It’s not uncommon to stumble upon fake alligators as you make your way around a mini-golf course. But at Smugglers Cove's locations, live American alligators snap their jaws in exhibits nestled amid the miniature fairways. With an old-fashioned bamboo pole players can dangle a treat above 20–50 of the predatory alligators, which leap from the water to snatch their treat. Between feeding frenzies, games take place on Smugglers Cove’s 18-hole outdoor courses, where balls roll past rushing waterfalls, into caves, over mountainous terrain, and into a hole in a pirate ship.
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.
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.
The licensed skydive veterans of Skydive Tampa Bay have accompanied customers soaring from the bellies of airplanes since 1978. These plummetologists have earned national and international championship titles and multiple world records, and now start beginners on a path to their own air-bound accolades with introductory tandem jumps. Lessons begin with on-ground instruction before instructors securely attach students to their torsos like thrill-seeking mother kangaroos and freefall for two miles. After students learn the basics through tandem dives, instructors put them through the Accelerated Freefall Program, which includes classroom time, ground training, solo jumps, and post-dive critiques of freefall techniques and maneuvers.
Captain Bligh's Landing takes putters and dimpled orbs careening through a labyrinthine circuit of pirate-themed, contoured turf holes. Lively palms tower over the course's stone edifice, welcoming patrons to a pastiche of nautical artifacts and pirate lore, where putt-putt prodigies sink testy two-putts against a backdrop of a wooden ship, misting waterfalls, and caves teeming with buried treasures of the most popular colors of mini-golf balls. The course's 18 green corridors feature subtle slopes and strategically placed holes, which conspire to form breaks more difficult to read than a sentient rock playing poker. Patrons can put a competitive twist on date night with two-person packages, or swindle their two favorite children out of their allowance with high-stakes family competitions.
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.