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Photo TR: Zo's First Visit to BGW and KD

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Last month, I made a trip east with a friend to make my first-ever visits to Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion. Each was a park with several roller coasters I'd been looking forward to riding for many years, so it was great to get the chance! We opted to go during the second full week of June, which was the last week of school for most districts in southeast Virginia. Because of this, and going on weekdays, the crowds were extremely light.


I'll start with BGW, and get KD pics/report up in a day or two.


Few, if any, complaints about a great day at BGW. All vehicles were being funneled into the Italy parking lot, which isn't the closest to the park, and we had our longest wait of the day just waiting for the tram to arrive. It was pretty much smooth sailing once we got into the park. The weather was great -- a 20%-30% chance of storms that did not end up affecting our area, as was most likely, and temps maxing out in the upper 80s. Almost all of the rides had one-or-two train waits, we only waited 10 minutes three times -- once for Verbolten's front row to start the day, our first ride on Griffon, and Le Scoot. I loved the overall theme of the park, and found it to be well-run and generally in very good visual condition. No surprise that they win landscaping awards, as the immersive environment was broken only briefly at the tops of the roller coasters.


Apollo's Chariot -- I think I have a new favorite hypercoaster! The only other B&M hyper I've been on is Diamondback, and I prefer this one by a small margin. I think the return leg is more interesting, even without the splashdown. The back row is the place to ride this -- the air was very forceful (we tried it once in the front and it was more floaty there). It's no contest between this and the Arrow/Morgan hypers I've been on -- this is what Magnum should be, if it were smooth and didn't kill your thighs with every jolt of air. Blasphemy for a person who lists Cedar Point as "home park?" Perhaps, but this was my big surprise favorite of the two-day trip.


Griffon -- I knew what to expect, having been on Sheikra, and found the experiences quite similar (and very fun). I prefer the back for the extra whip around the drops. Just enough force on the inverting elements to keep it interesting, but overall it's very smooth and very re-ridable. I also enjoyed the views of the James River from up top, at least until you circle to the drop and get a great big view of a beer factory instead.


Alpengeist -- I've been wanting to ride this since seeing it on a coaster show in the late 90s. Originally thinking (based on its size) that it was the king of the B&M inverts, I of course have learned that size isn't the only way to rate a coaster. I was slightly underwhelmed by Alpengeist -- it's no Raptor or Montu, and I think it's the pacing. I wasn't a fan of the first drop, which isn't particularly steep and twists way too much to make an impact. I also don't know about starting right off with an enormous and slow Immelman. The end helix has nothing on Raptor's. We found it quite rough in the back row, and much more fun in the very front.


Verbolten -- My friend went in blind on this one, and though I knew what was coming, I didn't tell him about the drop. It was worth it for his reaction the first time! I thought the first half of the ride (in the darkness) was actually pretty intense. The second half underwhelmed me -- I wish it did a little more outside, and slowing to a crawl on the bridge right after a launch was odd. Overall, though, it was fun -- and fits a niche in that it's not too "scary" for younger riders. In many ways, it reminded me of Expedition Everest, both in its "fright" level and the heavy theming -- but frankly, of the two, I preferred Verbolten.


Loch Ness Monster -- A classic Arrow, and despite its history, one ride was enough for me. My favorite part was the never-ending-helix. Overall, it wasn't particularly smooth, and I came off plus one headache and minus one cell phone (thankfully, recovered from the front seat by the ride ops, and returned safely to me when I came back just a half hour later). I'm taking that as a learning experience regarding what I thought were tightly secured pockets, but a good lesson to have before going on the big Texas/Midwest trip in two weeks. As for Nessie? Got the credit, but I can't say it did anything more for me than any of the other drawn-out Arrow loopers.


Escape from Pompeii -- If upper 80s outside weren't hot enough, all the fire up top sure accelerates your desire for a splash! This is much better than the typical soaker boat ride -- just going up and coming back down. My favorite part, though, is that it's ridiculously photogenic. Lots of great vantage points for pictures of the splashdown.


Le Scoot -- I have a soft spot for the classic log flumes, and I enjoyed the height of this one -- plus, the first drop is a nice bonus.


Europe in the Air -- Akin to watching an Imax movie in an earthquake. Do I get bonus credit for riding in what, I believe, was its final full week of operations?


Curse of DarKastle -- My first ride of this type, and I thought it was pretty fun. Had no desire to go a second time, which speaks for its re-ridability (or lack thereof), and I thought the story was hard to follow. However, the effects were really well done, much more convincing than I was expecting. The 3D wasn't working on one screen in the second half of the ride, which had everyone in the car adjusting their glasses as if it was going to help (hey, I tried too).


