If you are in Tampa. I recommend visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with your toddler. Our son had a blast on the rides, seeing the animals, looking for Elmo, and riding the train.
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If you are on Active Duty, a Drilling Reservist, or Military Veteran; you may be eligible for complimentary tickets to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
After spending eight years in the Army, this is certainly a nice perk. If you are a fellow servicemember, follow the instructions here to get a complimentary ticket for yourself and up to three dependents to certain SeaWorld attractions, with Busch Gardens Tampa Bay being one of them.
Read More: The 15 Best Theme Parks for Toddlers
Sesame Street Safari of Fun
When we arrived at the theme park our number one priority was Sesame Street Safari of Fun. I knew this was where we could find the best toddler-friendly things to do with our little one.
This area is a ways from the entrance, so check out our tips below to see how you can save some time and get there faster.
Tip: If you want to save yourself time and a long walk. Head straight to Nairobi Station and ride the train to Stanleyville, which is only a 5-7 minute walk to Sesame Street.
This is where we spent most of our time while at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with our toddler.
After spending over two years trying to get our son to take pictures with characters, he’s finally no longer scared of them. To our disbelief, he took a picture with Elmo, Abby, and Rosita.
Read More: Our Sesame Place Review
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Rides for Toddlers
I am not a fan of roller coasters, so I have no problem spending the day on kiddy rides at theme parks. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay offers fun rides, that are perfect for toddlers.
Unfortunately, our little one was a little cranky, so we couldn’t get him to get on all the rides. He decided to skip his nap and wasn’t in the mood to get on some rides.
Although he didn’t get on all the rides, he still had a lot of fun. We spent nearly four hours running between everything Sesame Street had to offer.
If you aren’t familiar with our blog, we always like to provide a list of toddler-friendly and fun rides. Here is a list of the toddler-friendly rides at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
If you are short on time, here is a quick list of toddler-friendly rides and their locations at Busch Gardens.
- Air Grover – Sesame Street Safari of Fun
- Elmo’s Safari – Sesame Street Safari of Fun
- Big Bird’s Whirly Birdie – Sesame Street Safari of Fun
- Rosita’s Djembe Fly Away – Sesame Street Safari of Fun
- The Count’s Zambezi Rally – Sesame Street Safari of Fun
- Zoe-Patra and the Hippos of the Nile – Sesame Street Safari of Fun
- Snuffy’s Elephant Romp – Sesame Street Safari of Fun
- Serengeti Express Train – There are three stations throughout the park
- Skyride Cable Car – closed when we went 5/22
- Gwazi Gliders – Morocco
- Ubanga Banga Bumper Cars – Congo (must be over 42″)
- Wild Surge- Jungala
Air Grover is the only roller coaster in the Sesame Streer Safari of Fun. This roller coaster is very quick. It’s less than 90 seconds, so if your toddler is tall enough, go for it!
Our son must be the only kid that does not like carousels. All kids, even babies can ride the safari-themed carousel.
Big Bird’s Whirly Birdie
Parents will have to ride with children under 56”, but it’s a relaxing ride with nice views of the area. You will stop at the top a few times as people are getting on and off the ride. Just relax and enjoy the peace and views.
Rosita’s Djembe Fly Away
Our son was not a fan of this ride, but your toddler just needs to be under 42” to ride this popular swing.
The Count’s Zambezi Rally
Your little one can ride in style around the track with the count. Toddlers under 56” can ride since the cars are on a track.
Zoe-Patra and the Hippos of the Nile
Your little one must ride this alone, but it is a quick toddler-sized mini roller coaster with a small splash of water. It’s an adorable ride for little ones.
The one drawback to this ride is that only one kid can go at a time, so the line moves a little slowly.
Snuffy’s Elephant Romp
Fly through the sky with your little one at whatever height you want. He was skeptical in the beginning, but he eventually got into it. Our toddler enjoyed moving us up and down, which for me wasn’t too much fun.
Serengeti Express Train
The train is not located inside Sesame Safari of Fun, but the closest station is a 10-minute walk minute away. This train takes you around the park where you can see the animals roaming the park.
I struggle with animal attractions, especially ones that have loud roller coasters above their heads. This is a great way to get around the park if you aren’t into animals.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Shows for Toddlers
We didn’t make it to any of the shows. I got the times and the stages confused. Although we missed the shows, our little guy met Elmo, Telly, Rosita, and Zoe.
Let’s Play Together
This show is perfect for toddlers. They can sing and dance with their favorite characters from Sesame Street.
