Near Busch Gardens
Adventure Island (10001 Malcolm McKinley Dr., 888/800-5447, www.adventureisland.com) is a 30-acre water park located right next door to its sister park, Busch Gardens, that features 10 different slides, tubes, and flumes as well as a 17,000-square-foot wave pool, a lazy river, and two kids’ areas. The rides are standard water-park fare, but the 210-foot slide called Gulf Scream is a definite scream.
For the little ones, Splash Attack is highly recommended, as it combines the fun of a tree house, a maze, and waterslides with the cackling glee that can only come from watching a 1,000-gallon bucket of water pour down on people walking below. Cabanas are available for rental, and visitors can also bring coolers (as long as they’re not too big and don’t contain glass or alcohol).
As with Busch Gardens, admission rates and opening hours are somewhat variable. Adventure Island is closed from mid-October through mid-March. During the peak summer season, hours are typically 9 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Saturday–Sunday. In the spring and early fall, hours are typically 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday, 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday–Sunday. Check the park’s website for up-to-date opening hours.
Walk-up rates are $34.95 for children and $37.95 for adults, but these prices can be lowered significantly by purchasing a Busch Gardens ticket at the same time. Two-park admission is $79.95 (adults) or $69.95 (children). Florida residents can by a “Fun Card” that gets them into both parks for a year for $107.95 (adults) or $97.95. Parking is $7.
Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)
For an exceptional—and educational—indoor experience, the Museum of Science and Industry (4801 E. Fowler Ave., 813/987-6100, www.mosi.org, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.–Sun., $23.95 adults, $21.95 seniors, $19.95 children) can’t be beat. On the nearby campus of the University of South Florida, the Museum of Science and Industry offers an array of hands-on science exhibits, including a harrowing high-wire bicycle ride that lets visitors propel a bike across a narrow cable more than 30 feet above the museum’s floor. In between rapid heartbeats, you’re supposed to learn something about physics.
Exhibits on biology, chemistry, and even disasters are smartly curated and entertaining without being patronizing. Speaking of disasters, seek out the Gulf Coast Hurricane exhibit, which is actually hidden away in the courtyard outside of the Museum of Science and Industry’s main entrance; guests sit down inside an enclosed room, don eye and ear protection, and are then subjected to winds reaching and exceeding hurricane strength. Also outside the main museum is an enclosed free-flying butterfly garden.
IMAX movies—both of the educational and the blockbuster sort—are also shown at the Museum of Science and Industry daily.
Lowry Park Zoo
If you couldn’t get enough of the animals at Busch Gardens—or if roller coasters just aren’t your thing—then the highly-rated Lowry Park Zoo (1101 W. Sligh Ave., 813/935-8552, information [at] lowryparkzoo [dot] com, www.lowryparkzoo.com, 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, $18.95 adults, $17.95 seniors, $14.50 children, children 2 and under free) is a definite stop. The 56-acre public facility houses over 2,000 animals, from leopards, tigers, and elephants to warthogs, tapirs, and kookaburras. There is also an exceptional manatee exhibit.
In 2004 the Lowry Park Zoo topped Child magazine’s list of the “Top Ten Best Zoos for Kids.”
The Minds Eye Museum
The gash of commerce that has sprung up around Busch Gardens may leave you feeling both physically and spiritually exhausted; the folks at The Minds Eye Museum (2207 E. Busch Blvd., 813/935-0736, www.bktampa.org, noon–5 p.m. Tues.–Sun.) offer “14 minutes of sheer peace and wonder” that you might need to refocus yourself. Run by the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organization, the “museum” gives insight into their meditative beliefs with a soothing immersive audiovisual show.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition