^Thanks guys! Glad you enjoyed the report! I know I keep saying this but I really can't thank everyone enough for all the awesome feedback. I definitely don't get as in depth when it comes to tracking everything I do, but often I do take useless pictures just to remind me of things since I know it'll pop up in chronological order. That's about as organized as I get. lol
By the way, I should probably state that this is going to be a LONG one. I suggest grabbing a full six pack before diving into it. You've been warned.
After an awesome day at SeaWorld and a great night hanging with our friends in Tampa (helping them kill off their leftover Hurricane survival beers that they didn't end up drinking since their relatives nagged them into evacuating last minute), we awoke the next morning geared up and ready for a full (and I mean full) day at Busch Gardens. It was a Howl O Scream Saturday so the park was open from 10 to 6, then closed for an hour and a half and then re-opened for the hard ticket event from 7:30 to 1:00 AM. In addition, since we had Howl O Scream tickets we were allowed to remain in the park for that hour and a half to take advantage of nonexistant coaster lines while they switched the park over which was an awesome perk.
We had been to Howl O Scream once before but it was a few years ago so a lot of the houses were new to us and it had been so long that even the ones that weren't new might as well have been since we didn't remember anything. Ever since our first visit to Howl O Scream we had been itching to get back. We have plenty of haunt events in the northeast but nobody does Halloween like Florida does Halloween and we were thrilled when we realized those cheap Allegiant flights lined up with the Howl O Scream event dates. One day we'd love to get to HHN too, but having the Season Pass for the day portion made the Busch Gardens event a more appealing option on this particular trip since we were on a budget.
Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. While Howl O Scream was awesome and while we were super excited about it, we had a full day at the park before the event began at sundown. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Busch Gardens is my favorite park in Florida. I know most people prefer Disney or Universal and I understand why but in my opinion when you have a park with an amazing coaster collection, amazing animal collection, amazing beer selection, a Von Roll sky ride, a classic Arrow flume and an animal hospital where the park is busy saving animals while you're out enjoying all of those things it's pretty much heaven on earth.
Since our hotel was only 20 minutes away we got to sleep in a little, but at 9:00 we got up, took quick showers and still made it to the front gate right at 10:00 for opening (thanks in part to the passholder preferred parking that's completely unnecessary but still pretty neat).
Full disclosure: I read the rehab schedule and knew about this ahead of time but it was still funny to see. They definitely didn't roll out the red carpet for us, lol. Unfortunately it was ridiculously hot but not quite hot enough for Congo Rapids (it's never hot enough for Congo rapids) so I took a LOT of Sheikra splashes before the day was out.
Having a strategy at this park is barely necessary, but we did decide to head right to Cobra's Curse at open which was really the only advanced planning we had all day. For whatever reason I never snapped a picture of the ride but we were treated to a complete walk-on and it provided a super fun ride as always. Strangely (despite being at the park for a ridiculous amount of time) we never made it back there but we enjoyed the one ride we had. I guess my new year's resolution for our upcoming Busch Gardens visits in 2018 needs to be to ride Cobra's Curse more.
Next up was Montu, a ride that I absolutely adore and consider to be the best inverted coaster I've ever ridden. I consider Montu and Kumba to be the stars of Busch Gardens and I honestly go back and fourth on which one I like better. As you know, I have nothing against the newer, less forceful B&Ms and I think they're all fun rides but it's always a real treat to ride one of these insanely forceful 90's B&Ms. To have two of them in one park like this is incredibly rare but absolutely awesome.
As is generally the case early in the morning, the ride was a complete walk on so we hopped in line for the back row (Boldikus: back row, seat closest to the queue... there will be a quiz later). As always, the ride was amazing. It blows my mind how it can provide such a ridiculously forceful ride while being so unimaginably smooth. That whip into the batwing is one of the most batsh*t insane moments ever on a coaster and is probably the best part of the ride, but honestly everything is great... even the weird vertical loop after the midcourse is absurdly forceful.
After our ride we immediately walked right around and rode again in the exact same seats, taking advantage of the nonexistant queue. This ride seems like it gets better and better with every ride and I sincerely hope the people that live near this park know how lucky they are. I love every invert, but this one is in a class of it's own.
After Montu we began to make our way back from the dead end over near Cheetah Hunt. This is where we would have normally ridden Cheetah Hunt but it was throwing an Intamin sh*t fit...
... This is where we would have normally ridden Sky Ride but it was down for maintenance. Given the fact that those two rides were closed we decided our best option was to make our way back to Pantopia, checking out the awesome animals along the way.
I've always been a huge fan of the walkway between Cheetah Hunt and Pantopia, so much so that I often forget the alternate route over by the penguins even exists. Between the hyenas, the lions and the super cool hippo and crocodile enclosure (with underwater and above ground viewing) it's always a really nice and well shaded walk. The fact that it also provides great views of Cheetah Hunt is really the icing on the cake.
Once that path merges with the boring path near the train station you come across the elephant area. It's virtually impossible to walk by this without stopping to watch the elephants for a solid 10 minutes or so and luckily there just so happened to be a trainer there feeding them and talking about them when we walked up.
Once we pried ourselves away from that, we noticed a sign outside of the animal care center that a procedure was currently taking place so curiosity got the best of us and we walked in. We had been in the animal care center before for talks or to just walk around but never while anything was actually going on. When we arrived they were just finishing up surgery on a bird who had swallowed a fish hook. A group of about 30 to 40 people gathered to watch and an animal care expert was standing in front of the glass explaining what was going on.
Apparently the bird was spotted having issues by a concerned local who called the proper authorities and Busch Gardens stepped in to rehabilitate it and prepare it for it's re-release into the wild. They explained that birds don't generally respond well to anesthesia so it was actually a pretty tough procedure since it had to be done very quickly. The hook looked like it was really wedged in there, but they managed to get it out (it was huge, he held it up for everyone to see) and just a few minutes after the procedure was over you could already see the bird beginning to wake up as they brought it to the recovery room.
It's really cool that PETA let's you take part in something like that, and even more amazing that they dedicate so much time and so many resources to helping animals in need. To build a top of the line facility like this to save everything ranging from a wild bird to a Siberian tiger is amazing. Kudos to them!
... oh wait, sorry. Did I say PETA? My apologies. They were a few miles away from the park dressing up as cows and pretending to slit each-other's throats with plastic knives at a local Chick Fil A
. Busch Gardens / SeaWorld (the ones they always b*tch about) was busy performing life saving surgery on wild birds all morning in their state of the art animal rehabilitation center and rehabilitating manatees for release about 90 minutes away in Orlando. Sorry. I always get those two mixed up...
After the surgeon left to prepare for his next surgery, we made our way out and continued on our journey to Pantopia. As soon as you pass through the awesome looking Pantopia gate you come face to face with one of the best (if not THE best) drop tower's in the world and (in this case) it's totally empty queue! I had button up cargo shorts, but for this ride I took EVERYTHING out of my pockets, put it all in the bin and then took my seat on one of the most batsh*t crazy rides in America.
This ride is a perfect combination of amazing, brilliant and evil. It's one of the only rides that legitimately freaks me out. I know it's had some mechanical issues but I really don't understand why more parks haven't gone ahead and built something like this. The tilt at the top is OMFG amazing, the drop is awesome and the swinging motion on the way down to get the cars to their proper position is incredibly smooth and well executed. Falcon's Fury is an absolutely insane ride and we'd be back for a few more rides throughout the course of the day.
After Falcon's Fury we scored a quick walk-on ride (and subsequent re-ride) on Scorpion which was as awesome as ever before continuing our trek to the back of the park for a date with Florida's coaster king.
As it was still early in the day we quickly made our way through the empty queue and arrived in the back row line as soon as a train showed up and the air gates swung open. Perfect timing! Brit offered me the magic seat (back row, far side... take notes Boldikus) and I wasn't about to argue. We quickly took our seats and a few short minutes later we found ourselves ascending the lift hill of one of the best coasters in the world.
I've already spent plenty of time in this thread singing Kumba's praises and while I don't want to spend too much time reviewing the same things over and over I can't help but sing it's praises just a little bit more. On the surface, Kumba seems like a typical, average B&M layout. Twisting drop, loop, dive loop, barrel roll, cobra roll, midcourse and a 2 corkscrew finale is a pattern that B&M has copied over and over and over again on rides like Bizarro, Scream, Kraken (but swap out one corkscrew for a loop), Medusa (but swap out the cobra roll for a thing that's basically a cobra roll but keeps the train going in the same direction) and Superman Krypton Coaster (but swap out the dive loop for a turn thing). Kumba doesn't look all that special. Sure, it was the first ride to do this but at this point it LOOKS just like every other B&M sit down.
