Photo Trip Report

April 23, 2016

The last time I was at Busch Gardens Williamsburg was the year Apollo's Chariot opened, 1999. I was not a coaster enthusiast then. I visited it then over a couple of days on vacation with family. I like to think of BGW as the park that started my love of coasters.

I paid $15 to park and got a spot near the entrance. I bought my $77 ticket online earlier and scanned my phone to enter. The park opened at 10, but some sections opened later. I put my cameras in a $12 all-day locker. I wanted to start on Apollo's Chariot, but Fiesta Italia didn't open until 10:15. So I took in the scenery and animals. At 10:15, the employee took down the rope, and I went to Apollo's Chariot.

I waited one train for the back seat. Dispatch is quick on these B&Ms. This ride is an airtime machine. The first drop has nice floater air, and the flat spot at the bottom of the drop gives a great sensation of speed. The next hill lifts you out at the peak and all the way down into the shed. The brake was on, on the third hill, but it didn't take much away. The turnaround is speedy and has some forces.

The block brake trimmed a bit more speed, but there's still air down the drop. The bottom of this drop has an odd shape that pitched me forward before leveling out. Next is a bunny hop that exits much lower than it enters, which gives more air than I expected. The next hill banks to the right under the lift, then the ride twists left and goes into the double-down, where there's, you guessed it, more airtime. The last hill angles slightly upward before the peak, so there's a surprise pop of air there. This coaster has about 25 seconds of air. Then it's into the brakes. 9/10.

I exited and went to the entrance to ride again. Back seat again. Love it. It was good to be back at an amusement park.

Tempesto is next door, so I got in line. I waited three or four cycles of this low-capacity nightmare. The park wasn't crowded, so it wasn't too bad. I got in the back seat. Tempesto launches you forward, backward then forward again. There isn't much leg room, but it's not rough, so that's OK.

The first launch is weak, the second is faster and was nice in the back seat because the last car gets through a bit of the twist on the element there. The third launch is what sends you 150 feet up into the vertical twist and in-line twist. There's nice hangtime there, and it's great having only a lap bar and a padded shoulder harness. The vertical dive, though braked, has excellent airtime. I enjoyed the smaller circle and twists in it. This is a fun ride, but it only runs one three-car train, so capacity is awful. It wasn't the best decision for this park. 5/10.

Next I went to Verbolten, which replaced Big Bad Wolf. I probably got a dozen or more rides on Big Bad Wolf in 1999. It was an outstanding coaster. What a shame. I waited about three trains for Verbolten's back seat. It drops out of the station, turns to the left and right, then launches into a dark building. The layout is hard to follows since it's dark -- there are a few lights of ghosts indoors. I knew there was a surprise element in there, but I didn't know what exactly or where.

The surprise is a vertical plunge in total darkness. The train sits on a flat track and falls straight down like an elevator. It made me yell. There's airtime too. Then it launches into some quick direction changes and to a section that slows down just before the big drop over the water. This drop is right where Big Bad Wolf's big drop was. It's nice and steep and has some airtime in the back. After the turn over the water is a right turn, a small hill that looks like it should have air but doesn't, and then the last turn to the brakes. Verbolten is enjoyable, especially that surprise drop. It doesn't replace Big Bad Wolf, but it is a lot of fun. 7/10.

Next was Alpengeist, a towering B&M inverted coaster with unique supports. Loading was a little slow, but I only waited about five minutes for the back seat. This is one good coaster. I think B&M's best coasters are inverted coasters, and Alpengeist is a standout. The swooping first drop into the Immelmann is a blast in the back. The loop is next, and its exit is much lower than the entrance. I wouldn't be surprised if the fastest part of the ride is here. That's followed by the giant cobra roll, which snaps at the peak of both sides. I love that old-school B&M feel.

The turn to the block brake is taken quickly like Raptor's last turn, but I didn't hit my head because I kept my head back. The brakes take a tiny bit of speed off, then there's a drop to the right under a bridge. A zero-G roll is next, then a corkscrew, ground-level helix and turn to the brakes. This is one fierce coaster. I love it. 9/10.

