Day 13– Feb 8, Busch Gardens

Driving – 20 miles.
Walking – 7.1 miles

Okay, well that last update was refreshingly short (yeah, so NOT typical). Don’t expect the same brevity here. In fact, I’m warning you now, better go get a beer and take a potty break before you start reading, this thing’s gonna be so long it should have acts and an intermission. Sorry about that.

Here we are, the last “real” day of our vacation. Sigh. We’ve had a great time, and I think we’ve done a ton without over-doing it (at least by our standards). We’ve mostly kept to our regular schedule of sleep and food and we both feel pretty good with the exception of my stupid feet which are, as usual, yelling at me to “lose some weight already, you’re killing us down here!”

Busch doesn’t open until 10am, so we have a super relaxing morning and finally leave the room around 8:45. We’re 4th in line waiting for the parking lot to open, get a good parking spot, and are on the first tram.

Thanks to an online friend’s connections and my Busch Gardens planning guide, I was able to finagle a couple of comp tickets, which is cool. Unfortunately, Busch seemed to ignore my request and waited until just a few days before we left to send me a notification email. Of course, by this time I’d already purchased our tickets. Oh well, I guess I needed a lesson in “good things come to those who wait!”

The gates are surprisingly packed. Weird. Weirder still is the fact that most of these folks look like they should be drinking $1 coffee at Denny’s or shopping for polyester slacks at JCPenney. They are OLD.

I mean, it’s a little freaky because there’s us, there’s a few family groups, a few South American Tour Groups (SATG’s), and then there’s this +60 crowd. What the heck? Did Busch tear down the coasters and install a Buick dealership?

I grab a copy of the map and see the Real Music Series listed with today’s free show – Paul Revere and the Raiders. Whew! That explains it. A weekday, discount tickets, and FREE geezer-rock. Better than $1 Denny’s coffee!

On the plus side, this crowd makes us feel remarkably young.

We head into the park, my first goal is Cheetah Hunt. It’s down. Mmmmkay, well, at least here there’s always animals to look at when the rides aren’t running.

And hey, look, Busch Gardens doesn’t have to have some fancy-dancy festival to throw up some supa-cool topiary (yeah Imagineers, eat your hearts out at the awesomeness):

I might have mentioned that my all-time favorite coaster SheiKra is being painted right now. You think they’d stop work and let me ride it a few times, since I’m such a celebrity here, but nooooooo. Vacation Ruined!

Even the chimps are embarrassed by my whining:

“Lady, seriously, it’s a 2 minute ride, get over yourself.”

So I try my hand at copping some gorilla-tude:

And fail miserably.

“Really lady? I’m embarrassed for you”

We decide to take the train over to the other side of the park so I can ride Kumba. The train is a much better way to see the animals than the now painfully truncated Rhino Rally.

“Oh seriously, you’re not taking a picture, this is my WORST angle!”

“That awkward giraffe is still better looking than your gorilla impression”

Then we witnessed a horrible near-rear-end accident in the rhino area.

Nooooooo, little guy, get out of there, you’re gonna get dumped on!!!

Fortunately, he moved at the last second before he got a steaming pile of dung for a hat

“What? No, nothing to see here. No, I’m NOT trying to open this gate and escape, whatever gave you that idea. Hey look, a tunnel!”

The kudu was right about the tunnel, but I still think she was trying to distract us.

Next we found evidence that we’d just missed seeing a herd of SATG’s, they sometimes shed their brightly colored humps in large groupings:

Hey, Pam found a coaster! (even the kid behind me is shocked)

We decide to take the Skyway to the front of the park and see if they’ve gotten that Cheetah up and running yet.

(I see you there SheiKra, what a tease)

This is a beautiful and quiet view of the park, and since the Skyway cars actually go under Cheetah Hunt’s track, a darned good way to see if it’s going (which she is, YAY!!).

From up here, you can also see why Cheetah Hunt is such a quiet coaster. Flying right over animal display areas, it’s pretty much mandatory. Other than some whoop and whine on the first launch, she’s a very stealthy (and fun) girl.

Needless to say, lines are pretty much non-existent on the big stuff today since the only people riding are the SATG’s and me. Although we did find a large contingent of the Buick-and-polyester crowd waiting to ride the Skyway (which is why it’s a good idea to get on at the back of the park instead of the front):

After a bunch of excellent air-time on Cheetah Hunt, I find Mike and we hang out at the real Cheetah area. They do demonstrations a few times a day where one of the cats chases a zip line. It gives the guests an awesome view of how flippin’ fast these cats really are, and I definitely recommend checking the times guide out in front of the exhibit so you don’t miss it.

Holy smokes these guys are fast.

“Sweet run dude. Fist Bump!”


A face only a mother…ah heck, not even a mother’s gonna love that face!

“Yo, turtle dudes, comin’ thru. Better move.”

“mmmmph, ooof, uh, mister alligator? A little help here please? Turtle down!”

No turtles were harmed in the filming of this episode. The smooshed turtle, after an epic struggle, made his way out from underneath mister nasty-gator and walked it off.

This is a public service warning. No matter how cool and pretty this woodie looks on a warm and sunny morning, don’t ride it. Just. Don’t.

