Busch Gardens shows the love for its Loch Ness Monster

May 9, 2024, 11:38 PM · When a roller coaster has been operating for over four decades, it begins to reach iconic status. Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the steel looping roller coaster originally designed by Arrow, had already been designated by American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) as a coaster landmark during its 25th anniversary in 2003. The world's first roller coaster with interlocking loops has far outlasted many coasters of its era, and it was still regularly drawing guests through its queue, most recently refreshed in 2018.

However, the coaster was beginning to show its age and developing some rough spots along its 3,240 feet of track. Upon the conclusion of the 2023 Fall season, Busch Gardens announced that they would giving “Nessie” the TLC that was sorely needed, which would also include more thematic elements and enhanced storytelling.

Loch Ness Monster

For those of us who have been to BGW over the past 30-40 years, we have seen refurbishments come and go, but very little on the ride has changed, with the exception of props and theming in the queue (particularly the extended queue that is only used on the busiest of days). In fact, theming along the enclosed helix, which used to include strobe lights, fog/mist, and a banner of the mythical creature at the end of the tunnel, were removed (or have been non-functional) for at least the past 15-20 years and never addressed as part of those past refurbishments. There was always hope, especially from this long-time fan, that BGW would return the Loch Ness Monster to its full glory.

Happily, Loch Ness Monster: The Legend Lives On surpasses all expectations for what Busch Gardens Williamsburg (and its parent company, United Parks) can do when they put their mind to it, especially to a 47 year old coaster. The entry area to the coaster remains relatively unchanged with some new paint here and there and a schematic drawing of the mythical creature.


The first indication guests will see significant changes is in the main queue house, where some bulletin boards have been added to one of the walls with newspaper clippings, tourism pamphlets, and old photos of past expeditions to uncover the Loch Ness Monster. There are tons of Easter eggs within these boards, including callbacks to past attractions such as Big Bad Wolf, Questor, and the original park name, The Olde Country.


As guests proceed towards the station, a communications office has been added with plenty of more elements to set the scene for guests preparing for their expedition to uncover the Scottish serpent. The office is relatively small, but on par with the greenhouse section in the queue for Verbolten.

Communicatios office

As guests enter the station, the dedication to the theme is on full display with lots of nautical props in the ceiling, giant pulleys extending over the track, and an instrumental soundtrack preparing guests for what will be a fully themed voyage in search of Nessie.

Station props

While the coaster layout remains unchanged, the park replaced over 900 feet of track to smooth out some of the rough spots, particularly entering and exiting the interlocking loops that were previously borderline head-jarring. However, there's still a dramatic trim brake on the hill leading down into the first loop, and both lifts still operate at a snail's pace, though a soundtrack plays on speakers mounted along the lengths of the hills to keep guests engaged while the train slowly climbs each lift.

Audio has also been added to the turn prior to the first lift where an exploration shack and a recently damaged expedition vehicle has been recovered. However, the biggest additions to the coaster have been made to the tunnel covering the double helix, which serves as Nessie's lair. The park added audio, lighting effects, and video screens inside the tunnel to bring guests face to face with the legendary creature. Once you think you've escaped, Nessie makes one final appearance following the second loop.


Loch Ness Monster: The Legend Lives On sets a new standard for what can be done to an aging roller coaster waning in popularity. Instead of trying to replace the iconic attraction, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has supercharged the ride with story and thematic elements, along with some strategic smoothing of the track, to give guests an all-new and improved experience.

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Replies (5)

May 10, 2024 at 1:55 PM

Nice Job - I enjoyed this a lot...

The Lift hills seem slow to me..

The funny thing is that I was stationed in VA for 3 years and never made it out to BGW... At the time I was not into Theme parks - but still I was so close.....

May 10, 2024 at 10:17 AM

After Pantheon and Ice Breaker I was getting worried the "coaster in a field with no effort or money spent on anything else" was the new normal with the SW/BG parks, so its nice to see them put real money into this project. As a park manager its always an uphill/near impossible battle trying to get money spent on something that's not going to drive a measurable return so props to BGW's management team here.

May 10, 2024 at 12:15 PM

The lifts have always been slow, though when they used to run 3 trains, the slow lifts were needed to make sure the trains went through the loops at the same time to create the interlocking picture postcard that unfortunately doesn't happen anymore (mostly for safety reasons from what I've heard, though LNM hasn't run 3 trains in ages from what I can recall). At least the audio helps to engage guests during the slow climb, though it can be tough to hear because the chain dogs are extremely loud.

I agree the_man7. Sea World as a chain went a solid 5-8 years there where theming was an afterthought (Tigris, Emperor, Electric Eel, Texas Stingray, Wave Breaker, along with the coasters you've already mentioned). With DarKoaster and now LNM, there's been a return to more well-themed attractions, and the hope is that Penguin Trek and Phoenix Rising will get similar treatments with regards to theming. Hopefully both of those will be open by the end of June when we're planning a quick trip to Central Florida.

I'll also note another nice improvement to the overall comfort of the coaster. The park added a tent over the set of block breaks before the train goes back to the station. This gives guests some nice shade on blazing hot days if the crew is stacking.

May 10, 2024 at 2:57 PM

Having worked at BGW during my summer school vacations for 3 years, and working this ride specifically from time to time, this is great news! I initially was planning on holding out on any of the updates until my visit next weekend but couldn't resist after I saw this review.

May 12, 2024 at 11:58 AM

I had heard a rumour that they were going to remove the interlocking loops; so glad they didn't.

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