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TR: Liam's first US visit (SFA, page 4!)


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I've been interested in theme parks and roller coasters for as long as I can remember. I have drawings of traveling fun fairs dating back to 1994 or 1995 and probably still have the Discovery Channel documentaries from the late 90's on video. The internet gave my hobby a huge boost around 2004-05 as I discovered the communities out there, and I was able to fit all the bits and pieces I knew from news papers and documentaries in a complete world view. I broadened my horizons over the years by visiting a couple of really cool theme parks in Europe. A large coaster-rich trip to the US became an ambition. After a few years, I discovered that I enjoy visiting theme parks in a casual way with non-enthusiasts much more than credit-whoring with other nerds, and that lead to my hobby faded to the background a little bit. I'd still stay up to date, and visit a theme park every now and then (mostly the Efteling), but nothing overly exciting.

 

Then I met my girlfriend last year. She really enjoys theme parks and lives in the right area, and suddenly it became an option to dig up that old dream of doing a US coaster trip and doing that in a casual way, thus combining my old and new way of experiencing my hobby. Admittedly the outlook of going to these parks did give my hobby a significant boost and I've been very enthusiastic lately. The schedule was a big puzzle, but the trip was happening and I couldn't be more happy. Busch Gardens, King's Dominion, Hershey Park and Six Flags America. Finally I would get to experience what I had seen on the Discovery Channel documentaries two decades ago. Very exciting and almost surreal.

 

So here we are. As I write this, I'm halfway through the trip, reflecting on the great times we had in Busch Gardens and King's Dominion. Reflecting meaning: sorting through the way too many pictures and writing down my experiences. I guess the best way to do that is to start at the beginning, which involved a four hour drive from Baltimore to Busch Gardens. We arrived around 12:30, much later than I had hoped. My life has been very stressful lately and what I wanted from this trip was stress-free fun, and being able to do everything that I wanted to do. Losing 2,5 hours was not a great start in that sense. Luckily, it turned out that we picked the right days to visit as the queues were very managable.

 

 

Apollo's Chariot teasingly runs along the parking lot.

 

 

Even past noon, there were still buses full of people being transported from the parking to the entrance. Made me nervous. The less people, the better. I really liked this bus system by the way, although not having these shuttle buses would've helped reducing obesity, of which there was plenty in Busch Gardens.

 

 

 

 

First thing we did was heading for the Italian area, with Apollo's Chariot and Tempesto. Apparantly the biggest crowds were still stuck elsewhere in the park, as we could get onto the coasters almost instantly.

 

 

#92: Apollo's Chariot - We were told that this one was best ridden in the back row. And so we did, and what we got was a great ride. The layout consists of mostly hills in a very nice landscape, with a big helix halfway through and a sudden s-bend towards the end. The bigger drops are quite powerful, the final drop being a surprise: it looks like you're entering the brakes already, but instead you're pulled into the deep one last time. For the rest it's just a very comfortable, friendly and pleasant ride - exactly how I like it. Nothing but love for Apollo's Chariot!

 

#93: Tempesto - Tempesto did not appeal to me at all. It's hideous and its design not very inspired, other than the triple launch. The triple launch was indeed the most fun part of the ride, especially the second, backwards launch. After that it's just going up and down a few times; the first drop from the top being very abrupt in a good way. Tempesto is fun for sure, but it has no place in a park like Busch Gardens.

 

 

Busch Gardens has some very pleasant theming at times. Sadly the theming usually involve shops and restaurants, while the actual rides remain quite bare.

 

 

 

Even then, the landscape made things pretty and interesting enough. In this setting the coasters don't need much theming. As we moved from Italy to Germany, we passed a bridge that offers an amazing view of all the coasters that lie ahead.

 

 

 

 

We skipped Verbolten for now because there was a decent queue, and swiftly got on Alpengeist. The one I remembered seeing on TV as a kid, and still a record breaking coaster after all this time. Truly a (personal) monument.

 

#94: Alpengeist - I've heard great stories about Alpengeist. The statistics are impressive. The setting is beautiful. The on-ride videos on youtube show an extremely fast paced ride. Can't go wrong, huh? It did not go wrong, but frankly I expected it to be better. Or rather, I guess that this style of ride is just not my cup of tea. The harsh transitions in the cobra roll, into the mid-course brake run and the corkscrew gave me a headache. On the other hand, having your feet dangle above 60 metres of nothing and then diving into a gorge with 110 km/h is just fantastic. I can see why people list Alpengeist as one of their favourites, but I had mixed feelings. The insane speed both makes and breaks the ride. Overall I really liked it though, of course. I'd happily replace any coaster in The Netherlands with Alpengeist (bar Goliath).

 

 

Between Germany and New France, there was yet another bridge with yet another great view of mostly Alpengeist.

 

 

 

 

In the background of the above picture you can see the latest addition to the park's line-up: InvadR. A family sized GCI wooden coaster that interestingly uses steel supports. Being the newest ride, this is where the queue was the longest. We waited about 45 minutes. As we had been spoiled with the queues so far, and knowing that this ride was the exception, we did not mind the wait.

 

#95: InvadR - Didn't blow me away, but it's only a small GCI anyway. The first drop was good.

 

Before doing InvadR we got food, and we hit another relatively long queue. I'd also never seen a queue area like this for a restaurant.

 

 

Food was being prepared before you, and it looked good and definitely above the average quality of theme park food.

 

 

We got barbecue chicken among some other things and my piece had quite a few bones. It's probably my clumsiness but I had a hard time making sense of it. It tasted fine though!

 

 

As we were eating the chicken in the shade of Griffon, we noticed that we hadn't seen a train fly by yet. It clearly broke down. Pity, but with still quite a lot of time ahead of us nothing to get overly stressed about. We decided to do InvadR first. This is also when I took my Griffon pictures, hence why there is no train in any of them. The weather did not help making the pictures seem less dead. Sadly, that's how the area felt with Griffon being out of order. None of the alright theming could fix that.

 

 

 

...An hour later, Griffon was up and running again and we got into the queue.

