Busch Gardens Tampa, FL is another theme park owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. It is the second most visited SeaWorld park and the 11th most visited attraction in the United States. As such, this African-themed park also has many accommodations for the disabled to be able to enjoy their visit as well. If you have been following this series of articles, you may be familiar with the articles Visiting Disney With A Disability, Visiting Universal Studios With Disabilities, and Visiting SeaWorld With A Disability. For anyone differently-abled, it can be challenging and seemingly impossible to plan and carry out a vacation, especially to such a large and overwhelming place as a theme park. There are so many places to go and see such a large, expansive space, so many crowds, noise, lights, and music, and so many attractions with their separate requirements and challenges to encounter. It can be overwhelming and overstimulating for anyone, as well as a physical challenge. Coming prepared with comfortable shoes, loose, comfortable clothes, sunscreen, and hats or sunglasses may seem like common sense things to do (See our “Surviving Disney Essentials Kit“), but those with disabilities have to do a little extra planning and preparation in order to have a successful and fun trip to a theme park. It is possible! And Busch Gardens Tampa is waiting for you!
So you want to go to Busch Gardens Tampa but you are hesitant because you have physical or cognitive limitations or disabilities. This is NOT an insurmountable task! This article will give you background information on the accommodations and policies of Busch Gardens Tampa to aid their guests with disabilities to have a safe and enjoyable visit. We will go over special programs, mobility accommodations, service animals,
- Special programs
- Service animals
Busch Gardens has the Rider Accessibility Program, which once you enroll in Guest Services, matches your ability with the appropriate rides. They assess a guest’s physical and mental attributes to be able to safely ride each ride and participate in attractions without being a danger or hazard to themselves or others. Once enrolled in the RAS, you may participate in the Special Access Program, which allows guests to enjoy attractions by participating in Virtual Queues, when they may not be able to wait in a physical line. They check in and are given a time to return to the attraction, all the while enjoying other attractions in the meantime. Guests in the RAP program may have up to 5 guests on their wait with them, but those guests must ride with them. Guests are allowed to only have one wait time at a time and only one RAP sheet per day, printed daily. RAP enrollment is at Guest Services at the Adventure Outpost.
Guests with mobility disabilities may utilize the Rider Accessibility Program and the Special Access Program, which enables them to ride appropriate rides to their ability, and to avoid standing in long lines by using a virtual queue. Wheelchairs and ECVs (Electronic Convenience Vehicles) are available for rental where the Stroller sign is located inside the main entrance. They are available on a first-come-first-served basis and reservations are recommended. Of course, you are allowed to bring your own, For safety reasons, Segways are not permitted. All restrooms are wheelchair accessible. All gift shops are wheelchair accessible. Dining establishments, if not accessible or if you cannot wait in line, please go to the front of the line or see the supervisor, or for special dietary needs.
The rides are marked with specific physical limitations and requirements, such as height and weight. Casts and walking boots may be restricted on certain rides. Prostheses may be restricted on certain rides or may need to be securely fastened or secured. As always, if you have high blood pressure, heart problems, recent surgery, back problems, sensitivity to light, motion sickness, or pregnancy, you may not ride.
Busch Gardens team members may not help lift guests from wheelchairs to ride. They must be able to board themselves or transfer with help from a family member. Riders of size may not be able to ride some rides due to the fact that safety harnesses, lap belts, etc must be able to be securely fastened. Test seats are available at some rides to ensure proper fastening. Oxygen tanks are not allowed on any ride except the Train and the SkyRide. They are allowed in theaters, exhibits, and other enclosed facilities. All theaters have special wheelchair seating, please see Team Member for assistance. (side note: if hearing impaired, there are written scripts available as well in each theater).
Service Animals are welcome at Busch Gardens Tampa. They must be task trained to mitigate an individual’s disability and are limited only to dogs and miniature horses. They must be leashed or harnessed at all times and under the handler’s control. Any service animal not under the handler’s control will be asked to be removed from the premises. A relief break area is located at Pet Care Center at Nairobi Train Center. Service animals are not allowed to ride rides except for Bumper Cars, SkyRide, Train, Kiddie Train, Jingle Bell Express, Congo River Rapids, Big Birds Whirly Birdie, Elmos Safari-go-round, Sahara-go-round Carousel, Count’s Zambizi Rally, Snuffy’s Elephant Romp, Zoe Patras Hippos of the Nile, and Bush Flyers, although it is not recommended that they ride any rides. If you wish to ride without your animal, it must be left with a family member or member of your group. They must be housebroken.
While their accessibility guide does not have a specific section for cognitive disabilities, the Rider Accessibility Program helps guide and access the guest’s attributes to determine which rides are best suitable for them and which they can safely ride.
Although it may seem like a daunting task, visiting a theme park with a disability is possible. A little research and prior planning will all go towards making your trip more bearable and enjoyable. Busch Gardens Tampa is one of the many parks in Florida that goes out of their way to make your trip as a differently-abled guest or family member an enjoyable one. Their accommodations for the physically disabled, those with service animals, and those with other disabilities that use their Rider Accessibility Program and Special Access Program smooth the way to make a trip here part of your vacation of a lifetime. Have a great vacation!
Be sure to check out our other articles guiding you through accessibility at theme parks all across Florida:
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