August 11, 2007
Busch Gardens Europe is a park that I’ve wanted to go to since I was a kid. It wasn’t too far away, but always further away than would be easy to get to. Everyone I knew had been and loved it. But I just never got to go. Every year I’d say “This year, I’m going to get to Busch Gardens”, but by the end of the season no luck. I hadn’t initially planned to visit in 2007, but the trip came together and I’m happy it did.
I’d heard for years about how beautiful Busch Gardens Williamsburg was. That the food was decent. That the rides were fun. The park was presented as quality over quantity, and that proved to be correct on my first visit. I was disappointed that we were forced to change plans the evening before, and Matt was on the verge of devastation because we had to change our plans.
But on Saturday morning we quickly got ready, checked out, got gas and breakfast, and headed out. The mood had changed from disappointment to excitement, in large part because of the great time we’d had at Kings Dominion the evening before. The plan was to meet Tina on the way. After just a couple miles on the road, the traffic wasn’t good, and I was not happy that we could have a repeat of the day before, but everything worked out, and around 9:30 a.m. we were meeting Tina at a rest area 30 miles from Busch Gardens.
Tina hopped in with us and we headed to Williamsburg. The view from the road on arrival was spectacular. Coasters peeked out from above the trees. Apollo’s Chariot greeted us at the front of the park. And then we got to the parking lot gate. Wow. This looked busy. I went to the far left lane since we had Bill’s Platinum Pass. That not only got us free parking, but preferred parking near the front gate of the park. After parking Matt and I sprayed ourselves down with sun screen, packed our pockets with the things we needed, and headed to the gate to buy tickets.
And then we saw the lines. The lines to get tickets were long. It was some type of Military Day at the park, and there were tons of military and ex-military guys and gals buying tickets. After waiting a good 20 minutes while Matt and I ran to the restrooms, Bill got our tickets. With his Platinum Pass discount, we saved over $10. Then we had to get into the park. I went to the far left lines, everyone else followed, and shortly we were inside Busch Gardens. Oh My Goodness.
Even from the front plaza I could tell this park was going to be different. Everywhere you looked there was beautiful theming and architecture. I already felt transported out of the real world. Normally I despise hilly terrain at a theme park, but it worked wonders here and helped to really separate the different sections. Matt wanted to ride Big Bad Wolf first before the crowds got too large, so we headed to Big Bad Wolf via Italy. The Italian section was so well themed. This really was the most beautiful park I’d been to. After taking in the sights on our trek to Big Bad Wolf, we were greeted with a short line. Matt and Bill rode in the back while Tina and I rode in the middle.
Big Bad Wolf–I don’t normally care for suspended coasters, but this was definitely the one to judge them by in the U.S. The ride was intense and fun, the theming was spot on, and the scenery and trees really made you feel you were flying thru a small village. The first section was so much fun, but the brakes and 2nd lift were a bit of a pace killer. All of that, however, was made up for by the drop to the lake and everything up to the final brake run. Big Bad Wolf was amazing. Oh, and this park was pumping guests through the lines even with short lines.
Having started our day off right, I wanted to ride DarKastle while we were close, so we took the shortcut from BBW thru the gift shop, and over to DarKastle…only to find it closed. NO! Apparently the power was out, so the cast members asked us to come back. We went to Alpengeist instead. This was another coaster I’d been looking forward to riding. Again there was a very short wait for this ride.
Alpengeist–We opted for the shortest line, which was closer to the back. I liked how they had skis on the back of the train for theming. Alpengeist’s first drop was interesting in that it curves back underneath itself, and the drop was rather fun. But after the drop, I was so disoriented; I didn’t know where I was. I knew we went into the Immelman. But I didn’t know about the loop or Cobra Roll until I was half way thru it. This was due to our not sitting in the front seat and not being able to see the layout. And that’s okay by me. This had one of the best inverted Zero G rolls I’d come across. And even after the mid course, just flying low to the ground around the ‘snow’ was awfully fun.
I’m going to stop here and suggest the water fountain at Alpengeist’s exit to anyone looking for cold water. The park’s newest coaster was North America’s second B&M Dive Coaster. Thankfully the ride had a single rider line. The standby line was rather full, with about an hour’s wait, but we hopped in the single rider line and in about 10 minutes or so, we were boarding.
Griffon–Matt, Tina, and Bill got front row seats while I got a back row seat. This was a new credit for all of us. Griffon’s lift went significantly faster than I’d imagined, and was steep to boot. At the top you get a good view of the river and the beer factory. Ahhh…the beer factory. The holding brake slides you slowly over the edge, although in the back you’re really still sitting level. And then it just drops. And what a drop it was. The Immelman inversion was way smooth and really floaty. I do wish that the mid course didn’t slow the train down as much as it did, but you still get yanked over the other vertical drop riding in the back, then into the other Immelman, over some airtime hills, in the small ‘lake’, where water shoots out of the back of the train, and then back to the station. The single rider line was quick so we got right back in line. We waited a little longer this time, but in about 30 minutes, we got 2 rides on Griffon. My 2nd ride was in the front seat, and that was really more terrifying when the holding brake grabs you before the drop. Hanging and looking straight down really added to the ride in the front floorless seats. I loved Griffon.
