Florida Guide > Other Parks
Busch Gardens for Thrlll Seekers
Nowhere else in Florida rivals Busch Gardens for thrill rides and for the serious coaster fanatic it is well worth the 60 minute drive from the Orlando area. It really is a very easy drive over to Tampa - the park is well signposted and we have generally encountered very little traffic so don’ t let the fact it is a bit further out put you off giving it a try.
For the traditional thrill seeker there is Gwazi - a monster of a wooden roller coaster that will quite literally shake the fear out of you! There are actually two trains to Gwazi - Tiger and Lion both slightly different. Although wooden rollercoasters are often spoken of fondly by enthusiasts I must admit it was a bit rough for me. It was also the only ride we queued for all day.
All coaster parks need a hanging coaster and Busch Gardens has Montu - an egyptian themed coaster billed as one of the tallest and longest in the world. You get a real rush of air riding Montu which is a class roller coaster and a really smooth ride. There is an excellent viewing point just before the entrance where you can stand under one of the loops to get a feel for the ride.
Kumba is another big coaster which offers a smooth ride. This time with a floor so something solid under your feet but that doesn’ t distract from an excellent ride. There is a great moment at the bottom of one of the series of 360 degree loops that you experience weightlessness
For real coaster thrills I challenge anyone to better Sheikra - this is a fabulous rollercoaster. Visually a little intimidating (ok - terrifying) - it was surrounded by people deciding if they would risk it or not! I’ ve never been to any coaster park anywhere in the world where a coaster of this quality had no queue. We rode it 3 times in a row - twice in the front row - with no wait whatsoever!
You might have gathered by now that I love coasters but sitting on Sheikra for the first time waiting for the off I was as scared as I have ever been on a ride. And that is nothing to the feeling you get as you start that huge climb up to the top - you are literally facing the sky - sitting right back in your seat like an astronaut being blasted into space. Fortunately for my nerves the trip up is quite quick. Then you approach the drop - and you stop - and you hang there - face-down - staring into oblivion! ! In the front row this is the most terrifying experience - there is literally nothing below you - no floor - nothing! Grown men were screaming. But that drop - it is amazing - your stomach never really catches up until long after you smooth out at the bottom. For those of you who have rode Oblivion at Alton Towers (which is similar but not as tall) you’ ll know that is it and you glide slowly to the unload area - not on Sheikra you don’ t. You still have a full coaster ride to experience including another 90 degree drop - although this time no hang time and not so tall.
For those with fond memories of Alton Tower’ s Corkscrew ride try the Scorpion. A bit tame to be called a thrill ride really but fun for the nostalgia - a full 360 loop with only a lap bar! It’ s a good introduction to coasters for the younger members of the family too.
The Phoenix is a Viking ship ride but rather than just swinging back and for it does a complete loop. If you’ ve ridden a traditional Viking ship ride and never felt you swung far enough to get a real rush then this is the ride for you. I thought the last high swing before you actually went all the way over was the scariest bit as you come right out of your seat and just kind of hang there. Going upside down is really cool and you do hang there briefly which is a wierd sensation. It looks more scarey than it actually is though and the 8 and 10 year olds in our party loved it.
Sheikra alone is worth the drive to Tampa. Busch Gardens is a seriously under visited park and those guests who do visit don’ t seem to ride the coasters much - with the exception of Gwazi - so there are rarely any queues. And when you’ ve had your fill of thrill rides (assuming you do) there are plenty of other attractions to finish the day off.
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