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I compared Disney World to its pricey Florida competitor Busch Gardens. Here's how they stacked up.

By Kayleigh Price,

I'm a theme-park fan, but I'd never been to Busch Gardens.
  • I'm a regular at Disney World, and I decided to compare the theme park to Florida's Busch Gardens .
  • Busch Gardens was less crowded, but it also had fewer ride and entertainment options.
  • I wasn't super impressed by the food at Busch Gardens, but it was easier to get theme-park tickets.

I've worked at Disney World and been an annual passholder my entire life, but I went to Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, for the first time last year.

It was so cool to go to a theme park not knowing everything and being able to experience a lot of firsts. Here's what Busch Gardens was like in comparison to Disney World.

Busch Gardens had a better ticket-buying system.
It was easy to snag theme-park tickets at Busch Gardens.

The Busch Gardens website was easy to navigate and the ticket-buying process was super easy. When I went, a standard single-day ticket cost about $133.

I've also noticed that Busch Gardens regularly has special deals and discounts, which is a bit rarer for Disney World . For example, when I visited, I was able to buy one ticket and get the other free.

There are more hoops to jump through at Disney World.
I've been visiting the parks my whole life.

The lowest one-day, one-park ticket I could find at Disney World around the same time was $109, but the process is a little more complicated.

In addition to selecting and buying tickets, there's a web-based park reservation system that started in 2020 and is set to be in place until January 2024.

You also have to choose between four parks, decide if you're park-hopping, figure out transportation needs, and consider the cost of add-ons.

Busch Gardens had low crowds and wait times, which I appreciated.
It was super easy to navigate around the theme park.

Busch Gardens only had one show running and 15 rides.

Even though it had fewer options, it never felt crowded, and I didn't wait in any long lines. I was also able to go on all of them, something that's often not possible at Disney World.

There's more to do at Disney World, but there are also usually more people.
There are certain areas in Disney World that are usually crowded, like Galaxy's Edge.

Magic Kingdom alone has 34 attractions and a multitude of entertainment offerings, including parades and fireworks shows.

But in general, Disney World is definitely more crowded, and I usually have to wait in some pretty long lines.

Busch Gardens' rides are for thrill-seekers.
Cobra's Curse is one of the coasters at Busch Gardens.

The rides at Busch Gardens really threw me for a loop and some were unlike anything I've ever experienced.

Although the coasters are thrilling, they only last maybe a minute and rapidly increased my heart rate. For me, that's not something that's going to keep me coming back.

Cobra's Curse oddly reminded me of Disney's Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot. They both had a similar ride system, which includes the ride vehicle spinning around while it takes you around the track.

It was cool to see what two different parks did with similar ride systems, and the coaster at Busch Gardens was thrilling. But I preferred Disney's version because of the impressive preshow and the awesome rotating music playlist.

It's hard to compare Disney World's rides to Busch Gardens'.
I always make sure to ride Haunted Mansion.

Disney World is made up of mostly storytelling rides that spark a childhood memory or a feeling of connection.

For example, Haunted Mansion isn't necessarily a thrilling coaster, but it brings you through a story and captures your attention the entire time. I want to ride it over and over to notice every little detail. Even as someone who has gone my entire life, I'm still finding things I missed.

Disney World has plenty of amazing rides, but overall, it's severely lacking in roller coasters. Busch Gardens has a wide array of different types of coasters that could be enjoyable to lots of people with different interests.

We were only able to experience one show at Busch Gardens.
We watched "Storytelling on Sesame Street" at Busch Gardens.

We saw "Storytelling on Sesame Street" where the "Sesame Street" characters read a story, but none of the other shows were running the day that we went.

The park had animal exhibits around every corner though, which were fun to walk into. But the entertainment as a whole was a bit of a disappointment.

We at least got to meet the "Sesame Street" characters, but that was about it. Other than that, it was kind of similar to "Enchanted Tales With Belle" at Magic Kingdom — but, unfortunately, without the special effects and audience participation that Disney World offers.

At Disney World, it seems like there are character and entertainment offerings around every corner.
There are even character experiences at some restaurants in Disney World.

Overall, I enjoy the entertainment at Disney World a lot more. They make the day super exciting and add another layer of fun to walking around the theme parks.

The shows and parades, like "Mickey's Royal Friendship Fare" in front of Cinderella Castle and "Festival of Fantasy" in Magic Kingdom, are really well-done and creative.

The food at Busch Gardens, in particular, is what I was most disappointed in.
I didn't love the food offerings at Busch Gardens.

I was very excited when we first came to Busch Gardens because it seemed like there was a variety of food offerings. There were five standard restaurants and many quick-bite stands.

My friend and I decided to try Dragon Fire Grill and Zambia Smokehouse, but we were severely disappointed. Each entrée with a side and a drink were about $30, and we didn't end up finishing either because we weren't huge fans.

Busch Gardens did have really tasty ice-cream floats though. And it's nice that the park offers an all-day dining deal where guests can pay about $50 an adult and basically get an entrée every 90 minutes from certain restaurants.

I'm a bigger fan of the food at Disney World.
The cheese-burger egg rolls at Magic Kingdom are a must-try.

At Disney World , I'm usually impressed with the quality of food at the different food stands, quick-service restaurants, and table-service restaurants.

I think there's more variety and there's sometimes a magical twist to it, like ice-cream cones based on beloved Disney characters.

Even though I enjoyed Busch Gardens, I'd prefer to spend a day at Disney World.
Busch Gardens had some fun photo spots.

When it comes to which parks give you more bang for your buck, I would choose Disney World.

Ticket prices at Disney World can fluctuate higher than Busch Gardens' during peak times, but the more expensive admission options typically get you into multiple parks. At the Tampa park, you can pay up to $133 for a single day at one theme park.

There are just more rides, attractions, shows, and entertainment offerings at Disney World. Busch Gardens has better thrill-seeking roller coasters and you also get admission to the attached zoo, but besides that, I think Disney World offers a better value.

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