There aren't many places where families can get close to exotic animals one minute, hop on a roller coaster the next, and then settle in for a live musical performance. Busch Gardens Tampa combines the wonders of the natural world with opportunities to feel a little like those animals, perhaps by zipping along on the Cheetah Hunt coaster or getting an eagle's-eye view from the Skyride.
Each area of the park offers shopping and dining to match its region's theme. Among them is Pantopia, a fully remodeled wonderland featuring thrilling rides, new global culinary options, and an indoor theater, along with many other attractions and entertainments such as Falcon?s Fury, Busch Gardens? newest thrill machine.
Someone's little brother shrieks, mournful at being too small to play laser tag with his cousins. Another youngster wants to bowl, but can’t pick up the ball. To Terrace Sports's manager, John McMillan, these are simple problems. A crew member scurries through the laser-tag arena, holding the toy gun for the little boy who would otherwise be too small to play. Another sets up a ramp at the top of a bowling lane, helping the toddler to push the ball into the pins with a satisfying clatter.
Smiling on as his staff solves such crises, McMillan strolls through Terrace Sports, which he remodeled after taking the reins from his father. Leading the way to the laser-tag arena, skating-rink, indoor-climbing wall, bowling alley, and arcade, murals stretch down the entryway, saluting the nearby Hillsborough River with more than 85 depictions of the waterway’s inhabitants, dynamic ecosystem, and naturally occurring steamboats. The entryway leads to the snack bar, where a full menu of gator tail, buffalo burgers, and sweet-potato fries glide down countertops handcrafted from teak and embellished by solid-brass elephant heads.
Entering the laser-tag arena gives one the sensation of delving into the interior of a complex machine, with mechanical parts strung with LED lights lining the walls and generating an eerie glow. Imaginations run wild as players choose to take on roles as monarchy loyalists or rebel forces, with both sides fighting for command of the heart of the machine and firing at one another's bases. The guns, powered by unlimited ammo, unleash streams of crimson and emerald light, and fiber-optic aiming ensures pinpoint accuracy. Vests beep when another player is taking aim, giving warriors a moment to find obstacles to hide behind or nearby portraits of themselves to hide in front of. On an observation deck, cheers rise from friends and chaperones as a 32-inch monitor displays scoring and live footage from six in-arena cameras.
Named by USA Today as one of the top 10 roller-skating destinations in the country, United Skates of America in Tampa provides indoor family fun with a spacious rink and various skating games. Jam skating combines dancing and gymnastic moves set to Top 40 hits, and skating limbo blends the formerly disparate joys of rollerblading and chiropractic therapy. When fatigued by the rigors of the rink, children can refuel on pizza and soda at the snack bar. Inside the arcade, they enjoy games of air hockey and Ms. Pac Man, which teaches kids the importance of a nutritious diet high in fruit and ghosts.
Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry—also known as MOSI—has all the answers; even to questions you hadn't thought up yet. What would it be like to live on the moon? Head over to Mission: Moonbase for a detailed simulation. What did the night sky look like in the distant past and what will it look like in the future? The Saunders Planetarium can conjure the starscape of any era. These are just two of the museum's 450 hands-on activities, which also include The Amazing You—an interactive exhibit that explores the process of human development—and the BioWorks Butterfly Garden.
All of these activities feed into the nonprofit, community-based museum's mission of making science fun and accessible to curious citizens of all ages. It is home to a massive children's museum, a water treatment facility that doubles as an exhibit on marshy ecosystems, and an IMAX dome theater—the only one of its kind in Florida.
Terrace Hill Golf Club's par-30 executive course boasts 1,854 well-groomed yards of Bermuda grass around its nine holes, which well-situated lights keep playable day and night. Whether illuminated by the sun or elevated electric bulbs, the course's sloping fairways and greens challenge two players' swinging skills—or the putting aptitude of one player over two visits—as they traverse them in a cart or roll down them in sleeping bags. After visiting all nine holes, golfers may conclude their visit by heading to the driving range and forcefully smacking a small bucket of balls to impressive distances, or patiently hitting them one by one. Players must schedule a tee time at least 24 hours in advance.
At SeaWorld Orlando, the world of undersea wonder comes alive like no place short of the ocean itself. From the graceful might of the killer whales in the Shamu show One Ocean to the epic 3D voyage of sea turtles in the 360 TurtleTrek, the park explores the vibrant life that bustles just below the water's surface. The voyage even takes visitors to the cold shores of Antarctica, letting them see the world through the eyes of a the world's best-dressed bird in Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.