Busch Gardens is our nearest amusement park, and as amusement parks go it is fairly consistently rated amongst the top in the country. Used to be you had to make a whole day of it, stay in the park open til close, just to make sure you got your money’s worth. A few years ago, though, they started selling Fun Passes; for $10 on top the regular price of your ticket, you get a ticket that lets you into the park all year long. So now we can get equipped with Fun Passes and the park becomes a cool place to just go kill a Sunday afternoon.
I’ve ridden everything in the park so many times that there’s not much thrill left. I don’t even feel pressured to ride everything in a single visit anymore. It’s amazing how different the amusement park experience is when all that pressure is lifted and you can kind of just do whatever you want. No “we’ll go here and here and here, then hit that and that and that, then meet for lunch, then have five hours left.” Nobody gets dragged onto rides they don’t want to be on. Since it’s a liesurely visit and not a planned outing you don’t have to eat all your meals in the park and there’s no reason to immortalize the moment with any gift shop swag.
Since this park is such a big part of where I grew up, I thought I’d start sharing my experiences with it here. So for today’s post I’m going to comment on everything we did in our five or six hours at Busch Gardens yesterday.
This coaster is pretty easy to get to from the entrance, so visits to the park almost always start here. I’m amazed that this coaster is 13 years old and is still rated one of the top coasters of its type. It’s almost soothing nowadays. Like visiting an old friend. My favorite part of this ride is looking out over Busch Blvd. in Tampa as you near the top of the first hill and waving to the Pizza Hut across the road. “Hi Pizza Hut! I’m on a roller coaster right now! Well, see you laaaaaaattttteeeeeeeerrr!!” (Montu’s Wikipedia page.)
What the Skyride is, is you get into this box that dangles from a cable that stretches the entire length of the park. You get dragged over a bunch of animals, and let out the other side. It’s a good way to relax, but even better than that, it’s the easiest way to get from the half of the park that contains Montu to the other half which contains Everything Else without walking. It does tend to build up a pretty insane line, though, so if you’re doing it at the wrong time of the day you can actually spend more time on your feet in the queue than you would have just walking the park. Also they have to close it down whenever the winds reach like 4 mph, so there have been many ocassions where I’ve wanted to ride this but couldn’t.
The oldest modern coaster in the park. I remember riding this one when it was brand new back when I was in middle school. This one shattered records and set my childhood standards of what a good roller coaster is. What is especially unique about Kumba is that it is designed to be as loud as possible; good luck trying to have a conversation within earshot of the track, because if a train goes by it drowns out absolutely everything else for a couple seconds. I have fun riding Kumba now because my familiarity with the coaster enables me to actually feel its age. Oh, and it’s still a completely badass ride. (Kumba’s Wikipedia page.)
#4: Some Show
By now we were hungry and tired and hot, so we found a show to go relax in. The show hadn’t started yet, so we got some drinks and sat down. Just before the curtain was set to go up we were refreshed, so we bailed out of there. Apparently we missed some disco dancing spectacle. I was crushed.
#5: Rhino Rally
Rhino Rally is a pretty unique attraction. You get into a jeep and some cheesy tour guide drives you around a track pointing out a bunch of animals. Then your jeep goes out onto a raft and floats lazily around a river. Sometimes you get soaked by a waterfall, sometimes you don’t. Then you get off. The queue for this ride is always long and slow-moving, and the animals and attractions are always the same. (Pink flamingos get their pink color from eating shrimp? You don’t say.) I’m kind of over this one, now. Next time we go to the park I’m going to lobby against getting on it. At least I managed to avoid the waterfall this time. (Rhino Rally’s Wikipedia page.)
#6: Gwazi Tiger
Gwazi is a rickety wooden roller coaster with two separate tracks: Lion and Tiger. Both jostle you around quite a bit, but on one track the jostling is fun whereas on the other it is painful. Problem is we can never remember which one is which. If I didn’t know better I’d say they were switching the signs on us every year just to be dicks. Well, Tiger isn’t the good one. I stepped off this coaster seeing double and swearing (probably not for the first time) not to go near the Tiger side ever again. Of all Busch Gardens’s major coasters Gwazi is probably the least popular. It’s not my favorite, but I’d miss it if it were gone. (Gwazi’s Wikipedia page.)
The Train is one of my favorite rides because you get to sit down and just about take a nap. Even better than the train is the bench you can sit in while waiting on the train. Comfortable, air conditioned… yeah, that’s just about where you want to be in the middle of a July afternoon. We sat next to a couple with some pretty obnoxious kids all the way around the track. The man was blind and kept complaining that our tour guide wasn’t announcing anything. Observation: I bet it’s part of the Busch Gardens employee contract that you have to wave at the train as it goes by.
We skipped a couple of rides; I didn’t get to ride SheiKra, the amazing dive coaster, and Fiancee didn’t get to ride the river rapids. This is because she hates SheiKra and I hate water rides. We can always catch them some other time.