... but then you ride it. While Kumba does perform an all too familiar series of elements, it performs all of them with incredible speed and ferocity. The loop and dive loop practically rip you through the second half of the element, the cobra roll and corkscrews are taken at absurd speeds, the tunneled helix finale is awesome and the zero g roll is absolute coaster perfection and needs to be experienced to be believed. As always, Kumba delievered the goods and we immediately got up and walked around for a re-ride in the magic seat once again. Honestly I could have spent the entire day in that seat.
After Kumba we continued on with our sights set on Sheikra. On the way though we got hung up in Jungala (as we often do) checking out the monkeys and tigers. Personally I'm a huge fan of this area, though I still think that indoor, air conditioned tiger viewing area is BEGGING for a bar. I doubt anyone from Busch Gardens will ever read this drivel, but if you do I promise to spend a metric f*ckton of money in that bar if you ever decide to build one. Hell, even a portable beer cart and some high top tables would be fine.
After heading out of that area and making our way past the closed flume, we came upon Sheikra... the highly reliable ride that nobody should ever have a hard time riding that had somehow always managed to elude us anyway.
On our last 2 visits to the park, Sheikra had been closed. The first time we had planned our trip the day after Sheikra's news-making lift stop so the ride was down all day. Earlier this year we visited the park when the ride was running late on it's rehab so we missed it again. Over the years we've ridden Sheikra plenty, but it had definitely been awhile and we were pretty excited to finally get another ride on what we both consider to be the best American dive coaster.
Holy sh*t is this a Boldikus report? Nope. Do not adjust your monitors. I come bearing gifs. I shot a ton of short videos of Sheikra for a Facebook photo grid since it now accepts videos and I wanted to play around with it. I could embed them, but embedding an 8 second video is kind of stupid... so now we have gifs. You're welcome.
Sheikra was awesome as always. While it doesn't have the same hype surrounding it as the park's other two B&Ms (at least not in enthusiast circles) there's a lot to love here. First of all, the view from the lift is magnificent. Due to the flat nature of the state you can see forever and you get an awesome view of the Tampa skyline as you round the top. Then, the drop and holding brake are obviously awesome, the ride's speed is incredible and the fact that it flies around trees, over midways and drops through a great theming element makes it a bit more interesting than it's (still awesome) Williamsburg cousin. It's not Kumba or Montu, but Sheikra is an amazing coaster. I can't think of any park on earth that has a B&M collection that's even close to being on the same level as Busch Gardens Tampa. There are plenty of parks that beat them in quantity, but in terms of quality they're second to none.
After we exited Sheikra we took it easy for awhile and decided to make the loop on the west side of the park to check out the animals. Now that Gwazi is gone the entire southwest corner of the park is entirely devoid of adult rides so we don't get up there quite as often as we used to. The area is still home to some great animals though, as well as the gardens that (I would imagine) give the park it's name.
There are a lot of great things in this area, but the highlights are probably the aviaries, the flamingo area and of course... the Kangaroos. The Kangaroo area is really cool and offers guests the chance to pet and feed kangaroos and wallabies. We decided against buying the food since it's been our experience that the Kangaroos are rarely hungry but I did spend a few minutes with a kangaroo that seemed particularly fond of being pet between the ears.
The Kanagroos seemed to be a lot friendlier this time than normal. Normally they're completely, 100% sick of everyone's sh*t.
Since we had such a long day at the park, it was really a pretty stress-free day for us. You rarely have a problem getting on all of the major rides at the park in a reasonable amount of time so we spent a lot of time taking in the atmosphere, grabbing some drinks and looking at the animals. Busch Gardens is actually home to some really cool shops which often contain things that have absolutely f*cking nothing to do with the park but are still super cool. Unfortunately for us a lot of it was decorative sh*t for the house we couldn't bring home since we weren't checking bags but I guess that ended up saving us some money in the long run. Our free personal items were already jam packed full of the entire Shamu store thanks to Brit so we had to pass up some cool stuff at Busch Gardens.
