The Central Florida Coaster Countdown

November 13, 2020, 6:59 PM

As those who have followed my travels know, while I am a theme park fan I am also a coaster enthusiast and will go out of my way to fairly mediocre parks just for the sake of collecting a few credits. Next year, Florida will be installing two new coaster creations that are serious contenders for anyone's top twenty list. Iron Gwazi, which just had it's POV released yesterday, looks like one of the finest creations RMC has come up with yet, and Universal's VelociCoaster, still shrouded in mystery, is likely to combine thrills and theming better than anything yet seen stateside. I got to see both of these attractions in person during last month's visit to Florida, but sadly I did not get to ride.

However, I did ride a number of other coasters, including some that were new to me. Several were great, a handful were not so good, but most were at least enjoyable. Additionally, with the aid of an Akaso camera, I was able to do some on-ride filming on select attractions. For the thrillseeker considering a trip to the Sunshine State once things settle down a bit, here's my take on the top ten coasters in Florida (from a guy who's ridden over five hundred of these things).

10. Expedition Everest - Disney's Animal Kingdom

The only coaster on this list I didn't ride this visit, Everest remains my favorite coaster Disney has built. As a thrill ride, it is exciting without being intense, with several decent drops and high speeds, but no inversions or strong forces. However, the theming on this ride is outstanding from the queue through to the exit, and it is a lengthy experience with a few tricks the average rider won't see coming.

9. Revenge of the Mummy - Universal Studios Florida

Part dark ride, part coaster, this attraction puts the more famous Disney mountains to shame. After a well-themed queue, the ride begins with a quality dark ride segment featuring several animatronics and special effects. From there, riders launch into a high speed coaster that is thrilling but not extreme. The ride is a little on the short side and wouldn't be the most impressive from a pure coaster perspective, but the whole package comes together into one excellent attraction.

8. Incredible Hulk - Islands of Adventure

In any other state, this would be near the top of the coaster rankings. However, in a state dominated by fantastic Bolliger & Mabillard creations, it does admittedly come up a tad short. The initial launch is fantastic and starts the ride off with a bang, but the remainder of the coaster is largely a series of inversions with little flow in between. Previously I called this Florida's best coaster, and while I still love the ride, after a few more rides this trip it has settled in behind others at around 50th on my overall steel rankings.

7. Kraken - SeaWorld Orlando

I missed this on my previous trip and came close to doing so again, but some schedule shuffling allowed me to swing by SeaWorld for an extra half day and tackle this one. Having ridden all the floorless coasters in the country, this one ranks near the top but behind Medusa and Superman Krypton Coaster as the layout isn't the most exciting. However, it's a nice long ride with solid intensity and an underground tunnel to mix it up.

6. Cheetah Hunt - Busch Gardens Tampa

There's a class of coasters I refer to as "bridge coasters" because they fall in the gap between a family coaster and a serious thrill ride. Cheetah Hunt is probably the best example of such a ride that I've experienced. A long, smooth, high speed race across the Serengeti, this one focuses more on turns and swooping dives but still features a couple moments of solid airtime. It's not going to blow your mind, but it's a very fun ride and a great option for those who haven't experienced anything beyond Disney's level of thrill.

5. Manta - SeaWorld Orlando

I'm a bit of a sucker for flying coasters, and while Manta doesn't quite hold up to Tatsu it's still a wonderful ride. Gracefully soaring over the front of SeaWorld, riders feel like a bird in the sky or a ray in the sea. I do wish there was a bit more theming on the ride, as the wonderful queue leads to flying above grass, but even without that this is among the best coasters in Florida and an enjoyable ride everyone should experience (provided they can handle it).

4. Montu - Busch Gardens Tampa

Many lamented the loss of Dragon Challenge, but Florida's got a superior inverted coaster only an hour outside of Orlando. From what I've experienced, this stands above the rest as the best of its type, with seven inversions, several subterranean dives, and a loose but convincing Egyptian theme throughout. It does lose a few points due to the trims and slightly rough ride, but Montu is still a top tier coaster and absolute must ride for thrillseekers visiting Florida.

SheiKra - Busch Gardens Tampa

Until Iron Gwazi debuts, this ranks as my favorite coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa. There's something about dangling over the edge of a 200 ft. cliff, then plunging straight down without warning that always gets me excited. The rest of the ride doesn't have a ton of elements, but those it does are executed perfectly. The similar Griffon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg does beat this one by a hair, but SheiKra still earns a spot in my overall top 30.

2. Mako - SeaWorld Orlando

When I rode this on my previous trip, I was underwhelmed. I'm happy to say that it was running much better this time, and has now jumped to the #4 spot among B&M's hypers. While I still find the ending to be a bit underwhelming, the first two-thirds of the ride are wonderful, with amazing floater airtime over every hill and an extremely smooth ride. This was the longest line among SeaWorld's coasters by a sizable margin, and I'm glad I managed to get three rides on it.

1. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure - Islands of Adventure

Some may call foul on a coaster enthusiast naming a family coaster as the best in the state. Some may even be more surprised to hear that this ride ranks #9 on my steel list. Admittedly, if you judge coasters solely by the thrill aspect, this one will come up short as it's less intense than Mummy or Everest. However, the uniqueness of the experience combined with the extensive theming and very long ride are what put this at the top for me. It's incredibly rare for a 5,000+ ft. coaster to not feel repetitive, yet this one manages that feat, and the story aspects of the attraction are more cohesive than many rides intended to be driven by that over thrills. If you have not ridden this one yet, it is worth buying a ticket to Universal solely to experience it, as the ride is just that good.

Agree or disagree? Got other favorites, or want my take on something not listed here? Post your thoughts below, and stay tuned for one more Florida-centric thread coming soon.

Replies (2)

November 13, 2020, 9:21 PM

Great list AJ!

Next summer I'm looking to finally make it out to Sea World and BGT, I'm so excited to see what all the fuss is about. While I can't comment on the sea world parks, I do agree that the other coasters are top notch. However, I am appalled that you did not add the best coaster in Florida. I really do think that The Barnstormer deserves a spot on this list. You can't call yourself a coaster enthusiast without putting it on there.

November 14, 2020, 1:28 AM

I get your own rankings but am a bit surprised no Rock n Roller Coaster. Remember the stunner it was rocketing you out so fast and the indoor darkness making it feel even faster than it was, still a favorite.

Always count myself lucky I got to ride Everest right after it opened, the full-scale working Yeti was amazing.

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