Florida is a state which has so many things to offer, it might as well be one of my favorite travel destinations out there. First of all, It has an amazing subtropical to tropical climate: perfect holiday weather for us Belgians who don’t get to see a whole lot of sun throughout the year. It’s also the place from which NASA operates and where you can visit the Kennedy Space Center which for me, as a space enthusiast, is a reason on its own to cross the Atlantic. My main reason to visit Florida, however, is the fact that it’s got an awful lot of theme parks with some of the greatest roller coasters in the world. In this post, I would like to highlight some of my favorite roller coasters in Florida, “The Sunshine State”.
Mako, SeaWorld Orlando
Mako is a steel hypercoaster manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M), and is one of the more recent additions to the Florida collection. It opened in the 2016 season and is Florida’s first hypercoaster, so Sea World really filled a big void here. Well played by them!
Mako is phenomenal. It stands 61 metres tall (200ft.), with speeds up to 117,5 km/h (73 mph) and it’s filled with some great ejector airtime in the front seats, while the back seats provided me with some of the best floater airtime I have ever experienced. Only downside about the ride itself is the mid course brake run right afer the turnaround. It’s very noticeable and it really kills the pace of the ride, unfortunately.
SeaWorld did a great job with the theming of Mako. The ride looks absolutely gorgeous with the blue and purple color scheme, the ceiling of the station makes you feel that sharks are swimming above you and, last but not least, it has an amazingly fitting soundtrack that you can hear throughout area around the roller coaster, when you’re in the queue, in the station and up until you reach the top of the lift hill.
All of these things put together have made Mako to be one of the best all-round rollercoaster experiences I have ever had, without a doubt.
Montu, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Montu is an inverted roller coaster, also manufactured by B&M. It opened in 1996 and is still regarded among enthusiasts as one of the best (inverted) roller coasters in the world. By the way, ‘Inverted’ means that the riders sit underneath the tracks, like in a ski lift. It’s one of my favorite type of roller coasters.
What makes this one so unique is the incredible speed and pace at which you go through all of the seven inversions. This results in a very, very intense ride filled with an immense amount of positive G’s. Highlight for me is the batwing around the middle of the ride, which is a heart-shaped element that features two inversions. It’s one of the most forceful roller coaster element that I ever got to experience. Best inverted roller coaster I’ve ridden, hands down.
With its 1350 metres (4429 feet) of track twisting and turning above you as you walk through Busch Gardens, Cheetah Hunt is impossible to miss. It’s a launched Blitz coaster manufactured by Intamin. The ‘launched’ part means that this roller coaster uses a system to launch the riders to high speeds in a short amount of time, instead of using the more traditional chain lift system most roller coasters do.
Cheetah Hunt is definitely not one of the more intense rides out there, but it’s got an extremely high fun factor. The three (!) launches to speeds up to 96 km/h (60mph) give this ride a great flow from the start until the very end. Highlight for me is the part where it goes through a series of fast paced twists and turns very close to the ground. Oh, did I mention that this coaster contains one inversion element called a ‘heartline roll’? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Manta, Sea World Orlando
Have you ever wanted to experience the sensation of flying? Well, Manta takes you pretty close. It belongs to the category of the “flying coasters”, and is manufactured by B&M. In a flying coaster, the trains are located underneath the track, just like in an inverted coaster. Only difference is that riders don’t sit down, but actually lie down, with their backs parallel to the track.
Very specific for this kind of roller coaster, is the notorious “pretzel loop”. These loops are well known for generating an incredible amount of G-forces. First, riders dive downward into a half loop, which causes them to end up flat on their backs, with their faces pointing to the sky. After that, they continue through another half loop in upward direction. Manta’s pretzel loop, especially in the back seat, is the most forceful roller coaster element I ever experienced, no doubt about it. You start off with a peaceful sensation of weightlessness, only to get dragged down the pretzel with the most intense force imaginable. It really sucks the air out of you for a brief moment.
Kumba, Busch Gardens Tampa
With its 24 years, one could state that Kumba is a real classic. One of the oldest roller coasters in Florida, and still one of the highest rated all over the world among enthusiasts. Kumba is a B&M looping coaster. It has seven inversions, and when it opened, it featured the world’s tallest vertical loop.
Something specific I really like about Kumba, is that it generates an amazing roaring noise, which is pretty typical for B&M roller coasters that don’t have sand in their tracks to dampen the noise. The name ‘Kumba’ is actually the word ‘Roar’ translated to the African Congo language!
Incredible Hulk, Islands of Adventure (Universal)
I have had the opportunity to experience The Incredible Hulk after it got completely retracked and refurbished for the 2016 season. Universal replaced the tracks, the trains and completely redid the queue, which looks phenomenal.
This B&M looping coaster is something special. It features a launch to about 107 km/h (67 mph) inside a tunnel, in upward direction. As you exit the tunnel, you have no time to adapt to the flash of the sunlight, as you immediately go through a zero G-roll, followed by a monumental cobra roll and many other inversions. All of this happens in a very nice setting, above the center lake of Islands of Adventure. It wasn’t the smoothest ride I ever did, but it was amazing nonetheless.
SheiKra, Busch Gardens Tampa
Aah, SheiKra. Named after an asian-african hawk that dives vertically to grab it’s prey, that’s exactly what this coaster does. It’s a “dive coaster”, manufactured by B&M. This type of coaster literally leaves you hanging for a couple of seconds before it plunges you down a more than 90° drop. What follows is an Immelmann Loop, a smaller drop and a splashdown through the water. A very short ride – typical for dive coasters – but the suspense and great anticipation before the drop really make this ride worth your while.
Dueling Dragons, Universal Islands of Adventure
I can’t finish this post without mentioning Dragon Challenge, formerly known as Dueling Dragons. These were two intertwining B&M Inverted Roller Coasters located in Universal Studios Orlando. They closed very recently on September the 4th following a decision by Universal to replace them with a new, highly themed Harry Potter ride. Granted, it didn’t perfectly fit in the Harry Potter theme, but still it’s quite a shame to see two quality B&M Inverts go to the scrapyard. To be continued, as Universal will probably soon start to reveal more details about the new ride.
So there you have it people, an overview of my favorite roller coasters in Florida. As I already mentioned, it’s amazing out there. It will, for me personally, always be a place of wonderful theme park and roller coaster memories. I can only recommend any coaster enthusiast to go out there!