After meanding around for awhile I mentioned the idea of heading to the back of the park again to re-ride some coasters and Brit was about to go along with it but at some point she remembered that somehow we totally forgot to ride Cheetah Hunt so we made our way over there instead. Damn, WTF is wrong with me? You know the park has an awesome coaster lineup when you can "forget" about an Intamin Blitz coaster
Cheetah Hunt was sporting the longest line in the park (per usual) but we were happy to wait it out. The line was down the first ramp with all of the upper switchbacks open but the line ended up being about an hour between the fact that the front seat riders decided to blow chunks on consecutive trains, both requiring a lengthy cleanup and then a standard Intamin sh*t fit when we were a few trains away from boarding which ended up being a 20 minute breakdown (where of course we got to witness some a**hole with his "I need to speak to the manager" haircut berate the poor ride operator in the back of the second load platform about how much he spent to get into the park and how we wanted a refund because the rides were "all broken" (this was the only breakdown we witnessed all day).
Personally we didn't mind that much. Cheetahs (and all cats big and small) spend an absurd amount of the day sleeping. If you think about it, Cheetah Hunt's constant breakdowns and common refusals to do anything other than just sit there doing nothing are really just part of the theming.
Luckily after awhile the cheetah started to wake up from it's slumber. They sent some test trains, then started testing both load platforms at once and after a few successful runs it was time to ride. We had hoped that the breakdown would cause some people in the front row line to bail but that never happened so we settled for a back row ride. The coaster (as always) was awesome. While it's definitely a family friendly ride (well... as family friendly as an Intamin Blitz coaster can be) it still packs an incredible punch with some great airtime moments, a fun inversion and it's signature twisty section over the river which is definitely the highlight of the ride.
Despite the "successful hunt", we exited the ride hungry as sh*t and decided it would be a perfect time to grab something to eat. Unfortunately for us, we were now on the opposite side of the park as the Zambia Smokehouse so we decided to take the train from Nairobi to Stanleyville which would not only get us exactly where we wanted to go, but also give us the best opportunity to see the animals on the Serengeti plain.
On the way to the train, we opted to cut through Myombe Reserve to get a look at the gorillas. As always, they were nowhere near the awesome viewing area in the middle of the exhibit and were instead crowded around the last viewing window right before the exit. It's always awesome to see these guys.
After exiting the exhibit, we slowly began to make our way over to the train. We generally skip park trains, but the train ride from Nairobi at Busch Gardens Tampa is a must-do since it gives you a great view of the animals while simultaneously saving you a TON of walking. We had some time to kill before it showed up, so we decided to check out the African penguins across from the train station. After the previous day it was nice to see penguins without having to ride a horrendous ride first or freeze your balls off in the exhibit area.
When it was almost time for our train to arrive we pried ourselves away from the penguins and made our way over.
The train ride is always awesome, but this time it was made even more awesome by our awesome guide. I wish I knew his name, I don't normally go to guest relations to praise an employee but this guy was tremendous and I was kicking myself for not getting his name so we could do that. He was very informative about the animals, but he also came with tons of jokes about everything from the park's relationship with Disney to the fact that you could see the Divorce Lawyer signs through the fence that was supposed to be covered with plants (but reassuring us that it was another great opportunity to see some Lion Cheetahs at Busch Gardens so it was totally cool). He also broke out into a Moana song at one point and put on an impressive display of beatboxing through the tunnel by Kumba. The dude was the best and he deserves a raise immediately.
Upon exiting in Stanleyville, we had finally reached our destination (the Zambia Smokehouse), but before stopping in we hit Sheikra one more time real quick for another awesome, no-wait front seat ride. God I love this thing...
Hey, I already warned you it was going to be a Sheikra gif kind of day
After another successful dive, we finally made our way over to the Smokehouse. For park food, it's hard to beat this place. It's a little pricey but they give you a ton of food and it's all excellent. They also have a great outdoor sitting area right along Sheikra's splash pool so you can sit in the shade and eat and drink the day away while watching Sheikra do it's thing.
Our meal was excellent as always, as was the Reef Donkey APA I had from the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. I absolutely loved the fact that this park had such a great local beer selection and I tried a few of their other beers by the end of the night also (including their Pumpkin beer which unlike most pumpkin beer didn't taste like jack-o-lantern piss).
While enjoying our meal there was a 5 or 10 minute delay in Sheikra's operation (with empty trains cycling before the delay) and an overwhelming silence from Kumba also so it seemed like lightning was moving into the area. A few minutes later there was a 2-3 minute rain shower (which didn't bother us at all since out table had an umbrella) and it looked like another Florida thunderstorm was on it's way, but by the time we were done eating the coasters had all reopened and the rain had stopped. Huh... that was weird. I guess sometime's Florida's just gotta Florida.