 

#96: Griffon - What a huge contraption this is. 63 metres up, and 63 metres down, vertically. Through an inversion, up again, and down again, again vertically. Both drops were absolutely great and the rest of the track is very enjoyable thanks to its speed. One downside: the obnoxious and slightly arrogant lady in the station who would not shut up trying to entertain the guests by talking about crap and sometimes herself too. Just shut up. It's surprising that none of her co-workers confiscated the microphone from her. I would not want to work with her for a whole day, a few minutes listening to her screeching was enough for me. If I ever get diagnosed with ear cancer I'll know where I got it.

 

Moving on, we crossed the river we saw earlier, this time not on the tall bridge with the amazing views, but on the docks underneath our next stop Loch Ness Monster.

 

 

 

That's a lot of steel.

 

 

#97: Loch Ness Monster - Once the tallest coaster in the world, now a mediocre coaster that only stands out because of its unique appearance. There's nothing wrong with it though, it's a fun coaster for sure. Halfway through the ride there is an indoor helix that seems to never end - that caught me off guard. Nice I suppose. I hope Busch Gardens continues to preserve this coaster, better than what they did with Big Bad Wolf.

 

 

As I said, obesity. There was a lot of that in Busch Gardens. Tons of people in electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters, other people struggling to walk, including children with bouncing manboobs. Boyboobs? It's very sad.

 

 

We were almost back at the entrance, and decided to go around the park again, getting some more rides on our favourite coasters and doing all the rides we skipped in our first round, such as...

 

#98: Grover's Alpine Express - No pictures of this one, but it's not too interesting to look at anyway. It's pink, slightly over 7 metres tall, consists of two helices, and that's pretty much it. Perfectly fine for a kiddy coaster, and very welcome in Busch Gardens amidst all the big coaster violence.

 

 

Even though Escape from Pompeii is supposedly not very wet and well themed, we skipped it to leave for time for the coasters. I can say that it's a very pretty ride from the outside, though!

 

 

We got some more rides on Apollo. Across from Apollo's Chariot is a basketball court game, in which you get 40 seconds to score as many points as you can. I detest games in theme parks, but this was actually a lot of fun to watch.

 

 

 

We had only a few rides left to do, among which was Verbolten.

 

#99: Verbolten - As I hinted at before, I'm sad to find Verbolten at a spot where I could've found the iconic Big Bad Wolf a few years ago. Verbolten is not quite as charismatic from the outside and the name annoys me. But how about the ride? I cannot compare Verbolten to its predecessor, but I can judge whether it is a good ride in its own right. And fortunately, it is. Verbolten is a very dynamic ride, with multiple launches, a good mix of drops and turns, an indoor section, and a surprising freefall that was way more fun than I anticipated. Like Apollo's Chariot, 'fun' is the main keyword here. I approve!

 

 

We also got to do the Curse of DarKastle, a pretty spectacular dark ride that can be best described as a classic simulator ride, but on wheels, with 3d projections, and real scenes and effects. The rides takes you into a cursed castle where you area attacked by wolves and statues and other scary stuff, as well as the shape-shifting Prince Ludwig who does not quite appreciate your visit. Things escalate and the fight gets taken outside where you fly through and around the castle with towers crashing down around you and all in all it's rather spectacular. Short, but intense. Definitely a must-ride!

 

We ended the day with some extra rides on Alpengeist and Griffon, again with laughably short queues, actually shorter than ever as people were leaving the park.

 

 

I'm somewhere on that front row. This is the only picture that I have where you can actually somewhat see how f**king massive this ride is.

 

Fulfilled and exhausted, we also started heading for the exit. As the final ride of the day, we got onto the Skyride that did not take us closer to the entrance as I thought. The view was good though, so at least in my experience it was worth the extra long walk.

 

 

 

 

This is what a Brexit looks like, I guess.

 

 

 

Extremely English! NOT. For a park that pretends to have a Europe theme, the theming is very poorly done. I don't think that anyone who designed for this park actually ever left the country, or had any sense of geography as theme areas include Canada and Sesame Street (??), the latter including a ride that references the Alps. While (pseudo-)Germany sits on the other side of the park with another Alpine-themed ride. At the same time, there were tiny bits of China, India and the Caribbean to be found in the middle of the main areas. Invad(e)R sits in Canada, but has a Viking invasion theme that may have fit better in England than in Canada. 'Verbolten' is gibberish and has a non-sensical horror theme (excellent queue and station though, must be said). The park spends good money on an Italian theme with pretty architecture, but the station sits in a glorified rainbow-coloured tent. Let's not talk about Tempesto at all.

 

Don't worry, the questionable theming did not actually ruin my day. Not quite. Rides were good, food was good, crowds were good, weather was not rainy, and at the end we were treated with an amazing sunset over the parking lot.

 

 

 

 

All in all, Busch Gardens is a great park that I highly recommend and would visit again.

Edited by Liampie
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Great review so far. I love to hear from an actual European that BGWs themeing sucks and is nothing like actual Europe, especially given how much praise it generally receives around here.

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Great report so far! Some really good photos. Love the tearing into the themeing! Haha.

 

I personally love this park because of all the amazing landscaping and how well tree-covered it is, and how great most of the their coasters are, not so much for the themeing.

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Nice to see you posting over here Liam!

 

I still think it's hilarious that as a European coming to America and visiting American parks for the first time you decided to make your first American theme park a park themed to Europe (and Canada, I never got that either but I love that area of the park anyway). Glad you had fun!

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Thanks for the replies guys!

 

I personally love this park because of all the amazing landscaping and how well tree-covered it is, and how great most of the their coasters are, not so much for the themeing.

 

It's hard to argue with that! The ride line-up is fantastic. The landscape, with all the slopes and waters, is very appealing. There were a ton of bridges and I thought that was really cool. Not sure what my favourite park from this trip was, but Gusch Gardens is a very good candidate. Love to come back sometime.

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Nice report. By reading your report, there's a definite correlation between not wanting to be an enthusiast nerd and meeting your girlfriend. The obesity comments made me laugh. Welcome to America where 2/3rds of the country is overweight.

