Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Busch Gardens: 50 Years of Thrills

On March 31, 1959, August A. Busch Jr. officially dedicated Busch Gardens, which was, at that time, an admission-free hospitality facility for the nearby Anheuser-Busch manufacturing plant. Fifty years later, the manufacturing plant has long since closed, but the hospitality facility has developed into a bustling Tampa theme park filled with exhilarating roller coasters, beautiful landscapes, and exotic animal experiences.

To mark its successful history, the park has opened an incredible new historical exhibit next to the Clydesdale Hamlet. In the exhibit, guests can browse various displays featuring hundreds of memorabilia items and photographs marking every major event and attraction at the park over the past fifty years. Among them is a 100-foot memory wall featuring a photograph of Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio taken the day she started work at the park’s Zagora CafĂ©, a photograph of the day dozens of couples got married as they rode Kumba, and opening day aerial photographs that show the abandoned Army airbase runways that today lurk hidden near Adventure Island.

The park put out a call among its staffers for people to bring in any memorabilia they had lying around, and employees responded in force. One accounting clerk brought in her old belly dancer costume from when she was a snake charmer at the park, while others brought in painted gremlins from the Gnome Village, which had been serving as doorstops in the corporate offices. Other items now on display were dug up from the park’s archives, including conceptual art of rides like Montu, which was initially planned to be a coaster built inside a giant Egyptian pyramid.

The search for memorabilia is still ongoing as the exhibit, which will be on display at least through the end of the year, expands; by this summer, it will include video anecdotes from park veterans and former executives.

The exhibit is certainly a valuable look at the history of a park that has grown to become one of Orlando’s most popular, with six roller coasters, 2,000 animals, and 3,000 employees running the operations. Among the attractions at the Africa-themed Busch Gardens Tampa are Sheikra, North America’s first dive coaster which sends riders 200 feet up, then 90 degrees straight down; Kumba, a breathtaking ride featuring a 135-foot drop, 360 degree spirals, and one of the world’s largest vertical loops; Montu, one of the tallest and longest inverted roller coasters in the world; Gwazi, a wooden coaster with two interwoven tracks; and the Scorpion, featuring a 60-foot drop and 360-degree loop at incredible speeds.

Busch Gardens also offers countless animal encounters, available in habitats like Serengeti Plain, featuring hundreds of exotic African animals; Myombe Reserve, a lush forest filled with gorillas and chimpanzees; the Bird Gardens, containing almost 500 tropical birds; and Lory Landing, a domed habitat showcasing a variety of brilliantly colored birds. These exciting habitats, along with shows, tours, and other experiences, ensure that Busch Gardens will be Florida favorite for yet another 50 years.

If you’ve never visited Busch Gardens, don’t wait until its next bicentennial; make some time to explore this beloved Tampa theme park during your next vacation, and save on your adventure by purchasing discount Busch Gardens tickets from DWTickets.com.


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