While the rides had reopened, the heat was getting a bit oppressive so we decided it would be a perfect time to head over to Pantopia and check out Opening Night Critters. We had seen this show once before but it had been awhile so we didn't remember too much. I do remember loving it, and I guess my memory served me well because it was a great show. If you're only going to see one show at Busch Gardens, make it this one. The variety and sheer amount of trained animals in this show is amazing and it's funny and works well with the storyline. They have tons of trained dogs, trained cats (that in itself might be the most amazing part of the entire operation), trained birds, a trained pig, trained mice, a miniature horse, I think an ostrich and TONS of other great animals. Plus... it's air conditioned. That alone is a major selling point.
After exiting the theater we only had about 30 minutes until "park close". We grabbed a quick ride on Falcon's Fury (awesome as always) and then went to get our wristband for the changeover. For those unfamiliar with how the changeover works, anyone holding a Howl O Scream ticket can go to Dragon Fire Grill in Pantopia and get a wristband which allows them to remain in the park for the changeover. Most rides don't operate for the event and the animals are all put away so the only things open after the park closed at 6:00 were Cheetah Hunt, Cobra's Curse, Kumba, Montu, Sand Serpent, Sheikra, Falcon's Fury and the U Banga Banga Bumper Cars (best bumper car name ever by the way) since they did some type of Zombie takeover on it. While it's not a huge ride selection, it's all you really need but we figured we'd spend the last few minutes of regular park operation riding something we wouldn't be able to ride later. Since the flume was closed and since we were already in Pantopia, that was an easy decision...
Scorpion had no line at that point, so we were able to snag 2 quick rides on it including a back seat ride on the final train of the day. The ride is definitely a bit overshadowed at Busch Gardens but it's still excellent, has a really forceful layout, features one of the best vertical loops of any coaster in America and is generally just an absolute blast to ride. Plus, being able to get 4 rides on it in one day without a line is a minor miracle given it's low capacity.
After our second ride most rides had closed for the day but we figured we'd spend our hour and a half doing some heavy coaster riding so we could focus on mazes once Howl O Scream started. For anyone who hasn't experienced it, the first hour or so of that changeover features an absolutely dead park and it feels like you rented out the coasters for you and an absurdly small group of friends. They offer some type of upcharge pre-Howl O Scream meal at Dragon Fire Grill but that would be a serious waste of what's essentially ERT on every coaster in the park.
After snagging a quick ride on Sand Serpent (because it was there and didn't have a line so why the f*ck not?) we decided to head back to Kumba where we proceeded to take 4 consecutive rides in the magic seat. Despite the fact that we were the only 2 people on the train for most of those rides, the thing was running like a bat out of hell and proceeded to deliver an amazing ride each and every cycle.
After our private Kumba party (and impulse buying a Kumba T shirt which is insane for me since I almost never buy coaster shirts but I was riding high after that marathon session and it's semi respectable looking), we decided to take our talents to Stanleyville and marathon Sheikra. We scored 2 quick front seat rides, both of which were amazing before heading up to the front to ride some of those coasters before the masses descended on the park.
It was still a million degrees outside so I took a full blown Sheikra splash before our trek to the front of the park.
When we reached the front of the park, our options were actually pretty limited. Cobra's Curse was temporarily down and Cheetah Hunt was open but transferring trains to prepare for the night's huge crowds so we made our way over to Montu. The gates had opened for Howl O Scream (though the event hadn't officially begun) so there was a small wait but Montu is a people eater so we found ourselves in the back row within about 10 minutes and had another amazing ride, this time on a full train that had fully warmed up from running all day so we absolutely flew through the course. I swear, every time I ride this thing I think it's actively trying to rip my face off.
Not wanting to be complete idiots (for a change), after Montu we decided to make our way further back in the park so not to get caught in the hordes of people who were about to come in the front gate for the event. On the way, we admired some of the awesome theming that they had pulled out for the event. It's insane to me how quickly they can turn a park from a happy, family friendly animal and coaster park to a terrifying zombie filled wasteland. We're used to parks like Six Flags Great Adventure that make no effort to hide their Halloween props during the day and have the luxury of leaving things out 24/7 during September and October and somehow Busch Gardens still blows them away when it comes to Halloween even though they only have an hour for setup and tear down each night.
