Part 4: The Big Beautiful Beer Garden Somebody Put A Bunch of Roller Coasters In
If you haven't picked it up by now I go to parks a lot, but mostly to my home parks Great Adventure and Moreys/Wildwood. Other than a trip to Disney/Epcot about 30 years ago that's been just about the extent of my habit. I was content spending my summers in Wildwood getting my riding in at Moreys every year, with the occasional trek up to Great Adventure. Three years ago I found Robb's Youtube channel (among others), Roller Coaster Database, and eventually this forum, and my horizons started to expand exponentially. I found there was a whole world of parks out there I was mostly unaware of, save for a few notable parks that had survived in my brain like mythical wonderlands I might one day get the chance to visit. One of these parks was Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Growing up in Philly, many of my family and friends had visited the park and coasters like Loch Ness Monster and Big Bad Wolf became legendary beasts I'd one day hope to hop on for a ride.
As mentioned earlier in this report, our original plan for this trip was to simply head down to Virginia to visit Kings Dominion, we lucked out with Bill noticing at the last minute that he had a BAFF pass he could use to get me into Busch, so we basically tacked a visit onto the back of our journey down to spend a day @ Kings. Like I said, after years and years of building up BGW in my mind, compounded by the consistently glowing reviews it seems to get in this community, I was hesitant to experience it as a quick, hasty stop to just hit all the coasters. But I also couldn't pass up a chance to check the place out, no matter how short the visit might be. While Big Bad Wolf is sadly gone (definitely a little bummed I missed out on that one), the park now showcases 3 huge, solid B&Ms, a shiny new Premier launcher, a well-themed indoor launch coaster in the place of the aforementioned BBW, and of course Loch Ness is still chugging along. With a line-up as solid as this I would have been stupid to say no. I also am not sure Bill would have taken no for an answer.
Amazingly in spite of all the riding, eating, drinking, and of course my injury on Saturday, I arrived back in my hotel room after 1am, and absolutely could not sleep. Apparently I305 pumped enough adrenaline into me to keep me going all weekend. I did finally pass out pretty late, lying flat on my back, fingers crossed I'd be able to get back up Sunday morning. At 7:30am, the alarm went off, I awoke and noticed I was no longer in a heap of pain. I slowly got up and out of bed, stretched a bit longer than usual, checked my phone and slowly made my way to the bathroom to shower and pack up. We had agreed on a 9am departure time, as we had an hour drive southeast to Williamsburg. I texted Bill and Brit to let them know I was up and getting ready, albeit much more slowly than the day before, but that I was surprisingly feeling OK and up for some more riding. We had noticed that in addition to the Waffle House next door we had a Krispy Kreme across the street (score!) so that would be Sundays breakfast before our drive to the next park. Since I was taking a while, Bill and Brit headed over to get us coffee and donuts, and we met downstairs a little after 9.
After our 5 hour drive on Friday night, the drive to Williamburg felt like 20 minutes, though it did take around an hour, and we arrived at the park right at opening, getting a parking spot very close to the front entrance (passholder perks, yo).
After stopping at Guest Services (where they be guest relatin') to sort out a little issue with Bill and Brits passes, we headed into the park with no wait at the main gate. We could see Apollo and Tempesto peaking out of the trees as we drove into the lot but otherwise couldn't see much, but wow, I was struck by how wooded and lush the park was upon entry.
While the park didn't feel crowded, we also had no intentions of buying Quick Queue, so we followed the hit-the-new-hotness-first rule and pointed our compasses at Tempesto, checking out the Howl-O-Scream decorations on our way and even running into a giant, talking, animatronic troll as we crossed a bridge into the Italy section of the park! Pretty cool.
I don't know why but I always find it amusing riding a launch coaster in the beginning of the day. This was my first Premier Sky Rocket 2 coaster, so I was looking forward to riding it. We arrived to find a small station wait and we hopped in the back two rows.
First off - what's with the "comfort collars" that just sort fling around but don't actually secure anything? I could see if they were tight like the Intamin straps I had gotten so comfortable with on I305 the day before, but I just don't see the point of these at all. Secondly, these trains are damn near impossible to get in and out of, its really kind of insane. As far as the ride experience, I have to say - while I wasn't let down by this ride, I wasn't exactly raving about it either.
I've watched POVs of these things and it delivered exactly what I expected. It was fun, fast, the barrel roll up top was neat, the entire thing over in a flash. We got off and when they asked me what I thought I couldn't help but just shrug and say "it was cool
". Not exactly gushing.
Since we were right next door, we had to hit up Apollos Chariot. I first remember hearing about this ride after the infamous Fabio incident, and it popped back into my consciousness when I discovered all you weirdos a couple years back. I'm a huge fan of Nitro at my home park, getting rides in whenever I am there and marathoning it whenever the park is dead. I call it my zen coaster, as its fast and fun, but not exactly forceful and I can ride it repeatedly without issue.
Up until earlier this year when I got to try Goliath @ SFOG, it was the only B&M hyper I had ridden. I really, really loved Goliath as well, so Apollo was at the top of my list for this trip. I have to say it was great, and exceeded expectations. I don't know if it was because I was unfamiliar with it (even though I did know the layout from POVs) or because it was early in the day but Apollo really rips. We were lucky to hit the thing early, as we jumped in the back for a one train wait.
