Florida Travel

Curse of the Snake King makes Busch Gardens’ new coaster spin

Cobra's Curse to open at Busch Gardens in Tampa

The new spinning roller coaster Cobra's Curse is expected to open at Busch Gardens in Tampa in Summer 2016.
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The new spinning roller coaster Cobra's Curse is expected to open at Busch Gardens in Tampa in Summer 2016.

Of all the ways that people tell me roller coasters and other rides make them nauseous, the one I hear most often is spinning. Whether it’s the Teacups at Magic Kingdom, Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom or the spinning carnival ride in which the floor drops out, spinning makes many people queasy.

So when Busch Gardens announced it was building a spin coaster and called it a family thrill ride, I thought “Are they crazy?”

But Busch Gardens’ creative and engineering teams hit this one just right. The spinning section of Cobra’s Curse is short, and it’s not constant. It’s just enough to add a little spice to a mostly tame ride.

For the last third of the ride, a mechanism unlocks and the car can spin as it moves forward.

Unlike most rides at Busch Gardens, Cobra’s Curse has a story. Someone has uncovered pieces of an enormous statue of a cobra rearing back to strike. Archaeologists dug it up and hoisted it upright. That’s where the ride is set — at the archaeological dig, surrounded by the clutter of the dig — crates, tools, rubble, another section of the statue, and the tall scaffolding used to prop up the 80-foot snake’s head. But setting it up unleashed the spinning curse of the Snake King.

The day I rode Cobra’s Curse — about a week after its June 17 opening — was a rough one for the new roller coaster. It wasn’t running when I arrived at the park, and a thunderstorm shut it and other coasters down shortly after I rode it. The part of the queue with a glassed-in habitat for live, venomous snakes was closed, and an attendant told me it was because the air conditioning had malfunctioned. The queue also bypassed a chamber where a video tells the legend of the Snake King.

The tallest hill of the roller coaster is only 70 feet high, and maximum speed is 40 mph.

Cobra’s Curse is not particularly big or fast — the tallest section of track is 70 feet high, and maximum speed is 40 miles an hour — and it never turns upside down. Its gimmick is how the cars face as they move along the track. The ride starts in a lift, straight up 70 feet, then forward, seemingly right into the jaws of the Snake King but saved by a turn. About a third of the way through, the car turns, and now riders are facing backward.

For the last third of the ride, a mechanism unlocks and the car can spin as it moves forward. The spin is governed by the distribution of weight in each four-person car, but it’s not extreme. It flops back and forth, usually not more than a half-circle at a time, fun but not dizzying. People whooped and laughed, and many were grinning when they climbed out of their cars.

Busch calls it a family thrill ride — more daring than the park’s kiddie coasters, but without the speed and inversions of Cheetah Hunt. With brief thrills, a little spin and a lot of fun, it is an apt label.

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