I gave up riding roller coasters and other wild rides decades ago. So why did I choose to spend an afternoon at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay? For the animals, birds, and lovely jungle-like landscaping. The 335-acre African-themed theme park in Tampa, Florida, is a beautiful attraction.
In 1957, Anheuser-Busch purchased 160-acres to build a brewery. The company also announced that the property would also be home to a botanical garden.
Guests could visit, free of charge. In addition to various beer tastings, the park had a bird garden. A geodesic dome dedicated on March 22, 1960, named the Adolphus Busch Space Frame, housed an aviary reaching 99 feet in diameter. In 1964, the park opened the Old Swiss House, a restaurant linked by a tram system to the park's Bird Gardens.
The following year August A. Busch Jr. added the 29-acre Serengeti Plains, eventually expanding to 70 acres. The Serengeti Plain allowed African wildlife to roam freely and became the most prominent, free-roaming habitat outside of Africa at the time. Busch Gardens continued to focus on its tropical landscape, exotic animals, and amusements to draw visitors.
Fast forward more than 50 years. The brewery is gone, free admission is gone, but what remains is the foundation of the park along with its massive expansion, including thrill rides and elaborate animal habitats.
I spent the better part of five hours meandering from one animal and bird habitat to the next during my visit. I rode the train through the Serengeti Plain, observing African animals, including giraffes, rhinos, and zebras. More than 200 species live in the park, one of America's most highly accredited zoos.
When planning your Tampa vacation, budget at least one day for Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Also, visit the Visit Tampa Bay website for a complete listing of accommodations, attractions, and restaurants, or call (813) 223-2752.
Tampa is a welcoming city with a lot to offer anyone wanting sunshine, fun, and relaxation including the family-friendly Busch Gardens.