Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World have been getting features with immersive themed terrains such as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Pandora — The World of Avatar. Yet, in some cases thrill seekers just want to ride some roller coasters. For that, at any rate by the numbers, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is king.
SeaWorld has three true roller coasters with no less than a 40-inch height requirement for riders. The Universal parks combined have four, but that’s going to drop to two for over a year with the closing of Dragon Challenge. The most any Disney park has is two. Legoland Florida in Winter Haven has four and both Fun Spot areas, Orlando and Kissimmee, have two each.
Then again, Busch Gardens is a thrill-seeker’s heaven with its six principal roller coasters: Kumba, Montu, SheiKra, Cheetah Hunt, Cobra’s Curse, and Scorpion. Throw in kid-friendly rides Sand Serpent and Air Grover, and there is 21,297 feet of thrill ride track at the recreation center. That is a little more than 4 miles on eight crazy rides.
Moreover, the Tampa park has a band of other fun rides including Falcon’s Fury, which is the only ride in the state that mimics what it would be like to fall face-first toward the ground from 335 feet in the air.
The roller coasters, though, are the enormous draw with Busch Gardens adjoining new ones every few years since the 1990’s. Here’s a quick summary:
Opened in 1980, Scorpion is the recreation center’s oldest coaster. It might appear to be littler than the newer ones with a height of only 65 feet, yet Scorpion features one inversion loop and hits speeds of 50 mph. This ride with a 42-inch height prerequisite is an extraordinary gateway roller coaster for thrill-seeking kids who ask, “Am I tall enough yet?”
At 143 feet tall, Kumba is more than twice Scorpion’s height. The coaster, which opened in 1993, is as yet one of the fastest and longest in the recreation center with about 4,000 feet of track that hits seven reversal circles at a top speed of 60 mph. You must be 54 inches to ride.
It, as well, has almost 4,000 feet of track that sends riders through seven inversion loops at up to 60 mph. When Montu opened in 1996, it was the tallest ride in the park, at 150 feet. Height requirement is 54 inches.
Opened in 2005, SheiKra is the country’s first dive coaster and perhaps the recreation center’s number 1 shout inducer. At 200 feet, passengers are dropped at 70 mph at a 90-degree angle. It has one inversion loop and a shorter track, at 3,188 feet. The ride is awesome for spectators as well, with a colossal wave of water tossed onto the crowd as the 24-passenger car speeds nearby. Riders must be 54 inches.
This coaster feels like the park’s fastest, even though its 60mph maximum speed falls short of SheiKra’s. The park’s longest ride with 4,429 feet of track, Cheetah Hunt is the only coaster at Busch Gardens that launches passengers at the beginning as opposed to the cars climbing a lofty slope. Opened in 2011, it highlights two launching mechanisms mid-ride that re-up the speed factor exactly when adrenaline junkies feel as though they have impeded. Cheetah Hunt has just a single inversion loop, but it includes a series of banking turns through a rough stream abyss that come jarringly near the edges and definitely ups the thrill factor. You must be 48 inches to ride.
The recreation center’s latest crazy ride opened in 2016. It isn’t the tallest or speediest, yet Cobra’s Curse offers something one of a kind: spinning cars. The ride is family friendly with a 42-inch height requirement, a top speed of 40 mph along a track that is just 2,100 feet long and a maximum height of 70 feet. In any case, it’s one of the recreation center’s most memorable as riders never know which course they will be facing in a disorienting, twisting trip.
What: The 335-acre amusement park opened in 1959. Part zoo, part amusement park, it highlights over 12,000 animals and 18 rides.
When: Open daily, hours vary
Where: 10165 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa
Cost: Single-day admission $104.99 ($89.99 if purchased online); Fun Card (buy one day, get free admission through Dec. 31) $99