Not exactly in Orlando but….
Busch Gardens is definitely one for the thrill seekers. It has more rollercoasters than any other Florida theme park and some of them are quite extreme. The park is just over an hours drive (on a good day) from the Orlando tourist areas but it is well worth the travelling time. The park is also a large zoo and you will be able to see everything from alligators to Cheetahs in many areas of the park. This African themed park is owned by SeaWorld so you can get a good ticket deal by buying SeaWorld multi-park tickets.
The first ride of the day
When travelling by car you will park across the street from the theme park. There will be a free shuttle that takes you under the main road and drop you near the entrance. This train journey takes around 3 minutes. If the queues for the train are long, just walk the same route. It will take you 10 minutes and you could save time having a quick stroll.
Free Busch Gardens Shuttle
If you do not fancy driving on the wrong side of the road you can still get to Busch Gardens for free. As long as you have purchased a Busch gardens ticket you can hop aboard a free Mears coach. They pick from many tourist areas around Orlando and take you to Busch Gardens. They will bring you back at the end of the day but make sure you know when it leaves!!
You can check out the pick-up locations and book on the Mears Website.
Keeping the kids entertained
As you enter Busch gardens if you head off towards the left side of the park, this is where the children’s play areas can be found.
The Jungala area of the park is a great area of Busch gardens to keep the kids entertained. This area of the park is ideal for 6 to 13 year olds and it contains animal habitats, waterfalls, a couple of rides and some great climbing areas to let your kids test out their monkey skills. There are also 2 restaurants in this area – the Bengal Bistro and the Orang Cafe so mum and dad can grab a snack and a drink while the kids burn off a bit of energy.
The Sesame Street Safari Of Fun area opened in March 2010 and it replaced the Land Of the Dragons area that was the main attraction for the younger children. Sesame Street is a big deal in the USA so it will be popular with local toddlers. There are many attractions ranging from car rides and sand pits to a junior rollercoaster and a Sesame Street show.
Busch Gardens still isn’t the best park to visit in Florida if you have young children because all the main rides are for advanced thrill seekers.
As I’ve mentioned, if you like rollercoasters then this is the park for you. There are no less than 7 rollercoasters and some of them are very unique. Our favourite is the Cheetah Hunt and this is a very long and unique ride. There is also a vertical drop rollercoaster called Sheikra and this really is for the hardened coaster fans.
The great thing about Busch Gardens is the short amount of time you could wait for rides. Weekends are busy because the locals come for a play but if you visit during the week, you should easily be able to ride every ride you want to within a one day visit. The reason the crowds are not as large as the Orlando theme parks is because of its distance from Orlando so not as many people are willing to make the trip.
Beware of cheeky kids
If you are unlucky enough to visit on a day where local schools have sent groups of coaches to the park, it will be busier. Some of these school kids can be very ignorant as well. We have visited a few times when groups of them have pushed through the lines telling people that they are ‘trying to join their party’. This is a technique they use to cheat the lines.
They split up into groups and ride, then quickly get to the next ride and push through to reach their friends. On my last visit a fight almost broke out. A large group were walking through the queue saying “excuse me, just trying to reach our party”. Some young American lad wasn’t having any of it. He refused to let them past and this went on for around 10 minutes. He told them they can be with their group if their group comes to the back of the line.
It did get heated and this young lad started to gain the support of the rest of the queue. Eventually they gave up and stayed put. I think the guy must have seen their group doing the same thing in every other line. I have seen this many times and it is always the same groups that do it. Busch Gardens should really crack down on this but they don’t.
Busch Gardens have a ticket that shortens your wait time. It is called the Quick Queue and it costs between $15 and $70 at 2019 prices. The price differs depending on which day you want to visit. There are various options to purchase where you can ride each ride once or multiple times. This park is the park with the smallest queues anyway so don’t just buy it for the sake of it. If you are visiting on a weekend when it is busier, it may be worth it.
Get there early
If you are planning to visit Busch Gardens, make sure you get there early before the park gates open. You’ll get to see some great entertainment and you’ll get chance to ride the big ones without a long wait. The security queues can take a long time to get through at this park. Busch Gardens aren’t as well organised as some of the other theme parks so get there as early as possible.
The Rides of Busch Gardens
Sheikra – look at that drop!!!!!
If you have ever ridden or even seen Oblivion at Alton Towers, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. Sheikra is similar to Oblivion but it is much, much better. With the Alton Towers ride you drop once and get off (after an hours wait). With this ride you get 2 different 90 degree drops and a great loop.
Sheikra also takes you through a pool of water towards the end of the ride. I never get to see this part of the ride, it could be to do with the fact that my eyes are always shut. Don’t worry that you’ll get wet because the seats are well above the track.
