4 Florida Parks 12/14-12/17/18

After getting awesome deals on the $165, 2019 Sesame Place Platinum pass and the $75, 2019 Fun Spot season pass, my friend and I decided to take a trip from Detroit to Florida using my free airfare to go to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Fun Spot Orlando and Fun Spot Kissimmee for 3 nights.

My friend landed in Florida around 7:30 on Friday night so he Ubered to FSO to catch the last few hours of the night there since they closed at midnight. I got in with enough time to get to FSO for the last hour. Due to the off and on rain, the place was dead. I rode White Lightning at least 8 times and found it to be quite fun. At midnight, closing time, there was a lightning strike in the area, but the park was closing anyways.

On Saturday, with a mediocre weather forecast, we took our Sesame Place passes to SeaWorld to use them for the first time. We were told by SeaWorld and Sesame Place that at the parks other than Sesame Place, we would get general parking, admission and a 15% discount on purchases in the parks. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we got preferred parking with our $165 pass. That started our day off perfectly. As we entered the park, I had a strong feeling that I was going to really love this place and I wasn't let down except by one thing and that is a minor thing. While I was there mostly for the coasters, I was really looking forward to seeing the animals. I was not disappointed by the displays in any way. Since I had never been to SeaWorld, I was bummed when I thought I would never get to see a Shamu show based upon what I remembered reading. I was very happy to see that they still do the shows. We happened to be walking by the Shamu Stadium 5 minutes before the next performance was started. While the adult in me didn't want to follow my friend down to the "Splash Zone," the kid in me was happy he did. Though I sat in the last row of the splash zone, it didn't help when 4 orcas flipped their tails directly into my section. We were drenched...it was awesome! We ended up splitting an all day food pass which included really good meals every hour plus unlimited drinks. With our season passes, it cost us $32. I ate like a pig and did the same thing again at Busch Gardens.

So, anyways, onto the rides. As far as roller coasters go, 3 of the ones there have the best theming I've ever experienced. The aquariums at Manta and Atlantis were amazing. The Shark Experience at Mako was phenomenal. The ride experiences were very good if not great. Kraken was decent. Atlantis was surprising fun. Mako was really fun until it dies at the MCBR. It was the only slight disappointment I had due to the high expectations I had for it. I still rate Diamondback and Nitro better when compared to other B&M hypers. No CP fanboy here, but I think Magnum is much more fun. I really hope Hersheypark's new B&M hyper doesn't die off. It shouldn't have Skyrush's crazy ejector air, but it can't have Mako's weak finale.

The ride that went far beyond my ok expectations for it was Manta which was based upon my experiences of riding the Superman clones which I think are fun, but nothing to write home about. The G forces on that ride, whether going through the elements while lying on my back or stomach were crazy. I never realized how truly fun a flyer could be until I rode this the many times we got in.

So, after an extremely awesome day at SeaWorld, we decided to head to Fun Spot Kissimmee to ride Mine Blower. Unfortunately, while on the way there, I think I started suffering from food poisoning and got chills and severe body aches. I only rode it 3 times. At that point, in my condition, it just seemed too rough but extremely out of control. We left shortly after because I felt awful.

After soaking in the tub for a couple of hours and waking up throughout the night completely drenched in sweat, I woke up on Sunday morning feeling like I had never been sick at all so we headed to Busch Gardens. Another amazingly beautiful park. The animal displays and theming are awesome. Loved this park. Cheetah Hunt was our first ride and was exactly what I expected. Basically, a launched family coaster. A few really fun hills and drops but not much else. It was just fun. Then we headed to the much anticipated first ride ever on Montu. This ride was fantastic. No wait all day for it. Rode it many times. Super smooth, super intense but super fun. Definitely my 2nd or 3rd favorite invert behind Banshee and possibly Afterburn. After that, we decided to wait the 40+ minutes for Cobra's Curse. Definitely not worth that wait, but later in the evening when it became a total walk on, I was totally worth it. Just a really fun ride. Kumba was pretty fun. Rode it a few times. Falcon's Fury was fun, but Power Tower Drop is way scarier. The line was short, so we rode it twice that day. Rode Sheikra once. Valravn is better, but that doesn't say much.

So, since I didn't have fun at Fun Spot the night before, we decided to stop back there and give Mine Blower a chance while I felt good. I lost track of how many rides I got in, but, due to it's crazy intensity and fun, this is definitely my favorite coaster in Florida and might possibly be a top 10 for me...this twister is relentless, even in the turns. Just fantastic. Would be a great coaster to go on the Wicked Twister midway. Their spinning wild mouse was pretty fun. For more spinning, it seems that having most of the weight to one side helps.

