Busch Gardens Tampa (Africa?) - 4/16/06

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006 11:02 AM
My first TR, basically just a warmup for my upcoming first-time Cedar Point trip in May. My wife and I live in Florida and have season passes to the Busch/Universal parks, but haven't been to Busch Gardens since November. We really didn't know what to expect crowd-wise on Easter Sunday, but figured we'd give it a try (gotta refresh the memories for the inevitable ride comparisons with CP!).

To get the crowd question out of the way, for those of you thinking about an Easter trip to a Florida park next year: get there early. We were there at opening and managed a leisurely seven rides in 2 1/2 hours before the crowds came. After 12PM, though - ugh. Wall to wall people, and the longest line of the day ended up being 45 minutes for the chance to overpay for food at the new-ish Smokehouse Grill. Anyway, on to the rides, in order:

Montu - Ten minute wait for the front row, and it was only that long because the first train of the day got stuck on the lift hill for a few minutes. I love B&M inverts, and Montu's my favorite so far. Wicked inversions, and a great use of the supports/surroundings to make you feel like you could crash into something at any time. For what it is, I'd easily give it 9/10.

Rhino Rally - Eh, if you hit it in the morning when the animals are actually out and get a decent "driver", it's fun. This was one of our better rides, with the animals waaaaay up close and minimal wait. The lines for Rhino Rally get pretty nasty, even on slower days, and it's not something we hit every time we come, but if you can manage a sub-10 minute wait, go for it. 7/10

Scorpion - Five minute wait for the front row, since we'd never ridden it there before - otherwise it would have been a walk-on. Great old-school steel coaster; nothing major, but the triple helix at the end is pretty intense, and you gotta love taking a vertical loop with a lap bar and nothing else. 8/10

Cheetah Chase - We'd never done this one before and needed the "credit", so hit it with a five minute wait. My wife, who will gladly marathon ride anything that flips her upside down/launches her at high speeds/drops her from a great height, was absolutley terrified on this little guy. In her defense, it really does feel like you're about to be flung off a five story building in a cardboard box. My only real complaint is that the surroundings (or lack thereof) make this feel like a Six Flags Over Parking Lot ride. 7/10

Kumba - This is a weird one for me - it's like a movie that you're supposed to love, but can only manage a healthy respect for. I always enjoy my ride, and recognize it as a great coaster, but I really have trouble remembering many of the elements the next day. The finishing helix is fantastic on the right side of the train, though - it looks like the ground could tear your arm off if you so much as flinched. 8/10

SheiKra - We ended up riding twice in a row, with a fifteen minute wait both times. That's one of the things I love about SheiKra - it eats up lines like M&M's. A queue that looks like it should take 45 minutes rarely takes more than 15 - even on opening week, with the line backed up to the water feature, we didn't wait more than forty minutes.

We ended up getting both rides in the back row; we'd only ever ridden it in the front row, and honestly, the back completely changes my opinion of the ride experience. Until now, I've thought of SheiKra as a one-trick pony - incredible first drop, and then Dullsville. The back is a different story, though - for one thing, instead of being held looking down before the big vertical drop, you're still looking pretty much straight out, then hurled over the edge and straight down. I'm not sure whether I like it more than the anticipaion/terror of watching the drop the entire time in the front, but it's definitely a completely different experience. More importantly, for me at least, the tremendous airtime in the back row livens up the rest of the ride. The second drop, which I couldn't care less about in the front, is amazing in the back - you're literally out of your seat for the entire drop, just floating down into the tunnel. The new outlook definitely bumps SheiKra up a couple of spots in my top ten, and where I'd have given it a 7 before, I'm much more likely to think of it as 9/10 now.

Gwazi - Last ride of the day, as the crowds were really starting to grow. Twenty minute wait for the back row of Lion, which we usually don't get to ride (we're usually in the park on slower days, and they're only running Tiger for the most part). I'd never noticed before, but the queue system here absolutely blows, which easily adds ten minutes to the wait times. They really need a ride op directing traffic. As for the ride itself, it seemed rougher than usual, which led to a rather - ahem - uncomfortable reintroduction to my seat on a couple of occassions. I'm usually a little more jazzed on this one but I wouldn't go any higher than 6/10.

From here on out, the crowds were awful, so we spent the rest of the day taking pictures of the rides and animal exhibits. That's one thing I love about Busch Gardens - if it's too crowded to be a thrill ride park when you're there, you can just turn it into a zoo.

Thanks for letting me get my geek on. Be forewarned - I have a strange feeling that a week at Cedar Point is going to warrant a long, long TR. *** Edited 4/18/2006 3:05:14 PM UTC by W. Josh***

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006 12:34 PM
You probably can't remember Kumba because it is so mind-numbingly awesome. ;)

Regardless, BGA really has a nice collection of coasters. I'd love to get back to try out SheiKra. Thanks for the report.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006 1:22 PM
Kumba is a blur when you are on it, especially that cobra roll. I love that ride. Thanks for the TR.
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