Busch Gardens for the Odd Man Out

Travel Advice , Expert View Column
Busch Gardens for the Odd Man Out
By ATD’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
Of all the theme parks in Central Florida, Busch Gardens is the one most likely to cause families to split up when it comes to those who love thrill rides and those who would chew their own arms off rather than strap into a roller coaster. Here’s how to manage while keeping everyone happy...

There is a reason Busch Gardens is known as “the roller coaster park” and that reason is SheiKra. It’s also Montu, Kumba, Sand Serpent, Scorpion, Cheetah Hunt, Cobra’s Curse and that massive beast of a machine, Falcon’s Fury.

If you’re the non-rider who meekly says, “No, you go ahead. I’ll wait here,” while secretly wishing there was something interesting to do that doesn’t involve retreating to a corner of the ride’s gift shop, take heart. There are diversions if you know where to find them.

What you choose to do will depend, in part, on how much time you have while everyone else in your group leaves you standing in their dust your loved ones enjoy the thrill rides. Whether you have 10-15 minutes or 30-60 minutes or more, we’ve got a few suggestions to keep you happily engaged while keeping you off the scary stuff.

 

Here are our favourite diversions at Busch Gardens, based on a few key points:

1. Whether or not the riders in your group are using Quick Queue (meaning, it’s not going to take long, but it’s going to be long enough that browsing the gift shop won’t keep you amused) or they’re in the Standby queue during busy season (meaning, you could realistically take in the latest blockbuster movie, pen Gone With The Wind—The Sequel, or negotiate world peace in the time it’s going to take for them to show up again).

2. You have a sense of humour and a camera, and you’re not afraid to participate in ridonculosity act silly, even if strangers are watching.

3. You’re going to experience the park’s non-thrill attractions with your group, and you want to do something you might otherwise miss.

4. You reserve the right to Do the Queue. Walk through the queue with your group, then simply tell the ride operator at the boarding area you’re not riding, and they’ll show you the way out. Every attraction has this option and it gets used all the time.

 

SheiKra

Do The Queue: The big drawback for non-riders is the lack of themed elements in most queues, and SheiKra is definitely one of those rides. There is a set of stairs you’ll have to climb to get to the boarding area, which is okay if you’re trying to get your FitBit steps in, but realistically you might as well hoof it away from the queue and do something fun.

10-15 minutes: Head over to the side of the coaster where the first enormous drop hill is located. You can easily spend 3 or 4 minutes just watching the riders as they plummet into oblivion coast gracefully along the hill’s ultra-steep track, screeching like banshees all the way down. Walk just a bit further and you’ll come to SheiKra’s second most dramatic viewing area. Oh, the happy moments you can spend here watching other non-riders experience “splash down”!

 

Sheikra at Busch Gardens

 

30 minutes or more: You’re smack dab in the middle of two opportunities. Backtrack to Bird Gardens and shell out a few dollars for a cup of nectar at Lory Landing, and you can easily while away half an hour. Even without the nectar, it’s a wonderful place for superb bird photos. The Lorikeets are friendly (very!) and the setting is pretty. Or, head toward Jungala and catch the Skyride. You’ll get spectacular photos along the way, especially when you’re travelling over the Serengeti Plain. It’s a 6-minute ride each way, plus time in the queue, and you must disembark and re-board at Edge of Africa for the return journey. If the queue is long, go for the birds instead of the birds-eye view.

Must-have Selfie: There are two here and you’ll probably have time for both. First, take a photo of yourself below SheiKra’s first drop hill just as a car is barrelling past. Add a look of absolute screaming terror, as if you’re on the ride, and you can fake-brag to your friends that you rode it. An even better selfie happens where SheiKra’s ride vehicle glides into “splash down.” Fins on the sides of the vehicle throw water far out onto the walkway, so be sure to stand beyond the damp part of the pavement if you don’t want to get wet, or have your mobile phone safely inside a phone-sized dry-bag or zip-lock bag. Then, take the shot just as the flumes shoot out!

