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Busch Gardens, Florida

This theme park is part zoo/safari park, and part roller-coaster extravaganza! We’d heard mixed reviews about this one, but this is what we made of the day…

It was about an hour drive away from the Disney area, but we found a ’90s radio station to sing along to, much to the delight of the kids! We got there at 11am and didn’t leave till the park closed at 6. If you want to go on any of the rides, then it needs to be a 2 day trip really. Rain and I were going to do the cheetah run roller-coaster, which looked amazing, but the queue was nearly an hour long, so we left it. That’s my one regret really – we should’ve gone back at the end, when the queue would probably be less, but I was too tired to walk back to it. It wasn’t my favourite day really. Despite a fairly relaxing one the day before, I was still quite tired and the heat really got to me. It’s a big place, a fair bit of walking, and not much sitting down. Straight away you could tell you weren’t at Disney. I know people make fun of the cheesy smiliness of Disney parks, but it’s actually nice to be greeted nicely at the gate and told to have a nice day. You realise it when you turn up at Busch Gardens when the old grumpy woman searches your bags without a word or even eye contact, let alone a smile.

So if you get the all-in-one Flex ticket, you have to pay extra for the Flex ticket plus, which then includes Busch Gardens. It’s a bit of a debate as to whether to pay it or not. It’s a long drive out and that seems to make it a much more tiring day. However, there isn’t even a debate that if roller-coasters are your thing, then it’s worth it. Busch Gardens without question has the best rollercoasters, and lots of them. It would take a whole day I expect to do them all. However, we went for the zoo aspect of Busch Gardens, and I have to say, I’m not sure it was entirely worth the extra money, when you’ve got Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The safari train drive was a huge disappointment. All the giraffes were miles away being fed by the people who paid $150 approx for a family ticket to do so; there were herds of deer/antelope type animals about, but I don’t know exactly what they were because the train driver gave us no information about them at all. The only things she seemed to know about were statistics about the rollercoasters we went under, and the menus of the restaurants we drove past. To be honest, the whole thing felt like a massive waste of time, and including queuing time, took nearly 2 hours because twice and train stops we just sat there for 15 minutes. It was also extremely screechy, which got really annoying.

The actual, traditional style zoo bits were very good though and there were a large variety of impressive animals. I’ve never seen hyenas before, and there were also gorillas, cheetahs, lions, giraffes, zebras, mere cats and a big nocturnal bit with bats, snakes and lizards; elephants, a kangaroo and wallaby area, a large aviary and plenty of others.  They all seemed to have plenty of space too, which was nice to see – except the tigers, but maybe they were taken somewhere larger overnight. From a selfish tourist point of view though, it did mean we got to see them really close up, and that was probably my favourite animal enclosure. I could also have watched the orang-u-tangs for ages – they were so funny.

We sat down indoors for half an hour to watch the cirque de dreams show. It was nice to have a bit of a break, and Chris went to sleep. It was fairly entertaining and I enjoyed it, but was put to shame by the Disney circus performances we also saw. The songs were just stupid and spoilt the whole show.

So, if you only want to travel to Busch Gardens on one day, but also want to do some of the roller-coasters, then my advice is to miss out the safari and the circus show. There was also a comedy Pirates show, but we didn’t see it because Chris had had enough of shows! Funny moment of the day: All those wonderful and interesting animals around us, and there was a large crowd of Americans filming and taking photos of a squirrel on the path!

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