Busch Gardens Tampa, Tampa Bay, Florida, USA
A few weeks ago I went to Florida. I went to both Disney and Busch Gardens but have not finished the writing my report for the Disney part of the trip so I will post that later.
This would be my first trip to Busch Gardens Tampa since December 1996. Part of the reason it has been so long since I was last at the park was because the last time I was there, I was disappointed with the park. Back then the 4 coasters they had were Python, Scorpion, Montu and Kumba. At the time, I was just starting to go on coasters and was only riding coasters like Runaway Mine Train, Rolling Thunder, Thunderhawk, Comet and Trailblazer. The problem with all the coasters at the park was that they all had inversions. There was no way I was going on any coaster that went upside down and combined with some other problems that I don't remember that well, we haven't rushed back. I have wanted to try the coasters there since around 2006 and give the park another chance and today was that day.
We left our hotel about 10 minutes from the park and got into the parking lot at 9:30. I wasn't sure how crowded it would be since although it was January, it was a Saturday and the park was open until 7, compared to 6 the rest of the week. I was prepared to buy Quick Queue if necessary since it was $19.99 per person for 1 entrance on each ride or $32.99 for unlimited, quite a bargain compared to $45 for 1 person for a regular Flashpass at Great Adventure. The parking lot wasn't crowded at all so luckily, it wasn't needed.
Getting to the entrance area, I saw on the closed rides board only Gwazi Lion was listed which I later found out was closed for refurbishment. I was just glad none of the B&M's, Cheetah Hunt or Scorpion were closed and I would realize later in the day 1 side of Gwazi closed wasn't such a bad thing.
Of course I went to Cheetah Hunt first. I was very surprised to see the posted wait time at 5 minutes since I figured everyone went to that ride first. The old monorail station's queue for the ride looked like it zig zagged back and forth all over the place and could be a long wait and combined with the fact that the queue was very wide, looked like it could problematic for line cutting. My sister wasn't sure about trying the coaster but decided to since it was a short wait and wanted whatever row we could get to the fastest so we chose a middle row that was a 2 train wait.
I didn't realize the initial launch was so slow at 30 mph. I also didn't realize that the train moved so slow at the top of the tower. The ride just seemed to keep going on and on further away from the station. I also wasn't expecting so much hang time in the heartline roll. Not as much as the Jojo Roll at Hydra though. My favorite part of the ride was the old water section of Rhino Rally where the track curves back and forth. The multiple launches through the ride was great as well. The coaster was way better then I was expecting. All the other Intamin coasters I have ridden seem too short like Storm Runner and Kingda Ka so it was nice to try an Intamin coaster with a much longer ride time. It was less forceful than I was expecting as well but I didn't see that as a bad thing since it made it more re-rideable. The only complaint I have is the heartline roll didn't seem necessary. I didn't mind it but in a park with so many coasters that already have inversions, I feel they should have left the heartline roll out so people who don't like inversions won't be stopped from riding. I also think the term family thrill coaster that I have heard the ride referred to fits with the ride. It's not as intense as other thrill coasters but I wouldn't classify it as a family ride either.
With the wait so short, I had to go back for another ride and the rest of my family stayed at the Cheetah Run. I was going to choose the last row but 2 people waiting for the 2nd to last row were trying to ride with other people in another row and offered to let me go in front of them so I basically walked onto the ride. I also liked the dual loading like Kingda Ka used to have and I think 4 trains were running. Overall, this is easily my favorite Intamin coaster and it's a close call between this and Montu for my favorite ride in the park.
After Cheetah Hunt, we walked towards Montu because it was close by. Since I was riding alone, the rest of my family went to the King Tut's Tomb Walkthrough. I liked that at Cheetah Hunt there was the Cheetah Run for non riders to watch and this walkthrough near Montu so everyone wasn't sitting around at a bench waiting for me.
