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Old 02-15-2013, 08:26 AM   #16
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Tampa, FL
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Originally Posted by 4kids4karen View Post
BG is not a resort area that is for sure. It is near USF, hospitals, and businesses, and lower-income residences/college housing in Tampa. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is the largest hotel near BG. I am not sure how that is with kids. It is near the fairgrounds. There is also a hotel right across from fairground entrance that is decent, but I forget the name. If you go in February you want to avoid the stuck in State Fair traffic for hours anyways.

If you want to stay near BG are not going to the beaches, look around these landmarks so you will have food options:

-Brandon Town Center (Brandon Mall)
-Wiregrass Ranch Mall (Wesley Chapel, FL) Outdoor mall
-International Plaza / Mall (better part of Tampa, FL) also closer to beaches, close to airport.
- Westshore Plaza (upscale mall not to far from International Plaza)
-Do not stay near University Mall (closest mall to BG but bad part of town)
-Plant City (famous for the strawberry festival)
- Channelside (near the port where the cruises leave from. This is the only real tourist area of Tampa). Ybor is a historical area but a bar district and questionable crowd at night.
- Carrollwood Mall (Carrollwood, FL)

- If you haven't noticed the trend, it's stay at least 15 minute drive from BG. There are some decent places to stay near BG but you would have to be careful when choosing and since you are not familiar with the area, just best to stay near a mall or better area.

-Also near BG is MOSI (Science Museum) which kids love!
-The Florida Aquarium (Port of Tampa)
-Glazer Children's Museum
-Dali Museum
- Holocaust Museum
-Tampa Performing Arts Center
-Cracker County / State Fair / Festivals depending on time of year

-If you are spending time at the beach, check out the pirate boat tours. We went on one for a private party, young kids love it!

-Visit Winter the Dolphin (from the movie) seewinter.com


If you are going to visit St. Pete beach or Clearwater, just stay at the beach. We like to go to John's Pass Boardwalk area which is Madeira beach. When we camp we stay at Fort DeSoto State Park.

Tradewinds Resort is popular but on the pricey side. Great choice for kids. They do movies in the pool, have giant inflatable slides, a water island play area in shallow area of the beach. They have hair braiding stands, face painting, and every other tourist thing you can think of.

Siesta Keys is popular and has a playground on the beach. I have never been inside.

There are tons of resorts to choose from.

Don Cesar is really upscale and featured on the Travel Channel (The "Pink Palace") but I wouldn't personally stay there. I worked here for a conference. It is beautiful.

My personal favorite place to stay in St. Pete is Postcard Inn. It's a older hotel, lower price than the resorts. It brings in a college crowd. But you have to be prepared for a travel lodge with a fresh coat of paint (which is what it is). It is two properties over from Tradewinds. Get a second floor or else you will hear everything going on above you. Hey, the price is good and the staff are nice, and it's on the beach! Then we walk down to Tradewinds to rent jet ski's. You can also pay to use the slides and water island as a non-resort guest.

Have fun!

I agree with most of this. I wouldn't stay in a hotel near BG, it's not the greatest area. I also wouldn't stay in the Channelside area, only because so many of the restaurants and shops have recently closed, and there really isn't much to do there (and is also close to the downtown area, which is plagued by serious traffic problems). I also wouldn't stay in the Plant City area either- it's pretty far removed from "tourist" areas of any sort, unless you are specifically going to visit during their Strawberry Festival.

I think a tourist would be better served by staying in a beach area on the other side of the bay (Pinellas county), and just driving to BG.

Oh, and there is no Carrollwood mall, it's actually called the Citrus Park mall, and is just outside Carrollwood, in Citrus Park
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Old 02-18-2013, 07:37 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by maccalovah View Post

Oh, and there is no Carrollwood mall, it's actually called the Citrus Park mall, and is just outside Carrollwood, in Citrus Park

I knew that. My family just calls it Carrollwood Mall instead of Westfield Citrus Park Town Center. We also say Brandon Mall instead of [I]Westfield Brandon Town Center[/I], International Mall instead of International Plaza and Bay Street, Westshore Mall instead of Westshore Plaza. The Shops at Wiregrass is just "the mall" because we live next to it. I checked google and both versions pull up the correct location but the official name would help.

I wanted to add about the hour drive from the beach to BG or from Orlando. A tip to keep in mind is in the summer and school breaks, there is less traffic in mornings. Whenever school is in session the morning rush hour traffic is nearly double what it is when school is out. There a few school districts (one per county) in Tampa Bay if you wanted to check the schedule. These school districts do not account for the abundance of private schools on their own schedule. BG is in Hillsborough county.

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Old 05-12-2013, 09:44 AM   #18
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follow up question

How is the morning traffic if we stayed at St. Petersburg and drive up from the South instead of going through Downtwon Tampa?
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Old 05-13-2013, 10:07 AM   #19
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From St Petersburg you would likely come through on north 275, which goes right across the downtown Tampa and really is almost entirely east bound (though they call it north) until you get to where the I4 splits off, right at the downtown/Channelside area.

