Spring means the start of the Florida family vacation season, and it’s when theme parks here roll out what’s new to draw families in.
The new children’s area is a whole theme park within a theme park, with its own rides, shows, play areas and dining options. It’s all themed with the familiar Sesame Street characters, but to fit in with Busch Gardens’ African theming, Bert and Ernie and the gang are dressed in Safari garb and exploring African culture.
I have been able to watch the Sesame Street Safari of Fun from the construction phase right through to its opening, and I have to say if you have a preschooler in your household, it’s definitely worth the trip.
Here are the highlights:
- Air Grover – This is brand-new junior roller coaster, where you can ride a plane (piloted by Grover) over the Mojave desert. It’s designed to be your child’s first roller coaster. But Air Grover is not a lightweight – the twists and turns will give you and your child a thrill. The ride takes about 30 seconds, so even if your little one does get slightly scared, it’s over quickly. I recently rode Air Grover with my 4-year-old niece. As you can see in this video, she wasn’t scared at all!
- Dine with Elmo and Friends – To get the most up close-and-personal time with the Sesame Street characters, you should plan to have breakfast or lunch in the newly built character dining venue at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The food is buffet style, and judging by the breakfast I had there, there’s something for everyone. The highlight, of course, is when the characters arrive to mix and mingle with your table. I recommend making your dining reservations online, in advance of your trip.
- Sunny Day Theater – This is another chance to see the Sesame Street characters in action, as they perform African tales live on stage several times each day.
- Elmo’s Treehouse Trek – Gigantic 3-story playground that’s big enough for parents, too!
- Bert and Ernie’s Watering Hole – This is a huge splash play area, so be sure to bring swimsuits. I recommend water shoes, too. I love that Busch Gardens thought about the parents when building this – the whole area is ringed with benches that are close enough to keep an eye on your kids without hovering.
For those of you planning a Walt Disney World trip this summer, I think it’s worth the drive to Tampa if your kids are Sesame Street fans. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is less than 90 minutes from Disney, so it’s an easy day trip.
If you are a Florida resident, Busch Gardens is offering a free “preschool pass” to kids ages 5 and under. It’s good for admission through the end of 2010. You must sign up for this offer in advance online, though. It’s not available at the gate.