Matt -- another well done photo set. I agree with you -- those are the lesser of the two Disney parks, and not quite full-day experiences in their current configurations. I might go as far as to say that the Everest queue impressed me more than the ride itself, but then, I'm not huge on backwards coaster sections.
Finally, someone else who doesn't like Aerosmith! I do like the coaster (and it's outstanding for a Vekoma) -- but though I think the first third is fairly intense, it just gets boring after it. Aerosmith aside, the theming is pretty cool, and the station is one of my favorites anywhere.
I think I found a seat at the same lake-side place you did at Downtown Disney on my first night there in 2012. Nice spot! Can't believe how crowded that place gets, but obviously they're addressing that with the plans for the next few years.
Our next update brings us to Busch Gardens Tampa where the weather forecast was sunny with a definite chance of thunderstorms by mid-afternoon. We were told in no uncertain terms that there would be no refunds - not that we asked! So we got down to business right away to rack up the credits and get a good sampling of this beautiful park.
Busch Gardens Tampa has quite a different feel to its sister park in Virginia. Tampa's park is colourful, lush, tropical, expansive and flat - there's no need to get your hiking boots on here. Nevertheless, as in Virginia, you can get around by train or sky ride, which is a particularly good way to see the 65-acre Serengeti Plain.
The mixture of animal exhibits and rides worked really well, and I enjoyed the amazing themeing too. We started in 'Egypt' where we rode the powerful Montu, which became an easy top 10 B&M invert for me. There were no queues at all, which kind of made us regret buying the Quick Queue Unlimited passes - though we always purchase fast passes at parks that have them as a kind of 'queue insurance', so no harm done.
We enjoyed Cheetah Hunt which had enough fun elements to make for a top-notch family coaster, though I can agree with others that it's no Maverick and really isn't meant to me. Over in 'Morocco' we found Gwazi in its death throes, but I was still surprised at how rough this GCI woodie was! Continuing around the park we enjoyed two other powerful B&Ms in SheiKra and Kumba.
'Timbuktu' featured the Schwarzkopf creation Scorpion, which was absolutely amazing despite its small stature and short length. Anton certainly knew how to give parks maximum bang for their buck with his coasters, and I hope Busch Gardens keep Scorpion around for a long, long time (or forever!).
Unfortunately, as predicted, we were finally stormed out of too many re-rides today - and the park closed absolutely everything (and I mean everything, even a walk-through bird aviary!) when the thunderstorms came. It didn't look like they were going to let up, so we left quite early, but I still left with a pretty good impression of the park. Busch Gardens Tampa has so much going for it - and I'd love to come back and ride the fabulous-looking Falcon's Fury sometime very soon!
Apologies for the lowish quality of these photos. We were a little rushed today.
This is the sight that greets the giddy roller coaster enthusiast upon approaching Busch Gardens Tampa - a very famous B&M creation, Montu!
Having been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, I was expecting great themeing here too, and wasn't disappointed.
Tampa's park had a very different feel to its sister up north, and certainly fit the tropical Florida climate.
The 'Nairobi' area featured alligators and crocodiles that you could observe up close...
Not a job for the faint hearted!
I liked this beautiful building in Crown Colony Plaza.
We went to 'Egypt' for Montu!
Montu was a great B&M invert made even greater but its interaction with the surrounding themeing.
It was intense...
...but also thoroughly re-rideable. To me, that makes for an almost perfect mix.
Next up, an Intamin coaster: Cheetah Hunt.
Despite reading plenty of reviews on TPR, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the ride.
I thought it was hands-up fun all the way. I loved the multiple launches and twists and turns around the (very long!) course.
The 'tree' was interesting.
Cheetah Hunt is similarly underrated as Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Moving on to 'Morocco' for a ride I wasn't looking forward to...
Gwazi! (Minus one side of the track, alas.)
This was up there with some of the rougher woodies I've ridden.
The Quick Queue went straight over the former track of the 'Tiger' side of the ride.
Yep, doesn't look like this side is opening any time soon!
Where did Busch Gardens go wrong with this one? I thought this was even rougher than GCI's Wildcat at Hersheypark.
The bird gardens were a particularly lovely corner of the park (and the original section, opened back in 1959).
Yay, pink flamingos!
I think Busch Gardens are in very good hands with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.
Craig joined us today for a bit of thrillseeking.
Sesame Street Safari of Fun was nice and shady.
This was one of the many walk-through animal exhibits.
On our way to 'Stanleyville'...
...home of SheiKra!
Loading the enormous train.
SheiKra was great, with better themeing than Griffon - I just wish I got to ride it more than once!
Stanley Falls is the name of the park's old school log flume.
The Jungala area replaced the former Python coaster.
More opportunities to get close to wild animals...
I loved this 'paint' sprayer! Great idea for such a hot park!
This was a good idea too...
I was looking forward to Kumba, the coaster that helped put B&M on the map.