While most areas are put up and torn down in an hour they do have an awesome scare zone that cuts from the bumper cars to the Skyway station that's closed off during the day that they open up so they can close off Jungala and keep some decorations up all the time. That was definitely one of the cooler scare zones in the park, and we snapped a few pictures before sh*t hit the fan and the brain eating zombies showed up. Then again, if they're into brain eating they wouldn't have much to work with with me anyway so they probably would have focused on Brit. lol
After getting over the trauma caused by that scare zone and it's proximity to the Skyway and Stanley Falls Flume, we made our way over to our first house of the night, Demented Dimensions which was sporting about a 45 minute wait (though it's a moderately entertaining line since you get to watch drunk people freak out on Sand Serpent the entire time). I guess I should probably say that since I'm sort of up to date on my reports for a change and since there are a few weeks left in this event, this might contain spoilers. I'll do my best not to spoil too much though...
First off, I want to give a quick shout out to jedimaster1227 for his great Howl O Scream review
. I actually pulled it up while in a ride line earlier and it was our primary tool in determining what houses to hit and what houses to skip. We didn't agree on everything but that's pretty much a given since haunt mazes are incredibly subjective to begin with and a lot of it has to do with luck about being in the right place at the right time for some great scares.
Demented Dimensions was a brand new house that seemed to follow no specific plot and have no specific theme. I don't mind that one bit as it keeps you on your toes and I never cared much about themes and plot lines in houses anyway but this one was so all over the place that it was definitely noticeable. I'd say this was a good house but not a great house. I got one or two good scares and the themes were cool, but some of the other mazes definately topped it. I should clarify that I'm judging it against other Howl O Scream mazes and not haunt mazes in general. This house was still awesome and even the worst Howl O Scream house would be the greatest maze in the history of Six Flags Great Adventure if they were to add it. Since that's what we're used to... Howl O Scream blew us away. While Demented Dimensions would later be topped by some other mazes, it was an awesome way to start the night.
After leaving the maze, we headed over to the nearby pretzel place near Falcon's Fury for a pretzel and another beer. Most haunt mazes were upwards of an hour wait so I highly suggest grabbing a beer before getting in line for any of them since you'll have plenty of time to drink it. I grabbed another Tampa Bay Brewing Company offering which was yet another home run. Kudos once again to those guys.
Up next for us was the Black Spot, a maze that utilizes a lot of the old Tidal Wave area and Tidal Wave queue. Mercifully that meant the queue was designed for a water ride which would only have long queues on incredibly hot days so there were a generous amount of fans running on full blast to help make the 90 minute wait a little more bearable.
The Black Spot is a pirate themed house that's been at the park for a few years and we remembered enjoying it quite a bit on our previous visit.
The Black Spot turned out to be an excellent house that's absolutely worth the wait. I don't know how many of the props and sets were left over from Tidal Wave and how many were built for the house but it's definately a spectacle. The house takes place in full blown caverns with great rock work and really cool effects. More importantly, it's loaded with awesome scares. This was probably our second favorite house of the night for sure. It gets crazy lines, but it's worth it.
After Black Spot we were having an awesome night but we were also dying of heat (Florida takes everything you ever thought you knew about humidity and blows it to hell) and in the mood for a nice blast of air so we figured we'd switch it up a little and head over to Sheikra. Sheikra was sporting a 45 minute line, but that was about the best you could hope for during Howl O Scream so we waited anyway and were treated to an awesome night ride. The views from the top of this ride at night are hard to beat and the ride itself delivered YET ANOTHER amazing ride.
Once we got off Sheikra we wandered around a little bit, grabbed another beer, took in the awesome party atmosphere and took yet another Sheikra splash before deciding to make our way up to the front of the park for a few more houses.
After our Sheikra splash we began our trek up to the front of the park. Near Sheikra we came across a scare zone that took place on the stairs near the smokehouse which seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen but I found it completely awesome since nobody was expecting scare actors over there. Following that were a few more awesome scare zones including a clown themed area near the kids area and some awesome props up by the flamingos. Once again, since we're used to complete sh*t like Great Adventure it was hard not to be in awe of this entire operation.
Our next stop was Undead Arena: Live, which is the park's other new house for this year. Undead Arena: Live is located back in the Gwazi Park area and on the way we stopped to check out the awesome halloween themed games, grab an absolutely enormous Bud Light (it was all they had) and grab a huge grilled sausage on a stick because I'm a f*cking glutton.