 

I'm looking forward to more reports.

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Great report! Glad you enjoyed the park. It really is one of the USA's best parks so it's great you started with it. I'm interested to hear your thoughts on Six Flags America when you get to that one...

 

Having just visited Europe for the first time last month, I actually think the German section is very well done and I saw several villages over there that made me feel like I was at Busch Gardens. I do agree that the English section is laughable to say the least though.

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As I said, obesity. There was a lot of that in Busch Gardens. Tons of people in electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters, other people struggling to walk, including children with bouncing manboobs. Boyboobs? It's very sad.

 

Like Prozach said - Welcome to America.

 

While there are certainly a lot of Americans that are just plain lazy and don't get enough proper exercise or watch their diet, I feel that a lot of the obesity epidemic is what the FDA allows food manufacturers to add into their ingredients - a lot of which are banned in Europe and other continents. It's pretty sad when we have to practically read the labels on just about everything we buy at the market anymore, because even things that can be touted as "healthy" can sometimes be misleading.

 

When I was growing up, there were no morbidly obese people. Overweight yes, but it was pretty rare to see someone that topped 250 pounds. Now it is very concerning to see some of the folks out there that are tipping the scale at well over 300...and it is sad no matter what the cause.

 

It's interesting that you made that observation because I mentioned to my partner during our visits to Europe that you don't see nearly as many obese people...and it was extremely rare to see morbidly obese people (like you see riding on the scooters).

 

And if you think that there were a lot of obese people at BGE, go visit Dollywood and watch people practically stampeding to the scooter rental place at rope drop...it was crazy, sad and somehow strangely comical all at the same time.

 

Also wanted to mention that your photos were fantastic. As I mentioned in coasterbill's report - any trip report of BGE or BGT is a win in my book because they are two of my favorite parks. I agree that the theming in some of the countries is a bit "off", but it is still one of the most beautiful parks in the US.

 

Thanks for posting!

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While there are certainly a lot of Americans that are just plain lazy and don't get enough proper exercise or watch their diet, I feel that a lot of the obesity epidemic is what the FDA allows food manufacturers to add into their ingredients - a lot of which are banned in Europe and other continents. It's pretty sad when we have to practically read the labels on just about everything we buy at the market anymore, because even things that can be touted as "healthy" can sometimes be misleading.

 

I know. I definitely think that health is ultimately everyone's own responsibility, the US with its questionable regulations and lack thereof has definitely lowered the bar for people to live unhealthy. It's so sad. I wish your country would wake up. There's a lot of potential going to waste.

 

And if you think that there were a lot of obese people at BGE, go visit Dollywood and watch people practically stampeding to the scooter rental place at rope drop...it was crazy, sad and somehow strangely comical all at the same time.

I enjoy watching strange social phenomenons and this certainly sounds like one.

 

Also wanted to mention that your photos were fantastic. As I mentioned in coasterbill's report - any trip report of BGE or BGT is a win in my book because they are two of my favorite parks. I agree that the theming in some of the countries is a bit "off", but it is still one of the most beautiful parks in the US.

For sure, the prettiest park of the four I've seen! Glad you like the photos.

 

Thanks for the report and photos! I love BGW, it's one of my favorites, but I can understand the points you make as well. I'm curious how the other parks you visited will compare...

 

You'll find out very soon!

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Yesterday I popped my American coaster cherry in Busch Gardens Williamsburg, to great satisfaction. Today was all about King's Dominion, a park less oriented at families, with less theming and focus on atmosphere, dominated by (twelve) roller coasters in sizes ranging from insignificant to top tier monstrosity. A very different experience from Busch Gardens, for sure.

 

After visiting Busch Gardens the day before, my girlfriend and I drove to a hotel that is right across from King's Dominion. Looking out the window, we could admire a good portion of the King's Dominion skyline. We had a great sleep, and woke up early to loot the breakfast that was included in our stay. Poorly dressed people queueing for their turn with the waffle machine, and frantically looking to find the muffins before they're all gone, complaining about the quality of the orange juice, it was an amazing experience.

 

 

 

After breakfast, we went to visit the park. I smuggled muffins in my bag. We were too late for the anthem that they play when the park opens, but early enough to do the rides that supposedly get the largest queues first: Volcano, Flight of Fear, and Back Lot Stunt Coaster.

 

#100: Volcano, the Blast Coaster - Because the coaster looks absolutely retarded, I did not think Volcano would be as awesome as it turned out to be. It seems retarded and awesome are not mutually exclusive! The launches (plural!) are very powerful, the barrel rolls high up in the sky are a ton of fun, the ride is smooth and comfortable, and even though the interior of the volcano consisting of nothing but a steel support structure is an anticlimax and ugly as fuck, the supports serve as effective leg choppers and also give you a good sense of orientation and scale. The ending is very abrupt and it seems like they ran out of money to add more track - with the speed here, the ride could've been longer. The ride being themed on the outside and around the queue (very nice theming actually) and being maximally minimal on the inside also hints at the money well running dry. Doesn't matter, we had a blast with Volcano. Pun kinda intended but not entirely.

 

 

 

 

#101: Flight of Fear - An indoor spaghetti bowl coaster (a knot of track basically. Whenever I put my earbuds in my pocket and then take them out, they always look like the layout of Flight of Fear. That's how the people at Premier Rides may have designed this coaster.) with a science fiction/aliens theme. The queue is very nice and spooky, with UFO-like interiors, men in protective suits, neon lights and and aliens in glass tubes. The ride launches (not very powerfully) from the station into the spaghetti bowl. King's Dominion ran out of money again and the coaster's hall is nothing but steel and coloured lights. Still fun, and frankly I lost track of what was up or down and whatever. It was a very nice coaster overall, but it left us a bit dizzy.

 

#102: Back Lot Stunt Coaster - Another lauched Premier coaster! This time the ride is more gentle and family-oriented. Trains are shaped like mini cars, in reference to the Italian Job movie that this ride was originally themed after (I recommend watching the movie! The original with Michael Caine that is, I wouldn't bother with the remake). First element of the ride, after a fun launch is an upwards helix that never seems to end. The ride them takes you through a parking garage, a metro tunnel, a harbour area evading police cars and a helicopter, and through a billboard. Nothing too exciting, but definitely fun!