They do NOT make 'em like this anymore.
This was a powerful ride that really knocked my socks off! Alas - again, we only managed to get one ride in.
But what a ride!
I was looking forward to Schwarzkopf's Scorpion!
This really packed a lot of fun into a tiny footprint.
Schwarzkopf loop with lap bars only = absolutely awesome!
I want this coaster in my backyard.
The only downside was the tiny, tiny station, which made choosing a row impossible.
The rest of 'Timbuktu' had some great themeing.
We had to wait a while for Sand Serpent to open, but finally snatched the credit.
Just another Wild Mouse, really.
I am so intrigued to see how this frightening drop ride concept will work!
We rode the Intamin Looping Starship, a ride Andrew and I always love!
Stormy clouds were brewing...
We wandered by the elephant habitat just as they were walking out.
This was pretty cool.
The park keeps them entertained.
It really is an expansive park...
I was glad we got to experience the modified Rhino Rally, SBNO since just after our visit.
It was a fun way to get around the animal enclosures.
You got up pretty close too.
This felt like an animatronic.
I mean, we got REALLY close to this rhino!
Another truck passes by.
Little did we know this would be our last ride of the day.
When we got off thunderstorms were closing in. You know it's a bad sign when all the water is drained from the log flume!
Florida strikes again!
So we had some water melon.
And down came the rain! With no sign of it letting up, we headed out. All in all, we had a good sampling of Busch Gardens Tampa. It's a beautiful park with some amazing attractions. I'd love to drop by again. Thanks for reading!
Great report! I really need to get back to BGT...or A... there are just so many other places I would rather spend my money than Florida!!!
My one and only visit was also cut short by an afternoon thunderstorm...I remember we were heading back to the park entrance area, we saw a flash of lightning, then a huge crowd of people running back into the park area! It was pretty wild...being from Southern California its always wild when we see real actual weather.
Sorry for the long delay between updates - but we're almost there, as this is our penultimate one!
Our last couple of days in Florida were spent at Universal Orlando Resort. I last visited in 2008 before Harry Potter moved in and absolutely loved everything about the place. It was my first major theme park - before any of our TPR trips - and I rode my first big coasters there. I was intrigued to re-visit all these years later after becoming a lot more seasoned, and having read some less than enthusiastic reviews on TPR.
With three newbies in tow I really wanted everyone to have fun, and was delighted when my fellow Kiwis were absolutely blown away by the place! I think our group appreciated the somewhat more adult-oriented attractions, further helped by how well Universal's (admittedly VERY expensive) Express system worked. The Florida weather also played in our favour, making for a very fun and enjoyable two days at the resort.
The new Potter area looks amazing and we loved Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Middling reviews had left me unprepared for how fun this attraction proved to be. Due to it not being on the Express pass, we had to wait in a very long queue, but it really delivered the goods (and screams from one particular Kiwi - right in my ear!). The downside of the area to me was how cramped it felt, and I'm not sure if it's down to lack of space or sheer popularity but it was a little hard to eat here or enjoy the myriad of shops (not that I'm a Potter fan or even a merch buyer really).
Over at Universal Studios Florida I couldn't help but feel the park didn't provide quite the same immersive experience as Islands of Adventure, and I felt very much the same way about Disney's Hollywood Studios. But the individual attractions are all very well done (who doesn't love Revenge of the Mummy?), and the new Simpsons area was a lot of fun.
One little gripe about our visit - the staff really didn't seem to care about queue jumping. It only happened a couple of times, but I was disappointed to see it happen right in front of staff, who did nothing even when we pointed it out to them. The queue on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey was also a bit of a fail for me. You had to store bags in one particular area and were then encouraged to re-join your party further down the queue. This could have been down to the park trying to get lines moving better on the attraction, but it really didn't work at all.
Oh well, we had a great visit to Universal Orlando, and I really couldn't recommend the place highly enough. I'd love to visit during Halloween Horror Nights.
Onto the photos!
It was good to be back at Universal Orlando, with its many changes since my last visit in 2008.
First up, my favourite of the two Universal Orlando parks, the exotic Islands of Adventure.
Port of Entry plaza.
Of the two parks, Islands of Adventure is to me the more immersive, well-themed and beautiful.
Lots of attention to detail everywhere you look.
I see some changes on the horizon.
The Incredible Hulk was as fantastic as it was in 2008.
I love the unique launch and cobra roll over the lake...
And the HUGE signature loop!
No question a top-tier B&M ride, even if the second half fizzles out a little bit.
Moving on through Marvel Super Hero Island.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man blew my socks off in 2008, and it was great fun to take some newbies on the ride.
Toon Lagoon featuring Betty Boop (she was all over the resort!).
I passed on Popeye and Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges in 2008, and did not make the same mistake this time around.
It was probably the best rapids ride I've been on, and we got totally soaked!