On Monday, we hit SeaWorld again for 4 hours. Rode the coasters many times and did a little more exploring. Awesome park! After that, we headed back to the airport.

With everything we got to experience on this 3 day trip, it felt like it had to be a longer trip. I'll definitely do this again.

Last edited by zoug68,

Looks like you had a great time aside from the food poisoning! We made sure to check out SeaWorld this past January so my son could see the orcas before they are gone... He was more interested in the dolphins and feeding the stingrays. We really enjoyed SeaWorld but I really wonder what their future holds when the orcas are gone.

But then again, what do I know?

The thing I like about SeaWorld more than anything is that it's just easy to run in for a short visit. WDW requires planning your attraction Fastpasses before you get there, and Universal requires a mile walk from the parking garage to the gate of either park. As a local, if I want to park, ride a couple coasters, and then be back home in 90 minutes, SWO is the place to do it.

Tommytheduck's avatar

Great TR. You're stronger than me, that's for sure. If I had felt like you felt that night I wouldn't be riding a dang thing. Glad it was only short term. Do you have any idea where it may have come from?

I'm looking forward to my first visits to the Fun Spot parks this Sunday. I've heard so many polarizing opinions on Mine blower, it's too rough, it's amazing, etc. I anticipate it being too rough for me, but still really looking forward to it. But I've never heard anything bad said about White lightning.

I've been a SWO Fun Card holder for the past year, and all of my visits have been nice, short ones. I much prefer to visit parks this way and I enjoy walking around the park for a few hours to start my day. I agree with your opinion on Mako. I think the first half is one of the best B+M hypers I've been on, but the 2nd half is very weak. I'm sure it's been slowed to below it's designed speed because after a ride in the back one day, I felt kinda nauseous. The kind where your internal body does not agree with that path that it took. This happens to me sometimes on poorly engineered coasters, Vekoma Boomers are a great example, and the final 2 hills on SFNE's mouse ruined my entire day once. Since I know that B+Ms are not poorly engineered, I believe it was because it was being poorly run.

Bobbie1951's avatar

Nice TR! I envy you. I'm going to BGT the weekend after Xmas and would have liked to incorporate SeaWorld, which I've never visited, into a trip to Florida to get the coaster credits, see whether Manta alters my perception of B&M flyers and see how Kraken compares with my 2 favorite floorless models (Superman Krypton Coaster and Dominator). Would have needed an extra day in FL to accomplish this and didn't have enough vacation time left. Will I ever be glad to see train service between Tampa and Orlando! Thus far the only options are Megabus, whose schedule is extremely limited, and driving, which I find too nerve-wracking. This will be my 3rd visit to BGT; that park is absolutely glorious. I could ride Kumba and Montu all day. Cobra's Curse proved to be a pleasant surprise while Falcon's Fury afforded an excellent view including Gwazi's track, which I was surprised to find still standing.


Manta is, so far, my favorite of the B&M flyers, but I’ve never seen Tatsu in person. It seems awfully tall, hanging over the hill like that...

Bobbie- Here’s My take on a couple of those floorless coasters; Kraken has a MUCH better layout Dominator seems to run a lot smoother. Kraken also looks kinda worn out. I haven’t ridden S:KC.

Last edited by ShaneDenmark,

But then again, what do I know?

As far as floorless coasters go, I've ridden Bizarro, Dominator, Rougarou, Kraken and maybe Batman at SFNE (not memorable, apparently.) The most disappointing thing about Kraken is the first drop. It doesn't feel very intense compared to the others. If it weren't for that, it would probably be my favorite due to how many times it goes below ground level. All of them are usually 2 rides per day, though.

My friend, who was with me, put Manta in his top 5 coasters, but, that may change when he rides Tatsu within the next couple of weeks. Anxious to hear what he thinks. I was really glad to get to end my trip riding Manta a few times on the way out of the park.

With Mine Blower, I can understand why some people won't like it. It's intense and rough, but, at least it's not boring. Just before riding it the second night, I was sure to take a few Excedrin. That seemed to do the trick and it was so worth it to me. LOVE this crazy Gravity Group coaster. How they squeezed so many airtime hills and crazy fast hairpin turns into this coaster amazes me...Would love to see this on Wicked Twister midway even if they tamed it a little.

White Lightning reminds me of a smaller version of Mystic Timbers. Very fun, but not super exciting or intense. I can see it appealing to a much larger audience than Mine Blower.

A coaster I forgot to mention was Scorpion at BGT. What a fun ride. Way more intense than it looked but so smooth.

Last edited by zoug68,

Tatsu is my friend's favorite flyer.

Kraken is starting to feel old. SeaWorld would be wise to do to it what Universal did to Hulk, but I don't ever see that happening. It's still a fun ride, especially if you like being tossed upside-down. I'll always take a ride or two when there.