I remember looking at Montu in 1996 and thinking you'd have to be crazy to ride a coaster like that but now it was one of my most anticipated coasters. Like Cheetah Hunt, there was no wait so I walked through the empty queue and went to the last row since the front row had a wait. 2 out of 3 trains were running which was fine with me since with the low crowds that was enough and they weren't stacking at all. It seemed like it took forever to climb the lift hill especially compared to a smaller invert like Batman The Ride. I really liked the tall vertical loop and the batwing which was very intense as well as the 2nd vertical loop. Although the ride was excellent I can sort of understand what people saying about B&M's being so similar. This was my 6th B&M invert (only 1 of which is a Batman clone) and even though this is the largest invert I have ridden, it didn't seem as unique as I was expecting even though it had the unique batwing and was taller and longer than the other inverts I have tried. I went back for another ride since there was still no wait.
We took an animal trail to walk to Nairobi. The animal viewing areas all over the park were really great and good for taking a break from coaster riding. We went to Rhino Rally next which also had no wait. Although it was a fun ride, it seemed way too short and wasn't as good as Kilaimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom or the Safari at Great Adventure. It's a shame they got rid of the water section since from watching a video on YouTube of it, it looked like it would have made the ride a lot better and I hope the rumors to expand the ride are true.
Next we went to Timbuktu and to Scorpion. I had also been looking forward to Scorpion because it looked like a smaller version of Laser which I miss a lot and I really like Schwarzkopf loopers. I can see how this ride can get a long line easily. Only 20 riders per train and I hear they rarely run 2 trains (which I can understand because of the way the lifthill starts in the station so the 2nd train would just be stuck on the brake run most of the time). There were only a few people waiting for the train so my sister and I chose a middle row. I also liked how you could choose whatever opened row you wanted unlike Laser where even if only 4 people were waiting, you were forced to fill in all rows starting with the front row. Schwarzkopf looper trains are one of my favorite coaster train designs so I knew I had better enjoy the trains now since who knows when I will have another chance to ride in these trains again with Sooperdooperlooper getting new trains next year and I don't see myself getting to SFOG, SFOT, Frontier City or Knott's anytime soon. Even with the train more than half empty, it took longer than expected to check the restraints and dispatch the train.
The ride reminded me a lot of Laser but that final helix really was forceful and my head hurt after the ride. I had planned on getting a few laps in but didn't want to get a worse headache so decided against re-riding.
Sand Serpent was going to be next even though I have the credit from when it was at Williamsburg but the ride was broken down with some riders stuck on the final brake run so we though we would try to ride the coaster later.
Congo was next with the first stop the Ubanga Bumper Cars. I was surprised to see that there was no island in the middle of the ride but still one way driving. Riding the bumper cars made me realize how much I miss them from both Great Adventure and Dorney and am looking forward to having them at Great Adventure again.
I went to Kumba next, like Montu, 2 trains were running with no wait except the front and last rows. This would be my 2nd B&M sitdown coaster and I prefer the sitdown trains to floorless trains for 2 reasons. First, I like how the dispatches are faster since you don't have to wait for the floor to lower and gate to open when dispatching a floorless and waiting for the floor to rise again when arriving back at the station. Secondly, the floorless design is almost lost if you don't sit in the front row and I prefer having a place to put your feet in the sitdown train. With the order of inversions the same as Bizarro, it felt like I was riding a sitdown version of Bizarro although a lot more forceful. When people talk about the old school B&M coasters that were very forceful, I hear Kumba mentioned a lot and I can definitely see why. It was so forceful, like Scorpion it hurt my head and I wasn't interested in going back for another ride.
We went to Jungala next for lunch and then went through the Tiger Trail. It was cool to see Tigers so close and there was a spot where you climb up a ladder into a clear dome right in the tiger area. There happened to be a tiger sitting right on top of the dome so you looked up and saw a tiger a few inches above you. It was a little less than a 10 minute wait to go into the dome but very low capacity because only 1 or 2 people can fit at a time and even with the park not crowded, the line doubled after we exited. I can see this being a very long wait on a crowded day.
After Jungala we went to Stanleyville. First was the Stanleyville Log Flume. It was about a 2 minute wait and I saw some people using Quick Queue that didn't have any less of a wait than we did. I had remembered it being taller than it actually was from my last trip to the park but it was still a good flume. The section after the first drop was very fast moving. From the log flume, I saw Scorpion had what looked like at least a 45 minute line now (the line was almost to the end of the bridge and at the queue house).