 

 

After these three, we took a short break and walked to another area of the park. Here we found three coasters: Rebel Yell, a racing wooden roller coaster, Ricochet, a wild mouse, and Hurler, a wooden coaster that is currently being dismantled/under construction. I say both because the track is literally being dismantled on one side while RMC is already laying down new track on the other. They're not wasting any time with this transformation it seems. Hurler did not seem very interesting on the videos I've watched, so it didn't feel like we missed out on anything. We can always come back in a few years to do the RMC.

 

#103 (Blue) & #110 (Red): Rebel Yell - Sadly, it appeared that only one half of the coaster would run today, so no racing. There isn't much to say about Rebel Yell. What you see is what you get: a lot of hills. It was fun. The one thing that stood out was the tunnel at the end: it's loud. Later during the day, the other half of the coaster opened anyway and we rode it too.

 

After Rebel Yell, we went on the ferris wheel to get a nice view of (this portion of) the park.

 

 

 

 

 

#104: Ricochet - The first wild mouse I've done with a layout that is not rectangular: this one has a lift and drop separate from the usual stuff. Didn't make for a very distinctive ride anyway, but it's nice I guess. The ride was very smooth, and we both enjoyed it very much.

 

 

For a view superior to the Ferris Wheel's, the park has its own Eiffel Tower semi-replica. Not quite as tall, but still almost 100 metres. We would climb it later during the day.

 

 

We got deeper into the park and found another wooden roller coaster: Grizzly. We tried to walk the dinosaur trail 'Dinosaurs Alive' first, but it turned out that you had to pay 5 dollars per person. For a fucking walking trail. No. We also contemplated going on the log flume which seemed to be not very wet, but that decision was made for us as the ride broke down in front of us.

 

#105: Grizzly - A mediocre woodie that became bad because of one little bump somewhere that my ribs did not appreciate. It's no surprise that the station was almost empty - which did not keep the ride operator from beat boxing and singing to his stoic co-workers and wishing the few riders a great ride on 'Dominator'. I don't like obnoxious ride operators but this one brought genuine good vibes.

 

 

As we did all the mediocre rides the park has to offer, we started moving to the area of the park that has all the major roller coasters. First, we would encounter the smallest roller coaster that we were still able to ride, situated in the Planet Snoopy area of the park.

 

#106: Woodstock Express - Very nice woodie for children.

 

 

Behind the Woodstock Express, the park's sole B&M can be found: Dominator. It has a nice layout with not just a string of inversions, but lots of (high speed) turns as well. Its looping is I believe one of the biggest loopings in existence. I expected this coaster would be among my favourites of the day.

 

#107: Dominator - Tall, fast, powerful inversions, quite smooth, some airtime, this coaster is a quite traditional looper but does it well. The first drop and the looping are especially awesome. This is a coaster I wanted to do and did multiple times in a row!

 

Since Dominator is built on what seems to be the former parking lot, there are literally no trees around, making the track look extra sexy against a clear blue sky wherever you look. Half the pictures I took in the park, I took here.

 

 

 

I think it's great how the looping is yellow, with the rest of the coaster being orange. Beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three coasters in a row!

 

 

Despite Dominator's awesomeness and it being the most visible coaster in the park (at least from outside the park), the true main ride in the park is Intimidator 305. A truly intimidating coaster that we heard intimidating stories about. Since we weren't a huge fan of Alpengeist the day before, with similarly a lot of abrupt direction changes, we were kinda intimidated. It's good that before boarding it, after the quite intense Dominator, we got to rest for a bit in the well hidden shooter dark ride Boo Blasters. Perhaps hidden too well, as there were barely any people despite the ride being fun. It was cheaply made though, all the scenery in the ride was two-dimensional. Probably not cardboard, but it was cheap for sure. We did the ride twice, and I scored the most points every time! Tip: aim for the bottles, ignore the rest.

 

 

And then... we mustered all our courage and got to THE ride.

 

#108: Intimidator 305 - Insanity. Notorious for bringing each rider at least close to blacking out, its impressive statistics and the super fast transitions between turns. The view from Intimidator is incredible, but there is little time to process it as the ride throws you 90 metres down into a very wide flat turn, curving up towards the end. This takes multiple seconds. During the first few seconds I was disappointed that I did not feel myself blacking out, but surprisingly this came during the upwards curbing part. I did not lose my vision or consciousness, but things definitely got a little blurry. What then follows is a few hills big and small, but mostly a collection of flat to the ground turns with very tight transitions that throw you from left to right in the blink of an eye. Remember that the train just came from a 90 metre drop, and you can imagine why I called this ride 'insanity'. The transitions are... intense. Once the ride hit the final brakes, I was slightly relieved. I felt dizzy for a few minutes after and the other rides seemed to share the same sentiment. Funnily enough, if you pay attention, you can see people bumping into each other and into poles and fences more than usual around the ride exit. Everyone is dizzy and it's a good thing that the fences have railings here. YET, I wanted to do the ride again. And again. And again. The ride does not become incomfortable anywhere. The huge drop and the quite insane airtime on the hills are super addicting. The unthinkable happened, and after twelve years of no changes, my top 3 coasters has finally been cracked by Intimidator. I don't think I've done any roller coaster that I loved more than Intimidator, except for Air. Intimidator now sits at my #2 spot, in front of my old pal Nemesis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#109: Avalanche - A good coaster to cool down from Intimidator; a Mack bobsled coaster. I hadn't done any Mack Bobsled before, and the Bobbaan at the Efteling does not seem to be very similar. A new experience, in short. And I must say that it positively surprised me! The lack of drops and interesting elements always looked boring on POV videos, but in reality the ride was faster than I expected and sliding through the turns was a lot of fun. Another positive surprise!

 

 

We got chicken from Panda Express and ice water. Whatever you order, you can always get a cup of free ice water, One of the great things about this country. Sadly my girlfriend knocked one of our cups over. Gave me wet pants and a pretty scene.

