Mach Tower to open at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Virginia’s Busch Gardens Williamsburg is to open Mach Tower, a new tower ride for the 2011 season. Guest will find the twenty-four story tall drop ride in the German Oktoberfest section. The ride will begin with a spiraling lift to a lofty 240 feet above the park. At the top, riders will be treated to one of the best views in the theme park industry as Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been rated the World’s most beautiful theme park for 21 straight years by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. After a pause, the 30 riders will be sent plummeting at 60 mph back to the ground.

Mach Tower is part of a two year upgrade to the Oktoberfest section. The plans also include a new multiple-launch roller coaster that is scheduled to open in 2012. The coaster will be built on the former site of the Big Bad Wolf. Learn more about Mach Tower at Busch Gardens’ website.

Triple-launch roller coaster Cheetah Hunt opens at Busch Gardens Tampa

Thousands were treated to Busch Gardens Tampa‘s new roller coaster Cheetah Hunt this past weekend. The new roller coaster is a lengthy 4,400 feet long and it boasts not one, but three separate launches. Cheetah Hunt speeds along the park’s African-themed back drop along the ground, above it, and also below it in a watery canyon. Like some of Busch Gardens Tampa’s other attractions, the ride incorporates its namesake in cheetah viewing area called Cheetah Run. It’s designed to give guests a close encounter with the cheetahs as they show off their legendary speed.

Some early reviews of Cheetah Hunt describe it as a fun family roller coaster that’s a step between the park’s smaller coasters like Scorpion and the park’s signature thrillers like Montu and SheiKra. If that’s an accurate depiction, then it’s likely a wise addition for Busch Gardens Tampa as they’re always competing with Orlando’s many family-oriented theme parks. Central Florida’s only going to get more competitive later this year when the new Legoland Florida opens. Cheetah Hunt was my most anticipated roller coaster opening in 2011 and these videos make me even more eager to get down to Florida. Learn more at

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, SeaWorld Orlando raise ticket prices

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and SeaWorld Orlando have announced price increases at the Florida theme parks.

The new ticket price at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is $83.45, including sales tax. You will pay $72.75 for kids ages 3-9.

At SeaWorld Orlando, tickets are now $85.19 with tax included, $74.54 for kids.

By comparison, a 1-day, 1-park ticket including tax at Walt Disney World is $87.33. Disney’s most recent price increase was in August.

Those prices don’t take into account the myriad of discounts available, including savings on multi-day tickets, combo tickets that include admission to other theme parks and/or water parks, and online-only deals.

And Florida residents are also eligible for special pricing. For example, a Florida resident who pays full price for a 1-day admission receives a “Fun Card” that gets him or her in free for the rest of the year.

As the Miami Herald reports, only 1/3 of theme park patrons actually pay full price for a 1-day admission into the parks.

[Image credit: Flickr user LaurenKates]

Free admission to SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens for volcanic ash victims

Travelers from the United Kingdom, Ireland and Continental Europe who are stranded in the US are eligible for free admission to SeaWorld Orlando, Aquatica Waterpark and Busch Gardens Tampa.

Because of the volcanic ash flight disruptions, thousands of tourists are stuck waiting for their airlines to get permission to fly, and a free day trip to one of these parks could really help take some of the stress (and boredom) out of waiting.

To get your free tickets, you need a return airline ticket valid from April 14 through Wednesday April 21 (or until flights return to normal). One free ticket is issued for each airline ticket presented. The offer is also extended to airline crews. For more information on this very generous promotion, you can call 1-888-800-5447 or visit the SeaWorld parks and entertainment blog.

Gondola accident at Busch Gardens in Florida: Football player tumbles

We’ve covered amusement park accidents in the past. Here’s another one. In an unfortunate mishap at Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida a football player from the University of Southern Florida found his good deed costing him. Maikon Bonani was working at the gondola ride when he thought the door of one of the cars wasn’t latched as it was leaving the station.

With quick thinking he grabbed onto the door in an effort to keep it closed. Unfortunately, as the gondola of the sky ride went up into the air, so did he. Eventually, he let go and fell 35 feet. Luckily the area below was landscaped and not asphalt.

Bonani is in fair condition and it sounds as if he’ll recover–I hope. Of course, the park is reviewing safety procedures. One of the morals of this story is that if you are at an amusement park and fall 35 feet, be in good shape with well developed muscles. It does wonders for the outcome. Plus, make sure you hear that clink shut of the latch of any ride you climb into. It helps to pay attention.

As for the passengers who were riding in the gondola when Maikon Bonani fell. Can you imagine? That Busch Garden vacation turned out much differently than they ever imagined. [AP article]