Just an hour drive from Orlando’s theme park hub, Busch Gardens has been Tampa Bay Florida’s thrill domain for over 50 years. Opening in 1959, this site was originally a simple tropical garden. The lure of beautiful gardens is still present today and can be seen in floral arrangements and topiary displays of bushes cut and clipped to resemble animals.
However, the park has drastically evolved since then and has become Florida’s top thrill park, offering more world-class coasters than the rest of Florida’s major theme parks combined. Attracting more than four million visitors annually, it is safe to say that the variety of coasters that reside at Busch Garden’s are easily amongst the best of their type in the entire world.
Sheikra – Florida’s only dive coaster takes riders up 200 to the edge of a 90-degree drop… and then stops. Riders can get a bird’s eye view of the entire grounds before plummeting down a 90-degree drop and reaching top speeds of 70 mph through twists and turns of adrenaline. What’s the best part? Riders come out of an underground tunnel and quickly emerge into a splashdown finale that drenches those walking by.
Cheetah Hunt – the park’s longest coaster launches riders high above the park and then races down just slightly above the ground through a rocky gorge. The track spans 4,400 feet through the park’s wildlife areas allowing riders not only to experience the thrill of the coaster but also the excitement of the many animals roaming around.
Kumba – voted one of the world’s best sit down steel coasters, Kumba was also the world’s first coaster to feature a number of now-common roller coaster elements, including interlocking corkscrews and a dive loop. Riders experience up to 3 seconds of absolute weightless while spiralling 360 degrees and tearing through the world’s largest vertical loop.
Montu – one of the best inverted roller coasters in the world plummets riders through a record 7 inversions including a 60-foot vertical loop and a weightless roll. It was the first inverted coaster in the world to introduce an Immelmann loop (a simultaneous loop and roll).
Scorpion – is one of only three roller coasters of its kind remaining in the world today, takes riders through a classic 360-degree vertical loop and reaches top speeds of 50 mph.
As if this line-up of thrilling scream machines are not enough to satisfy your G-force crave, then why not ride Cobra Curse, the park’s new family thrill spin coaster. The first gut-wrenching element of this coaster is it’s never before seen lift hill. Unlike traditional coaster lift hills, Cobra’s Curse is equipped with an elevator style lift. Riders are taken up 90 degrees while face-to-fang with an 80-foot golden snake statue before plummeting down to the ground and reaching top speeds of 80 mph. The coaster cars are synchronized with the layout of the track, allowing riders to experience spinning like motions through every twist and turn that the Cobra has in store.
In a 2016 news release, Busch Gardens said, “The Cobra’s Curse ride experience unfolds in chapters: First, you will be facing forward for the first third of the ride and then be turned backwards for the second segment. Finally, for the final third of the ride, you’ll free spin into a frenzy.”
Although riders can experience a heart-pumping adrenaline rush through the many different elements that are equipped on this coaster, it is safe to say the excitement starts before stepping foot into the car. The queue line also operates as a snake exhibit reflecting the theme of the coaster. While waiting in line, riders can admire black mambas, pythons and vipers that will get the excitement flowing for the twists and turns they will endure.
Now for those who prefer to stay on the ground – then fear no more. Busch Gardens Tampa is recognized for its gorgeous ambience and wildlife. The park is home to several exotic animals, many which are on the verge of extinction in their natural habitats.
Equipped with 10 themed areas guest can take strolls or even a train ride through tropical landscapes and encounter the many unique animal exhibits that are spread throughout the park.
If you are planning a visit to Busch Gardens, here are some things to consider:
- It is commonplace for scattered and sudden thundershowers to take place in Florida so packing an umbrella goes a long way.
- The rules state that outside food is prohibited inside the park but through both of my experiences there I’ve noticed that they don’t take this notion seriously. My advice, don’t bring take out from any food chain franchises, instead bring food from home such as sandwiches, fruit, granola bars.
- The lines are usually a hit and miss but if you are hoping to beat them– then start from the back of the park and work your way to the front.
- Busch Gardens Tampa is a sister park of SeaWorld, Orlando, and combo tickets for the two parks are available at both locations and websites. Sea World Orlando also offers free bus transportation to Busch Gardens Tampa for multi-park-ticket holders who don’t want to make the drive on their own so it’s perfect for family vacations.
- Since the holiday season is upon us once again Busch Gardens is operating their annual Christmas Town Celebration. For first-time park goers who may not know, this means the park has created an actual winter wonderland among their most popular coasters and attractions.
- More than two million twinkling lights have been set up around the park where families can meet Santa, take tours of his workshop and check out their monumental ice shows.
- Also, New Year’s Eve marks a festive street show as well as fireworks after a monumental countdown.
- Busch Garden’s Christmas Town is now open for 23 select nights throughout the month of December. For more information, visit Busch Garden’s website HERE.
By Adrian DiStefano