Busch Gardens, 1966-86

A glaring omission here at AmericasSuburb.com has been any mention of the vanished local landmark Busch Gardens — as several readers have pointed out. Well no more!

Busch Gardens was a 20-acre tropical-theme amusement park and exotic bird preserve behind the Anheuser-Busch brewery on Roscoe Boulevard in Van Nuys. It opened in 1966 and offered boat rides, exotic bird shows and plenty of free Budweiser for adults. Visitors could also ride a gondola through the brewery to see beer being made.

The gardens drew 1.2 million visitors in 1975, according to the reference book “Los Angeles A to Z.” But with attendance sagging, the park changed its name (and focus) to the Busch Bird Sanctuary. It lasted another decade before closing for good in 1986 so the brewery could expand.

Reminders of Busch Gardens still fly in the skies above the Valley. Some of the feral parrots and parakeets heard squawking overhead are believed to be progeny of birds that escaped from the park — or survivors themselves.
Another note about the Van Nuys Busch Gardens: it wasn’t the first in the Los Angeles area. In 1903, Adolphus Busch — patriarch of the brewing family — built exotic woodlands, pools and trails along the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, called it Busch Gardens, and opened it to tourists. It closed in the 1930s.


Top: The Van Nuys Busch Gardens, 1970 (Los Angeles Public Library)
Below: The Pasadena Busch Gardens (Los Angeles Public