Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Williamsburg, Virginia, USA
“Buongiorno Tempesto, bonjour Griffon, guten Tag Verbolten, salut InvadR”
Williamsburg, Virginia. This town is known for its colonial history and for being the home of Busch Gardens. Not many theme parks are as highly regarded as Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The park is well known for its high quality coasters, the beautifully themed areas and the lush landscape. Will this park be able to enter my personal top 10? There’s a very good chance. Busch Gardens is themed to European countries and I happen to have a thing for a German theme park with a similar concept. Let’s find out how Europa-Park would’ve looked if it were built in the States.
Our first stop is Festa Italia. This zone contains two spectacular coasters which Italians would describe as a delicious (a)pollo al pesto. The pesto is provided by the least interesting member of this coaster duo: Tempesto. It’s sad that Busch Gardens decided to order this standard Premier coaster in 2015. Despite its nicely styled entrance and its cool colour scheme, Tempesto just doesn’t look as if it belongs here. It’s an intense ride on a limited footprint, but Busch Gardens should be able to do better.
Fortunately, Tempesto’s neighbour Apollo’s Chariot performs at a higher level. This brightly coloured mega coaster is super smooth, fast and it features some great moments of (floater) airtime. However, like most B&M mega coasters, this ride isn’t overly intense. I really don’t consider this as a negative thing. Not every ride should cause black outs or ejector airtime. This is just a very decent, enjoyable roller coaster for a broad audience.
Similar to the Italian area, the German/Oktoberfest section features a family-friendly coaster and a thrilling one. The family-friendly experience is delivered by Verbolten and to me, this is the best coaster at Busch Gardens. Verbolten is mostly an indoor experience and the atmosphere in that indoor part is truly amazing. After this dark section (which includes some cool lighting effects), the train reaches the signature drop towards the Rhine River, followed by some very powerful curves. Verbolten completely blows my mind and it’s hard to believe that it’s actually built by kiddie coaster manufacturer Zierer. On a side note, it’s hilarious to witness Busch Gardens’ depiction of the Black Forest. Europeans know the Black Forest as a cute holiday destination with friendly people. This region is famous because of its romantic mountain views, cuckoo clocks, liters of German beer and mountain goats. Busch Gardens portrays it as a dark forest of doom, though.
Germany’s biggest thrill machine is Alpengeist. This ride is often considered as one of the planet’s best inverted coasters. There’s only one way to find out if that’s correct: a front row ride. And oh my god… it’s truly a great coaster. This runaway ski lift stands out because of its unpredictable layout, the original theming, high speeds and some brilliant near misses. This coaster makes me realise that I really have the best hobby in the world. Some people may find it crazy that I travel to the USA for theme parks, but these people will probably never ride a magnificent coaster like Alpengeist. I hope they enjoy their painful ride on El Condor.
More B&M goodness can be found at the French section of the park. Big, bigger, Griffon. This ride’s size is impressive, but how about the ride? Believe me… it’s at least as good. I loved every Dive Machine I’ve ridden so far, but Griffon is superior. During a back row ride, I experience some the most intense airtime I’ve ever felt on a roller coaster. Besides, both descents are powerful and the smoothness is remarkable. Griffon is a world-class roller coaster and it’s also a visual masterpiece. I could stare at those vertically plunging trains and the final splashdown for many hours. So dear Griffon, je t’aime beaucoup.
Busch Gardens is also the home of the legendary Loch Ness Monster. This 39-year-old coaster must have been a big innovation at the time it was built. Its height of 40 metres and the total track length of one kilometer are even quite impressive to today’s standards. It’s no surprise that the ride is still very popular and its interlocking corkscrews remain a visual masterpiece. Is the actual roller coaster experience as impressive as it looks? My answer is yes. Despite its age, Nessie’s loopings create considerable g-forces, trains run smoothly and I’m very surprised by a triple indoor helix.
Busch Gardens’ newest coaster opened just one week before our visit, so it’s obviously super popular. Still, we brave the 75-minute queue and we get to ride the brand-new InvadR. The ride is surprisingly fast and it features GCI’s typical powerful curves, but I’m a little disappointed by InvadR’s size and decoration. The coaster’s entrance is stunning, but the station is simple and the actual ride isn’t themed at all. Conclusion: InvadR is a fine family ride, but please don’t wait more than half an hour for it.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg offers iconic roller coasters, but it isn’t just an ordinary thrill destination. Theming and landscaping play important roles in this park. This is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful (non Disney) theme parks. And between all those coasters, there’s plenty of room for other rides. The park is home to a classic cable car, a drop tower, three different water attractions, a selection of flat rides and many kiddie rides.
I’m a dark ride lover, so I’m glad that I was able to ride The Curse of DarKastle. I had heard many positive stories about this ride, but there’s one problem: Disney and Universal have spoiled me with extraordinary good dark rides. These dark rides are actually so good that most other parks aren’t able to perform on the same level. That’s exactly why Curse of DarKastle felt somewhat underwhelming. This ride was similar to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man at Universal, but you could clearly notice that it was built with a lower budget. Still, it’s a shame that DarKastle was removed only a few months after our visit. Let’s hope that Busch Gardens will build a new dark ride soon.
WORTH A VISIT?
I entered Busch Gardens Williamsburg without extensive knowledge about the park. Of course I had heard many good things and I had occasionally seen some photos of the roller coasters, but I didn’t know much about this place. It can be a little frustrating to walk around without a plan, but it can also create some great surprises. And Busch Gardens indeed surprised me in many ways. This is a mythical place for theme park lovers. We rode some fantastic roller coasters, we wandered through beautifully themed areas and we were impressed by the park’s lush landscape.
If you ever decide to visit Busch Gardens, you will definitely have a wonderful theme park experience. However, I wouldn’t recommend visiting during spring break, like we did. It’s a very busy time and it seems as if Busch Gardens isn’t fully recovered from its hibernation yet. During our VIP tour, we began to understand why most attraction wait times were so long. Loch Ness Monster, Griffon and Alpengeist ran at low capacity because one of their trains was still in winter refurbishment. Our tour guide explained that those extra trains would be added before the summer season, but that’s a weak excuse for all those spring break visitors. Park management knows that these weeks are crowded, so they should plan accordingly.
Although I liked the park and its roller coasters a lot, some of their operational choices are difficult to understand. Busch Gardens doesn’t seem as customer-oriented as Disney parks, Efteling or Europa-Park. This came rather unexpected, but Busch Gardens is worth a visit nevertheless. Riding Alpengeist, Griffon and Verbolten will never get old.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Photo Gallery 2017
What’s your favourite coaster in this park? Do you prefer Busch Gardens Williamsburg over the park in Tampa? And did you know that the real Black Forest actually isn’t that creepy? Share your opinion in the comments section at the bottom of this page.