Mach Tower -- Closed all day. We saw the vehicle at the top of the tower once in the early afternoon, but without riders.


And now the scorecard for the day...


Busch Gardens Williamsburg -- Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In -- 10:45 AM

Verbolten [Front]

Verbolten [back]

Curse of DarKastle

Alpengeist [Front]

Griffon [Front]

Europe in the Air

Loch Ness Monster [Front]

Escape from Pompeii

Apollo's Chariot [back]

Apollo's Chariot [Front]

Verbolten [Front]

Autobahn Bumper Cars

Alpengeist [back]


Le Scoot Log Flume

Griffon [back]

Griffon [back]

Griffon [back]

Griffon [back]

Sky Ride x3 (complete circuit)

Verbolten [back]

Apollo's Chariot [back]

Apollo's Chariot

Apollo's Chariot

Apollo's Chariot

Out -- 7:20 PM



Welcome to Busch Gardens.

More photos coming shortly.

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Now for a whole bunch of pictures.


Apollo at the entrance.


Arches on the way in. I love all the detail in the park like this.


Columns over near Apollo's Chariot and Pompeii.


I don't know what this is, but it's neat.


Looking over the Rhine at Griffon and Nessie.


By the way, is Nessie an acceptable nickname? I know most coaster nicknames are pretty lame (Maggie, Rappy, all you CP fanboys) -- but this one has history on its side!


Mach Tower, down for the count. Not a surprise.


The Verbolten theming was awesome!


Heading out of the station.


Through the trees and into the Black Forest.


The Black Forest looks like the Green Box from this angle.


My friend rode Drachen Fire many years ago. To him, it's a legend. To me, it's an empty station.


A festive atmosphere, but an un-crowded park.


DarKastle looms.


Looking up!


The entryway to Alpengeist.


Alpengeist part 1.


Alpengeist part 2.


Alpengeist part 3.


Alpengeist part 4.


Alpengeist part 5.


Le Scoot, which had the toughest-to-find entrance of the day.


Griffon up top.


Griffon down low.

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More from BGW.


Griffon and Alpengeist.


Alpengeist dives out.


Griffon at the top.


Griffon splashes down.


After the splash -- rainbow effects!


Fright? Enjoyment? Screams? All of the above?


Twisted track.


Over the station.


Tough shot -- thing's moving 70 MPH-ish past here!


Heading up on the sky ride for some aerial views.


Griffon at the bottom of the drop.


A view of the splash from the sky ride.


If only Alpengeist was quite as glorious as it looks in this picture.


Big wheels turning. (I'm listening to ELO as I write this).


Parts of the sky ride get lost in the trees, and you'd almost not know you were in the middle of a huge theme park operation.


Interlocking loops!




The approach into the never-ending helix of darkness.


Rock work around the helix.


Long train running.


Ireland from the air (which is better than Europe in the Air).


Lift hill and transfer track.


The Griffon station, just before getting off the sky ride. One more batch of BGW pics to be posted below.

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Last batch from BGW!




Bird. Sorry I can't be more specific. Need to brush up on my bird species.


Red-crested something-or-other. Several of these in the Lorikeet Glen area.


And of course, the Lorikeets -- the most ridiculously photogenic birds in the world.


This was sort of a disjointed mess, and the motion-simulator part wasn't great. Was it nice to see some European landmarks at that size, though? Sure.


A beautiful park, no question.


Sky ride!


Yup, several of these guys hanging out near (I think) the Scotland section.


Though I was there on a weekday, and unable to take part in the culinary specialties, my Greek heritage required a picture of this.


Pompeii is an interesting ride, inconsistently wet, and fun to photograph.


The splash begins.


The splash grows. I took this picture from just outside the glass wall, and had to jump back extremely quickly to avoid getting soaked myself.


The splash expands!


Mist in the air.


Waiting to get soaked. Water's better than ashfall and pyroclastic flows.


Yup, you're pretty much going to get it if you're out on that platform.


The mist falls.


Verbolten makes the Big Bad Wolf dive to the river.


Great views of Verbolten from the bridge.


The final turn into the station.




Not many good places for pictures of Apollo's Chariot -- though I'd have loved to take my camera into the queue -- so this shot will end the day at BGW. Very good park and I'm glad I visited.

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It's no contest between this and the Arrow/Morgan hypers I've been on -- this is what Magnum should be, if it were smooth and didn't kill your thighs with every jolt of air.


