the park include a male named Simon and two females named Rose and Iris. Iris and Rose are unable to have cubs as they have been spayed.
The hippos Moyo and Kita are never exhibited together, being father and daughter, and being unaware of this would try to mate with each other. Therefore, both are rotated into the exhibit and holding area day by day to avoid accidental inbreeding.
From January to March, Busch Gardens hosts a weekly concert series which invites popular bands either in big band music or pop to perform classic or contemporary songs.
Food and Wine Festival
(Previously called Bud & BBQ and Bands, Brew & BBQ) For the months of March & April, Busch Gardens hosts a series of concerts in Gwazi Field, mostly from classic rock and country music acts. Sometimes the event includes alternative rock, pop, hip hop and R&B acts as well as comedians. Also, there are special culinary offerings that include a variety of ethnic food and wine samplings from various local vendors along the walkway from the Gwazi Roller Coaster to the gate in Gwazi Field.
The documentary film Blackfish and a subsequent online petition led to several popular musical groups cancelling performances at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens "Bands, Brew & BBQ" event in 2014. This caused the removal of the event in Tampa, which was replaced by the annual Food and Wine Festival, resembling the one currently at Epcot in Walt Disney World Orlando.
Viva La Musica!
In March, several Latin music acts are hosted on the stage in Gwazi Field. There is a similar culinary setup with special offerings for the concert days as there is for Bands, Brew & BBQ.
In 2010, Busch Gardens added a new nighttime show called Kinetix, the first special effect-heavy show put on in Gwazi Field. Also, they added many new special effects (i.e. Strobe, Lighting, Fog) to the existing rides just for the Summer Nights season. Kinetix discontinued after the 2016 Summer Nights
Since 2017, Busch Gardens Summer Nights now includes party zones where guests can dance with Party Starters and DJs to the music and compete for special prizes. The most major party zones are ¡Fiesta Festa! in the Cheetah Hunt Plaza and Tigris's Party Zone (formally Viben Village) in Stanleyville. On every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, guests can compete in the "Dance Challenge" at Gwazi Park to win 4 FREE tickets to Adventure Island as well as an epic fireworks show directly afterward.
Every September and October since 2000, Busch Gardens is transformed into Howl-O-Scream. This event contains haunted houses, scare zones and shows. Howl-O-Scream is one of the top rated Halloween events in the United States. Howl-O-Scream has featured some attractions of the park turned into "horrified" attractions at night. This includes Serengeti Safari Tours, which was turned into Evening Serengeti Safari Tours and Curiosity Caverns, which was turned into Dark Cavern, both in 2000. In 2012, Howl-O-Scream celebrated 13 "unlucky" years.
From November to December, theaters throughout the park are transformed into Christmas-themed shows (Like Christmas On Ice in the Moroccan Palace) in celebration of the holiday season for an event called Christmas Town. The whole park is decorated with over a million Christmas lights and theming. Among the more popular attractions is Snow World, in which guests can play in real snow and ride down ice slides. This event was first introduced in 2012. At Santa's House, guests can bring their little ones and have pictures taken with Santa Claus, Mrs. Clause, and Santa's Elves right next to the Nairobi Train Station which circles around the Serengeti Plain as the Christmas Town Sing Along Train featuring select Christmas carols and songs. Also, guests can meet the stars from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer over in Rudolph's Winter Wonderland since 2016. Plus, two Christmas Town princesses can be spotted in the Icy Forest (Ice Princess), and the poinsettia trees (Poinsettia Princess) which guests can also have pictures taken.
New Year's Eve
During New Year's Eve, Busch Gardens celebrates the new year by hosting live music throughout the park, thrill rides opened through the night and fireworks located at the Gwazi Field. Including a park-wide countdown to the new year.
Awards and recognition
The following is a list of roller coasters at Busch Gardens Tampa that have placed on Amusement Today's award or nomination list, along with the highest ranking and year awarded or nominated. Busch Gardens Tampa has also been nominated for best landscaping in 1998 and 2007.
^Chaney, Anna (March 11, 2013). "An Update from Cheetah Run". Busch Gardens Tampa. Retrieved 2015. Mtani has since left her first home at Busch Gardens and traded it in for a new home. She now lives with one of our staff members and is thriving in the lap of luxury where every dog belongs - on the couch.