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Exciting expansions are in store for ZooTampa, Busch Gardens, and the Florida Aquarium



Exciting expansions are in store for ZooTampa, Busch Gardens, and the Florida Aquarium

Three premier attractions in Tampa—ZooTampa, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and The Florida Aquarium—draw crowds of tourists and locals seeking both education and entertainment annually. Busch Gardens boasts acclaimed roller coasters, while The Florida Aquarium stands as a global research hub. ZooTampa, known for its family-friendly environment, encourages exploration of the natural world for both children and adults. Each of these attractions has ambitious plans for future development.

New habitats and rides to explore at ZooTampa

In 2024, ZooTampa unveiled significant initiatives, including the development of new attractions, habitats, and rides.

“We are proud of our role as the destination for families to come together, be entertained, and connect with each other and wildlife,” stated ZooTampa’s CEO and President Joe Couceiro. “We also celebrate our continued commitment to the conservation and preservation of wildlife not only in our backyards, but also around the world.”

The Australia family area is undergoing a complete transformation, introducing the Aussie Trek ride presented by Outback. This revamped section, set to open in Spring 2024, offers parents and children the chance to embark on a safari, delving into the unique wildlife of the land down under. The enhanced area features an expanded splash pad, dry play zone, and introduces a wallaby Signature Encounter for up-close animal connections.

In 2024, ZooTampa takes a leap back in time, showcasing massive prehistoric beasts as the main attraction from January through April. This limited-time special event brings guests face to face with animatronic giants, including the dire wolf from the ice age and an allosaurus from the Mesozoic age, providing a captivating journey into the distant past.

Adding to the excitement, the zoo is set to unveil a brand-new interactive Stingray Shore habitat for visitors to enjoy.

Florida Aquarium’s $40 million expansion

The Florida Aquarium introduced underwater walking tours this year, offering the community a unique experience. However, significant upgrades and expansions are on the horizon with a $40-million expansion plan. The project, divided into three phases, commenced in January 2023 and is set to conclude in 2025.

Phase I focuses on transforming the Mosaic Center’s existing ballroom space into a 3,700-square-foot special exhibit hall. In Phase II, scheduled for 2024, visitors will be transported to rocky coasts through an extraordinary two-level puffin habitat featuring a kelp forest, Atlantic salmon, and other larger fish species. The 45,000-gallon habitat, equipped with multiple viewing windows exceeding 20 feet, allows guests to witness numerous nesting sites and a deep dive pool for these captivating and entertaining birds.

New roller coaster planned for Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens will welcome the new Phoenix Rising roller coaster in 2024.

“This exhilarating new experience will have family members soaring above the Serengeti Plain before going on an exploratory journey over the Pantopia region, with its vibrant colors, thrilling attractions, and more,” write park officials in a press release. “Riders will feel the rush of the wind and thrill of the flight in this suspended roller coaster that enable ride cars and riders to swing side to side as the train races along the track high above the Serengeti Plain.” 

This is set to be the first coaster to feature on-board audio, enhancing the ride experience with “a one-of-a-kind soundtrack, integrated into an exhilarating array of twists, turns and surprises for families riding together.”

There’s another aspect to the park that lifelong thrill seekers have sorely missed: The Skyride. 

Enjoy breathtaking views of both roller coasters and the animals under the care of Busch Gardens as you traverse the lush park in the Skyride cable car. This aerial transportation system runs between Egypt and Congo on the opposite side of the park, providing a comfortable and scenic journey. Unfortunately, the Skyride was temporarily closed during the 2020 pandemic and has remained so for repairs. In August, park officials hinted at its imminent return. Once again, Busch Gardens Tampa is teasing visitors with a video showcasing a blue gondola gliding over the park, accompanied by a caption that intriguingly reads, “testing.”


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