If we're going to get wet, we thought we may as well go for broke (in the rather claustrophobic queue for Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls).
This awesome log flume possibly got us even wetter than the rapids ride!
Our ponchos did nothing. Nothing!
Moving onto Jurassic Park, where you again feel immersed in the themeing.
Universal Orlando conveniently locate all their water rides near one another.
Jurassic Park River Adventure was another wet one!
Fortunately the weather was great today, and we dried out pretty quickly.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter wasn't too convincing in its theme today - as Britain has never been this hot!
The area looked nice though.
I also really liked the re-theme on the Vekoma roller skater.
Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey had the longest queue of our visit, with a very strange system of storing bags where staff encouraged you to split up your groups, then re-join them, effectively encouraging you to line-jump. Ahh!
The queue also went on and on...I think we waited 90 minutes.
Things got a lot nicer inside the castle.
The queue became quite interactive...
Yay, Dawn French! Anyway, we loved Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It was much more thrilling than any of us were expecting. All in all, one of our favourite attractions at the resort.
The merch was not quite our thing, however!
Moving on through the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, we found it a little hard to enjoy the shops as they all felt cramped and crowded.
The butterbeer was great though.
The area just became a little tiring after a while.
A big change since my last visit was the entrance to Dueling Dragons - now called Dragon Challenge, but without the awesome fighting dragon entrance! Boo!
This was also different and disappointing...
Oh well, even without duelling, these coasters are still both awesome rides.
Sorry Ice, Fire is still my favourite!
The Lost Continent was a favourite area on this visit for us.
Party due to this!
Kevin couldn't pass up getting his fortune read. I had never seen this at a theme park before!
While we waited we checked out the amazing Mystic Fountain that entertained guests and was sometimes quite profound!
It was also very funny.
We wisely booked first thing in the morning to have lunch at Mythos.
You can see why its voted best theme park restaurant.
The food is also top-notch.
Looking over the lake.
I'm yet to experience Poseidon's Fury. Have I missed anything?
Seuss Landing was the final corner of Islands of Adventure.
I love Dr. Seuss.
I also loved the lack of straight lines anywhere in this area of the park.
We rode the very trippy Cat in the Hat dark ride.
But we got queue jumped again!
These palm trees were apparently bent out of shape by Hurricane Andrew!
Day 2 was mostly spent over at Universal Studios Florida...
...where the themeing just didn't do it for me. I mean, it looks authentic, but I dunno, maybe it just looks too much like LA!
I DO love Lucy though!
Lucy: A Tribute is basically a museum, but it helps that it's all about one of my favourite people in the world.
Lucy's Emmy awards...
Jewellery. (I love the Liz Taylor episode of Here's Lucy!)
Lucy was also a glamorous starlet in her pre-I Love Lucy days.
Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit was a new experience for me.
There is always something unsettling about vertical lift hills...
The drop was fun, then you do this funky non-inverting thing...
Which was interesting...
Not super high on thrills...
But I enjoyed the different elements and on-board music (though they need to replace Fergie and Limp Bizkit - urgh!).
We checked out the Horror Make-Up Show.
Psycho is pretty much my favourite movie (one day I'll have to visit the sister park in Hollywood to see the Psycho house facade).
It was nice to get out of the heat for a bit.
But the make-up show was very entertaining too.
Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone featured another junior credit.
It was a nicely themed one, and not too embarrassing to ride!
On my 2008 visit, the Simpsons Ride had *just* opened, and I didn't get to ride. Now it's been joined by a whole Simpsons area.
And it was a lot of fun!
Yay, Krusty Burger!
The food options were very funny. But aren't these supposed to be kinda gross?!
I can definitely recommend the Ribwich!
Yay, Duff beer!
All the buildings looked authentic to me.
I'm a cold fish!
The Kwik-E-Mart mostly had themed merch.
The whole area had lots of funny details.
Characters out and about.
I finally got to experience The Simpsons Ride.
"No finer way to waste three minutes!"
The queue and pre-show were very funny.
Universal trying to ape Disney?
I also skipped Men in Black: Alien Attack in 2008.
It was an excellent,interactive dark ride.
For some reason I did do this in 2008, and wisely took a miss this time round!
Looking back to Rip, Ride, Rockit.
I have to admit the details on the themeing of the New York area were really well done.
Oh my God they do psychic readings here too!
We rode Transformers: The Ride which was a great attraction for people who haven't done the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. (That's mean, I think I just hate those goddam Michael Bay movies!)
Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride was as amazing as ever, from its incredibly well-themed queue to the awesome ride itself.
These people seemed to think it was OK to smoke wherever the hell they liked. I shall say no more!
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem was popular but the queue moved fast (but we still got line-jumped - sigh!).
Despite my minor gripes, we had an absolutely awesome time at Universal Orlando! I can't recommend the place highly enough. It should be up high on every theme park enthusiast's 'must-visit' list. Thanks for reading.
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