Trip Report: Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Edited: August 1, 2018, 11:00 AM

I want to start off by saying I really like BGW as its everything I love in a park. It's big, beautiful, photogenic, and has lots of attractions and can easily occupy a whole day. However i'll start out by listing some slight minor annoyances that i'll list off just because I think they need to be acknowledged.

First off their Food & Wine Festival is a blatant ripoff of Epcot's. Everything looks exactly the same: from the signage, to the menu's, to the way the booth's look. I guess this is fine and it looks fine but it's just so blatant...like no attempt to do anything different at all lol.

The last time I went to BGW which was in 2010 they had a nighttime firework show called "Illuminights." Once again this park just blatantly rips off Epcot (this has nothing to do with my recent visit to BGW, but I will never forget it). And then there was the Europe in the Air ride…

The area of the park where Apollo's Chariot and Tempesto are has always driven me nuts, it's cheap and tacky compared to the rest of the park. I'm not familiar enough with the history of the park to explain this but my guess would be at some point they wanted to expand Italy (maybe for Apollo's Chariot?) but didn't want to spend a lot of money, so half of Italy looks fantastic and then the other half of the land looks tacky. It’s like the Chester and Hester or Paradise Pier of BGW.

Apollo's Chariot and Tempesto's queues are actually fine (and they did a great job with Temptesto's entrance which is really well themed) but the rest of that Italy miniland is so bizarre with 90'sish arcades, carnival games, minimal theming, and the absolute worst thing about it is the soundtrack. It's like upbeat techno versions of songs you would never think about, I clearly remember hearing the United Airlines song and thinking "where the hell am I??" If they changed the soundtrack I would probably like the area better…it’s just soooo bad.

The first ride we went on was Loch Ness Monster which was actually pretty damn good. It was tracking [relatively] smooth and looked great, looked like it had recently gotten painted, and the trains were in good shape. Obviously this ride is dwarfed by the bigger coasters in the park now but I’m glad they’ve kept this around and taken care of it.

Next we made a big mistake by riding Battle for Eire. It wasn’t a mistake because the ride was bad, but because later our day would be ruined by a storm that never went away, so the time commitment we made to Battle for Eire ended up costing us a bunch of other rides (as we could have ridden this during the thunderstorm). We figured since the line was short and it was a new ride we may as well go on it. I wouldn’t say it was good but I definitely liked it better than Europe in the Air. I’d put it as a solid “mediocre and will last a few years before people become sick of it and it has to be replaced with something else” simulator. Not much else to say…the headgear VR thing was bizarre but definitely better than doing it Kraken style where every train gets slowed down significantly.

We then saw the wolves and bald eagle habitats which of course are staples of the park. However, for the park being so huge, it has a surprising lack of animals compared to Tampa where they are everywhere. My assumption is that the Tampa park probably makes more money.
Anyway next we went to the France section and rode Griffon which was approx. 15 minute wait and was fine. B&M dive machines have never been my favorite but have grown on me as I have gotten older (maybe because my adult body likes the slower paced rides now haha). I like Griffon and Sheikra better than Valravn, which for some reason was very jerky and unpleasant both times I rode it. Griffon and Sheikra are both still smooth and pleasant. On a side note Griffon is really integrated well into the France area of the park unlike the Apollo’s Chariot section of Italy which I previously ranted on.
One small thing I found funny about Griffon is that they had a big fan blowing on the lift motor…literally like fan you would buy at Walmart or Home Depot. It was just funny to see that a huge $20+ million B&M coaster is being cooled by a Home Depot fan (and blatant considering you walk right next to it in the exit path).

We then walked around and enjoyed some of the atmosphere and theming with the next ride being Invadr which was definitely one of the big surprises of the trip. This ride kicked ass. It was fast, had great laterals, and some good pops of airtime. When it was first announced I remember thinking that they just bought a small little GCI because they wanted a new coaster but didn’t have a lot of money to spend, and the animations made it look kind of lame, so I went in with low expectations. The ride reminded me of Avalanche at Timber Falls before it got rough, it was short but sweet. I really like GCI’s when they are maintained well so a big thumbs up for this one.

The next ride was Alpengeist which was running amazing. I would definitely rate this the best of the big B&M inverts, its an old school kick you’re a** B&M looper. The positive g’s were on full force this particular day. I’m not sure why Alpengeist is so much better than Montu but it just feels much more intense…and unlike Kumba the rattling isn’t so bad that it ruins the ride. I also love the clever scandanavian undertones, the touches of theming on this ride are just perfect. Another big thumbs up.