Magnum XL-200 is my all-time favorite coaster! And yes I have been on Apollo's Chariot. Both are great coasters, but I think Magnum had better airtime, and my thighs were completely fine on the ride. I didn't have any problems with the ride. But that's fine; opinions are opinions and I respect them.


Great trip report, I love the pictures of the animals since I didn't see then when I went last year. And great pictures of the roller coasters too!

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Great pictures of my home park--thanks! Verbolten is a very good "family" coaster and a good replacement for the Big Bad Wolf.


Thanks for reading, and totally agree about Verbolten! I missed out on Big Bad Wolf, this being my first visit to the park, but from watching a video I'd have a hard time saying it wasn't replaced by a superior ride.


Magnum XL-200 is my all-time favorite coaster! And yes I have been on Apollo's Chariot. Both are great coasters, but I think Magnum had better airtime, and my thighs were completely fine on the ride. I didn't have any problems with the ride. But that's fine; opinions are opinions and I respect them.


I'll agree that the second-half air is more intense on Magnum, but in that jolty Arrow way that isn't as smooth as a B&M. I know not everyone has issues with the lap bar, but I have yet to figure out how to ride Magnum in a way that's comfortable. Being rail thin probably doesn't help!

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Nice photos, glad you had a great day at the park. The last photo of Pompeii is great! Looking forward to your report from Kings Dominion, which has more intense rides but is nowhere near as nicely themed. It's a trade-off for sure.

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Day two of our trip was at Kings Dominion, a park that was new to both of us. We had the weather on our side at Busch Gardens, but knew days in advance that our excursion in Doswell would likely be cut short by strong to severe thunderstorms. Add the awful weather forecast on to the light mid-week crowds, and the end result was a park more empty than any I've ever seen. The longest wait of the day was ten minutes for the front row of Volcano right after the park opened. Nearly everything else was a legitimate walk-on, and with several rides sending mostly-empty trains, re-rides were generally permitted. The only exception to this -- and the only minor wrinkle in the park's operations, though common from what I've read here -- is that I305 was running only one train. On average, this ride had a one-train wait most of the day, but the front row was probably up to about 20-30 minutes (we got our first ride in the second row, which is basically as good). Even Volcano was sending half-empty trains by early afternoon.


Having been to Kings Island several times, I had an idea of what to expect out of Kings Dominion, and it generally delivered. Operations were good, and the park was clean, though certainly not as elegantly decorated as BGW. The sheer number of roller coasters is impressive, but we found that the majority of that coaster roster is good-to-mediocre, with just a few obvious stand-outs.


Intimidator 305 -- I knew it would be impossible to meet the expectations for the single most anticipated coaster of the trip, and one that seems to be universally ranked very highly. It delivered on its promises as an intense, challenging, exhausting tour-de-force! Getting three rides (and greying out all three times on the first turn) was enough to convince my friend that though he enjoyed it, he probably couldn't take another lap. I think it would have been a challenge to do more than a couple rides in a row. Was it fun, though? Very. The drop is exhilarating, and the pacing is almost perfect.


The comparisons to Millennium Force are inevitable, and as I consider MF a favorite, it's an important direct comparison for me. If I had to say which coaster is better in terms of technical merit, I'd probably give the slight edge to I305. I admit that MF has some pacing issues in the middle. However, there's more to the ride experience than that, and Cedar Point is fortunate to have one of the most beautiful settings of any park in North America. I305 hangs out in an open field -- MF rises above the water and winds through much better scenery. Overall, MF wins by a hair, but I305 should slide in nicely to my top 5 anyway.


Dominator -- This was my surprise favorite of the day for KD. It had good intensity and pacing, and I enjoyed all the elements and the way they were laid out. Not counting the Busch Gardens dive machines, it was my first floorless credit. I don't think I'd rank it above Kumba, but it's far better than Mantis, the only other bottom-track B&M of similar style I've been on. What made the ride for me was the high-speed low-to-the-ground turn right after the vertical loop -- a great juxtaposition of elements and forces.


Volcano -- It's a two-trick pony, and it does both tricks very well, but really left me wanting more. The roll out is really neat -- alone, one of the best elements of any coaster in the park -- and from there it's just twist, twist, twist, brake run. Heartline rolls are fun, in context of a bigger and more fully-developed ride (Storm Runner, for instance) -- but here, it's about all there is. Full credit to the ride ops for moving through the guests very quickly. They use rolling platforms to collect loose items before boarding, and then roll it back to the unload area after the train has been dispatched.