When we walked up to the house we quickly realized that despite being new, it had one of the shortest waits of the night. The line was moving at an incredible pace and it quickly became apparent that 4 full sets of switchbacks would be clear in about 10 minutes. By the time I realized this I had about 5 minutes to kill a beer that was bigger than my own head but since I'm a true warrior and all around team player I happily chugged the living sh*t out of it and finished it less than 30 seconds before it was time to enter the house.
By the way, this is random but when we reached the front of the line we were surprised to see a trash can as the only option. What the hell? What happened between daytime Busch Gardens when it was all "conserve, save the planet, recycle" and night time Busch Gardens when it became "Zombies, blood, death, drink the blood of the innocent, throw an aluminum can in the garbage, f*ck recycling!"... I hardly recognize the place anymore.
Anyway, as for the house. It was interesting for sure. It started out with a guy on a megaphone yelling at everyone as they entered which was interesting, but I don't really know what the point was. Once inside, parties were forced to split up and go through different rooms (in my case alone, where at one point I got the f*cking sh*t scared out of me by this awesome swinging thing) but then they all came together about 30-60 seconds later to complete the house in a more standard line. I don't know how to feel about this house because the concept and execution at the beginning were brilliant in every way, but the second half was very lackluster. I liked it, and it probably made for my best scare of the night but I don't know if I'd consider it a favorite.
After Undead Arena: Live we were down to our last 90 minutes (time flies when you're standing in enormous lines. lol) so we knew we had to be pretty selective. Based on jedimaster1227's report, we decided to skip Motel Hell and instead head over to the house that was all the rage the last time we visited, Unearthed!
Unearthed is located in the old Gwazi station, utilizing a lot of the ride's old queue line for both the queue and the maze itself. It's themed to a construction / excavation site where they evidently unearthed some pretty f*cked up sh*t. It had a long line, but it was worth the wait. The theme is really cool and well executed throughout the house and as a coaster nerd it was really cool being able to walk through Gwazi's station and maintenance areas. This was a great house, and definately one of our favorites.
After Unearthed we were down to our last 40 minutes or so and had a decision to make. Initially our plan was to end our night back at Kumba, marathoning the hell out of the best coaster in Florida but we were running out of time and we really wanted to hit Deathwater Bayou which was our favorite house from our last visit. It was a touch call, but after weighing our options and reasoning that we'd already hit Kumba a ton that day we opted to cut it to ensure that we got to experience Deathwater Bayou. After all, it was Howl O Scream.
Luckily since we were in the front of the park we did have a few coasters to pick from if we wanted to get our coaster fix. Cheetah Hunt and Cobra's Curse were both sporting enormous wait times thanks to their low capacity, but we didn't mind too much since we pretty much had our hearts set on the Egyptian god of war and G forces.
Thankfully, Montu was only filling it's indoor queue which meant we were in the back row and on our way up the lift within 15 minutes. Once again, this ride delivered on an almost unbelievable level. With the hot weather, full train and the fact that it had now been running for 15 hours straight we were treated to one of the most absurdly forceful and amazing Montu rides ever and as we whipped through that batwing and into the trench I was convinced that the ride was going to send the entire train flying off the tracks and all the way to Orlando into the giant pile of scrap metal that used to be the inferior invert at Universal that was fun... but was basically always Montu's b*tch anyway if we're being totally honest.
Still trying to make sense of WTF just happened and how such an amazing coaster is even allowed to exist in this day in age, we fought the urge to hop back in line and instead made our way up near the front gate for our final house of the night. With just 5 minutes to spare we found ourselves in a short, 10 minute line for the house that (a few years ago) we had considered to be the single best house at Howl O Scream. Would it live up to the hype?
Ho...ly...sh*t I love this house! The sets and scares in the house are truly world class. Given the fact that we just declined a re-ride on a coaster that was running batsh*t insane cycles and given the fact that we declined the opportunity to end our night on Kumba so we could go through it this house really needed to deliver to justify making it our last stop of the night and it absolutely did. The "Choose Thy Fate" dig at Dragon Challenge between the vortex tunnels was hilarious, the sets were brilliant and the scare actors managed to scare the living sh*t out of us on multiple occasions. To me, Deathwater Bayou is still the superstar house of Howl O Scream and that's some incredibly high praise.
After exiting the maze, it was finally closing time and we slowly made our way up to the gate (after stopping in the gift shop of course). It was a long, but awesome day and Howl O Scream continues to be an absolutely brilliant event. I think it's pretty much a guarantee we'll be making a return trip next fall.
Up next! 4 parks in one day!