You can expect your toddlers to have a good time as the character comes into the crowd to make your little ones feel like they are part of the show.
As always, there is a lesson in the show about friendship. They celebrate being different and embracing everyone, no matter their differences.
Storytime at Sesame Street Safari of Fun
This “show” tells fun tales with your favorite Sesame Street characters. There are stories featuring Big Bird, Elmo, and Cookie Monster.
This is the perfect time for your little one to relax and have a snack. The area is shady with plenty of space. Your little one can stretch out and enjoy the show without being confined to their seat.
Tip: Be sure to double-check the show times on the schedule.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Animal Encounters
I struggle with animal captivity. Now that I am more knowledgeable about the treatment of these animals and the industry, it is difficult to really enjoy zoos.
Of course, I understand that animals raised in captivity cannot be released into the wild, so places like this take care of them. Taking care of these animals requires money, which is where we come in.
We didn’t take much time to see the animals at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (outside of the train ride, but that was for convenience). I know you may say it can be hypocritical, but unfortunately, zoos are a necessity to continue to care for animals that need it.
There are keeper talks and animal encounters, but we skipped these activities. Our 3-year-old wasn’t too interested in the animals anyway, so that made it easier. He was focused on getting to the train and the ice cream I promised him when it was time to leave.
Read More: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
If you have a little one that is too young to feed the Kangaroos in Walkabout Way, then head to Bird Gardens. Little ones of all ages can feed the birds and ducks inside Kookaburra’s Aviary.
My wife isn’t a fan of birds because she was attacked by a group of them when she was younger, so we don’t usually go into aviaries. We skipped this activity, but for a few dollars, your toddler can feed the birds.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Play Areas for Toddlers
Our toddler is always in play mode. At any given moment, he’s ready to play tag, wants to be chased, or just let out some energy and run. This is why we love going to toddler-friendly theme parks because they have a lot of play areas for little ones.
We use play areas strategically. They are the perfect play to let our little one release energy before having to wait in line for a ride. Here are the fun play areas at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for toddlers.
Bert & Ernie’s Watering Hole
The perfect place to cool down from the hot Florida sun. Don’t forget a rash guard and water shoes.
There are tables with umbrellas so if you don’t want to get wet you can watch your little one in the shade.
Cookie Monster Canopy Crawl
This is a net play area where your little ones can climb. Adults aren’t allowed inside. I recommend this play area for independent little ones.
Elmo’s Treehouse Trek
This treehouse takes fun to all new heights, literally. My toddler and I both conquered our fears. We crossed both rope bridges. Oddly enough, he asked to walk across the higher and longer one when we could have just walked down the stairs.
Cookie Monster Cloud Bounce
This is a fun massive bounce area. It feels different from a regular bounce house because it is softer. Adults aren’t allowed in this area either, so so can watch your little ones play here.
8 Tips for Visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with Toddlers
1. Go during the week
We went on a random Monday and the park seemed empty. Of course, there were people, but we didn’t wait in a line longer than 5 minutes. This is considering we spent 98% of our time in the toddler-friendly area of Busch Gardens, but our cousin (who accompanied us) said there were no lines.
During the week is the best time to go because kids are at school and adults are at work. You spend less time in the lines and more time on the rides.
Something to consider when going during the week is that there aren’t as many vendors open throughout the park.
Many of the small concession stands were closed. It didn’t bother us because we are in the habit of buying $8 Dippin’ Dots.
Read More: 10 Reasons to Travel with a Toddler
2. Do not rush to get there when it opens
I think the worst time to go to most theme parks is as soon as it opens. You are typically battling cars, people, and your toddlers to get out of the house. We prefer to go an hour to two after the part has opened.
This gives you plenty of time to take pictures at the entrance without being photobombed. It’s just a lot easier to manage with a toddler in tow with fewer people and chaos, so give yourself an extra hour or two. We let our son skip his nap and he was out like a light as soon as we got in the car.
3. Pack plenty of snacks
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay does not allow outside coolers or insulated bags, but we always have snacks with us. For this trip, we packed almonds, water, pretzels, goldfish, and apple juice.
You can bring a refillable water bottle, which we highly recommend bringing filled with ice. You can fill the water up throughout the park, so you always have nice cold water on a hot Florida day.
Read More: Our Favorite Travel Snacks for Toddlers
4. Get preferred parking
We are all about saving money, but spending the extra $5 to park closer to the entrance was one of the best decisions I made that day.
