Growing up in Orlando I’ve visited Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida, and SeaWorld Orlando more times than I can count. I’ve even visited Legoland Florida a number of times. But there is one park that had always escaped me in Florida: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. I had been eyeing a visit to Busch Gardens for a while now and when I saw a good deal on tickets I figured now was as good of a time as any to go.
The park opened at 10am and we arrived at the park at about 9:45am. We immediately went straight to Cheetah Hunt which had a posted wait time of 15 minutes. The line moved fairly quickly until we got to the station. The operations were nothing short of terrible in there. It wasn’t entirely the ride ops’ fault since one train had a restraint that wasn’t working and the ride had to be reset, but even when it was working they weren’t very fast at checking everyone’s restraints. When we did finally get on the ride it was really great! It had a ton of airtime and was pretty forceful, but waiting around 40 minutes when it was posted at 15 was very frustrating.
Next, we headed over to Cobra’s Curse and had a much better experience when it came to waiting in line. First, Cobra’s Curse has a moving load platform and can run a stupid amount of trains so the line hardly ever stops moving. Also, Cobra’s Curse is really the only attractions with a themed queue and storyline. It’s not the most exciting or impressive theming in the world, but it really does stand out in Busch Gardens.
The ride itself was pretty fun! A great family coaster for sure and actually pretty thrilling. And the massive Cobra statue at the beginning of the ride is a pretty cool sight. The theming isn’t the best I’ve ever experienced but it is pretty good in my opinion.
After Cobra’s Curse, we headed right next door to Montu, the park’s B&M invert. This was the only coaster we were able to get 2 rides on during our visit due to the lines. But man…what a ride this is. When it opened Montu was the tallest and longest invert in the world. Although it no longer holds those records, it still packs a punch. This ride pulls some ridiculous forces and every single element hits for me. Even the cobra roll, which was so intense it was my favorite part of the ride! Be on the lookout for a full review in the future.
After Montu we decided to head to the back of the park to get on the coasters there. We walked by the Sesame Street area which housed the kiddie coaster “Air Grover”. With my brother and I being credit hunters, we decided to get on it. This was one of the most painful experiences of my life. The Vekoma Roller Skate was way faster than I expected and this was not for the better. It was incredibly rough and bad. Only ride it once in your life to get the credit.
Further back in the park we made it to Sheikra, which is arguably the most famous coaster at Busch Gardens, since it’s a dive coaster. We rode it and it didn’t leave too much of an impact, you get a really nice view at the top but there’s not much that sets it apart from other dive coasters you can find at other parks. Not much else to say here.
Up next was my most anticipated ride of the day, Kumba. Kumba is an old-school B&M sitdown, and it famous for its intensity and a loud roar. I was not disappointed at all. Kumba powers through all 7 inversions and there are no dull moments. I only got 1 ride on it but I think it’s now replaced Mako as my favorite coaster in Florida, which says a lot since I’ve spoken very highly of Mako in the past.
After Kumba, we decided to grab some lunch at Dragon Fire Grill & Pub. And this was probably the low point of the day. I’ve always thought Universal had bad quick service food, but this was much much worse. Both my brother and I had a Pizza and Pasta combo and it was downright horrible. The only good part of Dragon Fire was that they do a live show called “Rock-a-doo-op” several times a day inside. It’s more of a live concert with a band and singers playing some of the biggest hits of the 50s and 60s, which is a little strange given the rest of the park but I found it to be decently entertaining.
While we were eating, lightning came near the park so all the rides shut down. With only Tigris left to ride out of the big coasters, we decided to just stand in the Tigris queue while we waited for it to clear up. Eventually, it did and we waited around 30 minutes after the rides all came back up. I’ll admit, since Tigris is a cloned ride I wasn’t expecting that much. I thought it was kind of a weak addition given what the park already had for coasters and with an RMC coming in 2020, but I have to say Tigris blew away my expectations. Even though you can find the same ride system at other parks (including 2 in the SeaWorld entertainment family) it’s a ton of fun. The launch is incredibly powerful and you get a ton of airtime on the way up. The line can get pretty long due to the coaster’s low capacity. It’s definitely worth a ride at least once on your next trip to Busch Gardens.
To finish off our day we got one more ride on Montu, which was a ton of fun. Unfortunately, we ended up not getting the credits for Scorpion and Sand Serpent, nor did we ride Falcon’s Fury. But that means I have something to come back for in addition to the RMC in 2020! All in all, Busch Gardens Tampa is a great park. The coaster lineup is the best you’ll find in Florida and is only going to get even better in the future. It has its flaws, but it gets a solid recommendation from me. If you’re in the Tampa area or in Orlando looking for another park that’s not too far away I highly suggest you check it out.
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