Unfortunately this is where the day took a turn for the worse as it started thunderstorming so we were stuck inside the Festhaus for a while. After a half hour or so it did stop raining so we were able to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere of the park. We did get on the Railroad and got a picture with Big Bird, but the attractions never re-opened. I still haven’t ridden Verbolten or Tempesto (as the last time I had been to the park was before they were built). It seemed nice and sunny for a while so we waited over by Tempesto for it to re-open listening to that awful soundtack I mentioned earlier so it was kind of a sour end to the day, but I’m still glad we went and I was able to get back after the eight year hiatus.

Replies (2)

August 1, 2018, 11:03 AM

After a quick youtube search I found part of the dreaded soundtrack I couldn't stand

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JSM_YLygH8&ab_channel=ColonialCoasters

Edited: August 1, 2018, 12:08 PM

Let's face it, every major park is doing some type of food festival these days that is in some way derivative of EPCOT's. I asked Chef Justin Watson about the similarities when BGW's event debuted back in 2013 (https://www.themeparkinsider.com/flume/201305/3498/), and while he wouldn't mention EPCOT by name, he did not hide the fact that the popularity and success of that festival was a driving factor in BGW's event. BGW and EPCOT have a lot of similarities in presenting food and entertainment native to the countries represented in the parks. However, sitting down for a full German meal at the Festhaus or a North African meal at Restaurant Merakesh doesn't allow guests to get that "around the world" feel that the Food and Wine festivals can with the smaller plates and lower prices (per dish that is, since guests probably spend more money "Eating/Drinking Around the World" than they would sitting down for a single big meal). Theme parks have been borrowing ideas from each other for over a century, so I don't begrudge BGW (or any other park for that matter) for using EPCOT's extremely successful concept.

Festa Italia (the land where Tempesto and Apollo's Chariot are located) was an addition from the 80's, and represented the first physical expansion of the original circular park design. It's still the only true "dead end" in the park, that has been rumored for over a decade now to loop around to Octoberfest (looks like it won't happen for 2019 either with an Ireland expansion most heavily rumored for next year now). The land itself is deliberately a mish-mash representing both Mediterranean countries and east-Asian countries during Marco Polo's trek to the Pacific. It's deliberately whimsical and fantastical (much like Sesame Street Forest of Fun and Land of the Dragons), and is not meant to represent any single country or location. It is a bit of a free for all design-wise, but it's still a step up from Six Flags or Cedar Fair theming.

The soundtrack you found so annoying is called Hooked on Classics from the early 80's (produced by K-Tel). The album actually reached #10 on the album chart, and had a single reach #56 on the Billboard popular music chart. It features snippets of well-known and recognizable classical music in medleys backed by a disco drum track. I think it's actually a great choice for the area that adds energy and liveliness to what is designed to be a hectic, raucous area. It's certainly better than the modern generic pop soundtrack used at Six Flags or Cedar Fair parks, and not as sterile as a classical orchestra soundtrack.

Europe in the Air was a big mistake, and I think BGW knew it from the moment it opened. However, I still applaud the park for at least trying to rotate the offerings on their motion simulator, something other parks refuse to do even after decades of waning interest. Battle for Eire is a definite step up, but is certainly not a blockbuster attraction worthy of a unique visit.

It's hard to believe that both InvadR and Mystic Timbers lost to Krakatau for TPI's Best New Roller Coaster last year, but it's a solid addition to the park's coaster lineup. The park got a lot of flack when they replaced Big Bad Wolf (and it's 42" height restriction) with Verbolten (with a 48" height restriction), so adding InvadR helps bridge the gap for many of the families with smaller thrill seekers unsatisfied by the kiddie rides but not tall enough for the big boy rides.

You probably didn't miss much with Tempesto (a 1-trick pony in my book), though I'm impressed that the park has managed to keep lines for the low capacity coaster relatively manageable. However, you really missed a treat in Verbolten. Much like InvadR, it's not going to blow your socks off with speed or height, but it's a solid experience from beginning to end that's very re-rideable (not to mention the 3 different show sequences inside the building).

Loch Ness Monster was just recently touched up, and to be honest I haven't made a visit since they announced they had turned the tunnel effects back on (had been off for nearly 2 decades) in honor of the coaster's 40th Anniversary. They put newly refurbished trains on at the start of the season, and had given the entire track a new paint job 2 years ago. However, they still don't run the coaster in "interlocking" mode any more. In fact, I think the PLC has been programmed to explicitly prevent the trains from passing through the loops simultaneously (perhaps for safety reasons and because of what people used to do in the loops - ala Dueling Dragons). Nonetheless, BGW has done a great job maintaining Nessie and finally bringing her back to full glory.

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