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.
In addition to soccer, vacation time, and cigarette consumption, it turns out that Europeans are also better than us at go-karts. Today’s Groupon will let you enjoy being second-best with one kart race at Tampa Bay Grand Prix for $10 (an up to $21 value). Your Groupon covers the race (worth up to $16) and the $5 licensing fee.
The state of Florida was once entirely underwater—and Florida Eco-Adventures’ tours explore the parts that still are. Founders Mac and Suzanne McCormick lead adventurers through waters such as Kings Bay that, thanks to its 72-degree waters, is a wintertime refuge for West Indian Manatees. The Silver River, meanwhile, hosts a more eclectic array of wildlife, ranging from gators—although they’re too shy and skittish for regular sightings—to sunfish and rhesus monkeys.
The nonprofit Lowry Park Zoo has more than 1,500 animals living on nearly 60 acres of land. One way the Zoo maintains its animal habitats and conservation programs is to hold the annual ZooBoo fundraiser each fall, welcoming families for a slew of Halloween-themed attractions. The event’s spooky theme is evident upon arrival, as the Zoo’s walkways are filled with costumed youngsters. Haunted houses await to elicit giggles, gasps, or shrieks, and parents can easily determine which haunts are appropriate for their brood by consulting the Zoo's skull rating, which designates the scary level of each event, ranging from "all ages" to "scary to the extreme". Admission also includes free unlimited spins on rides such as the Batty Bumper Boats or Scary-Go-Round Carousel. After visiting with some of the Zoo's creepiest residents at the Flying Fox Bat House and Creepy Crawlers Lane, kids and adults can take in the dazzling light displays at the Little Beasties Bungalow or take a break and fill up on seasonal snacks at one of several concessions areas.
Tampa's Museum of Science & Industry—also known as MOSI—has all the answers; even to questions you hadn't thought up yet. What would it be like to live on the moon? Head over to Mission: Moonbase for a detailed simulation. What did the night sky look like in the distant past and what will it look like in the future? The Saunders Planetarium can conjure the starscape of any era. These are just two of the museum's 450 hands-on activities, which also include The Amazing You—an interactive exhibit that explores the process of human development—and the BioWorks Butterfly Garden.
All of these activities feed into the nonprofit, community-based museum's mission of making science fun and accessible to curious citizens of all ages. It is home to a massive children's museum, a water treatment facility that doubles as an exhibit on marshy ecosystems, and an IMAX dome theater—the only one of its kind in Florida.
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