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Photo TR: Busch Gardens Williamsburg & Howl-O-Scream


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A few weeks ago I had a wedding in Virginia to attend, and I figured if I was going to be in Virginia, it would be worth setting aside a day to visit Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I hadn't visited the park since the 2008 East Coast Trip with TPR, so with 11 years having, I was fully expecting to explore lots of new experiences... Plus with it being October, Halloween season meant Howl-O-Scream, which unlike at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, this event is included with daytime park admission.

 

We debated paying for Quick Queue, but knowing we were visiting on a Friday with limited park hours (the park opened at noon that day), we figured we'd chance it and buy in person if needed. This ended up being a wise call, as we waited for almost nothing with the exception of Loch Ness Monster and Tempesto... Loch Ness only because it was running one train and Tempesto being in a similar (yet more efficient) situation. We did find the queues for the Howl-O-Scream houses to be a little longer and while we probably could have waited, we had a 3 hour drive into the mountains ahead of us that night, so we paid for the Quick Queue option for the houses and were able to get through all six houses and three shows in the span of 3.5 hours.

 

I'd honestly forgotten just how much I loved this park from all those years ago... And to revisit it now, I was just taken aback by the charm of the themed lands, architecturally and with the variety of attractions within. I'm also in love with the uniqueness of the park's layout and landscape, with hilly terrain and a sprawling footprint that easily had us surpassing our step goals for the day. I was surprised to find that the park had less in the way of animals than Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or even the SeaWorld parks, though seeing the Clydesdales was a treat that brought back my childhood memories of visiting the Clydesdale Hamlets at the Florida parks.

 

It has always interested me to see the sibling relationship between the Williamsburg and Tampa parks, between the parks choosing rides of a certain style first or even the way the Festhaus echoes the Dragon Fire Grill's setup. Revisiting this park after so many years, it was fun once again to connect the dots between coasters like Sheikra & Griffon, Montu & Alpengeist, Gwazi & Invadr, Mach Tower & Falcon's Fury.

 

There's so much to love about this park, between its great lineup of coasters, solid flat ride options, shows, animals, beautiful decor, and during the right season, Howl-O-Scream. Having as great of a time as we did, I have no doubt that we'll be back for more well before another decade has passed!

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About as soon as I arrived at the Richmond International Airport, I saw this sign and it was time to leave.

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As we often do when we're in a new destination, we try to find quality dining establishments that are unique and memorable. The Hound's Tale ended up being Williamsburg's entry.

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A flight is never a bad way to start a meal.

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The Hounds Tale Wagyu Burger with 3 cheese fondue was absolutely incredible.

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Smores pie for the win!

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Hello beautiful... It has been too long.

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I was excited to revisit the park after over a decade and even more thrilled that I would have a chance to experience Williamsburg's Howl-O-Scream for the first time!

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We'll circle back on Howl-O-Scream later in the report...

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Busch Gardens Williamsburg has always impressed me with its land-specific architecture. I forgot about the English-style entrance area from my previous visit and I found myself admiring it this time throughout our visit.

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I never realized the park still had a Sky Ride.

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Finnegan's Flyer was the newest addition to come to come to the park this year and as a fan of S&S Screamin' Swings, I was excited to experience this one. The setting is really awesome!

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The Irish section of the park is one of the best themed in the park.

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For the love of Larry.

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Super excited to ride this!

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And if the photo isn't evidence enough, I can tell you I really loved this one!

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Ellen might have been here this morning...

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I always wondered what the deal was with Jack... And now I know.

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Griffon is still one special B&M.

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I've preferred Sheikra to this layout, but I especially love the trains have two extra seats per row. An edge seat on Griffon makes for an amazing experience.

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This coaster is incredibly photogenic!

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I love that the SeaWorld parks consistently partner with Dippin' Dots for themed flavors.

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More for Larry...

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The coaster was quite fun... And it was interesting to get a chance to ride Gwazi's former millennium flyer trains again.

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Alpengeist has such an amazing layout, and I love the subtle design elements like the snow skis on the train that add to the story.

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Even the lift hill was designed to look less like a coaster and more like ski lift.

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I've always loved this view.

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What a fun zero-g roll!

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It was strange seeing a Land of the Dragons still operating when the one in Tampa was replaced by Sesame Street several years ago.

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The biggest disappointment in the recent history of the park was the removal of The Curse of DarKastle...

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Mach Tower, the spiritual sibling to Falcon's Fury in Tampa is quite fun.

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Up we go!

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And down we go!

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Also new since the last time I was here...

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It was interesting to see the former Big Bad Wolf station without all of the Arrow track.

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These Zierer trains are so sleek!

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When in the German section of the park, pretzels are must.

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I really enjoyed Verbolten, but surprisingly more during the indoor sections than in the outdoor portions of the layout.

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The drop towards the river is still very fun like its predecessor, but the heavy braking on the bridge before the drop is a little bit of a bummer.

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It isn't a Busch Gardens Williamsburg report if this photo isn't posted...

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Griffon gets a turn!

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Or this one...

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Pantheon was going up quickly while we were here...

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Only a few weeks after our visit, construction on this new coaster is much farther along.

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Looking forward to riding this sometime in the future.

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Of all of the coasters in the park, this was the most anticipated for me, given how much I loved Apollo's Chariot all those years ago.

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I got a bit discouraged to find that the attraction was closed at the time... Thankfully we were advised that it would open for the day at 5:00 PM.

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Waiting for Apollo's Chariot meant moving on to Tempesto.