I was surprised at how aggressive it seemed, catching me off guard in a few spots. Lots of generous airtime, mostly floater but the last drop before the final brakes is a nice surprise, the first drop has a great yank, keeping you outta your seat the whole way down. It doesn't feel as big as Nitro, but I loved how a huge portion of it followed the terrain. After riding and loving three of these things, I can with authority say I am a B&M hyper enthusiast, now I want to try them all. They are just straight up fun.
With the line still only in the station, we could have ridden again, but the coaster I had my sights set on for today was across the park and we all wanted to head that way. Of course Bill used this as an excuse to ride the Skyride, and since I have no problem with less walking I didn't argue. With no skyride at Kings Dominion yesterday and no water rides running @ this park, I knew our boy was feeling deprived.
I'm a huge fan of B&M inverts. I don't know if it's years of deprivation only having an SLC to ride, but I find they perfectly marry smoothness with intensity. Before this trip I had ridden 5 of them (Raptor, Talon, Great Bear, & 2 Batmans), ranking them all highly, and after years of hype, I was especially excited for Alpengeist.
To the Skyride Bill led us so we could hop from England to France, checking out great views of not only the coasters in the center of the park, but also all the Haunt decorations scattered down below. Much to Brit's delight, we also rode above the horse stables. This park is beautiful!!!
When we touched down, we decided to stop at Griffon since it was right next to the Skyride station, and it only had a station wait. 3 for 3, not too bad! Alpengeist could wait, I wanted to ride this too. My first dive coaster, I knew I had to sit in the front so we waited a few trains but with all trains in service the line never stopped moving and we were on in no time. I got the far right seat, and as we boarded I couldn't help but notice how freaking huge the track is on these things!
Before long we were cresting the lift hill, and I was blown away by the view up there. I never really got why dive coasters have that slow turn at the top but this made me understand. Incredible view. Next thing I know it's the moment of truth and we pause. Briefly hanging there, feet dangling, screams of horror all around us, looking straight down 200 feet at scattered groups of spectators looking back up at us. Awesomely terrifying.
And then... we drop, floating the entire way down, tearing under the bridge and into the first enormous inversion. I was officially in love with this thing. We hit the mid course and got to do it all again. Brilliant. This ride surprised the hell out of me. Incredibly smooth and absolutely massive.
I liked that in contrast to I305, which tosses you over it's behemoth first drop without a second to consider what you're actually about to do, this gives you that extra injection of blood pumping reality by really exploiting the height at the top, both with the view, and the pause before your inevitable tumble back to earth.
Of course upon hitting the brakes I asked if we could walk around and try the back. If there's one thing I know about these rides is that the front row is for the views, the back for the airtime. The wait was still nonexistent so we hopped on for round two. I enjoyed it just as much in the back as I did in the front. Like Dominator yesterday, I had lower expectations for this ride and it blew me away - honestly was surprised how much I loved it.
Well we got done all that and it was just barely noon, so we popped into the nearby gift shop to take a peek around (where I spotted some cool magnets I hoped to come back for), and all agreed we were parched. We spotted a nearby eatery and poked our heads in to see if they had beer. Of course they do! As I would come to find out... everywhere in this park has beer!!! Stepping inside we noticed all they had were bottles of crap like Budweiser but we just needed something so we ordered a few and as expected, we were carded. Of course I got a bit nervous when this came up, afraid they would mention some horsesh*t Virginia law that may or may not exist, but when I handed it over the girl behind the counter gave me a huge smile and excitedly asked where in Pennsylvania I was from, as she was from Harrisburg. Yay! ID returned and beer secured we thanked the countergirls and moved along, asking if we had to stay in "beer jail" near the establishment to which they confusingly responded "What? You can take it wherever you want!
" I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!
The next course on our buffet of fun was what I had been waiting for - Alpengeist! We walked around to its entrance stopping along the way to watch it from the bridge into that area, and Bill shed a tear that the flume was closed. We also peeked into the construction area for InvadR, not able to see much, but still cool to see something going on.
I for one am pretty excited for this ride, I think its going to be an airtime machine and possibly the sleeper hit of the 2017 season. If the park itself hadn't gotten me excited to visit again this addition certainly is doing the trick.
Heading into the queue for Alpengeist WITH OUR BEERS we were greeted with yet another station wait. We were really lucking out with almost no waits for anything we had done yet, so we decided we'd wait a few extra trains for the front row, giving us time to finish our brews.
I knew I'd like this ride and it did not disappoint. Totally smooth, appropriately snappy (especially into that mid-course! Whoa now!) and keeps its pacing the entire ride. As I said I love all the B&M inverts I've been on but how this one is woven into the forest and surrounding rides gives it the edge. Also, its themed to a runaway ski lift! Best invert theme EVER!
When we returned to the station it was still empty so I asked if we could run around and ride the back. Totally different ride but still completely awesome. This parks line-up is straight up rock solid. Have I mentioned I love this place!?!
More to come...