Beat the Heat at GTB's Theme Parks - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Beat the Heat at GTB’s Theme Parks

Beat the Heat at GTB’s Theme Parks

By Julie Garisto

Summer heat does not have to suck the joy out of Florida fun. Updated attractions and first-ever rides are ramping up Greater Tampa Bay’s recreational profile. There is no reason to let a little sweat get in the way of a good time.

Cannot-miss new attractions

Busch Gardens has revamped its teeth-clattering wooden coaster into a smoother, more ergonomic thrill ride. Now featuring a 206-foot-tall peak that gives way to a 91-degree drop, Iron Gwazi cranks the adrenaline. It has three inversions and top speeds of 76 mph.

ZooTampa has expanded habitats for Florida panthers and native black bears this year. Hamadryas baboons are the newest primates on the scene. The new underwater views of Stingray Bay are simply spellbinding. 

ICYMI, ZooTampa gets the star treatment on the Nat Geo Wild TV series, “Secrets of the Zoo.” It featured its world-renowned conservation and animal education efforts.

Summer heat hacks for Florida attractions

Arrive early and head to the farthest end of the park. Seek out the most popular attractions with the longest lines first to prevent long waits during the hottest hours of the day.

Take advantage of extended summer hours by arriving late. Skip the mid-afternoon sun completely by arriving at 3 p.m. and staying until 10 p.m. for fireworks at Busch Gardens. 

Check out the forecast and event closures. Find out about attraction closures and afternoon storms before heading out.

Take in an afternoon show or indoor tour during peak heat or thunderstorms. Save early morning or late afternoon for those bustling attractions with long lines.

Bring a refillable water bottle and stay hydrated. Dehydration is no fun, but buying drinks throughout the day can be inconvenient and expensive. Both ZooTampa and Busch Gardens offer conveniently located water fountains to refill an insulated container. Or, a recycled plastic bottle will do in a pinch.

For a quick spritz of refreshment, fill up a small travel-size spray bottle with Sea Breeze. Or a similar astringent, which opens facial pores and offers an instant cooling sensation.

A small towel or bandana soaked in ice water can prevent a heatstroke. Refreshment stands are usually accommodating with cups of ice to accommodate this hot-weather hack.

See Also

Plan a long meal break around 2 p.m. According to Farmer’s Almanac, noon is not the hottest time of the day. The mercury doesn’t start to lower until 3 p.m. So, long-haulers should snack a little in the morning to avoid retreating indoors while the temperature is still rising. 

Busch Gardens and ZooTampa have eateries inside the park. Guests can venture out and return, usually with a handstamp or wristband. If breaking from Busch Gardens, a plethora of dining options can be enjoyed locally. Local favorites include Mel’s Hot Dogs, Petra Middle Eastern Restaurant and Tara’s Roti Shop. Many mom-and-pops serving international cuisine line Busch Boulevard and Fowler and Fletcher avenues.

ZooTampa is just around the corner from critically raved eateries in Seminole Heights. The neighborhood’s trendy hotspots include Ella’s American Folk Art Cafe, the Corner Club and Trip’s Diner.

Fun + instant hydration = water parks

Premier aquatic destination Adventure Island has reopened with two new exciting slide attractions. Rapids Racer features two-person rafts and the world’s first dueling saucers. Wahoo Remix, formerly known as Wahoo Run, dazzles with synchronized light and sound elements.

Of course, slinking into a pool or floating along the Rambling Bayou provides more relaxation if the rides seem a bit too extra.

Head north to Buccaneer Bay at Weeki Wachee for a more natural aquatic experience. Parents can recline on a sandy white beach or take a dip in the crystal-clear spring waters. Rent an inner tube to float cares away on a natural river that flows around the swimming area. Certified lifeguards are stationed throughout the area.

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