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Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is a 335-acre (136 ha) African-themed animal theme park located in the city of Tampa, Florida. The park is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and has an annual attendance of just over 4.1 million a year, making it the second most visited among all SeaWorld Entertainment-owned parks behind SeaWorld Orlando, and eleventh overall among the 20 most visited amusement parks in North America.

The park has been home to many notable roller coasters and thrill rides, including SheiKra, the first Dive Coaster in North America and at the time of opening, was the longest, tallest and fastest in the world; Tigris, the tallest launch coaster in Florida; Montu, which was the tallest and fastest inverted roller coaster in the world at the time of opening; Falcon's Fury, the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America; and the upcoming Iron Gwazi, a hybrid roller coaster which is expected to become the fastest and steepest in the world and tied with Zadra for tallest in the world when it opens.

History

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Themed Areas

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Animal Habitats

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.


Bird Gardens

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".

  • Walkabout Way, themed as an Australian outpost, opened in June 2010. This area allows guests to hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies, and see animals including kookaburras, magpies, black swans and tawny frogmouths. A male kangaroo, Horatio, arrived at the park in early 2014. This experience is open to all guests 5 years of age or older.
  • 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.


Edge of Africa

Opened in 1997, Edge of Africa is a walk-through attraction where guests can observe African animals. Among the exhibits are a Nile crocodile named Sobek, meerkats, two prides of lions, a pack of spotted hyenas, three hippos named Moyo, Kita and Devi, vultures, and a troop of lemurs.

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.


The Serengeti Plan

In 1965, the park opened its Serengeti Plain animal habitat, the first of its kind to offer animals in a free-roaming environment. Over the years, the habitat has expanded from 29 acres (12 ha) to its current size of 65 acres (26 ha). It is home to the Grévy's zebra, Grant's zebra, sable antelope, reticulated giraffe, Ankole-Watusi, addax, white rhinoceros, eland, impala, ostrich and marabou stork. Also, in a secluded area of this region is a solitary female black rhinoceros named Jodi.


Events

Real Music Series

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.


Summer Nights

In the summer months, the park stays open later and includes concerts by performers like David Cassidy and Starship with Mickey Thomas. The park's Independence Day festivities add fireworks to the entertainment lineup.

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.


Howl-O-Scream

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.


Christmas Town

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. Claus, 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. Princess Fae, a sugarplum princess made her debut during the 2019 Christmas Town season. The poinsettia, sugarplum and icy princesses can also be seen together there near closing time.


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

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Attendance

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