 

 

We had done almost all the rides we wanted to do by now, so we took the elevator up the gigantic Eiffel Tower knock-off that sits in the centre of the park, offering us a great 360 degree view of the park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Anaconda, the last coaster we hadn't done yet. We would go there after re-riding Ricochet (secretly my girlfriend's favourite!), the ferris wheel, and the red half of Rebel Yell which I covered earlier.

 

 

#111: Anaconda - Again, we had been scared off by tales of this coaster giving you terrible headaches. One of the tips I received for the park was that there is a store near the ride exit that sells aspirin. The ride actually wasn't bad though! The only truly uncomfortable part was the final brake, which felt like coming to an instant stop by hitting a brick wall. We both enjoyed the coaster and even considered riding it again, were it not for our remaining time in the park being limited - time I'd rather spend on some more rides on Intimidator.

 

 

 

My girlfriend politely refused more rides on Intimidator, but I went for it. The queue was very short and I even managed to get the front seat in mere minutes by negotiating with the other people in line. What surprised me about the front seat was the wind. It was LOUD and uncomfortable. Intimidator definitely is a back-seat coaster.

 

After saying goodbye to my new #2 coaster, we headed for the park exit passing Dominator. I took more pictures of the coaster against the start of the sunset, Seeing that the queue was insanely short bordering on non-existent, I went for a final ride as well. And then two more, sneaking past my girlfriend who was more than ready to drive back home at this point. No regrets though. Dominator also deserved a proper goodbye.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The couple pictured is not us, hence why I censored their faces in a innovative way.

 

 

Bordering on nausea and a headache, as a result of the very high temperature and the coaster marathon at the end, we left the park around 8:30. I could've stayed longer, but I was satisfied anyway. King's Dominion exceeded my expectations a bit, its ugliness and minimal style was compensated by the park being very neat and clean, and very green in places too. The people were not as trashy as we expected, the staff was fine, and the food kept us happy.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------

 

I forgot to do this in my Busch Gardens trip report, but it's not too late to start doing it now: my coaster rankings and how they changed during my trip. My top 10s have been stagnant for a huge amount of time, but now they're full of new coasters and I still have two parks to go. It's very exciting!

 

Top 10 Steel

Air

Intimidator 305 (NEW)

Nemesis

Goliath

Apollo's Chariot (NEW)

Griffon (NEW)

Black Mamba

Speed Monster

Dominator (NEW)

Superman / la Attracción de Acero

(Notable exclusions: Volcano (#11), Verbolten (#14), Alpengeist (#15))

 

Top 10 Wood

Troy

Rutschebanen

Joris en de Draak (Water)

Joris en de Draak (Vuur)

Thundercoaster

InvadR (NEW)

Coaster Express

Rebel Yell (Blue) (NEW)

Rebel Yell (Red) (NEW)

Robin Hood

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Poorly dressed people queueing for their turn with the waffle machine, and frantically looking to find the muffins before they're all gone, complaining about the quality of the orange juice, it was an amazing experience.

 

Again...welcome to America. Seriously, this is the way a LOT of people act here now unfortunately - constant complaining about everything with little emphasis put into a friendly demeanor, cleanliness, polite manners and/or decent appearance.

 

It just seems like there are so many people in America that are unhappy and just generally like to complain about everything. I liked the way you put it in that this country has a lot of potential, and it's just sad to see that entitlement, greed and general lack of respect for other human beings is becoming more and more of the norm these days.

 

Speaking to hotel breakfasts, personally we know what to expect from American continental breakfasts so we will usually skip them and Yelp a good nearby restaurant so that we can enjoy a better breakfast. If you're in a hurry and don't mind grab & go items, the hotel breakfast's will work just fine. But I would rather do a nice, sit-down breakfast that will hold my hunger in check until later in the day at a theme park.

 

Those are some great photos once again! My opinions about the coasters at KD are about the same as yours. I305 seemed almost too intense for us the first time we rode it before the re-profile, but it has since shot into my Top 3 during our past few visits when I was able to go 3-4 times in a row with little wait times. I agree that I prefer the back to the front - such an exhilarating ride!

 

Eagerly awaiting your future reports/updates!

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Your photos are gorgeous. KD is my home park, which I visit quite often, but you made it look prettier than normal.

 

Glad to see you enjoyed your trip to the two Virginia parks! I'm going to jump on the 'back-is-better-than-front' in terms of where to sit on I305. I love the front row, which I enjoy more at night. But the back is a whole other beast. You have to ride it twice to get the different experience. I'm also glad to see someone else who enjoys Apollo's Chariot as much as I do.

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[

 

While there are certainly a lot of Americans that are just plain lazy and don't get enough proper exercise or watch their diet, I feel that a lot of the obesity epidemic is what the FDA allows food manufacturers to add into their ingredients - a lot of which are banned in Europe and other continents. It's pretty sad when we have to practically read the labels on just about everything we buy at the market anymore, because even things that can be touted as "healthy" can sometimes be misleading.

 

When I was growing up, there were no morbidly obese people. Overweight yes, but it was pretty rare to see someone that topped 250 pounds. Now it is very concerning to see some of the folks out there that are tipping the scale at well over 300...and it is sad no matter what the cause.

I knew I liked you Phil, but now I'm an even bigger fan!

 

Processed foods are killing us, which is why I eat almost completely whole foods, aside from the cheat meal or so per week, which I usually combined with a few beers. I end up feeling like crap for days if I go too hard on the crappy food. I also avoid dairy and bread whenever possible. I've been eating this way for years, as I changed my lifestyle, instead of failed dieting.

 

The sad part is that I intentionally bulk for my job, as a safety factor. I'm still usually around 12(summer)-18%(intentional winter bulking) body fat and between 175-180lbs and I work out almost every single day, either resistance, short intense cardio, or extended cardio with ice hockey. It's a constant struggle to stay at that weight and if I stop eating healthy food like a horse, which is tiring, my body naturally wants to revert back to 155-160 lbs, which is where I was a little over a year ago. I just can't afford to be at that weight with my occupation.

