There were already billboards up around Tampa Bay two years ago, announcing a new monster coaster coming to Busch Gardens, when the pandemic shut down Florida’s theme parks for a couple of months. When Busch Gardens reopened, they put the dramatic Iron Gwazi coaster on hold.
The park has finally unleashed the coaster, debuting it earlier this year to rave reviews from thrill junkies.
One new addition in the meantime: the Giraffe Bar, which opened in March 2021 at the Serengeti Overlook restaurant. It has an outdoor patio overlooking a wide 64-acre animal habitat, where the animals are having their own happy hour at the strategically placed watering hole within view of the patio. There are a number of frozen cocktails, small bites and Florida-made beers such as Ybor’s Coppertail and Bradenton’s Motorworks Brewing.
Then in February of this year, the park opened Iron Gwazi, a smooth steel track placed in the footprint of the old wooden Gwazi coaster. It was the most anticipated coaster in the country among coaster fans and received national press, including the label “America’s most terrifying new roller coaster” from the New York Post.
It is the fastest hybrid coaster in North America, and the steepest of its kind in the world. And, oh, that first drop. It is a slow climb to the top of the tallest coaster in Florida that plunges riders into a beyond-vertical drop of 91 degrees. It then careens around turns and hills, when riders are briefly lifted out of their seat a dozen times.
Some other special events coming this summer include a new Summer Celebration running daily May 27-Aug. 7. There will be DJs nightly and a fireworks show with dancing fountains and lasers on the weekends. And free beer is back. Guests can get free beer samples at Pantopia Drinks & Snacks from May 31-Aug. 7.
The summer wraps up with the return of the Bier Fest Aug. 12-Sept. 5, when the park embraces its beer-soaked roots with food and brews. It typically features dozens of varieties of IPAs, wheat ales and stouts, and there are spotlights on Florida breweries as well as national brands that are paired with shareable culinary creations.
If you go
$89.99, age 3 and younger free. Parking is $30; $35 for preferred lot. 10165 N McKinley Drive, Tampa. 813-884-4386. buschgardens.com.