BGA, IOA, and SWO -- 1st timer's visit

Associated parks:
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Friday, February 23, 2007 12:33 AM
So I finally got to go back to Florida--after almost 15 years! This time around, I hit 3 parks that I had never been to before. The weather was great, and the crowds weren't bad overall, thank God. We basically flew into Tampa on a Friday (2/9), hit BGA that day, drove to Kissimmee (sp?), went to IOA on Saturday, went to SWO and Universal CityWalk on Sunday, then went back to BGA on Monday before flying back north.

Our first day, we arrived at Tampa International around 9:15AM. After picking up our rental car, we headed up to BGA, which wasn't very far away. We bought our Busch Platinum Passports from one of the automated ticketing machines--we got platinum because it is the only one that allows access to all the Busch theme parks, and we're planning on hitting 2 Sea World and 2 Busch Gardens parks this season, After we entered the park, we hit Montu, which is a good invert. The only thing that may be keeping it off my top 15 steel list is the fact that the ending isn't intense enough. If they would cease to use the mid-course trim, then this might be remedied, and I may have had a better ride. Even so, it's still a really good ride with some nice maneuvers and theming.

After Montu, we decided to eat lunch at the Crown Colony House, which is their full service restaurant. We opted for seating on the patio, which offered a nice view of the Edge of Africa area. The food was decent for theme park food, and the pricing was comparable, except here the waiters are tipped. It is a very pretty place. It seems the 2 main FL Busch parks are the only ones in the chain with full service restaurants--and this type of eating became a trend for this trip (we decided to indulge ourselves, and I'm glad we did).

We hit the skyride, which offers a nice long ride with some decent views. After this, we hit Kumba. Now for a little tangent here. The parks on this trip annoyed me some in that certain rides you had to get a locker because you couldn't take loose articles on. IOA had high-tech lockers near Hulk and DD that allowed you to use them for free for the first hour, but all BGA & SWO have are the old-school type that are one-use and coin-operated. On top of that, Montu has little cubbies that you can store small articles, and the workers didn't make me get a locker. On the other hand, the Kumba folks seemed to be more hard-nosed about it, and they didn't want me to take my camera onto the platform or ride. Anyway, that annoyance aside, Kumba is a great ride. It's probably the most solid coaster experience in the whole park. It's got better pacing than Medusa East, and those trains are so nice. They fit me pretty good--in fact, most B&M trains fit me pretty good, except for the standup ones. Anyway, great ride, and the paint looked good, too (as did Montu's new paint job).

I got to sample Scorpion, which reminds me of a smaller Lazer. Only 1 train op here, but it looks nicer than Lazer. We also checked out the Pirates movie in the 4D theater. They used to have this one at BGE, but they replaced it with the haunted lighthouse one. We seem to like the pirates one better. The log flume, along with the old Python area, were closed off during our visits. I'm curious to see what they do with the place (the log flume is just under rehab, though).

We got to ride Sheikra multiple times, and honestly, it's a pretty mild ride. I think the floorless and wider trains that Griffon will have will help add to the ride, as well as the second Immelman, but these dive machines are fairly mild in terms of forces (though if they were too intense, the trains might tear themselves apart faster). The lift hill is pretty steep, and the holding chain and drop are cool, as is the Immelman, but there isn't a whole lot to the ride. The water effect is cool, and due to the ride's placement (which is very good), you can get some good views of the ride.

We didn't bother riding the mouse, since it used to be at BGE. We did check out Gwazi. It was actually better than I was expecting. Both are decent wood twisters. Tiger seems rougher than Lion. I would say that the place to ride these is close to the front. There was actually some air on these beasts. The loading procedures are true, unfortunately. It's unnecessarily time-consuming. But at least the ride is decent. Actually, I liked both these coasters better than ANY of the wood I rode in CA.

Rhino Rally is pretty cool. Apparently, they can run this ride as a shortened version without the water effect, but it's definitely lacking this way. The first time we rode, our driver was more entertaining, and the water effect was on. It's a pretty well-done ride, though the pacing could have been somewhat better. We also sampled some of the animal exibits while there, which was nice. Overall, a great day at BGA. We actually came back on Monday, and the park was fairly empty. The weather even cleared up pretty good, and it turned into a great day, thank God. We also sampled their new show, Katonga, on Monday, which was well-done.

One thing I would fault the park for is the lack of good park and ride-related merchandise.

On Saturday, we visited IOA. Let me just say that Universal is amazing. Even the parking is impressive. They have these large parking garages with good direction signage and even some moving sidewalks and a small gift shop (on the way to CityWalk). Visitors get dumped out into CityWalk, whick looks cool during the day, but even cooler at night. We headed toward IOA and got in line to buy tickets. I wish that they would automate their ticket purchasing like Busch does. You could only use the automated machines if you bought online, which we should have done that morning.

Anyway, you go into the park, and it's basically like you see on tv. It's just amazing and pretty well-run. Dueling Dragons were thefirst rides we rode. The queue theming is detailed and well-done. As for the rides, they are both good inverts, though ice seems to fizzle out at the end more so than fire. I like fire side better--it has better pacing, and I like the second Immelman/helix combo. They don't have to dispatch both trains at the same time. They will adjust themselves on the lifts, which is pretty cool. The trains themselves are the most detailed B&M trains I've ever seen--great job.

