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Thrill-Seeker's Guide to the Florida SeaWorld Parks

by Tad on September 18, 2023 Orlando   Video

SeaWorld Parks - Pinterest'Sup! It's Tad, your favorite thrill-seeking frog! If there's one thing SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment knows how to do really well, it's creating high-thrill rides. Every time a new coaster opens at SeaWorld Orlando or Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, it never disappoints. These parks are home to some of the biggest, baddest and most relentless coasters in the nation. In fact, in 2021, SeaWorld Orlando's Mako was voted the Reader's Choice for Best Roller Coaster by USA Today, and back in 2017, Amusement Today listed three of Busch Gardens' coasters in its list of the world's Top 50 Steel Roller Coasters as part of its Golden Ticket Awards. With such accolades, it's no wonder coaster lovers (like me) flock to these parks annually to scratch their thrill-seeking itch.

With so much to do and so little time, plus many tips and tricks to learn along with two brand-new coasters opening this year, I figured I'd help my fellow brave frogs out and break down everything you need to know about conquering the exhilarating thrills at SeaWorld's two Florida theme parks. Now, strap yourself in, keep your hands, arms, feet and legs inside the vehicle at all times and secure any loose articles because we are go for launch!

Thrill Rides at Florida's SeaWorld Parks

SeaWorld Orlando is home to six "High Thrill" attractions: that's five roller coasters and one wet and wild water ride. Let's break them down starting with the park's newest addition which just opened in May 2023!

Pipeline: The Surf Coaster: This coaster's track mimics the twists and turns of a gigantic wave, providing an immersive experience that replicates the adrenaline rush of riding a surfboard. With its innovative design, riders are seated in surfboard-shaped vehicles that move up and down along with the track, creating the feeling of gliding through the water. This coaster reaches a max height of 110 feet and a top speed of 60 mph. It boasts five big airtime moments and a 360 degree "wave curl"! Cowabunga, dudes!!

Ice Breaker: This coaster is perfect for frogs who want to start off nice and easy and may not be ready to conquer the biggest thrills. With no lift hill and zero inversions, it's the most family-friendly "high-thrill" coaster in the park ... but don't be fooled, this ride packs a punch. Ice Breaker features four airtime-filled launches, both backward and forward, culminating in a reverse launch into the steepest beyond-vertical drop in Florida. That's right — you're propelled backward up a 100-degree, 93-foot tall spike ... and what comes up must always come down. After being pulled over a near-vertical top hat, this coaster skis over an exciting series of twists, turns and bunny hills that have you hopping out of your seat!

Mako: Named for one of the ocean's fastest known sharks, Mako is the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Orlando. Hills and airtime abound in this hyper coaster known for its high speeds and deep dives. Hold on tight because this baby reaches speeds up to 73 mph and heights up to 200 feet. (If you can stand to open your eyes, look around because this coaster offers beautiful views of the whole park!) Like a shark hunting its prey, you'll be diving deep and ascending upward before you can even catch your breath. Are you ready to experience some gnarly negative Gs?

Kraken: Say hello to Orlando's sole floorless roller coaster. Named for the massive, mythological beast unleashed from the depths of the sea, Kraken lives up to its namesake in the way it strikes terror into the heart of those daring enough to approach it. That fear only grows stronger as the station floor is retracted, and you're pulled up a 153-foot lift hill and subsequently dropped 144 feet to the ground. What follows is a hair-raising series of vertical and diving loops, a spiraling camelback (zero-g roll), a cobra roll and a subterranean dive into the Kraken's dreaded lair. This coaster with its open-sided seats and seven total inversions is truly the stuff of myth and legend.

SeaWorld Parks - Manta

Manta: The lone flying coaster on this list, Manta is truly an experience unlike any other. Commencing with a 140-foot ascension up a lift hill, your flight will send you nosediving head-first through a 98-foot tall pretzel loop, two inline twists and a killer corkscrew. By the time you get off, you won't know up from down. Of course, I have to mention the epic finale that brings you right down to the surface of the water where jets spray up toward your vehicle — making it look as though your train has actually hit the water — and the breathtaking aquaria in the queue containing approximately 3,000 animals representing over 60 species, including over 300 gorgeous rays.