Anaconda -- Two days, and two Arrow loopers. I preferred this one to the Loch Ness Monster, though both had their painful moments. The layout is interesting, especially with quite a bit of time spent high in the air after the tunnel under the water.


Flight of Fear -- No surprise, having been on the one at Kings Island. I think the MCBR really kills the momentum, but the first 10-20 seconds of the ride are a lot of fun.


Hurler -- We tried this one twice, hoping to catch some air in the back, and found none. It wasn't as painful or rough as I was expecting, with the exception of the first turn past the station after the drop. I found the paper clip layout amusing for about two seconds, but it's largely a forgettable ride.


Grizzly -- If it weren't so jarring and rough, I think it'd be a better ride than Hurler. It has the more interesting of the two layouts. The tunnel section was nice, but overall, it just didn't leave much of an impression on me.


Ricochet -- It's a mouse. Yup.


Rebel Yell -- Since only the blue side was running (and sending out half empty trains most of the time), I missed a credit. It's a pretty typical out-and-back wooden coaster, very comparable to Racer at Kings Island. There was a little bit of jackhammering, so I wasn't anxious to give it a second ride given our time constraints.


Backlot Stunt Coaster -- The launch is weak, but I was surprised (as I hadn't recalled from the KI version) that it pulls some Gs climbing the spiral ramps of the "parking garage" structure. It's alright -- a decent "bridge coaster," though it can't compare to something like Verbolten.


Avalanche -- A much different experience than the only other bobsled coaster I'd been on (Disaster Transport). The trains on this ride are really strange, and I can see how on any other day, this ride could be a capacity nightmare. The whole train seemed to undulate as it rounded the curves of the bobsled track, and it felt like there was very little to absorb the impact from the wheels moving on the track. It's an interesting experience, but not something you'd get in line for over and over again.


Shockwave -- Well, here's something you won't get on a B&M stand-up coaster: airtime. Airtime while standing up is a pretty awkward feeling, and not necessarily comfortable on the shoulders! Aside from that, though, the ride was fairly comfortable and rather smooth. This was actually our last ride of the day, which isn't exactly the most fitting way to end a two-day coaster trip, but that's just the way it went.


Shenandoah Lumber Co. -- Two good log flumes in two days! I enjoyed how this one spends quite a bit of time winding through a heavily wooded area, though the drop was pretty short.


Drop Tower -- It's a drop tower. Yup.


Windseeker -- The only ride in the park not operating due to weather, thanks to the way the atmosphere was set up (which helped fuel the severe weather risk). The winds aloft, even just 250 feet off the ground, were strong and gusty.


The scorecard for the very brief day in Kings Dominion -- 19 rides in under four hours elapsed.


Kings Dominion -- June 13, 2013

In -- 10:30 AM

Volcano [Front]

Intimidator 305

Intimidator 305

Flight of Fear

Anaconda [Front]

Drop Tower

Rebel Yell (Blue) [back]

Hurler [Front]

Hurler [back]


Grizzly [back]

Shenandoah Lumber Co. Log Flume

Dominator [Front]

Dominator [back]

Avalanche [Front]

Volcano [back]

Intimidator 305

Backlot Stunt Coaster

Shockwave [Front]

Out -- 3:02 PM


Welcome to Kings Dominion!

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First batch of pictures...


"Hey look, a dinosaur!"


Apparently, nobody was interested in The Crypt. You couldn't pay me enough to ride this. I did the one at Kings Island several years ago, and after having all the blood in my body rush to my head about 3 or 4 times, I had a headache worse than the one Son of Beast had given me earlier in the day.


Volcano twist.


Volcano goes into the first launch.


Gentlemen, start your engines!


This is some nice-looking coaster track.


Down the airtime hill.


A closer view.


Up the lift and very quickly.




The lolcano erupts.


Fun fact: the #18 is a reference to Hangar 18 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near my current location in Ohio -- which, according to legend, houses the UFO from the Roswell crash.


Inside the Flight of Fear station area.


I wonder what they're chatting about?


Anaconda, part 1: the drop.


Anaconda, part 2: the figure-eight.


Anaconda, part 3: the corkscrew.


Anaconda, part 4: another corkscrew.


Two lifts, one shot.


Anaconda, part 5: the vertical loop.


Nice looking park, but...


Where are all the people?


A drop tower named Drop Tower.


Rebel Yell's empty station.


This was one of the more full trains I saw dispatched.


Rebel Yell, and some other coaster in the background.