The next attraction we did was Poseidon's Fury, which was pretty well done. The coolest part was the part where you walk through the tunnel with the water shooting around the walks and over your head. After this, we ate at Mythos, the highest rated theme park restaurant in the world, according to themparkinsider.com. The theming is really cool--it's like you're inside a dead volcano, or a cavernous place or whatever. The food is good, too. Definitely worth eating here if you visit IOA. Or, check out the Enchanted Oak Tavern, which is right up the road--that place looks cool, too, but it's not a full service gourmet restaurant like Mythos is.

The next ride was the Jurassic Park River Adventure. Simply put, this is the best shoot-the-chutes ride I've ever ridden. Well done! In fact, IOA has the 3 best water rides of their respective kinds that I've ever ridden. The next ride was Dudley DO-Right's Ripsaw Falls, which is a wondeful log flume ride with a little bit of coaster aspect to it. Great ride! After this was the Bilge Rat Barges--excellent rapids ride. Don't read too much about these rides if you don't want the surprises spoiled! We go SO wet on this last one!

Just walking around IOA is cool. The theming is top-notch and really cool, and the soundtrack of each area just adds to the overall experience.

Next up was Spiderman. This is a really good ride, but I wasn't totally blown away by it. Maybe because I've heard and seen so much about it and/or had high expectations, and I've also ridden DarKastle at BGE. Don't get me wrong--it's a great ride, and definitely better than DarKastle, but it wasn't my favorite ride of the park. After this, we rode DDFF, which is a well-themed space shot.

Finally, we come to the Hulk. I ended up liking this ride more than I expected. The theming is good, and the launch is decent. The rest of the ride is better than it looked to me on tv/video. Great placement in the park, too. We rode the front the first time, and it was great. I like these B&M floored trains! In fact, there wasn't a bad ride at all on our entire trip! This is contrary to our California trip, where there were definitely not good rides to be had there.

We also hit the Caro-seuss-el, as well as the Cat in the Hat and the Sky High Trolley--out of these, I like the Cat in the Hat the best, I think. Overall, just a wonderful day here at IOA and CityWalk. I also like how they have digital signs at each of the rides that tell the approx. wait time. On another note, this was the most expensive single day amusement park ticket I've ever bought in my life! After taxes, it was over $70!

The next day, we hit SWO, I won't go into a long description here, but the park is very nice and very pretty. Kraken is a good ride, though a bit bumpier than I might have thought and/or wanted. JTA is a great log flume, though it could use a little more theming. We ate at Sharks Underwater Grill, which was the most expensive meal on our trip, but it was a cool experience. I had the best crab cakes I've ever had, and the food was gourmet. They has some really cool blue lemonaide, too, which was neat, and the atmosphere was cool, as well. The new Shamu show is VERY well done. They have 4 really cool big screens that they use very well during the show--they are on a track, and they can move back and forth, as well as rotate 360 degrees.

Overall, a very fun and impressive trip. I would like to get back to Florida more often, especially to get away from the cold weather we have here in MD in February :)

*** Edited 2/23/2007 5:34:49 AM UTC by rablat5***

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Friday, February 23, 2007 1:25 AM
Nine of your items were either well-done, well-run, or any combination of the well sort.
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Friday, February 23, 2007 1:32 AM

...you had to get a locker... 1 train op here... closed off during our visits... this was the most expensive single day amusement park ticket I've ever bought in my life... could use a little more theming...

Might as well have visited Six Flags. ;)

Just picking. :) (let's not go there...again.)

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Friday, February 23, 2007 11:28 AM
^^ Leave it to a CoasterBuzz member to pick out the flaws in someone's post. It was late when I wrote it, and most of it was written to a friend of mine.

^ Wow--talk about twisting words--you should be a lawyer, Gonch :) hehe That was funny, though.

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Friday, February 23, 2007 1:10 PM
I think the people at themeparkinsider need to get outside a little more, because Mythos is nothing special at all. It's not bad, but best? I can pick a half-dozen places at Epcot that are better, and that's only because I haven't been to all of them!

Glad you liked IOA. I don't care how relatively small it is, I could spend every day there.

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Friday, February 23, 2007 1:18 PM
^ Perhaps they do. I was pretty impressed with Mythos, as it was the nicest theme park restaurant that I had ever eaten at, up until that point. The prices weren't too bad for a park, either.

Actually, though, we ate at Sharks at SWO the next day, and I actually liked the food I got there better than Mythos, though it was pricier. The place was very well done.

I can't speak for EPCOT, since I haven't been there since I was 10, but I would like to try some of that stuff the next time I'm there, too.

I don't know that I would call Mythos the "best", but as far as what I've experienced, it is "one of the best". :)

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Saturday, February 24, 2007 5:24 PM
I like Mythos, it's one of a kind. The Enchanted Oak is cool and so is the one up by the front - I think it's the Confisco Grill or something.

But my favorite is Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoo-pendous. Bring on the spagetti and pizza followed by a big-a$$ cookie!

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