Pantheon Review: Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Best Coaster?
It’s difficult to think of a roller coaster in the Northeast region of the United States that had more anticipation to open than Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. For what seemed like an eternity since the ride was announced, Pantheon has finally opened its doors and is truly a coaster marvel of the Gods, not just at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, but across the world.
In this new age of roller coaster types, it seems as though multi-launch coasters are the up-and-comers, and manufacturer Intamin has perfected this model with Pantheon. Dubbed “The World’s Fastest Multi-Launch Coaster,” Pantheon boasts a blistering top speed of 73 mph, a 95-degree drop following its 180-foot-tall top hat, five floater and ejector-filled airtime hills, four pulse-pounding launches, and two jaw-dropping inversions.
First, let’s start with the theming, or lack thereof, to the Roman Gods, Minerva, Mercury, Neptune, Jupiter, and Pluto, each representing a different element of the ride. What seems like a great theme in theory did not show in the level of theming that you would expect from a Busch Gardens theme park. Strategically placed adjacent to the Rhine River and in the Festa Italia section of the park, Pantheon is in an ideal location, just a stone’s throw away from Apollo’s Chariot and Tempesto. Walking over the train tracks, I was greeted by a fairly large entrance plaza and a stone-carved facade. To my surprise, the theming basically stopped there. I then was greeted by the not-so-beautiful scent of the cow pasture as I entered the queue, only to find a few small plaques explaining the connections between the ride itself and the Roman Gods. Entering the queue house, there was minimal theming with just a few banners hanging above the rafters in the wooden structure. Needless to say, the theming did not continue throughout the ride itself, which was a disappointment as I would have loved to swerve between Roman columns or maybe some other water features besides the river.
Enough talk about theming that you would expect from a theme park, let’s get into the ride itself. Let me just say, WOW. Having been on over 150 roller coasters, Pantheon felt like something I have never truly experienced before. I feel like the best way to break this ride review down is element by element:
This rolling, mild launch into a corkscrew felt somewhat familiar, almost akin to the Jo-Jo roll on Hydra at Dorney Park, creating some nice floater airtime as you reached the peak of the element. This then led to some outward-banked curves, which didn’t really do much for me besides build anticipation into the launch section.
Rightfully named after the God of speed, this is where Pantheon really starts to shine. The train gains steam as it goes through its first linear synchronous motor (LSM) launch, where I got some great ejector airtime sitting in the back row. Not gaining enough speed to crest the top hat, the train falls back into the second LSM launch, but this time, backward. This might have been my favorite moment of the ride, as backward airtime is something that was new to me, creating such a surreal and utterly enjoyable experience. I definitely recommend riding in the back row to get the full effect of this launch.
Representing the staff of a trident, this is another fun moment where I got a great sensation of weightlessness before plummeting back down to Earth on this vertical spike. Once again, the back row shines through here as I was able to feel the full dizzying height of the massive element. Only having a second to catch my breath, Pantheon returns to the main launch section of the course, creating an even larger pop of ejector airtime as I was forced over the bunny hills.
The top hat from the king of the gods was absolutely breathtaking as I got sprawling views of the park, especially of Verbolten and the Rhine River. The train slows down a bit at the top instead of hauling over the large hill like most launch coasters do, which made this part a little less intense than I would have preferred. The amazing view didn’t last long as I ascended down towards the river banks, similarly to the finale of Verbolten but on a much larger scale.
Pulling out of the top hat, the train enters a massive outward-banked airtime hill. However, I did not feel much airtime during this element — my theory being that I rode Pantheon early on a chilly and windy day in March. Next came what might be the best element on the coaster, a Zero-G stall that felt like an eternity hanging upside down. Exiting the stall came a near-miss head chopper with the supports, making me realize why the ride has a height maximum requirement. Finally, the ride ends with a small outer-banked hill, which gave me minimal sensation in the back row. However, I got a great pocket of sideways airtime on this element when I sat in the third row.
Overall, Pantheon is truly a roller coaster marvel, easily the best ride in the park since it felt like a combination of the best elements on so many rides but into one incredible experience. I was fortunate enough to ride Pantheon multiple rides in March and I cannot wait to ride it when it’s hauling on a hot summer day. Intamin made a gem out of Pantheon, setting the standard of what a multi-launch coaster should exhibit. My bottom line of the Pantheon experience: what lacks in theming makes up for it in the ride itself.
About the Author:
Evan Scharf is a young professional in the digital marketing industry. He formerly worked at his home park, Six Flags Great Adventure, as a Public Relations and Social Media Intern, where he contributed to the opening of the Jersey Devil Coaster. Evan’s passion aligns within roller coasters and theme parks, having ridden over 150 roller coasters and has visited many different theme parks around the country. He regularly keeps up with the latest news and rumors in the industry and is always excited to see what’s new at each of the parks he visits.