Infinity Falls: This is no ordinary water ride. Upon opening in 2018, Infinity Falls claimed the record for the tallest drop on a river raft ride. This ride hurtles you around flowing fountains, surprise geysers and breathtaking waterfalls before it sends you flying through thrilling chutes, splashing turns and down that infamous 40-foot drop into churning whitewater. These world-class rapids will leave no frog dry as you explore the tropical ruin-themed surroundings with your fellow raft-mates. There are also pay-to-play water canons that park-goers can aim right at you as you traverse down the falls. Best of luck, brave explorer!

SeaWorld Rides - Penguin Trek

Penguin Trek: Grab your gloves and parkas! In Spring 2024, the Coaster Capital of Orlando is about to get a lot more chilly. Get ready to hop aboard a unique snowmobile styled car and race up, down and around 3,020 feet of track at speeds up to 43 miles per hour — featuring two exhilarating launches — on Penguin Trek. This new immersive coaster will take frogs on the ultimate Antarctic expedition, showcasing the vastness and beauty of the Antarctic wilderness — both indoors and outdoors. What sets this experience apart, though, is the unparalleled finale in which your snowmobile will park you in the very heart of SeaWorld's own penguin habitat. This one-of-a-kind adventure will accommodate rider heights from 42 to 77 inches, so the entire family can connect with the enchanting world of these beautiful flightless birds!

Home to eight rip-roaring roller coasters, one dread-inducing drop tower and one screamin' swing, Busch Gardens is truly the king of the coaster world. Here's everything you need to know about Busch Gardens' biggest thrills — starting with USA Today's Most Anticipated Ride of 2022: Iron Gwazi.

Iron Gwazi: Iron Gwazi holds several impressive titles. Not only is it the tallest hybrid coaster in North America, but it's the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world. This ride is the definition of an unrelenting beast! Hold on tight and get ready to scream because once you reach the top of that 206-foot lift hill, you're immediately plunged down a terrifying 91-degree, beyond vertical drop. Reaching speeds of 76 mph this coaster features three inversions, including a barrel roll down drop and a zero-g stall, and a dozen airtime moments in total. Choose the front row to get the best view of this track's insane elements or the back row to be pulled at breakneck speeds through this spine-tingling track.

Tigris: Similar to Ice Breaker, Tigris also begins with forward and backward launches ... but that's where the similarities end. Inspired by the agility of the world's largest and most powerful cat, this coaster features breath-taking drops, a 150-foot skyward surge and an inverted heartline roll (ranking it among the tallest inversions in the world). Get ready because this Stanleyville staple will have you racing more than 60 mph along more than 1,800 feet of steel track through an exhilarating array of looping twists. Good luck regaining your balance!

SeaWorld Rides - Cheetah Hunt

Cheetah Hunt: Celebrating the world's fastest land animal, Tampa Bay's longest roller coaster races and weaves its way through three thrilling launches at speeds up to 60 mph. Within its 4,400 feet of track, you'll encounter a 102-foot climb up a Windcatcher Tower, a 130-foot drop into a trench, a heartline roll (the ride's sole inversion), a series of short banked turns simulating several "near misses" and so much more. While the ride's entrance is located in Crown Colony Plaza, the track actually extends into the Serengeti Plain, offering some killer views only rivaled by the park's Skyride.

Cobra's Curse: There are two rides in Busch Gardens that fall into the same category as Ice Breaker when it comes to thrills more on the moderate side. One is Scorpion over in Pantopia. This is the other, but there's one twist that sets this coaster apart. This three-and-a-half-minute ride begins with a 70-foot vertical lift up an elevator that brings you face-to-fang with the 30,000-pound statue of the Snake King Venymyss who has left a little ... parting gift. Each train speeds along this 2,100-foot track at 40 mph forward and backward ... and spins freely with frequency and direction determined by rider weight distribution. That's right — every ride through this tomb is completely different making this a coaster I love coming back to again and again!

SeaWorld Parks - Kumba

Kumba: Hope you've digested your food! Named for the distant roar of the king of the jungle, this legendary roller coaster features a whopping total of seven inversions — among them, a dive loop, a zero-g roll where you'll feel a full three seconds of weightlessness and one of the largest vertical loops in the world at 114 feet tall. That's not even to mention the 135-foot drop that this track begins with! This fan-favorite ride is all the way at the back of the park in the Congo section but absolutely worth the trek.

