Busch Gardens#1 in Best Things To Do in Tampa
Spanning 297 acres and boasting more than 12,000 animals, live shows, restaurants, shops and games, Busch Gardens is a popular way to spend a day under the Tampa sun. Did you know that Busch Gardens is actually older than nearby Disney World? It's also cheaper and includes themed lands on Morocco, the Congo, Timbuktu, Egypt and Nairobi; plus animal exhibits based on the Serengeti Plain and the Myombe Reserve (and that's just scratching the surface).
Recent visitors enjoyed the combination of entertainment and education found here, but warn that prices are high and crowds are thick. To avoid some of the crowds, travelers recommend going through the park in reverse. In other words, start in the back of the park and work your way to the front. Reviewers said this method will allow you to bypass the bottlenecking that clogs the front of the park, and puts you closest to the entrance when you're ready to leave.
You'll find Busch Gardens about 10 miles northeast of downtown Tampa. The park is open every day of the year, but park hours can vary be season and even by day, so consult its website for updated times and more information about specific shows. Ticket prices also vary. Single weekday tickets cost $75 for travelers ages 3 and up, while weekend single day tickets cost $87. Save a bit by purchasing your admission online: You'll knock off $22 on weekday admission and $10 on weekend admission just for buying your tickets beforehand. Prepare to fork over some more green for parking, too, which costs $17 per car. Admission to Busch Gardens is also covered by CityPASS, which costs $99 for adults and $84 for children and includes admission to four other area attractions, including the Florida Aquarium and the Lowry Park Zoo.
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#2 Tampa Theatre
Even if you're not in town for a film screening or performance, visitors highly recommend a stop at the beautifully ornate Tampa Theatre. When it was built in 1926, the theater was considered one of the world's most elaborate theaters. Designed by architect John Eberson, the interior features a 900-pipe Wurlitzer organ and was constructed to look like a Mediterranean garden with flowers and gargoyles. Take a look at the ceiling and you'll spot 99 bulbs meant to resemble stars in the night sky. If you can't attend a show here, consider taking a tour instead.
The venue offers a 90-minute "balcony to backstage" tour, which includes a demonstration of the Wurlitzer theater organ and details about the stories, art and architecture that earned this movie palace a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and Tampa City Landmark status. Tours take place on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. Adult tickets cost $7.50; children ages 2 to 12 tour for $5. Check the theater's website for show times and tour dates and times.
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