Top Tampa Theme Parks

By: Jessica Vander Velde

November 28, 2014

Just outside of Tampa‘s urban core, a world of theme park fun awaits. Between Busch Gardens and Adventure Island, there are some great Tampa theme parks to discover. Take a look at our guide to the best for a family-friendly trip to Tampa.

Busch Gardens

The Top Tampa Theme Parks | Busch Gardens

Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens © Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens is a must-see for thrill-seekers. Known for its roller coasters and wild animals, Busch Gardens is a Tampa mainstay that’s continually updating to provide the tallest drops and the fastest roller coasters.

The recently opened Falcon’s Fury stands at 335 feet and like its namesake bird, pivots 90 degrees in mid-air to face downwards before it drops riders at 60 mph.

Busch Gardens also has five top-rated roller coasters, including the super-fast Cheetah Hunt, the floorless dive coaster, SheiKra, as well as Montu, Kumba and a classic wooden rollercoaster, Gwazi.

The Top Tampa Theme Parks | Busch Gardens

Busch Garden’s roller coaster, Kumba © Jeremy Thompson/Flickr

As many roller coasters as it has, that’s only a fraction of the park. Busch Gardens is also known for its live shows and wild animals, including cheetahs, monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas. On the Serengeti Plain, visitors can spot zebra, rhinos, antelope, giraffe, and many different species of birds. The animals are visible from the Skyride, the Serengeti Railway or the Edge of Africa ride. Those who want an up-close-and-personal experience can book a Serengeti Safari and hand-feed giraffes and get face-to-face with other wildlife in one of the best Tampa theme parks.

And because Florida has pleasant weather year-round, Busch Garden’s outdoor entertainment and water rides are very popular. The Taganyika Tidal Wave is a boat ride that takes a steep plunge, soaking everyone on board, while the Congo River Rapids offers a ride down a rushing river on a circular raft that spins under waterfalls and through a cave.

Adventure Island

The Top Tampa Theme Parks | Adventure Island

The Rambling Bayou © Adventure Island

During the warmer months, Tampa’s water park, Adventure Island, cools visitors down with its 10 slides, wave pool and more.

Visitors might find it difficult to pull themselves away from the relaxing lazy river, called the Rambling Bayou, but a 17,000-square-foot wave pool, the Endless Surf, and the kid-friendly Splash Attack play area await.

The Top Tampa Theme Parks | Adventure Island

The Riptide © Adventure Island

Some of the rides are for single-riders – with or without tubes. Some rides – like the Key West Rapids – send pairs down twisting and turning slides together. And up to five can ride on the giant tubes of Wahoo Run. On the Riptide, three can race side-by-side down a 55-foot drop.

Cabanas and Chickee Huts are also available for daily rentals. And in the Spike Zone, there are even white sand volleyball courts for those who just want to enjoy the Tampa sunshine.

Header Image: Wahoo Run © Adventure Island

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Have you been to either of these top Tampa theme parks? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Jessica Vander Velde


Jessica Vander Velde

Jessica Vander Velde is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s largest newspaper. She also blogs about craft beer at

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