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Busch Gardens Tampa – Sesame Street Safari of Fun: Interactive Play Areas

Rating: * * * * *
Type: Hands-on activity
Time: As long as you want
Short Take: The best of its kind in Central Florida

Most of the Safari of Fun is given over to a series of loosely connected climb-up, crawl-through, slide-down play areas that can keep little ones occupied for hours. I have given them the rather cumbersome name of "interactive play areas," but each has its own identity and special attractions, as we shall see.

Dominating the north end of the area is Cookie Monster's Canopy Crawl, an elaborate two-story structure colorfully painted and shaded by a large tarp covering and towering live oak trees. On the lower level, it features a net climb, an "air bounce" (a large inflated floor on which kids can jump to their hearts' content), and a "ball crawl" (a pit filled with colored plastic balls into which kids can literally dive). The upper level is reached either via the net climb or, for less agile adults, a stairway. There you will find a two-level, kid-sized, climb-through, maze-like environment forming a delightful obstacle course. No one higher than 56 inches is allowed in this one, so Mom and Dad are excused.

From this upper level extend two rope bridges. Both go to Elmo's Tree House, one directly and the other via an intermediate tower, from which kids can zip down a corkscrew slide to ground level. The Tree House itself is a kid's fantasy of a humongous old tree girdled by a spiral wooden staircase leading to a "secret" room at the top. Along the way, climbers can detour into jungle gym-like environments that snake off through the Safari of Fun. Kids will love it; nervous parents may find it hard to keep track of their little ones. At the foot of the Tree House lies Oscar's Swamp Stomp, a watery play area where kids can really get soaked. The swamp leads through and around the old tree and comes complete with a friendly sea serpent whose snake-like body appears and disappears beneath the water. Set apart and surrounded by a fence is Slimey's Sahara Sand, a large and ingeniously designed sandbox with adorable playhouses, and an area for adults to relax.

The overall effect of these interlocking entertainments is pure delight. Not only is virtually every activity conceived by the preschool mind represented here, but the design and attention to detail are wonderfully imaginative.

Tip: If your kids are old enough to be turned loose in the Safari of Fun, you can draw some comfort in the knowledge that there is only one way out, at the southern end. There is no exit at the north end, near Lory Landing.

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