The only person giving high marks to this coaster is your chiropractor, and he’s putting 4 kids through private school.

After having my jaw dislocated and my spine re-adjusted on Gwazi (Swahili for “My teeth just fell out”), I was ready for some tamer pursuits. ‘Roo feeding, here we come!

On our way there, we were strafed by these beauties:

The handlers were letting them out for a “fly”, yep right there on the walkway, no leash, no clipped wings, just let ’em go and call ’em back. It was so much fun to watch!

Even after being mercilessly beaten by Gwazi, I still think this place is gorgeous.

But, those kangaroos won’t feed themselves (okay, they probably would), let’s go pay for the privilege of feeding someone else’s animals!

Squeee!!! Omigosh these guys are adorabs.

Two ‘roos, one hand.

“Please, sir, I want some more.”

Mike had been slacking so far this trip in his never-ending quest to get his finger bitten off by a wild animal, so he spent some time with ornery birds.

“This one looks promising”

“How about this one?”

“Okay, see, I give you my finger, and you bite it off. Got it?”

“Good grief, you’re not even trying!”

“Give me another chance, I’m sure I can do it this time!”

“Ah forget it ya big pink sissy, I’m giving the giant turtles a go”

“Do they bite?” “No, they’re very gentle.” “Rats.”

I talk Mike into checking out Lory Landing because there’s a potential for more finger-biting birds inside.

He promptly kills the first bird he touches.

(it’s not dead)

He’s sincerely disappointed by the fact that every bird in here is super cute and way too darned friendly for their own good.

“I won’t bite yer finger, but I’ll bite yer face off!”

Well, I guess not all of them are friendly.

I’m all cuddly and unsuspecting with this little guy

While his pickpocket buddy is busy stealing my wallet

Honestly, these guys are soooooo stinkin’ cute and sweet. Even if you don’t really like birds, do not miss this! If you’re terrified of birds – uh, miss this. Or go and give your family great video opportunities. Terror-filled screams are always humorous.

Just hide your valuables before entering.

Reminding you again that this is a really pretty park. You should visit. Just not in February, because I’ll be here and I don’t want to wait in lines. Besides, you’ll probably feed all the kangaroos and they won’t be hungry when I get there. I know how you are.

There are three water rides at Busch Gardens, Congo River Rapids (which is essentially KRR with a C instead of a K), Stanley Falls Flume (mild and boring enough for Mike!), and Tanganyika Tidal Wave. Guess which one gets you wet? Guess which one gets you drenched? The term “Tidal Wave” should be a dead giveaway. If you don’t want to wait in line for the privilege of getting your iPhone soaked, you can do it on this bridge:

(love the dad holding his son out for sacrifice, and his daughter hiding behind his shirt).

In three, two…

…and the family is outta there!!

Geezer Rock



We chose Jungala!! Yep, fat lady climbing through the play structure – watch out kids, she might squoosh ya!!

I will admit to you that climbing through the net that runs between the two 30′ tall towers gave me the biggest adrenaline rush I had all vacation. Stupid that a kiddie play structure gets me all freaked out when I’m cool with any and all coasters. Fear of heights? Check.

We are also rebels, apparently. After exiting the structure we happened to notice the sign out front:

“Guests over the age of 13 must be accompanied by a child.” Oops. Next time we’ll use that child-swap thing I’ve read so much about.

Speaking of kids, next up are some really big kids. The caretakers set up a sort of “elephant scavenger hunt” in the afternoon and then let the big guys out to crash and smash their way through it.

It’s a bit like cleaning and decorating the house for a 5-year-old boy’s birthday party, then watching the chaos that ensues 10 minutes after everyone arrives.

Haha, yes, very funny. Do you have any idea how long they slaved over this to make it nice for you?


Fennic Fox!! Squeeee!

Pet-able Aardvark (oooh, bristly)!

Great Jumping Hyraxes Batman!

Oooh, there’s two of them on the branch together, I’ll bet the one in back is gonna jump over his buddy!

“Nope. Not jumping.”

Batch ‘o meerkats! Get’cher meerkats here! Warm, fuzzy, cute, meerkats!

“Mmmmph, mmblergh, cute heck, we’re suffocating!”

I really, really love this park and I guess Mike must not hate it, he stayed awake the entire day – no homeless-person-impersonating nap time! I’m so glad I worked things around to finish our vacation here, it was a perfect ending to a wonderful two weeks.

“Hey, that kangaroo’s stealing Mike’s lunch! Stop, Thief!”

In spite of the fun and silliness, I was also a good girl and took a ton of photos for the 2013 version of my BG touring plan book, which I hope to get finished sometime before 2014.

Now, unfortunately, I’m down to the wire. I’ve stretched out this trip report for five months which is a wonderful way for me to extend the magic, and bore you all to tears. Sorry about that. I would worry more, but I’m a selfish person at heart so it’s not bugging me too much.

We had a wonderful vacation. It really was everything I’d been wishing for, and more. Mike says had a great time in spite of all the Theme Park “sleeping on a bench waiting for my wife to ride coasters” thing, another reason I love that guy so much!

If anyone is interested in my Busch Gardens touring guide, or any of our maps and park touring spreadsheets that I used for Universal and Busch Gardens, along with my Disney on the Cheap guide, you can find them at


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