I recently took a trip with my family to Tampa, FL and we spent the day at Busch Gardens thanks to Waves of Honor. Busch Gardens has a Waves of Honor Military Salute Program that allows current military members whether active, drilling, guard or reserve a FREE one-day admission to one of the Busch Garden Theme Parks per year. They can also host up to three direct dependents as guests. Waves of Honor also has discount offers along with complimentary military tickets on their website.
We had to use the tickets by July 15th deadline. Itâ€™s best to stay at a hotel or resort close enough to the theme park that offers a complimentary shuttle, so you donâ€™t have to deal with the park traffic and $25.00 parking fee. If you decide to drive, youâ€™ll want to get there early to beat the traffic and get a good parking space. Once we arrived and got through the security check point, we had to go to customer service to redeem the passes showing valid military ID. (There are also kiosks available)
After our passes were redeemed we were able to get scanned in and enter the theme park. Throughout this process I was getting overheated, it was 90+ degrees outside. I immediately looked for food and some form of hydration because I was ready to pass out. We grabbed a park map with a legend and lots of information about shopping, dining, animal habitats, entertainment and attractions. I settled on the Serengeti Overlook CafÃ© & Restaurant. You had an option to sit indoors or outside on the patio.
That was an easy choice because it was air conditioned and had a great view of the Serengeti Plain full of Giraffe, Rhinos, Zebra and more. The menu had pizza, sandwiches, wraps, salads and desserts. Full premium bar, cold beer selections and frozen drinks. I highly recommend purchasing souvenir cups, so you can refill them for $.99 cents throughout the day. I absolutely LOVE that there are allergy friendly designated restaurants available. My youngest son and I have food sensitivities.
Our group split up and half went to do rides while the other half made the animal habitats a priority. Iâ€™ve been wanting to get to the zoo, so I was all about seeing some animals. There was rain in the forecast, so we tried to cover as much as possible before the downpour. A great way to see the Serengeti Plain in a short span of time is going on the Skyride or Train. You also have the option of going on a safari ride throughout the plain and hand-feed animals with an expert guide.
I enjoyed seeing all the animals especially the elephants, giraffes, zebras, Lions, Cheetah. The Flamingos were beautiful and vibrant in color. It was interesting seeing the Animal Care Center where the animals are given check-ups, treatments and surgeries that you can watch up close. Every room has a large glass window that allows you to observe whatâ€™s going on. That’s an amazing feature! I laughed at the sloth because I kept having flash backs of Zootopia.
I suggest getting the Quick Queue, so you can skip the long lines for the most popular rides. Itâ€™s no fun standing in 90-degree weather for an hour in the hot sun! Stay hydrated! The rain did catch up with us and the park did stop the rides due to inclement weather. We were tasked with staying to see if it lets up and continuing our day or getting a rain-check through customer service to go back the next day and complete our adventure. We opted for the rain-check!
If you have an iPhone, you can download the Busch Gardens App and get park information, purchase park tickets/passes, get notifications and keep up with ride wait times. Even though our time was cut short due to the weather, we had a great time. We didnâ€™t end up going back the next day because it was raining. So, there is another trip to Busch Gardens in my future. Next visit, Iâ€™ll start in the Congo, Jungala and Stanleyville with the water rides. Also, heading to Sesame Street Safari of Fun.
What would you do first? The Rides or See Animals?
*Waves of Honor has military tickets and discount offers for active duty members and Veterans.