 

I guess my point is that even technically 5 or so pounds over the normal BMI (which is subjective for body fat percentage), I still constantly get called "skinny," due to America's skewed view of acceptable weight range. People look at me like crazy when I tell them that I'm technically intentionally a few pounds overweight. It's frustrating, but I feel that eating healthy with the occasional splurge meal or two per week has kept me looking young and feeling good. It's frightening how many people in this country are overweight and they have no idea due to the social norm and living in a society that practically endorses obesity and unhealthy living.

 

Speaking or eating being tiring... While typing this I just ate a four egg scrambler with quinoa, green onion, and bell pepper mixed in with homemade vinaigrette dressing, a mashed up avocado on the side, and a large salad with healthy greens and nuts. I'll eat again in a few hours... I'm so FFFFFing tired of eating.

 

Sorry to jump off topic. Great reports so far. I'm looking forward to more observations about American irony. Don't hold back!

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Hey, Liam! Thanks for supplying the report. There's a lot to enjoy in it, but to me, parts of your commentary come off as being a little bit condescending.

 

Things like families just trying to get breakfast at the hotel not being dressed to your standards, Volcano looking retarded, King's Dominion being marked by ugliness and a minimalist style, Busch Gardens being themed incorrectly and having obese people, Tempesto being hideous, a ride operator trying to be entertaining needing to just shut up, and seeing fat children and wheelchairs and scooters and people who couldn't walk well, etc., all just seems collectively harsh. You say that the guests at King's Dominion weren't as trashy as you expected [sic] -- but if you expected trashy people for some reason at a fine regional park, then I feel like you're just looking for evidence that fits a narrative of dumpy American stereotypes.

 

You'll find those, no doubt, but talk to a few people in friendly settings, even if it's just a simple smile and "good morning" to some of the adults that you see in passing at your next hotel breakfast. You'll might not get a great reception all the time, but you'd be surprised by how friendly and warm some people can be. There's a lot of character in the U.S. that you will miss if you only judge appearances.

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Well, it was only a matter of time before someone got offended.

 

Liam, I personally think almost all of your observations are absolutely spot on!

 

Signed,

An American.

 

P.S. Still loving this report. Great photos and fantastic commentary. Bring on the rest!

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Speaking to hotel breakfasts, personally we know what to expect from American continental breakfasts so we will usually skip them and Yelp a good nearby restaurant so that we can enjoy a better breakfast. If you're in a hurry and don't mind grab & go items, the hotel breakfast's will work just fine. But I would rather do a nice, sit-down breakfast that will hold my hunger in check until later in the day at a theme park.

To be honest, ironically, American 'cuisine' like this breakfast is right up my alley. The junkfood aspect of this trip was almost as important to me as the theme park aspect. I'm perfectly fine with a breakfast of malformed waffles, watery apple juice and and dense muffins!

 

I'm looking forward to more observations about American irony. Don't hold back!

Don't worry, I won't.

 

Hey, Liam! Thanks for supplying the report. There's a lot to enjoy in it, but to me, parts of your commentary come off as being a little bit condescending.

 

Things like families just trying to get breakfast at the hotel not being dressed to your standards, Volcano looking retarded, King's Dominion being marked by ugliness and a minimalist style, Busch Gardens being themed incorrectly and having obese people, Tempesto being hideous, a ride operator trying to be entertaining needing to just shut up, and seeing fat children and wheelchairs and scooters and people who couldn't walk well, etc., all just seems collectively harsh. You say that the guests at King's Dominion weren't as trashy as you expected [sic] -- but if you expected trashy people for some reason at a fine regional park, then I feel like you're just looking for evidence that fits a narrative of dumpy American stereotypes.

 

You'll find those, no doubt, but talk to a few people in friendly settings, even if it's just a simple smile and "good morning" to some of the adults that you see in passing at your next hotel breakfast. You'll might not get a great reception all the time, but you'd be surprised by how friendly and warm some people can be. There's a lot of character in the U.S. that you will miss if you only judge appearances.

 

Hello! Thanks for you reply, I'm glad you spoke up. Discussion is good and fun.

 

Firstly I'd like to state that this is an account of my personal experience going to the US and these theme parks. And I often play the role of devil's advocate: I look around me, I see things, I form an opinion, and I write it down in reports like these. Especially when going abroad, I love to spot the little cultural differences that others might miss. For example, the way people dress themselves when going to a theme park. I never thought about it, I never saw anyone mention it, but the difference between the US and parks around here caught my eye. Since this is a website about theme parks (it even mentions 'review' in the name), discussing these observations is relevant. I definitely see how it can come off as condescending, but that's simply a result of most of these observations being a tad negative/skeptical. If Busch Gardens has weird theming, I'm going to mention it. And I'm not going to water any of it down to be more politically correct. Also, small sidenote, not every observation is a judgment. This attitude works both ways though. I will find the flaws in the good stuff, and the virtues in the bad. Behind my cynical and sarcastic tone, I'm very open minded. As I said, the devil's advocate is a role. I'm not going through life bashing everything left and right of me! And I'm definitely not going to let all those observations negatively affect my experiences, except where it's intrusive (the obnoxious lady).

 

Lastly, my expectation of King's Dominion having a trashy crowd was actually given to me by Americans.

 

 

 

 

Will post Hersheypark soon! Thanks for the replies everyone, really makes writing these reports worthwhile.

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The third park of my trip was Hersheypark; perhaps the park that I had the highest expectations of, and the one that my girlfriend considers her 'home park'. Not an overly designed park like Busch Gardens, not stripped down to the core of steel and concrete like King's Dominion, but somewhere inbetween. Relatively straightforward, but with character, and a rich coaster line-up. That was what I expected, and that's what I got.

 

As usual, we first headed to the ride that could otherwise give us a long queue later during the day. Thus Fahrenheit, the rather unique Intamin looper from 2007, was our first coaster of the day!

