Local loopholes in park prices

Anyone planning a trip to Busch Gardens or Adventure Island should be prepared for price increases this season. In 2006, the price for adult admission to the water park was $32.95. This year, the price went up to $35.95. Busch Gardens had a similar increase over the two years – $57.95 to $61.95. The reason for the price increases might surprise the average thrill seeker.

An employee from AAA Carrollwood, who wished to remain anonymous, said the prices at Adventure Island and Busch Gardens usually go up a little bit each year. She also said that they probably increase them because Disney increases its prices each year.

Gerard Hoeppner, senior director of communications for Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks in Florida, said the price increases have nothing to do with Disney, however.”We don’t focus on prices of competitors,” Hoeppner said. “Tampa Bay is unique. … We’re in a different market. Our pricing decisions are independent of our competition.”

Hoeppner agreed that prices increase annually, however. He also offered some explanations as to why this happens.

“Pricing reflects reinvestment into parks,” Hoeppner said. “When the prices go up, that money is used to increase the quality of Adventure Island and Busch Gardens. There are new projects that are being completed all the time to increase the quality of the experience for the guests.”

SheiKra opened at Busch Gardens in 2005. It will be shut down for a brief time later this year and reopen as a floorless coaster. Concerts will also be offered to the guests at no extra charge to this year’s guests as well. Viva La Musica, a Latin music festival that has been ongoing every weekend in March and May, will bring the Michelob Music Fest.

Rip Tide opened in the 2006 season at Adventure Island. There were also upgrades to the dining areas of the water park. The biggest change was the redesign of McKinley Drive and the entrances of both Adventure Island and Busch Gardens. New landscaping and faster lines at the gates were designed with the hopes of making the guest experience better.

If the prices seem a little too high, there are ways to get cheaper tickets – it just takes a little effort.

“The reality is no one should be paying full price,” Hoeppner said. “We have several options.”

There is the Busch Gardens Fun Card, which allows guests to “pay for a day, come back all year.” Florida residents can buy a Fun Card at a single-day rate that is used for admission all year long. Out-of-state visitors can buy cheaper tickets if they buy them online seven days before admission.

Adventure Island also has ways to get cheaper tickets. For a discount on single-day tickets, one can buy them online seven days prior to a visit. The best deal for Florida residents would be to get a Fun Card for both parks. The cost of a two-park Fun Card is only $4 more than the cost of both a single-day ticket to Adventure Island and Busch Gardens.

The only people who have to pay full price at Busch Gardens are those who come from out of town and buy at the gate. The only people who pay full price at Adventure Island are those who never looked online to find discounts. AAA and coupons from places such as the “Entertainment Book” are other ways to get discounts on single day tickets. The biggest key, though, is that a little research saves a lot of green.