I Was So Wrong About Bush Gardens!
I want to start this post off by saying we basically spent the last year of our lives at Disney World as Annual Pass Holders (Our Year of Disney) and are always encouraging parents to take the plunge and take their toddlers to Disney (Stop Making Excuses – Take Your Toddler to Disney). However, when it came to Busch Garden’s I will be the first to say it was not on the top of my list. When thinking about Busch Gardens, the first things that come to mind are all those huge (awesome) roller coasters. Those are the last things I want to be doing with a four-year-old and one-year-old in tow. I also think about the animals but the sheer size of the park is less motivating than a visit to ZooTampa.
This September I decided to test my theory that Busch Gardens was more for big kids and adults and I brought the girls for the first time. To my surprise I was very wrong and here's why:
1. Sesame Street Safari of Fun truly is fun for any preschool-aged kiddos and their younger siblings. Our four-year-old had a blast on all the rides in this part of the park. They also put on an adorable interactive song and dance show with your child’s favorite Sesame Street characters. They had rides appropriate for all thrill levels including a roller coaster. Caroline tried out a roller coaster for the first time and loved it but despite all the fun she had, she was reluctant to get on again. While they are riding, and playing they can interact with their favorite Sesame Street Friends as the characters walk through the area greeting everyone.
2. Tree Top Trails is another great spot for the kids to climb and play. There are two splash areas — one for bigger kids and one for the itty bitties. The treetop play area is in the shade, making it a great spot to cool off on those hot Florida summer days.
3. Splash pads in every corner of the park! Unlike Disney, Busch Gardens Tampa did a great job at adding water features to help patrons stay cool in the Florida heat. The park is huge, so there is a lot of walking around and in Florida, about 11 months of the year are — hot, hot, HOT!
4. They have designated Kids' weekends depending on the season where there are more fun interactive activities for young children.
5. The animal hospital is a great way for young children to learn about caring for animals up close but also how NOT to treat wild animals. There are several close encounter options throughout the day (in the air conditioning, I might add) that allows kids to see animals up close and talk with the experts. This was such a fun experience for Caroline. She got to learn about surgery on large animals and see a Screech Owl close up.
A few things to consider when taking small children:
Age Limit, things like the feeding the kangaroos and the safari have an age limit so children under 5 years old, for safety reasons, cannot participate. However, outside of the Kangaroo feeding area the woman behind the counter gave us food to feed the ducks and that was more than enough of a distraction for my girls. My oldest daughter (4) was bummed but kept telling everyone how she was going to come back when she is five.
Another thing to consider is the cost: the ticket prices after taxes even for a kid under 5 are more than $100 — yikes! So even though you are not at Disney, you are still not saving much on the ticket. Food and beverages are also on the high end. One thing about Disney is the ticket price is high but the food in the park is always surprisingly affordable, at Busch Gardens this is not the case.
Overall we would recommend visiting Busch Gardens with preschool-aged kids! Our baby tagged along and even she loved her visit. Her favorite thing was the Skyride — she loved having the wind in her hair and yelling at everything below us.
Visit the website for more information on all the Kid Friendly aspects at this park: Bush Gardens Tampa