Guest Author: Adam
Having grown up part of my childhood in St. Louis, it is hard to ignore The King of Beer and its intriguing history of parks. Who’d have ever guessed that a beverage company would wind up starting one of the largest chains of theme parks?
It is true now that Anheuser-Busch no longer is associated with Sea World or Busch Gardens (R.I.P. free beer samples and endless supply of bratwurst). There’s no doubt the shape and vision of the parks are the product of a place to show off beer.
The Busch Gardens I frequent the most is the one in Tampa. It’s a fascinating mish mosh of animal themes and attractions built in a mish mosh of styles and times. There’s no doubt it is a stunning park that is constantly growing.
I’m a coaster fan. Been on a lot of them, about one-hundred and sixteen. So That’s a huge reason why I love Busch Gardens. But anyone kind find some great coasters at their local park. What is harder to find, and my favorite attraction, is… (drumroll) the Skyride
There’s something special about seeing animals roam freely in a natural looking habitat without ever having to leave the continent. And sure, there are animal parks elsewhere, and sure you can see the animals from a truck or train, but nowhere else do you get the fantastic views of the big picture of the serengeti like you do from the Skyride.
It’s really special to glide overhead, so silently, gently bobbing up and down and taking in what is really two great vistas. One side you have the elegant spacious land where the animals roam paying no attention to you voyeuristically observing them. On the other you have the busy colorful theme park with coasters in the distance peaking over the trees.
Aside from the vistas, the actual ride is a treasure built in 1974. Gone are the days where sky rides, areal gondolas and ski lifts being common place in theme parks. The mechanics of the ride are fascinating. Like the flexibility but strength of the cable that hold all the gondolas. How did they even string that cable through the supports and make it loop? Or like how the gondolas can be lifted and then rest on the cable, mechanically clenching to the cable. Or even how the Skyride has that ever rare turn where for a little thrill, the gondolas swing down, roll on wheels over head to make the sharp change of direction.
Long ago, there was a suspended monorail that gave a tour over the serengeti and through the brewery. The monorail station shares the building with the Skyride station. Recently, the old monorail load platform has been recently reused as the Cheetah Hunt load platform, cleverly repurposing the clearly charmingly vintage structure. Even more fun is how Cheetah Hunt weaves its way in and out, over and under of the Skyride, not only making Cheetah Hunt all the more thrilling, it adds an indescribable amount of excitement to the Skyride.
Next time you are at Busch Gardens Tampa, make sure to ride the Skyride. Maybe even a few times because what you will see is different and breathtaking every time.