I finally had the chance to take the plunge on Falcon’s Fury, the newest ride at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. My first foray on the 335-foot-tall drop tower was during an employee night event a couple weeks ago. While I’m not currently an employee at the famous theme park, my fiancee is, as was my sister at the time, so my lady and I rode along with sis and her boyfriend.
You may have seen Falcon’s Fury rising above the North Tampa tree line over the past year. The ride currently ranks as the tallest free-standing drop tower in North America, and the only one that turns its riders facedown before forcing them down to the ground.
Sound like fun yet?
Taking The Plunge on Falcon’s Fury
Let me tell you, that drop to the ground is swift – 60 miles per hour. For the record, that’s just about as fast as the top speed on Kumba and Montu, two of the other headlining rides at Busch Gardens Tampa.
Oh, and what about comparisons to SheiKra? Well, we were looking down at that red-colored behemoth from the top of Falcon’s Fury. From the southern side of the tower, our peripheral vision lent us views of downtown Tampa’s skyscrapers, buildings in downtown St. Petersburg and Tropicana Field, and the high-rises in downtown Clearwater.
A second ride on the north side of the tower let us easily see the rolling terrain of Zephyrhills. I’m sure on a clear day I could see Atlanta — perhaps if I squint with a pair of binoculars? And could see 500 miles?
Loose items are not allowed on Falcon’s Fury, and that includes cellphones. Don’t even try to bring your phone along for a ride — ride attendants wisely check riders’ pockets. Besides, you wouldn’t want your brand new iPhone 6 falling 335 feet, would you? I don’t think Apple’s drop test include spills from 33 stories high. Then again, I may be more willing to spend hundreds of bucks on a new iPhone 6 if it could survive a 335-foot fall. For now, I’m happy with my iPhone 5, but I digress.
If you happen to have any loose luggage in your pockets, you can simply place them within one of the stowaway bins located in the loading area or leave them with a terra firma-hugging friend.
But the outstanding views aside, what’s a ride on Falcon’s Fury like? If you can handle the drop on SheiKra, then you should do just fine on Falcon’s Fury. The free-fall portion of the drop on the new ride is about 5 seconds long, which is roughly a second or two longer than the thrilling, main descent on SheiKra.
As I’m pretty accustomed to riding thrill machines, the drop on Falcon’s Fury didn’t leave me running for the restroom or require the immediate purchase of new apparel, but being tipped forward in my seat at the top of the tower was particularly unnerving.
All those other Busch Gardens rides look pretty tiny from the top of Falcon’s Fury, and even SheiKra looks small from the top of the new drop tower.
An Historical Footnote About Falcon’s Fury
As many longtime Tampa residents know, Falcon’s Fury replaced the Sandstorm orbiter ride, which opened in 1979 in the former Timbuktu area.
The Sandstorm was closed after the summer of 2013 drew to a close and has since been relocated to Sesame Place — another SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Park in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
The ride received a colorful makeover and now operates as Honker’s Dinger Derby.
Along with the opening of Falcon’s Fury, Busch Gardens has re-imagined the 35-year-old Timbuktu area as Pantopia, which serves as a crossroads for the many different nations and peoples that have stepped foot in Africa. After a ride on Falcon’s Fury, be sure to reward yourself with a tasty pretzel treat at Twisted Tales, which borrows recipes from the European-themed Busch Gardens sister park in Williamsburg, Virginia. Don’t forget to check out Painted Camel Bazaar, a unique gift shop at Busch Gardens featuring mainly recycled and upcycled items that make great, eco-conscious souvenirs.
If you liked the long-running but now-closed Critter Castaway show at Busch Gardens Tampa, be sure to check out Opening Night Critters, a fun feature with both animal and human actors in Pantopia Theater — incidentally, that was once the home of another live-animal show, Dolphins of the Deep, which soaked plenty of guests in the first several rows of seating from 1979 through 2002.
Other longtime Timbuktu attractions still exist in Pantopia, including the Scorpion roller coaster, Sand Serpent, and Phoenix — a looping starship ride that easily rivals Falcon’s Fury in thrilling guests at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL.