After rising 200 feet in the air, the roller coaster mercifully stops right on the brink of a 90-degree drop. That mercy doesn’t last long. Soon passengers plummet at a whopping 70 miles per hour before hurtling along sweeping turns, through loops, and even into an underground tunnel. The frenetic journey culminates in a splashdown that leaves the next group of riders completely soaked.
Called the SheiKra, this coaster crowns Busch Gardens Tampa's roster of rides, which bear African safari-style names such as Cheetah Hunt. Beyond these big-kid thrills, Busch Gardens Tampa caters to youngsters with three kid-friendly attractions, including Treetop Trails, a three-story play area full of climbing nets, crawl tubes, and a multi-level maze. The amusement park also includes nearly a dozen animal exhibits, which house everything from gorillas and cheetahs to hundreds of friendly tropical birds.
Besides these attractions, Busch Gardens' grounds boast multiple venues for both indoor and outdoor shows such as Iceploration, where audiences watch in awe as a skating rink transforms magically into a shallow pond. Each area of the park also offers shopping and dining to match its region's theme.
Grand Prix Tampa's sprawling grounds host adrenaline-spiking activities including go-karting, miniature golf, and a ropes course. The big track's tire-bordered speedway invites drivers to rev through tight corners and speed-encouraging straightaways, and the family track welcomes single- or double-seat karts during more tot-friendly races. Racers can catch their breath and calm skittish fuzzy dice on one of two 18-hole mini-golf courses, where dimpled spheres roll through miniature castles and dodge fountain-speckled waterways on their way to the hole. A towering geodesic dome houses a winding ropes course, which challenges climbers to hop across bouncing wooden steps and pegs while supported by a safety harness. The turbo bungee's elastic trampolines launch tethered guests into the ether, where they can catch the wayward baseballs soaring from nine onsite batting cages. Meals at Grand Prix Tampa's Pit Stop Cafe silence hunger pangs with sandwiches, snacks, and kids’ meals, which guests can dine on beneath the Castle Arcade's twinkling panoply of claw machines and air-hockey tables.
The high-energy activities under Xtreme Adventures Family Fun Center’s roof instigate rushes of adrenaline in technicolor environs. In the multileveled, 6,000-square-foot laser-tag arena, teams of combatants track down their opponents as they navigate serpentine passageways, duck around forest plants, and circumvent digital quicksand. Padded Crazy Cars spin 360 degrees as drivers ricochet around the rink, while on the trampolines lining the walls and floor of the Xtreme Jump pit, visitors of all ages traverse its elastic expanses in leaps and bounds. After their adventures, they can sample snacks from the Xtreme Cafe & Bar, including pizza, sandwiches, and wings.
After 40 years of enchanting families and youngsters at its original location, Treasure Island Fun Center relocated its abundant arcade games and tasty treats to a recently renovated 16,000-square-foot facility in 2007. Kiddie rides and games occupy toddlers, and older kids and adults compete in billiards and air-hockey bouts or zip through virtual tracks in racing games. Rekindle flames with classic arcade fixtures such as pinball, Centipede, and Ms. Pac-Man, or vie for tickets by playing skeeball or haggling virtual-reality scalpers. Once accumulated, those tickets can be traded for one of the arcade’s many prizes such as toys, lava lamps, and digital cameras.
With pizza by the slice, chicken nuggets, and ice cream, the full-service snack bar known as Pegleg’s Pizza refuels guests between games. Through its charity, the Bob and Jean Noell Charitable Foundation, Treasure Island Fun Center also reenergizes the community, having donated more than $125,000 to schools and youth organizations thus far.