Overall it was a great trip, although we probably won't take another Florida trip during the Summer. It was too hot, it rained 3 of the 5 days we were there, and the parks were too crowded. It wasn't horribly crowded, but it was noticeably different from when we went in November 2006. From now on we'll probably stick to the late fall or winter time frame. Still, a great visit to some really solid parks. The number one most annoying thing? Those motorized carts that the old/fat people ride! More on those later. Despite those negatives, we had a great time, particularly at Sea World and Busch Gardens Africa. So ... to the parks.
Aquatica 3.5 out of 5 stars
- Nice, clean, well maintained. Although it should be because it's brand new.
- The dolphin tank and tropical fish tank are a nice touch.
- Excellent children's areas and slides, including a laid back wave pool for the kids. My 5 year old loved it!
- Roa Rapids. Water Country USA in Williamsburg has the same thing called the Hubba Hubba Highway. Basically it's a lazy river on steroids. It moves faster, it's deeper, you can't take a tube on it, and it has some "obstacles" along the way that spray you or speed you up.
- Plenty of life vests.
- They had lines for two of the slides going through the lazy river, which made it bumper to bumper. Very poor design. The lazy river was a complete waste of time, despite the viewing areas into the dolphin and fish tanks.
- No real signature rides. The dolphin slide is basically a tube slide with a gimmick.
- They had a beach area in front of the wave pools with real sand. I guess that's a plus for some people, but one of the reasons we go to a water park is to get away from the sand. It just ends up getting into everything.
- We went on a Friday and it was extremely crowded. Perhaps that will slow up as the newness fades.
Aquatica is a solid water park, but nothing extraordinary. The fish tanks were a nice novelty, but didn't really add anything substatial to the park experience. The Roa Rapids gives it that extra lift it needs to make it a worthwhile visit. Water Country USA is still a better park overall, IMO.
Sea World Orlando 4 out of 5 stars
- Great, high quality shows and exhibits. We were able to stick around late for the after dark shows, and Shamu Rocks was much more entertaining than the signature "Believe!" show. Shamu and company did all the same tricks, but instead of a corny story as the backdrop, we were treated to a perfectly mixed set of rock tunes.
- The Sea Lion shows are still the best though. The spoof show they do late in the day, where they make fun of all the other shows in the park, is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. It blows the shows out at Sea World San Diego out of the water.
- While Sea World isn't really a thrill seekers park, Kraken is one of my top 10 favorite coasters. We also got to check out the kids area and ride the Shamu Express. It's one of the better kiddie coasters I've ridden, and my kids loved it!
- The crowd flow was excellent, except for the late evening. Part of our advantage was that we're Platinum members so we got choice seating at most of the shows, but even without that the park didn't seem too crowded.
- Those annoying motorized carts!!! It seemed as though everyone driving one of those things suffered from road rage. They run $40 a day or so, but I really don't think Busch Entertainment is making any money on them in the long run. Those things are downright dangerous!! Especially on a crowded day. On the one hand, I applaud some of those folks who rented them for actually getting up out of bed and taking a look at something other than a plate full of food, but on the other hand, I really wish they'd stay home and eat or watch TV or whatever it is they do. 90% of them were rude, angry, and dangerous.
- The lines for food were ridiculous. I refused to stand in line 45 minutes to buy over priced food. We survived on beef jerky, water, and goldfish.
- The shows hadn't really changed in the 18 months since we were last there. I guess that's understandable, but it hurts repeat visits.
- They closed down significant portions of the park at night which made navigating back to the exit very difficult. Part of it was because of the fireworks show, but I'm not sure why they shut down the entire Bayside area and didn't re-open it at all.
Sea World has a lot going for it, and it's a great family park. There's something for everyone, and the addition of Manta next year will really balance it out. Everyone should go at least once.
Adventure Island Water Park 2 out of 5 stars
- The lazy river was very nice. It only had two entrances which prevented a lot of bottlenecks. The theming was nice. It was huge and had a fork in it that allowed you to take a shorter or longer route.
- It had a couple of nice sized family slides, including one of those giant, dark tubed rides where you can fit 5 people on a tube.
- Not enough life vests.
- No kiddie slides.
- Small wave pool.
Adventure Island is more of a community water park than a major tourist destination. It's small, and doesn't have anything to distinguish itself from larger water parks like those in the Disney brand. It wasn't a bad experience, but it just didn't have anything new or exciting to offer.
Busch Gardens Africa 4 out of 5 stars
- The combination of animal exhibits and top notch thrill rides provides a unique experience when compared to most other theme parks.
- Montu is a great ride. My oldest son and I rode it in the front, and the batwing loop is intense. I think this is my favorite inverted coaster.
- We actually ate at BGA, and the food was reasonably priced and tasted good.
- Those stinking motorized carts again! Same experience as what we had at Sea World. Those things have got to go!
- It was crowded for non-holiday Monday, and it was a little difficult to get around the amusement park side.
I wasn't able to ride as many coasters as I would have liked, but we still packed a lot into the 7 or so hours that we were there. I think I like BGA better than BGE because of the animal area and the balanced reportoire of coasters, including a solid woodie. They just need a mega coaster to really round things out.
Also, I forgot to talk about the new area at Busch Gardens Africa. Many of the reviews I read made it sound like BGA was trying to appeal to the tweens, but based on what I saw and what my kids said, it's really geared for the 6 to 10 age group. Land of the Dragons appeals more to the 1 to 6 year olds, and Jungala takes it from there up to 10 or so. Here are my thoughts of some of the featured attractions in Jungala:
- The Jungle Flyers zip line ride is actually pretty lame. My 10 year old and my wife rode it, and it's literally a 10 second ride that rates at about a 1 on the thrill meter. With a 46" height restriction, none of the younger kids can ride it, and it just doesn't have the intensity for older kids. My son and wife both said it wasn't worth the 30 minute wait.
- The Wild Surge is just a typical kids drop ride, where it drops and lifts repeatedly. Decent ride, but nothing new.
- The tiger exhibit was pretty neat. They had 5 or 6 tigers in there, and as you walk around you're sure to get a good view of at least one of them. The little popup area, where you can climb in and up into a glass enclosed area inside the tiger exhibit is neat, and they had a tiger laying right next to that. The tiger tug of war wasn't available when we went. I'm not sure if that was a temporary thing or not. Also, the tigers looked pretty tuckered, and we didn't get to see them move around much at all. I guess the heat even got to them. Overall the tiger exhibit was a bit better than what you'd find at a typical zoo because of the number of tigers and the enclosed pop up area.
- The climbing area was right next to the gibbons monkey area, and if one of them happened to be hanging out nearby you got a pretty good look at them face to face. That adds a little twist to the typical climbing areas.
- They had two splash areas, one for smaller tykes, and one that's a bit larger with water dumping and spraying all over the place. That was a nice addition on a hot summer day.
- They had a glass tube that went under the croc exhibit and a big crocodile was laying right on top of the tube. The kids enjoyed that.
- We didn't get to the orangutan section.
Overall, Jungala is a nice addition to the park, and is another family friendly area. The weak Jungle Flyers ride, and the missing tiger tug of war were a bit of a disappointment though after reading all the hype.
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