SeaWorld Parks - Kumba

Scorpion: As the oldest roller coaster in the park, this stinging steel coaster has a fun bit of history: It's one of only three of its kind in the whole world! German coaster manufacturer Schwarzkopf made one stationary and two traveling units of its Silverarrow design (before its founder retired in 1995). This is the stationary model and it's every bit as thrilling today as it was the day of its installation! Get ready to experience a seemingly endless series of twists and turns at speeds of 50 mph, including a 39.3-foot tall 360-degree loop.

SeaWorld Rides - Sheikra

SheiKra: A derivative of the name of a hawk (shikra) known to dive vertically for its prey, there's no better name for the first dive coaster ever constructed in North America. This merciless ride sends riders up 200 feet before turning, dipping over the first drop and pausing for about four seconds (a perfect time for you to say any prayers). What follows is a 90-degree drop as the train reaches its maximum speed of 70 mph. The rest of the ride features an Immelmann loop, a second dive into an underground tunnel and a splashdown finale that sprays two 60-foot lines of water into the air. Oh, and did I mention it's floorless? Strap in and hold on. Things are about to get extreme ...

SeaWorld Parks - Montu

Montu: The first inverted coaster to feature seven inversions and the first-ever roller coaster to feature an Immelmann loop, Montu has been a favorite of coaster enthusiasts ever since it opened back in 1996. Smooth as silk and intense as they come, this steel coaster begins with a climb 150 feet in the air before sending riders down a twist drop, over a 60-foot vertical loop, through a Batwing inversion and more! Appropriately named after the Egyptian god of war, Montu never backs down — letting riders experience 3.8 times the force of gravity during the three-minute-long ride.

SeaWorld Parks - Falcon's Fury

Falcon's Fury: Are you ready to conquer one of the tallest free-standing drop towers in North America? Pull down your restraint and buckle your seatbelt because you're about to be lifted up 300 feet in the air. The ride up takes about a minute and offers breathtaking views of Busch Gardens, as well as downtown Tampa. Don't get too comfortable because, before you know it, you'll be pivoted 90 degrees (the first use of this feature on a drop tower) ... and dropped face-down at 60 mph. One of my favorite features about this ride is that your wait time at the top is computer randomized, so you never know when you're going to start falling.

SeaWorld Rides - Serengeti Flyer

Serengeti FlyerSerengeti Flyer truly takes no prisoners. This pneumatically powered pendulum ride is the tallest and fastest of its kind in the world. With each swing, frogs soar higher and higher above the park's expansive 65-acre Serengeti Plain — experiencing multiple negative-G moments (and breathtaking views) before plunging back to Earth. The twin dueling arms on this bad boy reach speeds of 68 miles per hour and a maximum height of 135 feet at the ride's peak. Good luck holding onto your lunch on this one! For a milder experience (without the full height and speed) head to this ride from park open to 1 p.m. For a wilder experience (at maximum height and speed), come back from 1:15 p.m. to park close.

SeaWorld Rides - Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising: From the ashes of SandSerpent, a new coaster is on the rise. Get ready to soar over Pantopia on Phoenix Rising, a family-friendly adventure taking flight in Spring 2024 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay! This exhilarating suspended coaster will swing frogs side-to-side as their train races along 1,831 feet of track high above the Serengeti Plain at speeds up to 44 miles per hour. Be prepared to feel the rush of the wind as your fiery flight will be accompanied by a one-of-a-kind soundtrack — making this attraction the first coaster at Busch Gardens to feature on-board audio. With a minimum height of only 42 inches, this thrilling addition to Pantopia is sure to be an extraordinary experience for seasoned coaster enthusiasts and younger thrill-seekers alike.

Quick Queue at Florida's SeaWorld Parks

There's truly no better perk at any theme park than the ability to skip right to the front of the line! SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has Quick Queue, its own unique version of a skip-the-line service that you can easily add on to any ticket or pass. It's important to note that prices can vary by day and season. Let's break down the different options at both parks:

