Six of the Most Surprising Elements on Pantheon
After two-plus years of waiting since our last visit to Busch Gardens Williamsburg (but the ride officially opening just a few weeks ago!), we finally got to experience Pantheon for the first time late last week. The world’s fastest multi-launch coaster, Pantheon harnesses the power of five Roman Gods to create a truly unique coaster experience. As with any new roller coaster experience, there are a series of roller coaster elements that you’ll likely experience one way or another for the first time.
During our one ride on Pantheon (should have been two, but it’s been noted that the sensors are a little inconsistent — larger coaster enthusiasts take note!), we experienced the full range of coaster elements that Pantheon had to offer, and some of them left us more surprised than others, especially as semi-seasoned coaster enthusiasts. In total, the coaster was a fantastic ride, and complements the other roller coasters at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in a masterful way. But if you’ve yet to ride Pantheon, and want to avoid POV spoilers, or are just looking for some good old-fashioned coaster element talk, here’s a list of the six times that Pantheon quite literally took our breath away.
Honorable Mention: Pantheon’s Top Hat
Pantheon’s top hat is one of the tallest elements on the coaster, featuring a 180′-tall, 95-degree beyond vertical drop, riders actually “ascend” the top hat twice, once about halfway up, and the second time, clearing the element fully. As you sit atop the top hat, you might find yourself wondering…is the train going to make it over? Are we going to roll back? What is happening?! What’s only a few seconds feels like an eternity as you slowly crest the hill before plummeting back down to earth to take on the “second half” of the coaster. That said, many seasoned coaster vets have been on drops that are taller, and maybe even steeper. 95-degrees doesn’t feel too much different from vertical, or at least that’s what I told my geometry teacher in high school. It’s still a ton of fun, and definitely belongs on this list.
6. The Vertical Spike
One of Pantheon’s most iconic elements is the 178′ tall, 90-degree vertical spike, which, following a reverse ascent, sends riders careening back towards the top hat for the second time. This is an element that is best experienced in the back seat, because not only do you see the entire train in front of you, paused for the briefest moment of pure weightlessness, you’re also at the highest point on the spike itself. Purely driven by gravity, it’s quite the sensation when you finish traveling in reverse, come to almost a complete stop, while still ascending in your seat, and head back down, ready to take on the second half of Pantheon. It’s a fun bit of physics going fully vertical, especially in reverse, which is rarely seen on roller coasters.
5. Pantheon’s Wave Turn
Following the top hat, riders fly around a banked curve, before ascending an outward-banked airtime hill, emphasized further by the fact that it’s on the side of a geographic hill, with the park’s Rhine River below you. It’s best described as an out of control feeling, while also feeling completely in control. As coaster enthusiasts, “sideways floater” airtime is always an incredible experience, and cresting this hill, as “Pluto,” God of the Underworld, pulls you back toward the ground below, is an amazing feeling of weightlessness that isn’t replicated on many coasters I’ve ever ridden.
4. The Zero-G Stall Inversion
Whether you call it a Zero-G stall, a Top Gun Stall, or just “the Stall,” Pantheon’s second of two inversions will leave you hanging for what feels like minutes, but in reality is just a few seconds. Coming off of the Wave turn, riders take a quick 180-degree turn to the right, when they’re flipped upside down, but instead of the inversion completing immediately, riders continue upside down for approximately two seconds before “righting the ship” again, and headed towards one of the final elements of the coaster — which is conveniently next on this list.
3. The Sideways Airtime Hill
A quick S-bend follows the zero-G stall, as riders head into the final element before the brake run, best described as a smaller “sideways airtime hill.” Not as sweeping as the Wave Turn, the sideways airtime hill resulted in an airtime that somehow felt like a combination of ejector air and floater air, given the speed and track position. In a coaster filled with outstanding elements, ending Pantheon with an element that looks the most unassuming, but packs more punch for its size compared to any other point on the coaster is a fantastic way to end a fantastic coaster.
2. Pantheon’s First Inversion
RCDB calls this inversion a “Zero-G Winder” and it’s apparently on two other roller coasters. I’m a HUGE proponent of hangtime in inversions — Copperhead Strike at Carowinds is a coaster that does Hangtime better than pretty much any other roller coaster I’ve ever been on. The first inversion on Pantheon is a marvel when it comes to hangtime. Again, our ride was in the backrow, and immediately coming off of a launch into this inversion could rival Copperhead Strike’s first loop and top-hat as “the best hangtime ever” on a roller coaster.
1. Pantheon’s Reverse Launch
We’ve finally reached our favorite element on Pantheon — and it could be a surprise to many — THE REVERSE LAUNCH. This isn’t your everyday ordinary flat launch. No. It’s got an airtime hill built into it. Not only do you come off the top hat with speed because of gravity, you catch the LSM’s that propel you backwards, accelerating you, IN REVERSE, towards the vertical spike. But during this acceleration, you’re launched out of your seat, because you’ve hit a bunny hop at a quickly increasing rate of speed. There’s ejector air to get you out of the seat, and then floater air as physics takes over. It’s truly one of the few coaster moments I’ve had in the recent past where I was thinking to myself — what the heck just happened?!
If you’re curious about what a ride on Pantheon looks like, and are over the chance of being spoiled at this point, be sure to check out the official POV video from Busch Gardens below. You have been forewarned. The video looks awesome, and was masterfully produced. It does this roller coaster absolutely zero justice. Your best bet is finding a way to get to Williamsburg and conquering this beast for yourself.