Next was Sheikra. From watching videos of the ride, it never looked that impressive to me and looked short but I had never tried a Dive Machine coaster before so I was looking forward to it anyway. The wait was posted at 15 minutes but the line was at the bottom of the stairs and would have been about 10 minutes but there was a breakdown that lasted around 10 minutes so the total wait was around 20 minutes, the longest wait of the day. I didn't know the ride used a dual loading station. The front row line was long and hardly anyone was at the 3rd row of the 2nd train so I went there. I also didn't realize the ride used stadium seating. The drop was great and way better than Fahrenheit even though Fahrenheit is 97 degrees because this drop was longer. I liked the immelmann and the turn around to the 2nd drop into the tunnel. The splashdown section was cool as well. The ride was a lot better than I was expecting and I was surprised at how much I liked it, my 3rd favorite coaster in the park.
We took the train ride next which was a great way to relax and look at some more animals. On the way to Morocco we stopped at a bird area and a trail where you could feed and pet a kangaroo. I walked into Sesame Street Safari of Fun and saw the kiddie coaster had a long line. It looked to be at least 20 minutes and although I wanted the credit, it wasn't worth waiting that long especially since I heard at Williamsburg, anyone without a kid is discouraged from riding even though there was nothing like that stated and I didn't want to waste time waiting only to be turned away for being too tall.
Next was Gwazi Tiger. I had heard the ride was very rough but with the new Millenium Flyers the ride got last year, it supposedly made the ride better. 2 trains were running and one of the back rows was empty so we went there. I saw they had 3 rows blocked off for Quick Queue that I hope they use when there is a line and no one from Quick Queue is using those rows. As soon as we left the station and got to the pre-lift portion of the ride I knew it was going to be a horrible coaster because it was very rough even in that section. The lift hill was the only non horrible part of the ride. I couldn't even tell you the layout of the ride because I wasn't paying attention to it and could only think about getting to the final brake run. The entire ride was too rough and I thought the 2nd worst wooden coaster I have ridden with Hercules being the worst. I then realized that the 1 day I rode Hercules in 2000, I went back for a 2nd ride later in the day so it couldn't have been this bad if I was willing to give the ride another chance. Gwazi was so bad that even if the Lion side had been opened, I'm not sure if I would have went to that side so I was actually glad only 1 side was open. That made me decide that this was the worst wooden coaster I have ridden and possibly worst full size coaster wood or steel that I have ridden as well. It took over an hour for the headache I got from that ride to go away. If the Millenium Flyers made the ride better, I'd hate to see how bad it was with the PTC trains. It's amazing how much better Lightning Racers is and although Wildcat at Hershey is rough, it's not nearly as bad as Gwazi was.
We went the Primate walkthrough and then back to Timbuktu and went to Pirates 4D. It was ok but not as good as the 4D films at Disney. Sand Serpent had reopened but looked to be around 30 minutes and no one felt like waiting so we skipped it. At 6:00, they made the announcement the park was now closed which sounded like a mistake because it was supposed to be open until 7:00. Around 5 minutes later they made a corrected announcement saying the park was open until 7:00 but we had to drive back to Orlando so we decided to call it a day.
The only disappointment was the gift shop. I was looking to get a coaster shirt and they only had a few generic shirts with all the coaster names on them and some Cheetah Hunt shirts I didn't like in the main gift shop. When asked if they had anything else, we were told the other shirts are only sold at the stores where the rides are. That didn't make sense to me since I didn't want to decide on anything until I rode all the coasters and got a shirt with one of the coasters I liked the best. They also didn't have any baseballs which I usually get at parks to add to my collection. I ended up getting a Cheetah Hunt golf ball to put in the baseball case I have next to the Disney golf balls I have from past trips when we went miniature golfing where they gave you a free souvenir golf ball.
Outside the park they had a 50% off area and I did end up finding a Montu shirt for $10 there which I ended up buying. They did have a Gwazi blue print shirt that I liked (it looked better than it sounds) but even if it was a couple of dollars there was no way I was buying a shirt of a coaster I hated so much.
