Make A Beeline for Busch Gardens!
If there’s one of Florida’s theme parks that tends to get a bit overlooked in terms of its general media profile, it is Busch Gardens.
While this Tampa Bay theme park is a bit of a drive from our villa areas (about 60 miles, as opposed to 20 or so to Universal Orlando and 12-15 to Disney), it is worth the trip.
Its mix of thrilling rides and animal habitats is unique in the US and it has a more relaxing and expansive vibe than many of its big-name competitors.
Busch Gardens set to be even better in 2024
That value will be even greater next year because of a recent announcement by the park for its latest ride, which promises to be another excellent entry in their pantheon of fantastic rollercoasters.
Hot on the heels of Iron Gwazi (2022) and Serengeti Flyer (this year), 2024 will see the arrival of Phoenix Rising, the 10th coaster in the park’s line-up of out-and-out thrill rides.
It is an amazing commitment by Busch Gardens to keep adding new attractions, and it should be eye-catching, as well as a genuine adrenaline rush.
The official opening date is listed as “Spring 2024”, which should be just in time for the big Easter holiday rush (the last weekend in March next year), as we know the parks always try to get their latest rides up and running for peak periods.
New Phoenix Rising Coaster
What’s in a name, hey? In this instance, quite a lot. Regular visitors to Busch Gardens may remember a swinging boat ride in the Pantopia section of the park. Like The Blade at Alton Towers, Phoenix made its debut in 1984, and provided faithful service for almost 40 years.
But it suddenly shut down in 2018, and no-one really knew why. For four years, it sat neglected in one corner of Pantopia, until it was quietly demolished late last year.
Then, when the park announced the closure of the neighbouring Sand Serpent coaster in June this year, a whole new area of the park opened for future development, and the rumours began to fly.
Then, on October 2, Busch Gardens unveiled their dramatic plans for the area, with an entire new ride in this now-vacant space. And the name, Phoenix Rising, is a very hefty nod to the big swing that sat here for so long. It should be a dramatic new attraction, too.
OK, there is a lot more detail because of the October 2 announcement, and this is going to be a serious ride, albeit they call it a “family coaster,” with the height requirement at a relatively low 42 inches (or 107cm).
The first thing to know is that it is a suspended coaster, a bit like the park’s Montu in the Egypt area, but this looks like it will have more swinging, side-to-side movement (and not so many inversions!).
Phoenix Rising will reach a top speed of 44 mph on 1,831 feet of track and it will be Busch Gardens’ first roller coaster to feature on-board audio, with what the designers describe as “a one-of-a-kind soundtrack.”
There is only one artist’s rendering to start with, but that shows the ride going into a near full inversion at low level, along with the promise of an “exhilarating array of twists, turns and surprises for families riding together,” according to the press release.
The overall theming from the rendering shows a Mexican/hacienda type look and style to it, which should fit right in with the imaginative, slightly Bohemian theme of Pantopia.
“Phoenix Rising will be an extraordinary journey for our seasoned coaster enthusiasts and younger thrill-seekers alike,” insisted park president Stewart Clark. “Joining a comprehensive coaster collection, this new attraction reinforces our commitment to provide guests with new, immersive and one-of-a-kind experiences.”
Busch Garden is Coaster Central
This looks like being a real winning attraction for the park in 2024, something that’s thrilling enough for coaster aficionados but not off-putting for younger riders (and their parents).
It amazes us that Busch Gardens has invested so much in exciting new rides in recent years - this is their sixth major attraction in the past 10 years, four of them coasters - but it speaks to the general Central Florida vibe of always needing to provide something new and novel.
Along with sister park SeaWorld Orlando, there are now fully 18 roller-coasters in this one area of the Sunshine State, and neither park shows any sign of stopping this investment in high-octane entertainment.
And, if you need any more reason to be excited, we are also hearing some super-thrilling tidbits from Universal about the make-up of their new theme park Epic Universe for 2025, which will include the USA’s first Nintendo World development.
So, if you were ever thinking about a “season ticket” for Orlando, the next few years promise to provide full value for those who like to visit every year!