Then I rode Bench: The Ride. Next was Griffon, a dive coaster and another new ride since my first visit. I'd been on one dive coaster before, SheiKra at Busch Gardens Tampa, and I enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to this. Griffon has 10 seats per row as opposed to SheiKra's eight, and it has an extra inversion. I waited one train to get in the back row. I was on the end, so there would be no track below me. Griffon holds riders over the edge of the 200-foot vertical drop before releasing them. It dives under a bridge and into the first Immelmann. Then it's into the block brake, another vertical drop (no hold this time), the second Immelmann (There sure are a lot of Immelmanns at this park), a small hill and the water splash. It turns left and has a slight hop that provides a bit of airtime before entering the brakes. Griffon is a lot of fun. It's better than SheiKra, mostly because of the second inversion, but the setting also helps. The trees in this park add to every ride. 8/10.

Next I went to Loch Ness Monster, the park's oldest coaster and a classic Arrow looper. It's the only coaster left with interlocking loops. This was the longest wait of the day. I was in line for 30 minutes. I don't know why dispatch times were so slow. Good thing it wasn't busy. Loch Ness is a fun ride that isn't terribly rough. The loops are great and have nice forces. The way the loops intersect is a lot of fun on the ride too. The triple helix is the second best part, especially since it feels endless in the darkness of the tunnel. The second loop is after a short lift hill, and the ride ends with a simple turn to the brakes. It's an enjoyable coaster. It's also in the most scenic area of the park. 5/10.

I wandered around for photos. I got to the bridge by Alpengeist when a storm came in. Rain fell hard for several minutes. The rides were shut down. I waited it out on the covered bridge. When things died down, I went to Festhaus for lunch. It was crowded because people took shelter there from the rain. I got the German sausage platter, strawberries and a Yuengling beer for $24.17. Delicious. During the meal, a show was being performed. After the show, they performed on the way out.

I rode Apollo's Chariot in the back seat again. I waited one train. Then I went to Europe in the Air, a simulator. Riders are seated on a big platform with three rows. It moves around while a large screen shows scenes above and around Europe. It was all right. 4/10.

I rode Alpengeist again. Back seat, of course. Then I rode Curse of the DarKastle, a 3-D ride in the Ireland section. The ride should be called Curse of the Dorkastle. It's got a cheesy story, and the effects aren't that great. In one part, a ghost says things are starting to heat up, and all the riders get are some red lights. No fire or heat? Come on. On the same ride styles at Universal Studios in Florida, we're given fire during moments like that. The 3-D on DarKastle is used well; several riders screamed and ducked when arrows and other items were flung at them. But the story is weak, and the ride doesn't use many effects or movements to add to it. 3/10.

I went to Mach Tower, the drop ride. It's 246 feet tall and drops at 50 mph. It does three rotations on the way up, which I enjoyed. The drop ride at Kings Island is about 60 feet taller and only does one rotation. There's not much to say about this. It's a standard drop ride. I like drop rides. 7/10.

I rode Verbolten again since it's next to Mach Tower. The ride broke down, so my wait was a little longer (maybe around 15 minutes), but I waited. Soon enough it was operating again, so I got in the back seat. A girl next to me had never ridden a roller coaster and asked if she could hold my hand. She gripped really tight during that indoor drop! I love being with first-time riders. Most of my coaster friends don't make much noise on rides, so being with people who shout and yell makes me enjoy it a little more.

The sun was setting. Now I was really excited to ride coasters. I went to Griffon. I waited one train and sat in the back row on the far left side. Hanging over the edge down that drop is fantastic. I recommend the outside seats on a dive coaster. I can't wait for Valravn at Cedar Point.

I took Skyride from France to Germany and got on Alpengeist. This coaster is ferocious during the day but even wilder at night. It flies through the circuit. The drop out of the loop before the cobra roll feels much faster, and the snaps in the cobra roll are almost sinister. Alpengeist doesn't smoothly flow from one element to the next. Alpengeist throws that train about, quickly transitioning up and down, left and right. This is what I love about older B&Ms. Newer coasters like Silver Bullet at Knott's Berry Farm are a little too smooth for my taste.

I finished the day with two back-seat rides on Apollo's Chariot. It's a blast at night. It goes faster, though that brake on the third hill kicks in more because of it. The ride is far out in the trees (making it difficult to photograph), so it's a bit darker out there than the lift hill. The turnaround has spotlights on it, so the actual darkest parts of the ride are the low hills by the water. It makes it a bit more fun when you can't exactly see everything. Apollo's Chariot has some great airtime and a nice layout. I'm glad I got to ride it so many times.

I had a great time at this park. It's definitely worthy of a visit more than once every 17 years. It's well-run, incredibly scenic and has a good variety of rides. The coasters are all excellent, and the food's great too. 10/10.