SeaWorld Parks - Quick Queue

SeaWorld Orlando

  • Starting at $29.99, frogs can enjoy reserved seating at SeaWorld's most popular shows, unlimited front-of-the-line access on Mako, Manta, Kraken, Infinity Falls, Journey to Atlantis, Ice Breaker and one-time priority access to Pipeline for one day.
  • Starting at $19.99, frogs can enjoy reserved seating at Orca Encounter, Dolphin Theater and Sea Lion & Otter Stadium and unlimited front-of-the-line access to Mako, Manta, Kraken, Infinity Falls, Journey to Atlantis and Ice Breaker for one day.
  • Starting at $14.99, frogs can enjoy unlimited front-of-the-line access to Mako, Manta, Kraken, Infinity Falls, Journey to Atlantis and Ice Breaker for one day.
  • For $299, frogs can enjoy year-round front-of-the-line access to Ice Breaker, Mako, Manta, Kraken, Infinity Falls and Journey to Atlantis.
  • There's also an option once you're in the park to purchase a single-use Quick Queue pass per ride (say, if you only want to go on one of these thrill rides), but you get the most value out of one of the combined Quick Queue passes listed above.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay:

  • Starting at $49.99, frogs can skip the lines at Tigris, Falcon's Fury, Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, Montu, Kumba, Cobra's Curse, Scorpion, Stanley Falls Flume and Congo River Rapids as often as they'd like for one day and get one-time priority access to Iron Gwazi and Serengeti Flyer.
  • Starting at $19.99, frogs can skip the lines at Tigris, Falcon's Fury, Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, Montu, Kumba, Cobra's Curse, Scorpion, Stanley Falls Flume and Congo River Rapids as often as they'd like for one day.
  • Starting at $14.99, frogs can skip the lines once per ride at Tigris, Falcon's Fury, Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, Montu, Kumba, Cobra's Curse, Scorpion, Stanley Falls Flume and Congo River Rapids for one day.
  • Starting at $29.99, frogs can skip the line once per ride at Cobra's Curse, Stanley Falls Flume, Congo River Rapids, Scorpion and Air Grover for one day.
  • For $599, frogs can enjoy unlimited priority access to Iron Gwazi, Serengeti Flyer, Tigris, Falcon's Fury, Cheetah Hunt, SheiKra, Montu, Kumba, Cobra's Curse, Scorpion, Stanley Falls Flume and Congo River Rapids all year long.
  • There's also an option once you're in the park to purchase a single-use Quick Queue pass per ride (say, if you only want to go on one of these thrill rides), but you get the most value out of one of the combined Quick Queue passes listed above.

Tips for Thrill-Seekers at Florida's SeaWorld Parks

SeaWorld Parks - Lockers

  • No need to worry about your belongings! Small-single use lockers are available at Journey to Atlantis, Kraken, Manta, Mako, Ice Breaker and Pipeline: The Surf Coaster in SeaWorld and Iron Gwazi, Montu, Cobra's Curse, Cheetah Hunt, Scorpion/Falcon's Fury, Kumba, Congo River Rapids, SheiKra/Stanley Falls Flume and Tigris at Busch Gardens. One-time lockers are $2 for the first two hours and $1 for each additional hour with a $20 per day maximum. There's also an option to purchase a multi-use locker ($10) that allows you to "locker hop" for two hours at a time, all day long. (Prices are subject to change.) Larger all-day, self-service lockers are also available to rent at each park's entrance. Be sure to remember your passcode and press the End Rental button on the locker when you're done with it to free it up for someone else!
  • If you can, I highly suggest checking out most of the rides on this blog during the day and night for toadally different experiences! That being said, if any particular rides are at the top of your list, ride them first — especially in the summer. During Florida's rainy season, showers tend to happen mid-afternoon like clockwork (causing many outdoor shows and attractions to shut down) but there's no guarantee it will pass before the park closes. If you have your eye on something, head straight to it!
  • The layout of both parks are circular in nature, hence it only makes sense to make your way around the circle so you're not hopping all around the park. Your biggest must-do should dictate where you want to start, but for reference, if you want to start with Ice Breaker, go counter-clockwise around SeaWorld and if you want to start with Iron Gwazi, go clockwise around Busch Gardens. If you want to start with either of these, get to the park right when it opens!

SeaWorld Rides - Beignets

  • SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay are home to many different festivals and events throughout the year — many of which include delicious food and drinks! If you're planning on indulging in the festival offerings, make sure to wait about an hour before running to any thrill rides. There are tons of animal exhibits and shows to enjoy in both parks while you let your stomach digest.

What's your favorite thrill ride in each SeaWorld park? What's one SeaWorld ride you haven't been on yet that you can't wait to conquer? Let us know in the comments below!

Related: Planning a Day at Busch Gardens Tampa? Our Roaring Guide Will Get You Excited

Keep hopping!

Keep hopping, Tad!
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