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Happy 50th birthday to Busch Gardens Africa

By Robert Niles
Published: March 31, 2009 at 9:14 AM
Fifty years ago today, on March 31, 1959, Busch Gardens opened in Tampa, Florida.

It was Busch's first theme park, followed by Busch Gardens Los Angeles in 1966, Busch Gardens Houston in 1971 and Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 1975. (The Houston park closed in 1972 and the LA park in 1976, though both operated in a diminished capacity for a few years after those park close dates.)

But the Tampa facility wasn't the first "Busch Gardens." The original Busch Gardens was just that, a garden, though an elaborate 36-acre one, that stood on the Busch family property in Pasadena, Calif. Located in the Arroyo Seco just south of the Rose Bowl, the Busch garden eventually was subdivided now includes private homes as well as parkland. (You can find photos of the original Busch Gardens here and here.)

Anyway, you get the Pasadena info, 'cause that's where I am. If anyone in Florida is at Busch Gardens in Tampa today and would like to post an account of how the park marked the anniversary, please do in the comments. Thanks, and happy birthday, Busch Gardens!

Busch Gardens Africa

Readers' Opinions

From Joshua Counsil on March 31, 2009 at 9:44 AM
There have been many theme park anniversaries recently. Congrats to all of them.
From Charles Reichley on March 31, 2009 at 10:03 AM
50 years sounded so long ago. Then I realized that was 6 months before I was born. Damn, I'm old.

I hope to get back down to BGA soon (I wonder if they will rename it BGF?) I've only been one time, and we only had one day and I don't remember much about it, except it wasn't as nice as BG-Williamsburg (one of my home parks).

I'll have to work out a Platinum pass somehow, although the new BG pass plans do not make me happy. It's like a chess game figuring out the cheapest way to go.

Now let's hope that BG-williamsburg makes it to 50.

From Deidre Dennis on March 31, 2009 at 1:12 PM
We are going to Busch Gardens Africa in June during our trip to Disney World. I've been there once before back in '05 and enjoyed myself immensely. My husband's been several times and enjoys it. We were at Busch Gardens Europe last June and I thought it was okay. Park was extremely clean and they had a few good attractions but for some reason I felt myself expecting more. Don't get me wrong, we had a great time, but I wasn't as impressed as I thought I would be. I am crazy though, so who knows.

Very much looking forward to attending the park in June and getting a ton of pics. Happy Bday, BGA!

From Anthony Murphy on March 31, 2009 at 2:00 PM
Wow, that park really has its age over all others in FL!

I always wondered why Tampa? I know Orlando wasn't much of anything, but was Tampa?

From Robert Niles on March 31, 2009 at 2:18 PM
There was a brewery there. The park started as a free gardens and brewery tour, becoming a paid-gate theme park in the mid-1960s. Eventually, the brewery gave way to the park. In Van Nuys, Calif. and Houston, the opposite happened, and with little room for expansion at those sites, the parks were closed for the breweries to expand.

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