While in Florida for Spring Break, we did something a little different this year. We let Alex bring a friend and we went to some amusement parks! Alex loves roller coasters, and what better way to spend his 17th birthday than to be at Busch Gardens for almost 11 hours! That Sunday they were open 10am-9pm. We got there just a bit after 10am. Let me just say Busch Gardens is NOT Disney. There weren’t many people to help us. We also made a mistake of not reading our ‘tickets’ so needless to say we got into the park just a bit before 11. The boys were ready to catch their first roller coaster and Rob and I ended up walking around. I had to use the bathroom since it took us nearly an hour to get into the park. After walking for a good bit, I finally found someone to ask. Their signage is lacking and honestly they don’t seem to have that many restrooms.
After that we walked around and looked at animals. That’s the cool thing about Busch Gardens, it has rides and animals spread throughout the park. I haven’t been to a zoo in quite some time, so I really enjoyed seeing all the animals. I especially love birds so I really thrilled to see all the different types of birds.
One of the first rides we saw as we walked around was called SheiKra. When writing this post I asked Alex to rank the roller coasters at Busch Gardens. So I’ll be including his top three rides as I talk about a few of them. This happens to be his #1 favorite ride at Busch Gardens. This one is really fun to watch and eye catching because of the water feature.
SheiKra is located in the Stanleyville section of the park. SheiKra reaches a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) and has a total track length of 3,188 feet (972 m). It first opened in May 2005, but was converted to a floorless roller coaster in June 2007. SheiKra was the first Dive Coaster to feature a 90-degree drop. It has 5 trains with 3 cars. Riders are arranged 8 across in a single row for a total of 24 riders per train. In 2014, it was voted the 38th-best steel roller coaster.
When SheiKra opened in 2005, it introduced two new roller coaster elements to the Dive Coaster. The splashdown causes the train to come into contact with water through “scoops” located on the last car of each train. At night they are lit with color as you see below.
A couple hours after being there, we ran into the boys. We talked them into waiting in the line for the Serengeti Express, which is the train that takes you around the park. It has 3 stations (Nairobi, Congo, and Stanleyville sections) along the 2.2 miles (3.5 km) route. However the day we were there, they only had 2 stops open, Nairobi & Stanleyville. They made everyone get off each time they stopped making it basically a 1 way train. It does take you around the Serengeti Plain, where you’ll see large free-roaming herds of African animals, including giraffe, zebra, antelope, ostrich and much more.
The boys wanted to ride one more ride before getting lunch. The tower like ride in the background you see below is the Falcon’s Fury.
This is a free-standing Sky Jump drop tower that reaches a maximum height of 335 feet (102 m), making it North America’s tallest free-standing drop tower. Riders experience about five seconds of free fall, reaching a speed of 60 miles per hour (100 km/h). The ride’s name was chosen to invoke a falcon’s ability to dive steeply at high speed to capture prey. Riders are pivoted forward so that they are face down. Near the end of the drop they’re released and they ‘land’ in a seated position.
After riding it once, the boys were like ‘we’re not riding that again!’ However, on their second day there they rode it twice more.
The boys caught up with us for lunch at the Dragon Fire Grill. We hit this just early enough to not have really long lines. This spot had pizza, burgers, Asian, and chicken fingers. I had a burger. Rob had Asian. I think both boys had Asian too. We did “All Day Dining” which I think it normally $40 (Adult) and $20 (Child). Since we purchased this before peak season started we got ours for $25, which proved to be worth it as you spend at least $14 a meal.
After lunch Rob and I walked more of the park. The Lions are always really amazing to watch. We got to see a feeding. The 2 zookeepers stood in area right near where we were standing and threw raw hamburger meatballs at the 1male and 2 female lions. They also got something that looked like a turkey leg and them a couple large bone chunks for dessert.
Near the lion’s is Alex’s 3rd favorite ride in the park called Cheetah Hunt. It’s a steel launched roller coaster that opened in May 2011, alongside a cheetah exhibit called “Cheetah Run”. The roller coaster reaches a height of 102 feet (31 m) with a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h), and a total track length of 4,429 feet (1,350 m). It has 5 trains with 4 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 2 rows for a total of 16 riders per train. There’s 1 inversion and riders experience a G-force of up to 4.
Another ride Rob and I watched was Montu. However, we didn’t get to see the boys ride it. Montu is an inverted roller coaster located in the Egypt section of the park. It was the world’s tallest and fastest inverted roller coaster, when the ride opened in May 1996. The ride is 3,983-foot-long (1,214 m) and stands 150 feet (46 m) tall. It reaches speeds of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). Montu reaches a top speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). There are seven inversions including two vertical loops measuring 104 and 60 feet (32 and 18 m), respectively, a 90-foot (27 m) Immelmann loop, a zero-g roll, a batwing and a corkscrew. Riders experience up to 3.8 times the force of gravity on the 3 minute ride. Montu operates with three steel and fiberglass trains, each containing eight cars, each sitting 4 riders in per row for a total of 32 riders per train. Doesn’t that sound like so much fun!?!?!
From there headed over to the Serengeti Overlook Café and while we weren’t terribly hungry, just pretty thirsty, we decided since we had all you can eat card, decided to go ahead and get something. We sat outside on the porch area you see below.
You also get a good view of Cobra’s Curse.
One area that I can’t forget to mention is the “Mask Relaxation Zones.” These are seating areas where you could go sit and remove your mask. While it wasn’t hot that day, we were still happy to be able to take our masks off for a while. I was happy those areas weren’t crowded.
We later caught up with the boys as they were riding Cobra’s Curse. This ride opened in 2016 and is located in the Egypt section of the park features an elevator-style lift. Cobra’s Curse presents a fictional story about the ancient Egyptian ruler the Snake King Venymyss and his curse upon his lost kingdom. The roller coaster has a track length of 2,100 feet (640 m), reaches a height of 70 feet (21 m), and has a maximum speed of 40 mph (64 km/h).
Cobra’s Curse is eye catching with its 80 feet (24 m) snake statue that depicts King Venymyss, which is located in front of the elevator lift hill. It has 8 trains with 2 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 2 rows for a total of 8 riders per train.
That evening Rob and I went to one of the stages where there was live music and ate our dinner there. I didn’t take any pics of that.
After that we were wondering where the boys were and knew where ever they were they were getting in every last second of riding. We found out they were on Alex’s #2 choice for best roller coaster at BG. Tigris launches out of the station up into a partial twist. The train then falls back through the station, where it is accelerated backwards into another twist. Once again, the train falls back into the station and riders are accelerated to a top speed of 62 miles per hour (100 km/h). It then travels up to a height of 150 feet (46 m) where it completes a non-inverting half-loop, a heartline roll (ranking it among the tallest inversions in the world) before exiting in a second non-inverting half-loop. It then enters a full non-inverting loop before returning to the station. This ride has a single train with 3 cars. Riders are arranged 2 across in 3 rows for a total of 18 riders per train.
Two roller coasters that Trey didn’t get to rate were Kumba (closed for maintenance) and Iron Gwazi (not yet opened).
Although the day started off a little rough with getting into the park, overall the day was great! What matters most is that Alex and his friend had a blast, which they seem to since they couldn’t wait to get back for a 2nd day on Tuesday.