Overall I was really impressed with Busch Gardens Tampa. It felt like a mix of an amusement park and a zoo and was a lot better than Animal Kingdom. Not only were the coasters way better than anything at Animal Kingdom (or all of Disney for that matter) but the animal walkthroughs and exhibits were better as well. After Magic Kingdom, this is now either my 2nd or 3rd favorite park in Florida (I'm not sure if I rank it above Epcot or not).
Great report. My wife and I went to Busch Gardens the week after Christmas and loved it despite the crowds. We bought the Quick Que pass and it was well worth it. Glad to hear you didn't have to worry much with crowds.
Great TR. Our family went to BGT last August and had a similarly awesome experience. I really can't get enough of this park.
Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."
If there is any park that I would like to visit again, I would pick Bush Gardens over Disneyworld any day. I have been to the park twice, but the last visit was in 1991. So, it has been many years. Back then, I think the only coasters were Python and Scorpion.
I think it is probably the only park that interests me. (Well, maybe Holiday World and Islands of Adventure) I think what I liked most about it, wasn't the rides, it was the atmosphere, and the entertainment that was available. The animal section of the park was very cool, and on one of the visits, we were there when some monkeys got loose and were wondering all over the park.
I think we were eating at the Morrocan Cafe, and I looked up, and there was a money sitting on the fence. And, I looked again, and there was another money. And, not a little one. A big one. You should have seen the people scatter. The monkeys just went to whatever table had food on it and started chowing down, until the guys with the nets and choke ropes showed up, then they made us get up and leave. So, that was an experience.
On my first trip, when I was 17, I made the mistake of going into the bird sanctuary with a swirly cone, and got gut punched by a huge Albotross, the bird hit me square in the gut, and then flopped around on the ground, until it got my cone, and then it flew away. This female employee came to my aid almost immediately, I was laying there gasping for breath. But, I was ok. They gave me another ice cream cone. I sure wish the person who sold me the ice cream cone would have told me not to take it into the bird area. I'll never do that again.
Another thing I found kind of shocking, and, I don't know if this is still true at the park. But they had alligators and Crockodiles sitting in sand with only a wooden barn fence between you and them. I was thinking, man that's crazy! What if one of those things wanted to suddenly attack. But, they didn't do anything, they just laid there sunning themselves. The only one that was active was the one in the water, and we got to see it snarf down a turtle. That was cool.
I actually think the safari was the best part of the visit. We also got to see the elephant wash, and feed the giraffes. We went in February, and there were hardly any lines at all. I think the longest line was for the scorpion at around a half hour, and The Congo Rapids. The other rides had little or no wait at all. And, it only cost $18.00 to get in!!
I live a mile from this park and go three to four times a week. Sometimes we go just to take a stroll and get some exercise. That being said I can tell you that the best time to go to the park is anytime after school starts right up until Christmas break. Also it tends to be more crowded on Sunday. After Christmas, the park stayed crowded until about early April when the foreign crowds started to thin. And believe me when these groups come in the park its not just 10 people haha. Lately we have been getting to the park at opening time on Sunday morning. Cheetah Hunt will have a line from the start, but if you hop on the Sky Ride and head to Stanleyville you can marathon SheiKra for 2 hours or more with no more than a 5 minute wait. Another quick note: I have ridden both the Tiger and Lion tracks of Gwazi. I would have to say the Lion is the better ride. I'm sorry you missed it.
I would rather power ride Wildcat with Skyrush's (Thighcrush) restraints bruising my thighs than ever ever EVER go on Gwazi again. However, I am surprised Kumba bothered you. Yes, it does have its headbang-y moments, but really? No reride?
I was super impressed by SheikRa's smoothness, if I remember correctly. I missed Cheetah Hunt though. I was bummed out because it looks like an entertaining coaster, if not particularly exciting. I could see where it would be someone's favorite at the park, from what I'm told.
My favorite thing about that park though is how beautiful it is. I'm envious of your BGT trip. ;)
"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band
It was the ride being so forceful that stopped me from re-riding. I can't handle more than 1 ride on anything really forceful anymore, at least not in a row and since we were away on vacation, I didn't want to take any chances of not feeling well. If Kumba was at Great Adventure, it would probably be a coaster I would ride early and then go back to it later in the day.
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