WindSeeker closed on a day in which it would have had no problem seeking wind. There's an irony to the name, isn't there?

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And some more pictures...


Hairtime! On a mouse! Such a thing actually exists!


Ricochet speeds by.


The tunnel of love.


So if you want to ride Grizzly, you have to walk through the Dinosaurs Alive gift shop. What's that all about?


A bear.


Yup, no one here either.


Patched up the crack in the Liberty Bell.


Another fun log flume!


Splashing through the grass.


It's not by any means a soaker, and you're more at the mercy of where some of the large globs of water end up.


Even Dominator was running half-empties, but that's not all. After our first ride, we were very literally the only guests left in the station. We moved from the front row to the back row and rode again (a few other people eventually made their way on before the ride dispatched).


Flying past the station, and the few buses that were at the park.


A nice overview of the second half of the ride, with the interlocking corkscrews.


Track and bolts, for those who are into that sort of thing.


Atop the vertical loop. Really nice hangtime up there.




A pleasant view of the Eiffel Tower. The weather looks so nice here, but in just an hour or two...


My first Togo credit!


Working the lift hill.


It's a nice-looking loop.


Peanuts topiaries!


With all our rides done and credits earned by just after 230 PM, it was time to head up there ^ .

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From the top of the Eiffel Tower...


An overview of the main entrance. Check out the parking lot -- an incredible lack of cars.


Dominator and nearby attractions.


Don't look down!


Volcano, Avalanche, and The Crypt.


I305, Shockwave, and others.


Drop Tower.


The midways look like a ghost town.


I305 crests the lift hill.


Whenever I see pictures from an observation deck, no one ever actually takes a picture /of/ the observation deck -- just the view! So, here's what it looks like up top.


Now, switching over to my zoom lens -- a few 250mm shots of the park. Here's the top of the closed-down WindSeeker tower.




Thank you for visiting! All six of you!


The things you can see extend well beyond the park. I just thought these distant power lines looked kind of neat.




Driving school.


Volcano in action.


I305 moving up the lift hill.


I305 way up high!


Yes, there actually appeared to be lines at the water park. With temperatures near 90 degrees, I sure wish I had time to go as well. Wasn't going to happen, though.




Aw crap, what's that? Time to get off the Eiffel Tower -- that's what.

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We left the park at about 3 PM and went to one of the hotels just north of the park, to get a good vantage point of the incoming storms. A line of strong-to-severe thunderstorms had developed and was moving toward the area, and by 3 PM, they were on the doorstep. The storms were bad news for SE Virginia, with wind damage reported all over the place. The strongest of the storms actually did not hit our location, as we were sort of in-between the stronger parts of the line. However, it did result in downpours and gusty winds, followed by steady rain for around 60-90 minutes.


While we were at the park, we asked a worker what their policy was in terms of closing down entirely due to weather. We were told that while the weather won't necessarily directly lead to a park closure, it's more about the number of guests still inside the turnstiles. If that number drops below a certain amount (we did not find out what amount that was), then the park will cease operations for the day. It wasn't tough to predict that would be a possibility, especially with the low crowds already in place.


While stopping for dinner just down I-95 a few miles, we watched KD's Twitter account for news, but nothing came through. So, we called the park's phone number, and they told us it would be closed for the rest of the day. Three minutes later, the park tweeted the information. So, our day was over -- a remarkably short day at the park, but still enormously successful.



Dark skies on the way out of the park.



Storm clouds getting closer.



Not much time left!



Heavy rain reaches Kings Dominion.



Sheets, buckets, cats and dogs; call it whatever you want. There it is behind the Eiffel Tower.



...and now so heavy you can't see the park, and that pretty much did it for our day.


Thus ends the trip report -- this was my first such topic here on TPR, but it won't be the last. I'm headed on the Texas/Midwest trip and should have two weeks worth of Iron Rattling, Outlaw Running, Gatekeeping fun -- and too many pictures to go along with it.


I have larger versions of these pictures (from both BGW and KD) hosted on my own server -- with lots more than I used here:






Thanks for reading.


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Great TR! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the rides and the pics were excellent! This might sound wacky, but I've got kind of a fascination with aerial park photos. Something about seeing a picture of the whole ride in one frame from up high makes me giddy!

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Great TR! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the rides and the pics were excellent! This might sound wacky, but I've got kind of a fascination with aerial park photos. Something about seeing a picture of the whole ride in one frame from up high makes me giddy!


Not wacky at all. I like aerial views in general, and when the subject is roller coasters, that's about as good as it gets!

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