Roller Coasters at Busch Gardens
3000 East Busch Blvd.,
You can't talk about Busch Gardens without talking about SheiKra, one of the most thrilling steel roller coasters in the world. Riders have to be 54 inches high (kids as young as nine years old might make the cut off) to partake in this super intense and super fun experience. The ride is only three minutes long, and the best thrills come early on when you chug 200 feet up only to plunge at a ninety-degree angle straight down (there's a terrifying moment where you're dangling on the precipice, about to fall, for what feels like an eternity). After doing a simultaneous loop and roll you plunge through an underground tunnel and the whole thing's over. The ride is floorless, and if you're wearing flip-flops or other shoes prone to fall off, there are cubbies right where you hop on and off the ride where you can stash your shoes.
Count on your teens to continuously circulate in the queue for this ride (it's seen as a rite of passage among the young folks). And yes, it's worth waiting for the very front row. Montu (54-inches-height minimum to ride) is another big thrill coaster attraction for older kids -- a roller coaster with seven inversions that climbs to 140 feet and includes a zero-G roll. And spring 2011 saw the opening of Cheetah Run, a section of the park that replaced the area where the Clydesdales used to be. The highlight here is the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster, an intense experience that propels you from zero to 60 miles per hour in seconds while speeding across grasslands, meant to give riders the feeling of being a cheetah on the hunt. The ride climbs to over 10 stories before plunging 130 feet, and incorporates three bursts of intense speed, overbanked turns and roll inversions. Intense? Very.
A good roller coaster choice for 'tweens is the Scorpion (42-inches-height minimum to ride), a fun ride that appeals to the not-quite-ready-for-SheiKra-set; they can experience 3-G forces and speeds of 50 miles per hour as well as a 360 degree loop.
And for a mild roller coaster to start younger ones on, there's the Sand Serpent in Timbuktu, a perfect family coaster that fits four people in a car and takes you five-stories high before making the dive down.
Tots (0-2) Kids (3-6) Kids (7-9) Tweens (10-12) Teens (13+)