Busch Gardens Williamsburg Coasters Reviewed
Last week, I visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the first time in 15 years. Way back then, I was just beginning to take interest in roller coasters, yet I was too afraid to ride them.
I had a lot of catching up to do.
While the mass of cars waiting to pay for parking worried me, once inside the park the crowds thinned. Since I only had one day to cram in as much Busch Gardens attractions as I could, I purchased the Quick Queue Unlimited, which turned out to be a wise investment. The lines weren’t treacherous, but the 15-30-minute wait on the major attractions would have hindered my ability to re-ride my favorites.
The park was just as breathtakingly beautiful as I remembered it.
But as much as I wanted to slow down and smell the roses, I was here to ride the park’s coaster selection.
My thoughts on each coaster are below in my personal ranking:
Going into the park, Griffon already had a leg up. Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa is one of my top-five favorite coasters. I knew I’d likely enjoy its younger sybling just as much.
Griffon was also my 100th “coaster credit,” so for that it will always have a special place in my coaster-loving heart.
The coaster experience wasn’t that drastically different from Sheikra’s. However, the second dive toward the Rhine River and the second Immelmann were both great.
I know — Bolliger & Mabillard dive coasters aren’t the wildest or most elaborate roller coasters on the market. But I love the ability to ride a coaster over and over again without getting sick. I could sit on Griffon or Sheikra all day. It’s a smooth, thrilling and enjoyable ride from start to finish. And nothing beats hanging over the edge of the first drop, with nothing but 200 feet of open air separating you from the ground below.
I wish the United States had more of these. But for now, I’ll have to do with Griffon and Sheikra.
2. Apollo’s Chariot
One thing I learned while at the park is that Apollo’s Chariot is a difficult coaster to photograph, which means most of its layout is secluded away from the park (which is fine by me).
I love out-and-back coasters, and Apollo did not disappoint. The turnaround was more intense than I expected (similar to Goliath at Six Flags over Georgia), and the final plunge into the ravine was a welcome surprise.
I wouldn’t say it was the best Bolliger & Mabillard hyper coaster I’ve ridden, but it was no doubt a highlight of the day.
I still haven’t forgiven myself for not riding Big Bad Wolf when I visited the park 15 years ago. But I was very excited to ride its successor.
I liked Verbolten. A lot. The backstory, elaborate thematic elements and the coaster itself all worked well together. But the part of the coaster that surprised me the most wasn’t the launch. It was the insane indoor section. Perhaps the darkness disoriented me enough to make what was happening seem more intense.Perhaps I couldn’t brace for the upcoming transitions as I couldn’t see them. Either way, it was pure indoor coaster fun. And of course, the surprise elevator drop at the end was just as fun as I had hoped.
I hated to see Big Bad Wolf go, but I think Verbolten is as close to a worthy family-friendly replacement you could ask for.
Alpengeist is a beautiful, classic Bolliger & Mabillard inverted coaster. Its interaction with the terrain is a work of art.
Only five feet short of being dubbed a “hyper invert,” the coaster gives riders an amazing view of the park. But that view doesn’t last for long. The coaster’s pacing following the lift is B&M bliss, pausing only briefly for the mid-course brake run.
My ride was a bit bumpy, but it didn’t take anything away from the ride. The layout is too fun to notice any minor roughness.
5. Loch Ness Monster
I think Loch Ness Monster is one of the most iconic steel roller coasters in the United States. I remember standing in awe at the interlocking loops when I visited the park 15 years ago.
Even as bigger, badder coasters like Griffon and Alpengeist have overshadowed “Nessie,” she still holds her own and attracts a big crowd — especially early in the day.
The ride experience may not match the coaster’s beauty, but the ride is holding up well for a 37-year-old machine. I completely forgot about the enclosed double helix, so that was a nice surprise as I was riding.
Tempesto is Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s new-for-2015 Premier launched coaster. It’s the company’s Sky Rocket II model, similar to Superman: Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
As Tempesto is not included in the park’s Quick Queue system, this was the longest wait of the day. The coaster ceased operations briefly which thinned out the queue, ultimately reducing my time in line.
The ride was fun. It was less intense than I was anticipating. The gradual launch isn’t as thrilling as other Premier launchers like Mr. Freeze. The slow 150-foot-tall in-line twist was interesting, but not to the point that I wanted to jump back in line.
The coaster will no doubt be a hit for the park. It’s just too short. If you’re a first-time visitor to the park and have to choose one of the park’s major coasters to forgo, Tempesto is your best bet.
I will say that the ride “fits” in the park much better than I had envisioned. The Festa Italia’s festive atmosphere matches the aerial antics of the Tempesto daredevil character. While I don’t like that the coaster blocks Apollo’s Chariot’s lifthill, I can’t see the coaster fitting anywhere else in the park.
I also have to give kudos to the ride crew. They were hustling from the moment the train returned to the station, making sure that guests were ready to launch as soon as possible. Their efforts no doubt kept the line at a manageable length.
For more Tempesto, don’t miss our media day coverage.
Unfortunately, I did not make it over to the Grover’s Alpine Express family coaster.
However, the Sesame Street Forest of Fun area seemed like a hit with the younger crowd.
After a delayed opening, I was able to get a ride on Mach Tower. I prefer Intamin towers, but the sound alone the massive carriage made as it plunged toward the ground was enough of a treat for me, even though the drop wasn’t nearly as intense.
I was blown away by Curse of DarKastle. After being spoiled by Justice League: Battle for Metropolis at Six Flags St. Louis, I wasn’t sure how a 10-year-old dark ride would compare. However, I found the pacing to be outstanding throughout the entire ride. I enjoyed not having to fiddle with “shooting” at targets — it was easier to be immersed in the story.
Overall, I had a great time at the park. Operations were outstanding and staff members were friendly.
See more photos from my visit on our Facebook page.
I swung by BGW while I was in Norfolk last month (and caught the Food & Wine Festival!!!). Got the Quick Queue Unlimited and made my rounds across the park. Seems like we have similar coaster tastes John! I like Apollo’s Chariot, but not as much as hypers such as Goliath or Diamondback. Verbolten is pure fun and a nice change up from your B&Ms. The launch up to the bridge and ensuing drop has to be my favorite part of the ride, however. And I have to say Lochness Monster is easily one of my favorite Arrow coasters. That double helix in the dark is timeless.
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