The most frightening part of Sheikra is the very high climb at the beginning. I always pester other family members to get on this ride with me. I tell them “stop being a killjoy” and it usually works. When we get strapped in and set off up that mountain of a climb, I always ask myself “why am I doing this”. It is the scariest beginning of any rollercoaster ride I have ever been on because of the height. At 200 feet tall this is the worlds tallest plunge-style rollercoaster. You do need a lot of bottle or be a total idiot to get on it and I think I am the latter.
One tip for having a less scary ride is sit towards the back of the cars. The front rows are dangled over the drop and they stay there for a long time. That can be very scary. If you sit towards the back, you don’t get this terrifying experience.
Sheikra is located in the Stanleyville area of the park and has a height requirement of 54″ or 137cm.
This is my favourite rollercoaster in Busch Gardens and one of my favourite rides…..
Cheetah Hunt is very long and very unique. Some of the twists and turns are brilliant and the ‘standing start’ feature is excellent. The ride tries to imitate how a cheetah can go from 0-70mph in a short space of time. This standing start happens multiple times through the ride and it gives you a great thrill. At other parts of the track you start to slow down when the motors kick in. You are propelled forward quicker than you expect and these features are what makes the ride a ‘must do’.
Cheetah Hunt has a height requirement of 48″ or 122cm.
Cobra’s Curse is one of the newest rides in Busch Gardens and it can be a little bit scary. This ride has a unique start and the beginning did make me worry a bit. You are placed into your car and the car is transported up a vertical lift where it joins the track. At the top you come face to face with the Cobra and the ride starts. The reason I was worried is because I wasn’t 100% certain the car would attach to the track correctly. I had visions of us falling off the track lol. Everything connected properly and off we went.
Your car actually rotates through the ride and you will cover some of the track backwards. There are no extreme drops or loops so nothing to worry about (except for the beginning)
Cobra’s Curse is located in the Eqypt area of the park and has a height requirement of 42″ or 107cm
I always scream like a little girl on this ride. You may look at the photo and wonder why I do but I just can’t help myself. You are in a waltzer style carriage and it speeds around the track. When the carriage heads to the bends at each side of the track, I just lose it!!! I feel that we are travelling too fast to make the turn and this makes me scream. I have ridden it at least 4 times and I scream every time.
Mrs Brit and Little Brit love getting on this ride, just to laugh at me. I would rather ride Sheikra any day.
Sand Serpent is located in the Pantopia area of the park. The ride has a height requirement of 46″ or 117cm.
This was always our family favourite until Cheetah Chase opened. I love loops and there are plenty of them on this ride. Montu is a very smooth, enjoyable ride and if you have ridden any steel rollercoaster, I am sure you’ll love this one also.
Montu is located in the Egypt area of the park and this is probably the reason why the ride is so easy to get on. If the ride was more central to Busch Gardens’ other attractions it would be much busier. We usually ride Montu then run back to the queue like a group of kids and get on again.
Montu has a height requirement of 54″ or 137cm.
When we went to Busch Gardens recently I decided to pass on riding Phoenix as I had just ordered my very first Corn Dog. I didn’t want to be re-introduced to my food.
My son jumped aboard this ride while I munched away at my Corn Dog and I was happy I didn’t join in. The ride is similar to your average fairground style Pirate Ship ride but there is one big difference. This one does go all the way over!! When the ship gets to the very top it pauses for what seems like ages, then drops to do it all over again.
If you are thinking of riding Phoenix, remember to zip your pockets up. Money and other items regularly fall from the ride on every loop.
The ride can be found in the Timbuktu area and has a height requirement of 48″ or 122cm
This rollercoaster is bottom of the list when it comes to the very high standards of the Busch Gardens. There is always quite a large queue (by Busch Gardens standards anyway) and this is because of its location. Every ride is busier around the centre of the park. The ride opened in 1981 so is really old for a steel rollercoaster. You just don’t get anything like the buzz you get from the other modern rides.
If you are the sort of person that needs to talk yourself into going on bigger rides, Scorpion could be exactly what you need. This ride will help build your confidence because it is not extreme at all.
Scorpion has a height requirement of 42″ or 107cm
Another corker of a rollercoaster. Kumba is in the far north Congo area of the park near the very boring Congo River Rapids ride. (so don’t waste too much time waiting for that one). The queues for Kumba are quite busy during the middle of the day because it is part of the popular route around the park. Get there early and you can ride multiple times before the queues build. Plenty of corkscrews and loops make Kumba a must do for any coaster fan.
The ride has a height requirement of 54″ or 137cm
The Water Rides
There are 2 main water rides in Busch Gardens – Stanley Falls Flume and Congo River Rapids. To be honest, none of them are very good.
Stanley Falls Flume will probably be enjoyed by younger children aged between 6 and 10 years old. It is basically a one-drop ride and nothing else happens. Congo River Rapids is a big let-down for me because I love these rapids rides. It doesn’t compare to Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges at Islands Of Adventure. These rides cost millions to create so it should be so much better.
If there aren’t any queues and you have been on all of the better rides, you may as well jump aboard. Just don’t expect too much from these rides.