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Busch Gardens Tampa

Robert Niles
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Published: March 30, 2014

Located in Tampa, an hour's drive west on Interstate 4 from the Walt Disney World Resort area, Busch Gardens Tampa actually opened in 1959, years before any of the Orlando theme parks. Once a simple tropical garden next to a brewery tour, Busch Gardens Tampa has evolved into Florida's top thrill park, offering more world-class coasters than the rest of the Central Florida parks combined.

Busch Gardens Tampa is a sister park of SeaWorld Orlando, and combo tickets for the two parks are readily available at both locations, as well as on their respective websites. SeaWorld also offers free bus transportation to Busch Gardens Tampa for multi-park ticket-holders who don't want to make the drive on their own.

The Tampa park was the first of four Busch Gardens parks to open around the country, although only two remain open today: Busch Gardens Tampa and Busch Gardens Williamsburg, in Virginia. (The other two were Busch Gardens Los Angeles, located in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley north of downtown LA, and Busch Gardens Houston.) The Tampa park has an African theme, and has been known in the past as Busch Gardens Africa, and before that, Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent, a name that many at SeaWorld really wish that everyone would forget.

Since Busch Gardens is now part of the SeaWorld family of parks, that means that Busch Gardens isn't part of Anheuser-Busch anymore. SeaWorld is using the Busch name under license, and you won't find those once-famous free beer samples in the park anymore, either.

Roller coasters are the big draw at Busch Gardens, which attracts a little more than four million visitors a year. Unless they have a thrill ride fan in the family, most Orlando-area visitors skip the drive over to Tampa, but we'll provide highlights of Theme Park Insider readers' favorite attractions at the park, so you can decide if you'd like to include it on your vacation.

Busch Gardens' new attraction for 2014 will be Falcon's Fury, a 335-foot tower drop ride, where you'll fall face-down, rather than in the more traditional upright seated position. It is expected to open in the spring of 2014.