 

#112: Fahrenheit - I remember the track being orange, but it's more yellow nowadays. Either way, it's a pretty quirky one-of-a-kind ride; it does not feature any unique features, but the combination of elements such as the 97 degree drop, the short trains and the weird inversions do make it unique. They could've done without the vertical lift - that wasn't too comfortable - but the rest of the ride was a very enjoyable mix of inversions, turns and hills, all taken smoothly. It doesn't win any awards but it's a fine coaster to start the day with.

 

 

 

 

Since we were almost at the back of the park, and we saw that the park was being flooded by families with little children, we decided to do the rest of this area of the park, consisting of almost exclusively family-friendly rides. The first coaster we encountered here was Wild Mouse. Unsurprisingly, a wild mouse ride.

 

#113: Wild Mouse - Can't go wrong with these.

 

 

Across from the Wild Mouse was Wildcat. The connection between the two seems obvious but I did not connect the dots until it was there. Hersheypark interestingly has three GCIs, and Wildcat is the oldest of the bunch, having been installed in 1996.

 

#114: Wildcat - Luckily I did some research before visiting the park, and I knew I should not expect the typical good GCI experience from Wildcat, despite the typical GCI layout and pretty looks. As we walked through the queue, we saw an Amish family exiting the ride. They looked happy enough, so it can't be a disaster, right? It wasn't a disaster but one ride was definitely enough for me. Wildcat is disposable, sadly. Unless they manage to get rid of the roughness.

 

 

Next to Wildcat was Laff Trakk - an indoor spinning wild mouse. We already saw quite a queue and decided to skip it. Over the course of the day, the queue stayed around the same length (or longer) and after informing one of the staff members there it turned out to be a 40 minute and over queue. We did not do Laff Trakk. I doubt we missed much.

 

 

Passing over Laff Trakk, in the remotest part of the park, are the other two GCI's, collectively known as Lightning Racer. As the name implies, it's a racing coaster: thunder against lightning. We did Thunder first, and then Lightning. They were obviously very similar.

 

 

#115 & #116: Lightning Racer - Finally some GCI worthy action! As the name implies, this coaster consists of two track that race each other. Rather than running side by side the whole time, the two halves have a different layout. The lifthill and first elements are nicely offset, the trains split up every now and then to meet again later going in opposite directions. It's a wild ride and great fun, unlike Wildcat this is a coaster you would want to ride multiple times in a row.

 

 

We found it quite absurd that they're advertising good dental care in a theme park with a candy theme. The fact that they're advertising dental care in a theme park at all is absurd enough. So much advertising in general.

 

 

Except for the ferris wheel, we did all the coasters in this end of the park, so we started moving back towards the entrance half of the park. The first coaster we encountered was one of the main rides of the park.

 

#117: Stormrunner - This coaster has a good reputation, but it's also well known to look kinda ugly. I didn't know what to expect, and I guess that really benefitted the experience because it was awesome. The launch was very powerful, possibly the greatest launch I've ever experienced. The two elements that follow are nice I guess, and mostly offer a nice view of the park. Then things get really interesting again as the coaster heads into the ugly looking part. It feels like two simple barrel rolls, except that in the second barrel roll the train suddenly accelerates and you get pulled down with great force. It's brilliant.

 

 

 

#118: Sidewinder - The last time I did a boomerang was probably... 2004? I know that I wasn't too impressed by it back then, but I couldn't recall what the sensation was like either. I didn't know what to expect from Sidewinder. I didn't like it. Shaky inversions, headache inducing forces, and not much positive to make up for that.

 

 

Under Storm Runner, there's a quite cozy, hilly green area with a western theme, home to the kid-friendly mine train Trailblazer. We skipped it for now.

 

 

 

Stormrunner was the first great coaster of the day and we wanted more. And we found more.

 

 

#119: Great Bear - An inverted coaster with a curious design. Whereas most roller coasters end with a helix, Great Bear starts with a helix, high up in the air. It's more forceful than it looks, so great unique start there. What follows is a drop that's also more impressive than expected, and a good sequence of the usual elements (along with a weird straight section inbetween). The second half of the ride is curious again. The hydrophobe coasters designers were anxious to not let the coaster or its supports touch the river anywhere, while the coaster has to run over and along the river to get back to the station, resulting in a weirdly stretched out layout with its supports being awkwardly wrapped around the river. It's like they built half the coaster without a plan for the second half, and then MacGyvered the rest. It does not take away from the ride experience though, in fact the weird supports make for some nice leg choppers. Great Bear is loads of fun. I love it.

 

 

 

Across the 'river' from Great Bear is the area that Hersheypark likes to call 'The Hollow'; a an area that is very atmospheric purely through being walled in by numerous carefully tangled and stacked rides. The area offers a great view of Great Bear that sits on a hill, with its inversions in the foreground. Buried underneath are a log flume and a classic Schwarzkopf coaster. On the other side of the area sits the old wooden coaster Comet, built in 1946. Comet is dwarved by Skyrush, the 2012 coaster that is built on top. Coasters to the left, to the right, behind and in front of you. Chairlift over your head. The hollow is lovely.

 

#120: Sooperdooperlooper - One of the oldest coasters in the park, a Schwarzkopf from 1977 with one of the oldest loopings you will find in the world. It's an honour to ride such a classic ride, and it's also a pleasure, for the ride still holds up. Maybe not on the level of Storm Runner and Great Bear, but it's definitely fun and I hope Hersheypark will preserve this one. Name included.

 

 

#121: Skyrush - Kin to Intimidator 325, the insane coaster that became my personal #2 after 12 years of no change in my list of favourites, Skyrush was the coaster I had been looking forward to most. It's not as tall as Intimidator, sitting at 'only' 61 metres, reaching a speed of 'only' 121 km/h. The colours are beautiful: light yellow track on soft blue supports. They're not trying to scare you with promises of blood, violence, agressive animals and intimidation as other American theme parks like to do so much, trying to make coasters seem 'badass'. This goes for all the coasters in Hershey Park actually; they pick their names with class. Anyway, if any coaster deserves an agressive name it might be this one. The ride, which is very fast and shaky, causes the lap bar (more like a thigh bar, it's that low) to become tighter and tigher until you can feel the bloodflow stop. 'Tourniquet' could be a fitting ride name. I rode the coaster backseat for the first time and the ride did not offer enough good stuff to compensate the rather uncomfortable restraints. Later I did the coaster in the front and oh god what a difference! This coaster went from 'disappointingly not in my top 10' to 'one of my all time favourites' simply by having a better seat. It's not even about the view, it just feels different here. Intimidator was mostly about tight turns and height, Skyrush is more about the airtime which is fucking insane. I didn't care about these fucking restraints any more after being catapulted into orbit twenty times in a row. If the ride was a smooth as it should've been (it was built in 2012, not 1912) it would've beat Intimidator for sure, and who knows what else... New restraints would also be welcome. Anyway, Skyrush is amazing. A flawed masterpiece.

