Thursday, June 02, 2016

Vintage Postcards - Busch Gardens, Tampa

Hey hey, it's time for another look at Ken Martinez's collection of vintage amusement park postcards! All commentary is provided (as usual) by Ken:

Busch Gardens, Florida

Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida (which is themed to Africa) was one of several hospitality/animal theme parks that existed at one time across the United States, the others being in Van Nuys, California, Houston, Texeas (Asian theme), and Williamsburg, Virginia (European theme). Today there are only two Busch Gardens parks still operating, one in Tampa and the toher in Williamsburg, and they are now part of a larger group known as SeaWorld Entertainment. The Florida park, which was also known at one time as "Busch Gardens Africa" and "Busch Gardens - The Dark Continent", opened in 1959 and started life as an admission-free hospitality center for the Anheuser-Busch brewery.

This early bird show was part of the original section of the animal park known as the Bird Gardens which opened in 1959. The bird trainer looks small next to the large birds.

Here's an unusual postcard featuring two females of the human species posing with elephant tusks framing a waterfall. I have no idea where this location existed in the park and if it still exists there today. It's a strange card.

The barrel flume ride pictured here is known as Stanley Falls and features a 43 foot drop. It opened along with the new Stanleyville theme area in 1973. The attraction still operates and thrills riders today. I can just feel the cool water in this postcard. Especially on one of those hot humid summer days in Florida.

The Python corkscrew, which opened in 1976, was the first roller coaster for the animal park and was located in the Congo section. In 2006 the Congo section went under a major renovation and the removal of the classicl Python corkscrew coaster was part of that plan. Unlike the other original corkscrew coasters of this time, this one was dismantled and not relocated. I always got a chuckle how the non-Disney theme parks themed their roller coasters simply by giving it a name and painting it the colors that imply the name.

Hope you enjoyed this early visit to Busch Gardens in Florida

Information Source material:
Funland U.S.A. copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko

THANK YOU, Ken Martinez!!


TokyoMagic! said...

Not only was the Python the park's first roller coaster as Ken mentioned, but it was Florida's first looping coaster. I just don't get why these theme park corporations don't care about their own park history! I was fortunate enough to ride it in 2006 before it closed for good and it had a line, so they can't say that nobody was going on it!

Thanks for sharing these, Ken! Will we be seeing more images of the Tampa park in the future? Do you have any postcards from the Van Nuys park?

Pegleg Pete said...

Great postcards today - thanks, Ken! As a child I was always fascinated by the African theming of Tampa's Busch Gardens. I believe the tusk photograph was taken at a 'photo spot' by Nocturnal Mountain in the Nairobi section of the park. The tusks seemed to have moved about in the park's early years. I haven't been there since spring 1985 so I've no idea if they're still around.

Chuck said...

The Python was my first inverted coaster. I was 10 years old and so terrified of it that my mother had to bribe me to get on the thing. It was during the last half hour of the park's operation and the line was short. I ended up riding it 11 times in a row, with several iterations where I didn't even have to get out of the seat after a run because there was no-one waiting to get on in my row. Sorry to hear it's gone.

Thanks again, Ken!

Patrick Devlin said...

Many thanks, Ken! Your generous input is the kind of variety that makes a daily visit here mandatory. I never got to visit here or the much closer Van Nuys location, to my loss. There are different kinds of theming and they certainly got the "Gardens" aspect of their theming down in spades!

K. Martinez said...

TokyoMagic!, That didn’t occur to me about the Python being a first for Florida, but you’re right. Great factoid there! Thanks for sharing it. I do have some more Tampa and Williamsburg postcards I’ll be sharing in the future, but unfortunately no cards for the Van Nuys park.

Pegleg Pete, I always thought that next to Disney, the Busch Gardens parks in Tampa and Williamsburg did the best job in theming. They truly deserve the title of “theme park”. Of course several other newer parks have gotten pretty good at theming too. Thanks for solving the mystery of the tusks. I went there in the early 1980’s but don’t remember it for some reason.

Chuck, I always look forward to the stories you share here of your childhood visits to the theme parks. It adds a special touch to these posts. Python... 11 times in a row?! That’s 22 inversions! Crazy!! It must’ve been trippy when you had to get up and walk around after that.

Patrick, Thank you for your kind comments. Funny, I never visited the much closer Van Nuys park either, but fortunately was able to make it to the other two larger parks in Virginia and Florida for one time only. It was so long ago now that they have pretty much become faded memories.

Nanook said...


The last time I visited Busch gardens, FLA, was back in 1980. And I certainly remember riding the Python. I think the bigger impression at that time was later in the day driving on the (then remaining) northbound span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, as a part of the southbound span had, on May 9th, been struck by a freighter during a blinding thunderstorm. It was incredibly creepy driving southbound in one of the [normally-directed] northbound lanes while the damaged portions of the bridge were under repair, and easily being able to look 'way down' at the water.

Thanks, Ken, for sharing.

Dean Finder said...

I'd really like to go on the Busch Gardens brewery tour. Combining 2 things I love, beer and monorails.