We walked from the car to the park in five minutes, which is the shortest amount of time it’s taken me to get to the car from any theme park. It is worth the additional money to park closer, so you don’t have to deal with collapsing your stroller to get on the tram.
Trust me, don’t think about it, just do it. Preferred parking is the way to go with toddlers. By the time you leave, everyone will be a little cranky and tired, so the quicker you can get back to the car, the better.
5. Bring a rash guard
We didn’t realize there was a splash pad in the Sesame Street area, so we had to wing it when our son wanted to get in the water. If you are going on a hot day, I highly recommend being prepared with a rash guard and water shoes.
We love Native shoes because they are perfect for time in the water or on the playground. They dry quickly and are comfortable, so our son usually has these shoes on when we are heading to a theme park.
While your little one escapes the heat, you can relax at one of the tables and get some shade from the overbearing Florida sun. This is the perfect time to have some of the snacks you packed.
Here are some of our favorite travel snacks for toddlers. Whenever possible we try to have fruit. It’s the perfect pick-me-up for a day at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with toddlers.
Read More: Our Favorite Rash Guards for Toddlers
6. You’ll need a stroller or carrier
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is huge, so unless your toddler plans to walk the entire time, I highly recommend bringing a stroller. A carrier will suffice if you have a baby, but your toddler will likely need a stroller.
We prefer to bring strollers to theme parks so we can store our junk inside when we get in a line for rides. We have our son’s diaper bag, water, snacks, and typically my work equipment. (One of the joys in working remotely is that I can work at the park when I need to).
Read More: Best Strollers for Disney
7. Don’t forget the bug spray
This was something we didn’t expect, but we were unexceptionally prepared. My wife says she was bitten at least five times. Luckily, I was only bitten once, and our little guy wasn’t bitten at all.
You will need bug spray while hanging out at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with your toddler, especially if you are spending time inside the TreeTop Trails Play Area.
You can get away from the sun and cool down inside the tree, but just be aware there are hungry mosquitoes inside.
Read More: Best Mosquito Spray for Toddlers
8. Use the train to get around
When you are ready to call it a day, use the train to get closer to the entrance. It’s the perfect way to get closer to the park exit. Plus it’s shaded, and you can relax while your little ones see the animals.
We got on the train at Stanleyville (the closest train station to Safari of Fun) and took the tour to see the animals scattered throughout the park. When we arrived back at our station, we decided to grab our stroller. We collapsed it and brought it aboard to get to Nairobi Station (the closest train station to the park exit).
Toddlers are fortunate enough to have you pushing them in a stroller, but if you want to save your feet at the end of the day, use the train. You can also use it to get to different areas of the park since there are three train stations.
The departure times are at the train stations. If you need a break in a shady place, head to the train station. We relax in the station for 20-30 minutes.
It was nice to sit in a cool area on a hot day after spending hours on rides and playing with our toddler in the Sesame Street area.
Bonus: Save $$ on Busch Garden Tampa Bay Tickets
There are a few ways to save money on your next trip to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with your family. Here are a few ways you can save money on your next family fun day at the theme park.
SeaWorld is one of the few companies that offer amazing discounts for current and former members of the military. Use this link to get to the military page for special (or even free) tickets.
Tampa Bay CityPASS
The Tampa Bay CityPASS is an absolute steal. For the price of a one-day admission to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay you get entry into the following place:
- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
- ZooTampa at Lowry Park
- The Florida Aquarium
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- The Tropics Boat Tours Dolphin OR Sunset Cruise OR Museum of Science & Industry
Remember, kids under 3 years old are free, so no paying for your little toddlers. Reservations may be required for some events.
If you are interested in seeing the overall savings, I got you covered. Here is the cost breakdown if you attend these events separately.
|Attraction||Adult (10+)||Child (3-9)|
|Busch Gardens Tampa Bay||$124.99||$99.99|
|ZooTampa at Lowry Park||$44.95||$34.95|
|The Florida Aquarium||$37.95||$32.45|
|Clearwater Marine Aquarium||$35.95||$26.95|
|The Tropics Boat Tours Dolphin (3 and under are free)||$27.99||$16.99|
|Museum of Science & Industry||$12.95||$7.95|
|Total Savings with CityPASS||$143.83||$97.33|
You get entry into 4 different family-friendly attractions in Tampa Bay for the price of a one-day admission to Busch Gardens.
This is the most cost-efficient way to go to Busch Gardens for families visiting Tampa with toddlers.
Are you ready to visit Busch Gardens Tamps Bay with your toddlers??