 

 

 

Our first ride on Skyrush left us battered, bruised and hungry. We took a break, and since we were in the entrance area of the park we decided to check out the chocolate factory experience that lies outside the park boundaries, featuring a dark ride.

 

 

We hit one of the larger queues of the day here (about 25 minutes?), but the queue consists of different rooms, and everywhere there is a lot of history and trivia to read, and they also take your picture. It's a nice queue. The ride itself shows you how Hershey's chocolate is made, from the cocoa bean harvest to the packaging. There's a screen in your vehicle with an annoying woman with an annoying overly enthusiastic voice telling you what's going on - although the Hershey mascots who are features in some of the scenes will take over that role every now and then. It's not a very high quality dark ride but it's a very high quality factory experience, and at the end we knew more about chocolate than before. At the exit we also received a small Hershey bar for free. I heard American chocolate tastes lake vomit, which is not a metaphor because they actually share some chemical. I was eager to try it and sadly I had to confirm that at least Hershey's chocolate leaves the taste of vomit in your mouth. I get sick even thinking back about it. I had to throw the bar out, I did not enjoy it. Sorry Hershey, cultural differences.

 

Back to where we left off... The Hollow.

 

 

 

#122: Comet - Built in 1946, this coaster is a true classic. It looks pretty in a classical sense. It rides like a classic. Not too spectacular, not too smooth, but smooth enough to be enjoyable. One ride suffices but there's nothing wrong with Comet!

 

 

 

#123: Cocoa Cruiser - I'm enough of a credit whore to ride this miniature coaster.

 

 

#124: Trailblazer - It's a kiddie coaster that is easily large enough to not be embarassing to ride. I imagine this slow and low coaster is a great stepping stone to more mature coasters for small children.

 

 

Now that we had done all the major rides we wanted to do, we went around the park again, this time focusing more on taking pictures as I hadn't done that much up until now. One of the reasons why we did the Ferris Wheel near Lightning Racer (also enjoying the coaster once more).

 

 

A lot of American Parks have water parks. Hershey's water park interestingly lies in the middle of the park.

 

 

And it doesn't look too appealing.

 

 

 

 

 

I really like the look of Lightning Racer's off-set lifthills.

 

 

These three towers were the park's new addition for 2017. It's quite unusual to build three like this, but it looks alright and fitting.

 

 

In another corner of the park, we also did the Kissing Tower - an observation tower with filthy windows and an annoying voice-over telling you things about the history of Hershey Park. The view from the Kissing Towers was better despite the filthy windows. It was also nice to see more of the park surroundings, as there was much more Hershey stuff to see. For more information, ride the Kissing Tower and listen.

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the day, we did some more Great Bear, Stormrunner and Skyrush. I started to enjoy Skyrush more and more with each ride. My girlfriend was done with Skyrush though, waiting while I had my final ride of the day. I totally rode it a few times, sneaking past her at the exit. No regrets!

 

It was hard to capture on camera with all the roofs and ugly buildings in front, but Great Bear looked majestic in the warm evening light. The Hollow is the most atmospheric part of the park and I recommend spending the evening there over the other areas in the park.

 

 

 

Finally, let's take a look at my top ten roller coasters again. Skyrush, Great Bear and Storm Runner all had the potential to enter the top ten, but after a deep thinking session only the former two make the cut, at the expense of Dominator whose time at the top did not last longer than a few days, and the Madrilenian Superman who on the other hand enjoyed a top ten spot for almost a decade.

 

Top 10 Steel

1. Air

2. Intimidator 305 (NEW)

3. Nemesis

4. Goliath

5. Apollo's Chariot (NEW)

6. Skyrush (NEW)

7. Griffon (NEW)

8. Black Mamba

9. Speed Monster

10. Great Bear (NEW)

(Notable exclusions: Dominator (#11) Volcano (#12), Stormrunner (#14), Verbolten (#15), Alpengeist (#16))

 

My top ten wood is finally starting to look like a proper top ten, as all the dead wood (no pun intended!) is finally being shipped off. Yet I decided to list dueling coasters as single coasters from now on, otherwise the list would be a bit boring. There still are some questionable coasters at the bottom as a result, but it's getting there.

 

Top 10 Wood

1. Troy

2. Rutschebanen (Bakken)

3. Joris en de Draak (Water > Vuur)

4. Lightning Racer (Thunder > Lightning) (NEW)

5. Thundercoaster

6. InvadR (NEW)

7. Comet (NEW)

8. Coaster Express

9. Rebel Yell (Blue > Red) (NEW)

10. Wildcat (NEW)

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Great update! Best park, glad to see you enjoyed it as well.

 

FYI the park would have no problem building into the creek (as evidenced by Skyrush) but when Great Bear was built the local township would not permit the park building directly in the creek so B&M and Hershey had to get pretty creative - hence the coasters wacky unique supports and complete avoidance of the creek itself. There's a good bit of more elaborate info out there with a quick google search. I personally think it's pretty impressive they managed to sandwich it in there on a hillside, over/under SDL & Coal Cracker, while having to straddle the creek. Obviously, with Skyrush, the local authorities don't seem to care anymore.

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I don't think I've read anyone mention that there are tons of dental advertisements at Hershey, god that's hysterical! Love reading your perspective on these parks and the photos are great! Thanks for posting! Hershey's coaster line up is pretty impressive.

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