 

Sheikra at Busch Gardens

 

Kumba, Falcon’s Fury, Sand Serpent, Scorpion

Do The Queue: The good news is, these are all within the same general area. The bad news is, they’ve got dead-boring queues. Like, just standing there playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors” boring. Sure, Falcon’s Fury has the benefit of watching the faces of all of the riders before your group as they go up, and again when they come down, which might just convince someone else in your group to skip it and go get ice cream with you. If not, you’re going to need a much better diversion than the queues will provide.

10-15 minutes: Pop over to Congo River Rapids. No, you’re not going to ride it. Instead, you’re going to take your revenge early (or late, if you already braved the river) and head straight to the water cannons. If you have a slightly sadistic side to your personality, drop a few coins in and spray innocent people unsuspecting visitors who are just trying to enjoy some family time (Note: children scream the loudest. Just saying). If you’re less evil and more into visual comedy, it’s astonishing how long you can spend watching other people shoot water at strangers. And your enjoyment of it will be free.

 

Busch Gardens Animal Care

 

30 minutes or more: Use every tactic you can think of, including bribery to Try to talk your loved ones into visiting Pantopia when a medical procedure is scheduled at the Animal Care Center. If they refuse to miss out on watching a lion get its annual check-up, go anyway while they’re disappointing you on the thrill rides and take in one of the interesting nutritional shows. You can even volunteer to cut up bits of fruit and vegetables to feed an animal ambassador.

Must-have Selfie: This one takes a bit of lining up, mostly because you want to make sure there are no trees obstructing your view, and you’ve got your camera turned to just the right angle. If you miss the shot it’s going to take a while before you can try for the next one, so frame it up while riders on Falcon’s Fury are exiting their seats and new riders are boarding. Your goal is to get a photo as the riders head up the tower. You’re probably going to end up looking straight up your own nose, or you’re going to have some freakish palm-tree hat growing out of your head, so…I dunno…you choose.

 

Falcon's Fury at Busch Gardens

 

Cheetah Hunt, Cobra’s Curse, Montu

Do The Queue: Finally, a bit of relief! The one queue you may want to do is Cobra’s Curse. It’s themed, it’s air conditioned, and it has some seriously cool interactive elements. There is a section with live snakes (behind glass), but there is a split in the queue with a barrier, so you never have to see them if you don’t want to.  

10-15 minutes: You may not want to get on Cheetah Hunt, but there is a spot where you can get so close to it you’ll feel that big cat roar! Take the pathway between Cheetah Hunt and the Serengeti Overlook restaurant, heading toward the train tracks that run directly through Edge of Africa. Pass by the hippo underwater viewing area, until you reach the bend that leads to Nairobi. You’re not going into that land, you’re just looking for the portion of the path where the track for Cheetah Hunt looms directly overhead. Not only will you feel the power of the ride there, you’ll get a bonus selfie out of it, too.

 

Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens

 

30 minutes or more: The entry to the Skyride is right next to the entry for Cheetah Hunt, so make it a priority if you chose Lory Landing as your diversion while your group rode SheiKra. Otherwise, check today’s schedule for the next showing of Cheetah Run. Animal Connections in Nairobi, just outside Edge of Africa, is another interesting (and free) diversion, especially if you strike up a conversation with the animal keepers or take part in feeding a flamingo or a sloth.

Must-have Selfie: Who doesn’t want their picture taken with a cheetah? Instead of joining the masses congregated around the Cheetah Run viewing window directly across the walk-way from Cheetah Hunt’s first lift hill, go around to the side of the enclosure (before you go under the archway). You’ll find a tucked-away viewing window there, too, and if you line it up right it will look like you’re in the enclosure with the animals.

 

Cheetah Run at Busch Gardens

 

Most of all, enjoy the fact Busch Gardens is absolutely filled with experiences for riders of all types. Whether you’re into fast and frightening or slow and sedate, this is a park that truly has something for everyone.

 

Ready to start planning your Florida holiday? Click here, to view our full range of great value tickets including 3 SeaWorld Parks for the price of 2!

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