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Busch Gardens Hero Salute - Our Army Family Experience

AWC > Travel & Military Discounts > Busch Garden Hero Salute - Our Army Family Experience

We are back from vacation!  One of our favorite parts was Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida!

Anheuser-Busch offers an amazing program, "Hero Salute", to active duty, activated or drilling reservist, or National Guardsman.

Our Experience:

Day 1 - Our Army Family had the opportunity to visit on Sunday, July 15th.   We arrived at 11AM.  Exchanged our passes for our tickets at Guest Relations.  Bought a Meal Plan (All-Day Dining Deal.  Purchased an All Day locker for $7.  First ride we went to was GWAZI.  That's one bumpy rollercoaster.  Shakier than the 'Eagle' at Six Flags Great America in Illinois.

Kids loved it though.  Next it was off to 'Cheetah Hunt'.  This by far was their favorite rollercoaster, until Tuesday!

     Across from 'Cheetah Hunt' is  'Crown Colony', a great place to stop and get drinks and some grapes.  I was extremely impressed with the produce options Busch Gardens provided.  They had succulent watermelon slices & grapes which are perfect for a hot day!  

     Next up was the train.  It gave us an opportunity to see the animals on the 'Edge of Africa'.

Unfortunately, our train ride stopped around 2pm due to a Thunderstorm.
  It rained from 2:30PM-7:00PM.   

We tried to wait it out.  We went to Pirates 4D.  The kids had fun playing in the pouring rain.  We even got to see a swimming Hippo.
     There were no rides open for over 4 hours and we were beat.  We stopped at Customer relations they were  kind of enough to give us a ticket for another day in the next 6 days.  We were out our money  $120+ for the meal plans.  We left the park around 7:15PM and saw that Montu started running.   

 TIP:  It rains in the afternoon, sometimes ALL afternoon in the Summer.  Getting the meal plan was not a good idea and a COMPLETE waste of our money.  Meal Plan is a GREAT VALUE if you can stay there all day.  

Day 2:   Tuesday July 17th, we attempted again.  This time we were much wiser on how to have a successful affordable day.  First off we arrived 8:30AM before the gate opened.  We paired off because we thought DJ was under 54".    Mac & Phil did Cheetah Hunt once and headed over to Montu for 2 rides.  Morning is the BEST!  DJ & I went twice on Cheetah Hunt in less than 15 minutes.  

     Next we took the Sky Ride to Jungala area.  This is a great place for kids.   I suggest dressing your kids in swimsuits and shorts.  This area has tons of water and climbing available.  Kids 12 and under will love this area.  Jungle Flyers is just a trip out and back.  The Wild Surge was a nice family ride.  There were no lines and no wait so we just stayed on and went twice. 

     It was hot so we thought why not knock out some water rides next.  First we went on Congo Rapids, then log flume, and finally Tidal Wave.   It was on 'Tidal Wave' we realized DJ was indeed 54.5" tall.  Now we made a made Dash to "Sheikra".  It didn't disappoint!

Normally I don't buy ride memorabilia.  Had to buy this pictures and the DVD.  It was our first big roller coaster as a family.

  Mac said, "We've been on  . Rollercoasters will never be the same!"

Sufficiently Soaked & riding Sheikra we were HUNGRY! We headed to the Smoke House and paid out-of-pocket  for some tasty Ribs. 

Last we stopped at Lory Landing.  This was the most EVENTFUL part of our day.  An employee was running our credit card for a purchase Lory Nectar (to feed the birds).  The employee had an episode and dropped to the ground.  My husband's Medic/Military training activated.  He and another gentleman moved the employee to a bench and began to check his vitals.  I called 911.  Luckily he was alright.  A EMT Busch Gardens employee appeared within about 5 minutes.  With the size of the park I was impressed with the prompt medical response provided by the park.

     After that excitement we fed the birds.  STOP AT LORY LANDING!  Pay the $5 for the nectar.  It's a unique experience.  We bought 2, but could have easily bought one and passed it between eachother.   

      Like clockwork it started raining at 2PM.  This time we expected it and headed out.  I'm guessing this weather event is more related to the summer from what Floridians have been telling me.  Plan accordingly.

My overall opinion is this is a family friendly all ages park.  Jungala, and Sesame Street Safari of Fun, Sky Ride, and the Train provide plenty for the younger visitors.  Meanwhile mommy and daddy can ride swap or sneak away to the heart droppin' roller coasters.  It's a park for everyone!  The food is tasty.    The selection and quality made it feel like I wasn't eating fast food.  My favorite dessert is the carrot cake.  My favorite side dish is the pickles.  The All-Day meal plan is worth it if you are going to eat 3 meals.  It was nice the first day to be able to stop and get drinks throughout the day.  

My kids loved Busch Gardens and due to Sheikra they have become Rollercoaster Junkies! 

I want to thank Anheuser-Busch for proving the HeroSalute program.  Our military family really appreciated it!  

How do I get free passes to go?

  1. Go to
  2. Register all eligible participants
  3. Print out your tickets
When you get to the Park:

  1. Go to Guest Relations
  2. Active Duty and Dependents will need to show their IDs.  They did not ask for an ID for my 9 & 10 year old.
  3. If you want a meal plan, save time and buy it a Guest Relations!
Additional Costs:
  • Parking:  $14 a day
  • Food:  All-Day Dining Deal or Pack a lunch/cooler & head back to your car to eat.
  • Locker:  $7 for an All Day Locker
  • Strollers or Power Scooter

My Suggestions for improvement:  Make a separate drink line in restaurants. Sometimes you just want a beverage.  Also, maybe put the weather outlook at the entrance.  

--Jennifer Stewart

Have you been to Busch Gardens Tampa?  or Virginia?  How was was your visit?  Have any tips to make the visit more enjoyable?  Share in the comments below!

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