Busch Gardens Tampa with a 1 year old | Helpful Tips & What You Need to Know

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with 1 Year Old

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is well known for its world class rollercoasters and other rides for older kids but there are plenty of attractions for younger children also. We’ve been to Busch Gardens multiple times with our 1 year old.  We wanted to share some tips and tricks to make your next trip memorable!

1. The Sesame Street Show is a Must-do, but Get There Early

If you have a Sesame Street lover like we do, the Sesame Street Live Show is a must-do!  You can see the times on-line before your trip.  There may be different variations of the show depending on the season, but it’s guaranteed to be a good time. The show features singing and dancing by Elmo, Cookie Monster and the rest of the gang.  

To get decent seats (or seats at all), you need to get there early!  The outdoor theatre is way too small and is always overcrowded.  The best seats are the log-style seats in the front of the theatre.  They are close and covered (in case it starts to rain!).  We’ve gotten our seats as early as an hour before the show started and were able to get in the front row without a problem. It was well worth the wait.

The back of the theater has bleacher seats.  We recommend getting there a at least 15-30 minutes prior to the show to guarantee you’ll get seats!  Of course, this could all be dependent on how crowded (or not crowded) the park is that day.  It’s often standing room only once the show starts!

2. Other Things to Do in Sesame Street: Carousel, Pictures & Shop

The Sesame Street area also has several rides and play areas.  However, we’ve only done the carousel ride.  The carousel in Sesame Street is a mini version of a traditional carousel.  The animals the kids sit on do not go up and down.

The other rides are geared towards older kids and the play areas are too crazy for our liking.  We always end up skipping the play areas, as there are tons of bigger kids running around and we don’t want our little one to get trampled.  

Other things to do in the Sesame Street area include taking pictures with the characters.  There’s a photo op right after the Live Show (expect long lines).  There may also be other photo opportunities with some of the characters, but the times aren’t posted online.  Similar to Disney, sometimes it’s completely random, so you may just get lucky and run into some characters while you’re strolling down Sesame Street.

Our final recommendation for things to do in Sesame Street with a 1 year old is check out the gift shop!  Of course, we recommend that you be mindful of your purchases, so don’t buy something you know will go unplayed with after a short time.  However, if there’s something that catches your eye, don’t think you can find it cheaper elsewhere.  We made that mistake only to realize some of the items were more expensive or simply impossible to find outside the park.  

3. Breakfast/Lunch with Elmo? DO IT!

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be a permanent offering, but if they do have breakfast or lunch with Elmo, DO IT!  It does cost extra, but it is 100% worth it (if you have a Sesame Street lover, like we do!).  In our case, we did a breakfast with Elmo and to this day, it was one of the happiest days of my daughter’s life (no exaggeration!).  She got to meet Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover and Zoe.  Each character came around to our table and spent quality time with her.  They also put on small little performances in the center of the room.  There was more time at the end to spend one-on-one time with the characters.  This was such a great experience!  100% recommend!

4. Check out Shows Throughout the Park

Outside of the Sesame Street area, there’s a ton to keep a 1 year old happy.  

There are 3 categories of shows that are pretty regular at Busch Gardens: an Animal Show, Ice Skating Show and a Live Performance Show.  The specific show may change, but the category of show stays the same.  

Animal Show

The animal show, called “Critters in Charge” is definitely a favorite with my one year old.  There’s a cute storyline that shows off tricks of talented (and very well-trained) animals.  If you’ve been to Universal Studios Orlando, it’s the same concept of their show “Animal Actors on Location!”.  One benefit of the Busch Gardens show is that it’s inside an air conditioned building, so perfect for keeping the little ones cool.

Ice Skating Show

Another cool place to retreat to if it gets too hot.  The ice skating show really captures the attention of my toddler  with the music, lights, and skating.  It’s by the entrance of the park, so it may not be the most convenient to get to depending on where you are.  I also found the music to be too loud for my liking, though my husband thought it was fine.  Just be aware if you have a little one sensitive to loud sounds.  Without fail though, we always see adults sleep right through the show.  If you can sleep through the noise, this show does make for perfect napping conditions, as it’s so cool and the chairs are very plush and comfortable!

Live Performance Show

There’s usually some type of live performance (singing and dancing) on the Dragon Fire Grill stage.  The seating area doubles as seating for the Dragon Fire Grill, a cafeteria style restaurant.  If you’re only visiting Busch Gardens for one day, this is a great way to kill two birds with one stone – eat and see a show at the same time!


The animal show, ice skating and live performances at the Dragon Fire Grill are the most regular and reoccurring shows at Busch Gardens in addition to the one in Sesame Street.  All three may not be showing the day you visit.  And if you go on a less crowded day, expect there to be fewer performances.  Definitely look at the show times on-line before your trip to see what’s being offered that day.  There are often even more shows available than these, especially around the holidays.

5. Don't Forget About the Animals

Busch Gardens has tons of animals.  Whether you just take a few moments to check them out as your walking from A to B, or you want to make looking at animals a more central part of your trip, they are a favorite with little ones.  

The gorilla section is nice and shady, so provides some relief from the sun if you need it!  Don’t overlook the giant photographs of the gorillas and gorilla statues scattered throughout the area.  My one year old likes these just as much as the real life animals!

Other favorites include the elephants, penguins, and flamingoes.  

Unfortunately, you can’t take your one year old in to see the kangaroos.  You have to be 5 or older to go in that section.

6. Other Things to Do with Toddlers at Busch Gardens

Aside from everything else previously mentioned (Sesame Street, Shows, Animals), there are a few other things your toddler may enjoy throughout the park.

Between the Dragon File Grill and Pantopia Theater (where they have the Animal Show) is a carousel.  This is your traditional carousel, unlike the mini one found in the Sesame Street area.

You can also ride the Serengeti Express Train.  Many people use this train to get from one are of the park to another. With a toddler in tow, we like to ride it in a full loop.  It’s a great way to see a lot of animals in a short amount of time. Just be prepared to fold down your stroller.

7. Let's Talk Logistics

  • Be sure to bring your child’s cup and keep them hydrated!  
  • Arrive to the park before they open if you can.  It will be coolest in the morning and less crowded.  
  • Ask the parking attendant at the booth for “Stroller Parking”, if available.  They’ll put a special piece of paper on your wind shield which tells the other parking attendants to guide you to the stroller parking area.  This parking is closer and allows you to walk to the park instead of having to ride the tram (you can still walk from the normal parking lot – we do!  It’s just farther).
  • Spend more than one day at the park if you can!  It’s impossible to see and do everything in one day, especially with a toddler in tow where naps are still a factor.
Hopefully this was helpful! Reach out if there’s anything else you would like to know!
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