So, I’ll put this out there right at the start of this report, I love the hell out of this park. I love it so much I wrote the book on it. Literally.
Admittedly, it’s not a very good book, but waaay back in 2015 for a short time it was #1 in Travel/Tampa on Amazon. As an aside, if you’re thinking about earning a little money by writing a travel book, I’m here to tell you that “little money” thing is exceedingly, painfully, accurate.
So anywhoo, I just wanted to get this out of the way so you know this report will be totally biased because I think this place is the perfect mix of coasters and animals.Well that, and this bird stole my wallet and wouldn’t give it back unless I said nice things about the park.
I also want to mention that some of these photos are from previous visits (I didn’t take many pics this time).
We have 2 park days in the park, Mike joined me on the first day and I did a solo run the second day while Mike spent all our money at antique stores in the area.
Day one saw us at the gates before rope drop, chatting with a bunch of retirees from all over the country. Nothing makes me feel younger than a rope drop at Busch when they’ve got the Real Music concerts going on. These free concerts feature popular 1960’s groups. This, paired with really inexpensive annual passes, means every day is Senior Day when there’s a concert happening.Honestly, I think we’re the youngest people here right now.
Sooooo many white tennis shoes and sweater sets.
Mike usually loves zoos and anything to do with animals (that’s probably no surprise, considering our travel companion), but he really wasn’t feeling it today. Back in October he was riding his bicycle and some idiot ran a stop sign and really messed up our fall riding season. Along with broken ribs and bone chips in his elbow and ankle, Mike’s worst injury was a broken pelvis. Fortunately it didn’t require surgery, but unfortunately it was taking ages to heal. All the walking required at a theme park was causing pain, which required pain meds, which made Mike sleepy. So I didn’t get in nearly as many rides as I usually do, but fortunately Busch is lots of fun even if you’re just riding the train around all afternoon.
Of course that’s not what we wasted rope drop on! We headed right over to Cheetah Hunt, only to be stopped by a Greeter Cat. He’s sitting right at the glass just calmly watching the humans in the human zoo.Hello, welcome to Busch Gardens, would you like to see me run really really fast?
After losing the staring contest, I headed off to ride, Mike found a nice bench for a homeless-person-napping session.
I loves me some Cheetah Hunt, and I love it even more when I can loop it multiple times before the crowds hit. This morning I lucked out and got about 5 rides in before any kind of line started forming.Pretty, pretty airtime machine.
Next stop Montu, which is one of the few inverts with standard restraints that I can ride multiple times with no head-bangey brain pain. Such a fun and forceful flight!
Before going back to collect Mike I gave the new (to me) Cobra’s Curse a spin. Actually, I wish I had been able to give it a spin, this spinning coaster is decidedly lacking in spinney-ness, although it does a good job of fitting a family-friendly niche that was lacking at Busch, besides the cool lift mechanism, the ride itself is pretty meh to me.
Before leaving the area we caught the awesomeness that is Cheetah Run.
It’s incredible to see these cats at full-tilt-boogie, but also really cool to see how the handlers interact with their cat buddies.
In keeping with the cat theme, we spent some time with these guys, who take the art of relaxation to a whole other level.
As much as I like cats, I will admit that the hyena exhibit is one of my favorites in the park. On our first visit years ago this was one of the first exhibits we saw, coming around a corner we were suddenly face-to-face with one of these puppos and suddenly I realized that objects on tv were sometimes not nearly as large or lethal looking as they are in real life. Dang, they’re scary as heck.Scary even when they’re doing goofy dog things.
Next we headed towards Walkabout Way, hoping that an early morning visit would garner hungrier kangas and thirstier lorikeets. We usually do this stuff in the late afternoon and have mixed results, I thought I’d beat the system this time and we’d be mobbed by wide-awake and starving beasties ready to exchange great photo ops for treats. Denied!
The hoppers were all sleeping and the birds all should have had names like Bitey and Grumpy. I guess it’s more the luck of the draw. I’d recommend walking inside the enclosures to see if the animals are interacting before you spend $$ on food.
Fortunately, we’d had other trips with tons of great interactions.Although I think this wallaby still has Mike’s watch.
This area is one of the prettiest in the park and it’s usually overlooked due to its lack of major attractions.
We’ve had the best luck with random interaction opportunities over here, from birds to sloths.
Plus this little microcosm of Australian Outback houses some of the weirdest birds I’ve ever seen.
Because Mike wasn’t really into much more walking, we decided to pay the extra $$ for the Serengeti Safari, which we’ve done a few times before. I think this is such a good deal for $29pp, over at Animal Kingdom encounters like this start at $70 and go waaaay up from there.Obligatory giraffe photo op.
We were also treated to an Extra Magic Moment between a couple of zebras.“Let me show you the dance of my people”
After our R-rated safari, we wandered over to the Elephant enclosure and had fun watching them totally destroy a bunch of toys and interactive stuff the handlers had spent a lot of time setting up.