We live locally, and we actually love the all day dine. As passholders, it is something like $27 per person, and you can easily spend that in 2 meals and a couple snacks/drinks, though usually we go when we eat all 3 meals in the parks to maximize the savings. The ADD allows an entree, side or dessert and drink at nearly all the counter service restaurants in the park (not snack carts) as many times as you want to use. Breakfast is ONLY served at one, so we eat there first (and it is close to the entrance). We have eaten at all the counter service places now, but our faves are usually the bbq joint by Sheikra and Desert Grill (spaghetti, fettucine, meatball subs) for meals. All have some great desserts, and all generally have fruit, veggies, etc for sides that you can get as snacks throughout the day along with a drink. We DO ride the coasters all day as well, not sure why anyone would think this was too much food to eat and ride, etc., we've never had a problem, and you don't HAVE to get all the parts when you go through the line, you could choose to get as many or as few as you wanted. A day for us is generally breakfast at 9am, snack of fruit and a drink around 10:30am, lunch @ 1pm, snack and drink @ 2-3, another snack and drink @ 4-5, generally a meal around 6-7. On late nights, probably another snack @ 8-9.
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Old 05-13-2013, 10:21 AM   #20
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We rushed to get there for park open and after entering the park headed to the big rides. We never realized that most of the rides do not open until 1/2 or an hour (I forget which) after park opened so we basically walked around in circles trying to find something to do.
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Old 05-13-2013, 01:38 PM   #21
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A few personal tips for the general good of the order:

If you want to stay in Tampa and you're a shopper I highly recommend the Renaissance hotel which is on the grounds of the International Mall. Basically you have lodging, shopping and a bit of clubby nightlife atmosphere right there in one place.

If you want to stay in Tampa and are a partier check out Ybor City.

For a nice upscale hotel I like the Marriott Waterside on the river and near the Convention Center.

As for Busch Gardens, my favorite coaster is actuallly one of the older ones, Kumba, which has a two-loop feature; it's loud and fast- it's also in the very back of the park, so one strategy is to get into the park and walk back there (or take the skyway or train) and ride this first - then work your way back.

Sheikra is the most visually impressive and imposing but it's such a smooth ride that it's really not as scary as you'd think once you get past that deliciously disorienting part where you're dangling over that 90 degree drop. By all means wait so you can sit in the front row so there's nothing between your legs dangling in front of you and the ground far below. Fantastic experience.

Cheetah Hunt is a fun coaster, not really "thrilling" but it is a modern coaster that is not dependent upon gravity - there are pneumatic impulses throughout the ride that get the cars going, so it's kind of disorienting to be shot straight out and up rather than clicky clacking up as usually and then being dropped from the top. That makes it different - and it's also the longest coaster in Florida - which makes it arguably worth the long wait times.

For BG in the summer I highly recommend going in a swimsuit and bringing a backpack or carrier with towels and a change of clothes. Get a locker across from the Tidal Wave ride and then do all the water rides at the same time, then when you get done you can towel off and get into dry clothes - otherwise prepare for some chafing in your future.

Speaking of the Tangyanika Tidal Wave ride, it's really not much - a relatively mild little boat ride with a big wet drop at the end, but it's worth it to stand on the bridge exiting the ride and getting splashed by the boats as they hit the bottom. Lots of fun but hold on to little kids - it's a literal wall of water.

Best food is the smokehouse under Sheikra. The Crown Colony restaurant has a great view with outdoor seating overlooking the Serenghetti Plain, but I find the food to be bland there, and the bathroom in that place is astonishingly small and cramped - if you have kids to worry about.

If you're going to be there all day and like to eat the Dining plan is a bargain, especially to be able to get waters any time you want them on what are always hot days in the summer.

If your kids are into slimy critters don't forget to wander through the caves near Jambo Junction where they have all the snakes/spiders/bats etc. Also there is an aviary in Lory Landing where you can buy little cups of liquid bird food and get some great pics of exotic birds perched on your arm, or head, or whatever as they eat. You will get bird poop on you ,that's almost a given, but worth the photo op for your kids, lol.

Just random thoughts.. my kids love BG (we live an hour away) and we visit all the time.....

I do have to add one other thing. The hospitality house, where you could get two 8 ounce samples of Budweiser products for free, was abolished when Anheuser Busch was bought out by the Belgian beer conglomerat Inbev. It used to be a fun little respite during the day, where you could walk into the hospitality house with your family and eat a light lunch while the adults had a nice cold beer, feeling like you were getting away with something beause the beers were free. What did that cost the company? Maybe a few cents in barley and hops? But nooooooo the miserable penny-pinching miserly ingrates closed it down. It now sits there, alone and empty save for a few worthless art exhibitions from talentless local artists from time to time, and as the public walks by, adult males of all ages suppress hot tears lamenting days of yore gone by, and plotting the invasion of Belgium.

But I'm not bitter or anything.

Last edited by Minnies Boy Toy; 05-13-2013 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:32 AM   #22
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Minnies Boy Toy, I have a question. We are going next week, and we don't do coasters. We will have 2 days at BG (driving from Orlando, also doing 2 days at SW)

Anyway, my plan was to arrive at opening which is 930a and head straight for Congo River Rapids, then do the other 2 water rides. I read that some rides don't open at park opening. Any idea of which ride won't be open.

I hate to rush back there, to find them not open yet. We have never been to BG, so I feel a little lost, and have no real plan. Also, if the park closes at 6p, what time will the restaurants close? We have the all day dining for one day, so I would like to do lunch and dinner that day. TIA!
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:59 PM   #23
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Don't buy a 2 day pass... Right now a one day ticket and a 2013 annual pass is the same price at the gate.
36 trips and counting...next trip June 2013!
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