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Having just ridden my first Sky Rocket II at Busch Gardens Tampa a few weeks earlier, I was actually very excited for Tempesto.

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These coasters are way bigger in person that you'd expect.

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And the hangtime in this moment is great!

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I'll never not be excited to ride one of these!

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Apparently wasps are attracted to launched coasters, because right before the train before mine was dispatched, the ride was shut down due to wasps hanging out on the LIMs....

Edited by jedimaster1227
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(continued)

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Everybody harps on Hagrid's for closing due to bees... But other parks deal with insect closures too.

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My Stacker obsession began with the TPR East Coast Trip 2008, and it has continued ever since.

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It was a little too cold to experience this one...

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But I was excited to find out that one of the Howl-O-Scream houses was set inside of the show building underneath the ride trough.

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I love that Busch Gardens Williamsburg still has clydesdales!

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I remember really liking The Loch Ness Monster during my previous visit so I was excited to give it another go. As Arrow coasters in operation become less common (see Kings Island's Vortex), I really have been trying to revisit the ones I've enjoyed before they're gone. Sadly, they were operating with only one train, so while the rest of the park's operations only had me waiting 5-15 minutes from the start of the queue til boarding, Loch Ness Monster took almost an hour.

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Part of me wondered if this was one of the old Python trains from Tampa... And why given the line in the queue, they weren't operating this train.

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This definitely felt like the venue where The Haunted Lighthouse would have been shown back in the day...

 

Monster Stomp was a Halloween-time show catering towards the Howl-O-Scream guests with live singing and musical beats performed with a variety of instruments and items. Cheesy and a little gory for what it was, it was neat to see what this park has to offer when it comes to entertainment.

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Such a pretty structure.

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Can't stop looking at Pantheon.

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I had to pause to stare at The Flying Machine in the Italian section of the park... You see, this used to operate as Sandstorm in the Timbuktu section of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. It was one of the first flat rides that had any degree of intensity to it, and when I finally mustered up the courage to ride, I dragged my mother along with me... She hated rides of any kind, so I very clearly remember her expressions as we spun around on this one. I sent her a photo of the ride while standing in the park here and reminisced over the experience. I'm glad to see this one continuing to make memories for others here in Williamsburg.

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Easy sell.

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Cute!

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I really wish Tampa would jump on the nostalgia merchandise bandwagon... They'd take my money easily.

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Our first house at Howl-O-Scream was Demented Dimensions... It was definitely quite an interesting experience. Not very scary, but twisted rooms and some warped visuals made it worth the walk.

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As we walked to the entrance of Vault Overtaken, I was surprised to find this reference to Fiends... And more surprised to realize that for as popular as Tampa's annual show is, this isn't offered in Williamsburg.

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Time to geek out a bit... The Vault Overtaken house is based in the old Drachen Fire station!

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Look at this!!!

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My wife didn't quite understand why I stared at this maintenance building for as long as I did. I absolutely love that you can clearly see where Drachen Fire's transfer tracks used to lead out of the maintenance bays, down to the plugged track spine holes... They designed the facade of the building to wrap around the spine!

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From this area you get a unique view of Verbolten's finale drop.

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Lumberhack was our favorite "house" of the bunch because it was located entirely outside. We got some great scares in this one.

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I had trouble leaving because I kept wanting to look back at the former station.

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I intentionally avoided spoiler videos for this coaster just so I could experience it fresh.

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The launches are pretty fun!

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Night Beats was the second of three shows offered at the event, this one in the Festhaus. It was... A show.

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I love how the coasters dominate the park's skyline from some areas of the park, but from other angles you don't even see them.

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Area decor is definitely strong for Howl-O-Scream.

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Favorite element here...

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Bungee scare actors are still my favorite part of Howl-O-Scream.

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A cool animatronic figure in the New France section of the park.

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Griffon looks amazing as always...

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The Ireland section of the park looks great during Howl-O-Scream!

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Jack is back...

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And so was I!

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Jack was quite fun to meet!

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Finnegan's Flyer carried a solid line throughout the day, with its longest being in the evening.

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The entrance to Tempesto is pretty neat for the story of the ride.

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I made some new friends near Circo Sinestro...

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Night rides on Apollo's Chariot were as amazing as I remembered!

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Our final house of the event was Circo Sinestro...

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The first time I've ever experience a Howl-O-Scream house with hosts and a pre-show. This was our favorite house next to Lumberhack.

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Invadr really was a fun wooden coaster!

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Despite the wait for the train, I'm glad I rode Loch Ness Monster one more time.

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I think my expression says it all!

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Apollo's Chariot is still my favorite ride in the park.

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After having been away from Busch Gardens Williamsburg for so long, it was great to revisit the park. I definitely won't be waiting a decade for my next visit!

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Great report! One train operations on Loch Ness Monster sounds like an nightmare. Fortunately everything else at this park is awesome.

 

I'm glad someone else enjoys Mach Tower. I don't get all the hate that ride gets (aside from the reliability). It has a fantastic view and I find the drop itself to be quite good.

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The "Fiends" show at Williamsburg was called "Fiends in the Festhaus," and it was part of the first Howl-o-Scream (it eventually moved to the Abbeystone Theatre in Ireland). People complained that the show was too "dirty," so they toned it down a bit, only to raunch it back up in later years.

 

No "Fiends" this year, probably because they revived the "Jack Is Back" dance-party show in Ireland. That's why Dr. Freakenstein and his Naughty Nurses ended up in the Vault.

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