It was nearing park close and Mike was definitely done with walking so we headed back to our La Quinta for the night.
The next morning Mike dropped me off at the park entrance and I was totally excited to start my first solo park day of this trip. I love solo park days, I’m a loner at heart and I’m also a selfish wench so the ability to ride whatever I want whenever I want is pretty awesome.
I spent most of the day looping faves and wandering through the animal exhibits. I even took time to visit the Animal Care Center and see a veterinarian stitch up a wild pelican that had tangled with a fishing hook. It was fascinating and educational, and I learned how much Busch does for the local wildlife, taking in and healing hundreds of birds and other animals every year before re-releasing them to the wild.
But hovering over everything I did was this thing…Yeah, I see you there Falcon’s Fury, taunting my fear of heights and general wimpy-ness.
So here’s the deal, I’m terrified of heights. I can get weak-kneed and woozy just standing in our backyard (I have an excuse, there’s a 300’ deep canyon back there). I know we all have something we’re scared of, mine just happens to be heights. And spiders. And human interaction. And did I mention heights? Yeah. So, I’m also stubborn and I hate being a wimp. So I ride things like Insanity at the top of the Stratosphere in Vegas, and I make myself do drop towers with my eyes open, even though the entire time I wish I was anywhere but in that seat -- until the ride is over and the adrenaline rush is so intense it’s awesome!
I’d ignored Falcon’s Fury long enough, so after lunch at Zambia Smokehouse (smelled better than it tasted, but it wasn’t awful) I forced my feet to walk this way…Hello there…
And got my wimpy ass in line.
Where they promptly closed the ride due to wind and I got to wait an additional 15 agonizing minutes before sitting my fat butt in those comfy seats and being lifted into the air thinking, “gosh, what a beautiful view, this isn’t bad at all…” then the seat rotated and I’m staring at the ground for what feels like a full minute while I’m screaming a mantra in my head “just drop!!!just drop!!!just drop!!!” and finally I feel blessed weightlessness as the ground races up to meet my face and whoosh it’s over. Yahooo! What a great ride!
As a reward for not being a fraidy-cat, I spent some quality time with Mr. Schwarzcopf and his little Scorpion. I loves me some Anton loops and helices. The only problem with this coaster is its short length, which is resolved by re-riding multiple times with no wait.
Tajah is a big fan too!
I also spent some time hauling my fat butt through the Treetop Trails, I love the views from the top of the towers and it’s fun when there’s not a huge crowd of kids that have to wait for me to lumber out of their way. Theoretically I’m supposed to be accompanied by a child here, does “childish” count?
The sun was getting low on the horizon and Mike had bought every vintage motorcycle-related tchotchke in a 30-mile radius and was headed back to pick me up, so I started walking towards the exit. I dawdled a little while watching these guys frustratedly discussing plans on what to do about the giant thief that was currently chowing down on their dinner...
...then headed for the gates.
Another great Busch Gardens trip ended, but we had Orlando fun starting the next day, so I wasn’t totally bummed.
Here’s my Ride and Attraction ratings for BGT:Rides:
1. Cheetah Hunt - This coaster has the two things I love in a ride, speed and airtime. It’s not intense by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s hella fun.
2. Montu - Forceful without being painful, I love every element of this coaster.
3. SheiKra - I love dive towers, I know they’re one trick ponies but they’re a thrilling trick. I’d probably still put this in the #2 position if the darned thing wouldn’t be closed for refurb every time I’m at the park!
4. Scorpion - Schwarzkopf. Yeah baby.
5. Falcon’s Fury - This is now my #2 drop tower (#1 is still SFMM Lex Luthor)
6. Cobra’s Curse - It’s not a bad ride, it’s just not that fun or exciting.
7. Kumba - Fun, forceful, but a little too head-bangey for re-rides.
8. Skyride - Best views in the park.
9. Serengeti Railway - Second best views in the park, the only way to really view the Serengeti plains without an upcharge Safari.
10. Sand Serpent - I usually like wild mouse rides, this one is just uncomfortable and un-fun.Shows:
Opening Night Critters - Ubiquitous rescue-animal show similar to the ones you’ll see at Universal and other parks, it’s cute but forgettable. Animal Exhibits:
1. Hyenas - I haven’t been to another zoo that has up-close viewing of hyenas like they have here.
2. Cheetahs - Lots of zoos have cheetahs, you can usually see them sleeping on warming rocks waaaay in the distance. Busch puts the cats front and center and they seem to thrive in this active environment.
3. Kangaroos and Wallabies - Catch them at the right time and you’ll get all sorts of awesome interaction.
4. Animal Care Center - If you’re not squeamish, stop in here for some dark air-conditioned education.
5. Serengeti Plain - It’s a little strange that the park’s largest area is also the most difficult to view. The old Rhino Rally was a super way to interact with this area, but that’s long gone. The train is as close as you’ll get now unless you want to pay for a safari.