When you think of the most thrilling, gut-wrenching, and dizzying roller coasters on Earth, central Florida might not be the place that comes to mind. More commonly associated with princesses, pirates, wizards, and whales, the Orlando area has made its name with family attractions and theme parks by big business park operators, and it IS a great place for parents, grandparents, and kids.
But before you go thinking Florida’s all dark rides and character meet-and-greets, check out our countdown of the 10 most thrilling coasters in Central Florida. You may be surprised to see that, with all of these rides listed in one place, Florida is a GREAT destination for thrill-seekers. And if your teenager is dreading an upcoming family vacation, show him a couple of these photos and see if it’s all doom and gloom afterwards…
10. Cheetah Hunt
Location: Busch Gardens Tampa
Busch Gardens’ Cheetah Hunt is a sight to behold and a lot of coaster to take in. The 4,429 foot long coaster soars over the park’s African savannah, dives through trenches, and hits three LSM launches all meant to recreate the breathless wonder of the fastest land animal alive as it hunts. The ride’s impressive statistics and thoughtful pacing make it among the greatest family-appropriate coasters on Earth, but for all its pomp and circumstance, it’s very firmly a family coaster. A real thrill and a joy to ride, Cheetah Hunt is certainly one of the best coasters in Central Florida.
Location: SeaWorld Orlando
Flying coasters have always been a wonder. The unique rides position riders below the track with their spine parallel to it, offering the unique (and for many, disturbing) sensation of looking down at the Earth and flying, unsure where the track will lead to next. Manta took the breathtaking ride configuration and interpreted it not as a bird, but as the graceful underwater flight of a manta ray. The ride’s queue twists through underwater caverns where the creatures can be seen soaring overhead, transitioning smoothly to the weightless ride and its graceful layout. It buzzes past waterfalls and along caves before a signature finale splashdown where the manta’s wing appears to dip into the water toward onlookers.
Location: Busch Gardens Tampa
The first of B&M’s famous Dive Machine model to maintain a 90-degree freefall, SheiKra is a pulse-pounding plunge of a ride. Named after the African hawk species said to dive straight down to snatch its prey, SheiKra features a 200-foot, absolutely-vertical freefall. Impressive enough but imagine it strapped into a super-wide, eight-across train with a wingspan more impressive than the biggest birds of prey alive today. Seated on either end, you’ve got nothing above OR below as every turn in the track is taken more dramatically, like their Wing Rider model on steroids. SheiKra may be one of the best examples of overwhelming speed and power coupled with B&M’s smooth and graceful maneuvers.
7. Revenge of the Mummy
Location: Universal Studios Florida
When Universal opened the Revenge of the Mummy, it billed the ride as the world’s first psychological thrill ride. Believe it or not, it’s an appropriate title. The ride is half dark ride, half coaster, and packed with some pretty impressive special effects. When the unexpected transition to roller coaster does occur, it’s a music-filled journey through pitch-black darkness. Truthfully, it’s not very tall OR fast, and if it were themed to anything else it would make a pretty nice family coaster. But in the dark and given the Mummy treatment, the ride is truly impressive and earns high praise from even the most hard-to-please thrill junkies.
6. Expedition Everest
Location: Disney's Animal Kingdom
Expedition Everest is reportedly the most expensive attraction ever built by Disney, and it shows. A towering 199-foot tall snow-capped peak, an impressive Audio Animatronic figure, detail enough to fill an entire day of sightseeing, and attention to detail unseen since Disneyland’s Indiana Jones Adventure. And that’s not even mentioning the coaster itself! The forwards / backwards ride is more forceful than you’d imagine and features a dizzying 80-foot plunge plus a surprisingly convoluted layout. It’s still a family ride, of course, but it’s among Disney’s most thrilling.