If you make an annual or semi-annual pilgrimage to Orlando every year, you might want to expand your horizons beyond the typical attractions. Sure, you love Walt Disney World, and you might be familiar with Universal Studios Florida, Islands of Adventure, and SeaWorld Orlando, too, but what lies beyond those familiar theme parks?

Busch Gardens Tampa is a fun place for families that’s just about an hour west of the Walt Disney area via expressways. This summer is a particularly good time to visit the park because it unveiled a new Madagascar-themed show that’s perfect for kids who love the popular Dreamworks movies.


Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation is a 20-minute show full of song, dance, and familiar characters like Alex the lion, Gloria the hippo. King Julien, and Mort. And what about the penguins? Of course they’re there, too, with their usually zany antics.

The Madagascar show is a special summer offering at Busch Gardens, but the park has a wide range of attractions that appeal to all age groups, just like sister park SeaWorld Orlando. While SeaWorld focuses on aquatic animals like dolphins, orcas, and sea lions, Busch Gardens is more like a traditional zoo, albeit with spacious savannahs and other natural habitats instead of small cages.


There are two main areas for young kids. Sesame Street Safari of Fun has a show, rides, and characters, while Jungala features rides and live animals like orangutans and tigers on display. Older kids are always attracted to roller coasters like SheiKra with its 200 foot plummet, Kumba, Montu, and Cheetah Hunt. There are other rides for the whole family, like a log flume, scenic sky ride and train. You can also see animal habitats throughout the park featuring creatures like kangaroos, gorillas, lions, giraffes, and zebras.


The Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation show is a great summer addition for several reasons. First, even though it’s geared to kids, the lively presentation is good for the whole family. There’s a live band and a score with both original and familiar tunes.

Second, Florida summers get hot and, often, rainy. The Madagascar show is in the Stanleyville Theater, which was recently enclosed to make it a cool, comfortable venue. Take a load off your tired feet and enjoy the air conditioning during the show, or escape an afternoon thunderstorm while being entertained.

Busch Gardens itself is also a good summer park because it doesn’t tend to get quite as crowded as the Disney parks. Even if the lines get long, you can purchase Quick Queue passes for faster access.

Busch Gardens Tampa is easy to get to via I-4, which takes you to I-75 and the park exit. There are plenty of Disney-area hotels with easy access to I-4, including the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel inside Walt Disney World, the Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista, the Grand Beach Resort at Lake Buena Vista, and the Grande Villas Resort at Lake Buena Vista. All of these hotels are near the entrance to I-4 at State Road 535. Celebration Suites at Old Town, the Holiday Inn Maingate East, the Royale Parc Suites, and the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Orlando Convention Center are also very close to the expressway.