Monday, October 25, 2010

Fun new additions at Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove

My family lives about a three-hour drive away from the Orlando area where the theme parks are, and they just keep getting better and better, which is great for us!

Case in point: Discovery Cove just announced it's going to add a new addition called the Grand Reef, to open next June.

We haven't been to Discovery Cove yet because my husband and I wanted to make sure our sons were comfortable with swimming (they both just finished an intensive five-day swimming course, and I'm happy to say they can at least swim to the wall of the pool and get out if they have to!), but when we are ready, look out! We are going to be like a family of fish swimming and snorkeling in the amazing reefs there alongside our colorful, exotic gilled cousins. I can't wait to watch the dolphins and sharks and see the beautiful tropical landscaping.

The Grand Reef is going to have an underwater walking tour called SeaVenture. My husband and I saw something like this when we visited St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands five years ago. You put on a helmet with an attached air line, allowing you to breathe normally without needing to know how to SCUBA. It's genius! I imagine SeaVenture is going to be one of the most popular options at Discovery Cove (next to the dolphin encounter, of course!).

Also, when you buy a Discovery Cove ticket, you get admission to sister parks SeaWorld or Aquatica. (Have you seen SeaWorld's new blog?) My family hearts Aquatica.

Speaking of sister parks, Busch Gardens in Tampa (about a 45-minute drive from the Orlando area) also has something new in the works called Cheetah Run and Cheetah Hunt, set to open in the spring.

Cheetah Run will be a new habitat that lets you get close to cheetahs, the fastest land animal on earth! Like some of Busch Gardens' other habitats, there will be elevated, glass-paneled viewing areas where you could be face to face with a cheetah! Trainers will conduct daily sprints with the cheetahs so everyone can see how amazingly fast cheetahs really are.

Cheetah Hunt is (drumroll...) the new roller coaster under construction! If you ask me, Busch Gardens is known for its coasters, and they do them right. Cheetah Hunt will be long -- really long -- more than three-quarters of a mile! And just like the cheetah, it will go fast -- from 0 to 60 miles an hour three times during the ride. It goes up 10 stories, then plunges 130 feet. Gulp!

I'm thinking road trip for my family next spring and summer!