I was really dying to see the Florida theme parks all decked out for the holidays, but I wasn’t ready to tackle the crazy crowds at Walt Disney World.  We decided on a last-minute trip to check out the holiday lights at Busch Gardens Tampa, FL and I was really impressed!  Read to find out more about what Busch Gardens has to offer!

Busch Gardens Tampa is a magical place during the holiday season!

I have to say that Busch Gardens Tampa REALLY knows how to decorate for the holiday season!  I am SO glad that we went to Florida (cold weather and all) to see this theme park decked out for the holidays!  Keep reading to find out what all we did during our day trip to Busch Gardens!

The attractions aren’t for the faint of heart!

My family LOVES thrill rides.  There really isn’t a lot that scares us away (well, I get scared but I try to act tough).  I have to say the coasters at Busch Gardens are INTENSE!  We went on every coaster while we were there (except the Air Grover in the Sesame Street area) and we even went on the SheiKra twice!  There are other attractions if you aren’t a huge coaster fan, but since it was so cold we didn’t go on any of the water rides.  Falcon’s Fury is a 335 foot drop tower attraction that we also didn’t get to experience due to weather conditions.

The coasters at Busch Gardens Tampa are INTENSE!

There are six main coasters at Busch Gardens Tampa and we experienced them all.  My son started a vlog while we were there to share his experiences on the coasters with other kids.  Check out HIS opinions at the Theme Park Junior Advisor Reviews, but to see this Mom’s opinion keep reading!  

The best coasters (in our opinion)

  • Cobra’s Curse – This is their newest coaster and the wait times reflected that.  We waited over an hour and a half for this one.  The technology on this coaster is pretty cool because it takes your car and lifts it up with a lift before sending you on your way.  The cars also spin independently of each other making it a different experience each time.  It’s not a super intense ride, although towards the end I was screaming my head off!

Cobra's Curse

  • SheiKra – We went on this coaster first and we loved it so much we went on it twice!  This is a 200 foot dive coaster that hangs you at the top of the hill for a few seconds before dropping you!  It’s fast, but smooth.  This was our favorite ride…  until the Cheetah Hunt.

Sheikra

  • Cheetah Hunt – My son REALLY wanted to go on this coaster.  Due to the cold weather it was shut down pretty much the entire day.  However, as the sky started to darken we saw that they were doing test runs on the ride and my son was convinced that it was going to open at any time.  We stood outside the ride listening to the staff members tell everyone that they didn’t know if the ride was going to open or not, but my son (and husband) wouldn’t let us leave.  We waited there probably for an hour and watched the holiday light show.  In the middle of the light show the ride opened and we RAN as fast as we could and got on the first coaster!  My son’s night was made.   And this ride was AMAZING!!!  It is a TRIPLE LAUNCH coaster that is unlike any other.  The ride is smooth and fast AND long!  It is one of the best coasters I’ve ever been on (and we’ve been on a lot).
  • Montu – This one was INTENSE!  My son thought it was awesome, but it got me a little queasy.  Montu is an inverted coaster with lots of corkscrews cobra rolls.  It’s very smooth, but just not my cup of tea!  I would ride it again…  I just can’t do it more than once!

Montu

Still good, but you could skip them and not really miss out on anything…

  • Kumba – Kumba is a loud, fast, steel coaster.  My husband thought this one was amazing (him and my son went on it twice), but I thought it was a little too rocky.  It’s a good coaster, but it’s showing it’s age in my opinion.  I think that if you missed this one you wouldn’t really be missing out on that much.  Don’t tell my husband I said that!

Kumba

  • Scorpion – This coaster is Busch Gardens smallest coaster (other than the Air Grover).  It only has a lap bar, but it goes upside down!  It’s a 360 degree loop steel coaster.  I think younger kids who are just starting out on coasters might want to start with this one.  We waited way too long in line for it (they said it was 20 minutes and it was actually an hour).  Next time I think we’d pass.

There’s more to do than just ride coasters.

The great thing about Busch Gardens is that you can take time to just stroll through the park and there is always something to see.  You can stop and take a look at the numerous animal exhibits.  Maybe you want to look around in one of the cute shops.  Or perhaps you are looking to learn something new at one of the educational buildings located throughout the park.

The food is just theme park average food.

We ended up eating at the Zagora Cafe and it was a disaster.  The service was VERY slow and a mess.  My son’s food (a burger) wasn’t ready so they made my husband stand there and wait 15 minutes and when it came out it wasn’t even hot!  We just got the typical theme park food (burgers, wraps, fries) but I do have to say the chocolate cake was DELICIOUS.  We all shared one piece and it was perfect.

Busch Gardens Tampa does holiday decorations RIGHT!

We ended up going to Universal after Busch Gardens and I have to say Busch Gardens won in the holiday decoration department.  Their lights and trees were absolutely BEAUTIFUL.  I can only imagine what it would have been like if it wouldn’t have been the week AFTER Christmas (my Christmas spirit was already gone by the time we got to Florida).

They also had a really cool light show on the Serengeti Overlook Restaurant that faces the entry to Cheetah Hunt.  This distracted us while we were waiting for the ride to reopen.  It seemed to happen every 15 minutes so if you come up to the end of it you’ll probably get to see it again (this was only during the holiday season).

We left enjoying the beautiful lights (in the freezing cold)!

Busch Gardens Christmas Lights 1 Busch Gardens Christmas Tree Busch Gardens Christmas Lights 2

Things to keep in mind (waiting in lines and locker rentals)…

Overall, we had a great trip together despite the cold weather.  I would highly recommend visiting Busch Gardens Tampa during the holiday season.  However, my family ALWAYS recommends the Quick Queue options if they are available.  We think they are worth the extra money because we are getting the most value for our TIME.  If you don’t plan on riding a lot of coasters or are going during a slow time, then you probably won’t need it.  The great thing is you can purchase it when you are there!

Also – most of the coasters do not allow loose items on the ride.  This means for us (since we don’t have anyone waiting behind and we all wanted to go on the ride together) that we needed to get a locker.  There are lockers at all of the major roller coasters.  We paid $5 for a locker and then as long as we moved it to another locker within 2 hours we didn’t have to pay again!  I thought that it was a pretty good deal to have a locker for $5 for the entire day.  Just don’t leave it in there on accident…  I’m not sure what happens if you do!

Busch Gardens Pinterest Image

If you are looking for an awesome theme park bag to take with you to Busch Gardens you NEED to check out my favorite bag!  This bag was so amazing during our Fall break trip that I came home and bought another one!