Mine Blower's roughness surprises me for such a new coaster, although it's never to the point of being uncomfortable. I've found that the number of passengers in the train has a lot to do with the the forces. Airtime is a lot more pronounced when the train is almost full, opposed to having two or three riders.

Kraken was definitely running rough the last time I rode it a few months ago. I'm not sure it needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the ground up, but it was obvious something needed some TLC. Although it only runs half the year, I always use Raptor as a guide. If it can still deliver such a smooth, rattle-free ride after 25 years, a properly maintained B&M will not really feel the effects of age. Again, year round operation in Florida has these rides cycling *way* more than Cedar Point, which at best has 15-16 weeks of daily operation a year plus another 8-10 of weekend only cycles.

I think the situation with Hulk came down to the fact that with longer park hours than SeaWorld combined with much better ops than pretty much anywhere, as well as few (if any) lengthy refurbishments since it's a star attraction at the front of the park, that thing had cycled exponentially more than any other B&M likely has. SWO seems to be good about taking the B&Ms down for a good 3-4 week refurbishment when needed, and I know Busch Gardens seems to give Kumba a solid month off every year. That simply wasn't happening at Universal.

Last edited by BrettV,
Jeff's avatar

I dunno, I feel like Kraken cycles about 6 times per hour with some of the crews in recent memory. :)

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

The weekend we were there, while the park seemed pretty busy, Kraken never had any wait. I didn't think it was too rough. I do wish the first drop felt more intense like Bizarro or even Rougarou. The rest of the ride seemed pretty fun, tho.

Just had to make a tough decision...Either go back to Florida and hit these parks again, next month OR, fly on Delta, non-stop to LAX from Detroit for $206 round trip and hit SFMM, SFDK and KBF. While I love the FL parks, I think I need to try the parks in CA since I've never been. Can't wait to ride X2 and Tatsu.

Last edited by zoug68,

Yeah, the dispatches are about ten minutes apart, so that means there are about 50 cycles per day.

Still, it does operate year-round, and steel has to bend slightly out-of-shape over time, right? The roughness can't be due to it needing a new set of wheels?

Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom supports my theory about the steel. The "rockets" always have brand new wheels but the ride gets rougher and rougher (and I don't think it's entirely because I'm getting older). The amount of times that thing cycles per day, and how many days per year since 1977- those steel rails have to have seen better days.

Magic Kingdom’s Space Mountain opened in ‘75, and Disneyland’s dates back to ‘77. The Florida ride received new trains in ‘89 and again in 2009. The latter refurbishment was to include new track (Vekoma?) after being closed for the better part of a year. I’m not sure if much of that actually happened- and if I recall correctly, the ride opened again ahead of schedule. I do remember a lot of people panicking over concern that the ride would change somehow. I was in Florida just ahead of the scheduled closure and bought a one day ticket just so I could ride one of my favorite coasters before it went away forever. (It didn’t)

To this day the experience is pretty much the same, minus cosmetic improvements. When we were there in Feb of ‘17 I noticed for the first time ever a little roughness, but nothing to complain about much.

The Florida ride that hasn’t fared so well, in my opinion, is Kumba. We rode that ride over and over when it was newer, but the last few times I’ve tried it it was about all I could take. Rough, head bang-y and no fun whatsoever.

Jeff's avatar

My first lap on Kumba was nearly 20 years ago. It was rough then.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

Never had a problem with Kumba. Not the smoothest looper but I've always enjoyed it.

You're right about Space Mountain dating back to '75. I was thinking of the Disneyland version. At the time I worried the Florida version would be lost but now I feel that would be a good thing. I rode the CA and FL versions (nearly) back-to-back over the summer and was reminded of how superior the CA version is, from the soundtrack to the ride itself. I'd love to have that one in FL. It makes the current one feel like a well-traveled carnival Wild Mouse.

As far as I know, the WDW Space Mountain received no new track in the 2009 refurbishment. A full track replacement was the rumored plan, but it never panned out. I honestly don't even know if it got new trains or if they were just extensively redone.

I suppose it's possible they did but if so, they look exactly the same as they always have, so maybe they were refurbished in a serious way?

I thought it went from tandem to the single-only seats with that re-do. Like, around the same time Matterhorn Bobsleds did. If that was all the way back to 89, I’ve really lost track of time.

And I may be the only one on earth, but I prefer the Florida version over California. I think the layout is more interesting, and by that I mean more twisty-turny, and I like the dual track aspect. Disneyland’s version seems like a big square done in layers. A bunch of left turns with straightaways. Or something. I’ve only been there twice. The last time I rode some kind of lay-over version and I liked that. I think Red Hot Chili Peppers Higher Ground was the song. So, yeah, it’s been that long.

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