Yet another coaster down in fairly rapid succession. Next we decided to take the sky ride over to the Loch Ness Monster. Matt’s camera batteries died at this point, and I meant to get more but that never happened. The sky ride goes over the park in a triangle, but we only rode one side of it. Once we arrived at the other end we walked down the hill by the river, taking more pictures, and then headed up to the coaster after stopping for a quick water break.
Loch Ness Monster–Another short wait, and boy were they moving the trains thru the station. We rode in the back seat after the wait and headed up the lift. Loch Ness Monster is a smooth older Arrow coaster, a rarity in this world, but it wasn’t what I expected. It was good, both of the interlocking loops were really cool, and the drops were fun. The bottom of the hill before the first loop, though, was kinda rough. But the helix in the tunnel made up for it, it was really cool. Loch Ness Monster is a classic, and a lot of fun. Another credit down.
After Loch Ness Monster we walked over to Italy for the last credit of the day for Matt and me. I’d heard a lot about walking at Busch Gardens Europe and how it can be rough to get around the hilly terrain, but honestly, with a triangular sky ride and train, I didn’t see a problem. We arrived at Apollo’s Chariot, but passed Escape from Pompeii on the way. The line was longer than I wanted to wait for, so we just headed to the coaster.
Apollo’s Chariot–The line moved swiftly. We opted for the back seat of the train. This was only the 2nd B&M Hyper coaster I’d ridden and I loved Raging Bull. The first drop on Apollo was great, but the next 2 hills don’t give very much airtime. Matt didn’t care for the helix, but I liked it, especially the swooping curved turn at the end. Then, the section from the helix to the mid course brake run was loads of fun, especially that oddly banked hill. And of course, you get flung over the mid course, which didn’t hit very hard. There were a couple more hills that should have delivered major airtime, but didn’t. The last hill before the final brakes, though, was sweet.
We had ridden all of the park’s coasters so now it was time to eat and then ride the other rides. We ate at La Cucina. Honestly, when we asked for the closest restaurant, and I saw La Cucina, I thought “Great, all these places to eat and the closest one looks like standard theme park fare”, and came very close to saying “Let’s go to the other Italian Food Place”. Then we walked in and I saw what they offered. Although it was a counter service restaurant the food looked good. And it was fresh.
I went all in and got an entree, side, and dessert. And I’m not opposed to paying higher prices for theme park food if its decent. My chicken sandwich, fries, and chocolate cake were all good. We had a nice lunch in the shade. Where to next? Da Vinci’s Cradle looked good.
Da Vinci’s Cradle-I’d never ridden an actual magic carpet ride, and maybe I shouldn’t have ridden this one so soon after eating. There was no real airtime, but the ride was fun and violent in a good way. We were flung up and slammed to a halt on every pass. I was really surprised at how good the theming was here as well. Aside from the beautiful landscaping, I never would have imagined a section themed to Da Vinci’s sketches and inventions would work as well as it does and be so fun. And I loved how Busch Gardens added in kids rides in with adult rides.
Matt and Bill considered riding the Flying Machine, but we didn’t. Instead, we headed back up to Germany for some DarKastle and Big Bad Wolf. Thankfully DarKastle was running this time, and the line was moving quickly. The wait was about 40 minutes long, but we didn’t mind. The outdoors section of the queue was nicely themed and had high powered fans spraying mist to cool everyone off. The covered section had air blowing down from the faux windows, so that kept us cool and we were in the shade. The inside section of the queue was air conditioned and well themed.
Curse of DarKastle-While the ride and queue were very well themed, there were 2 screens with a movie playing in the pre-show area but there was barely any sound. I figured the plot out, but went into the ride knowing NOTHING about the antagonist, protagonist, or anything about the ‘weakness’ of the villain. aside from that, I loved DarKastle. You’re moving through scenes in the castle where the ware-wolf Master lives, and are trying to escape with the help of his mother. I liked the theme and think there was far more potential for the ride than was executed. But they missed a good opportunity to use steam and heat for the fireplace section.
By this point we had ridden all of the major rides in the park that we wanted to. I could have eaten again, but we didn’t. Matt wanted something to drink, and so he and I headed over to Das Festhous. It took me a while to realize that there was an actual band playing inside. I got in the drink line and ordered a Budweiser bottled Mojito. I wasn’t expecting much, but but it was really goo. This bottle of ‘Mojito’ and a bottled water together cost $4.25. Considering a bottle of water by itself at Six Flags or Kings Dominion was almost $4, I think that was a pretty good deal. Tina decided to get some water after Matt and I came out, so as we waited for her we watched Big Bad Wolf fly thru the little German village. Then we got in line, but it was much longer than we had expected.
Big Bad Wolf–This time the queue was pretty full. But again, the park ran the coasters well and capacity was great. I think we waited less than 30 minutes, and this time Matt and I were sat in the front row. I must say, this was where the coaster shined, and I can only imagine nite rides on this thing. Going thru the village in the front was a completely different experience. The final drop was even better. Big Bad Wolf was probably the biggest surprise for me on this trip. I can’t believe I liked it as well as I did, considering how boring I find suspended coasters normally.
At this point we were in re-ride mode. We headed over to Alpengeist, only to be greeted by another almost full queue. Again, the wait was maybe 30-40 minutes or less. I can handle that, especially considering how busy the park was.
Alpengeist–I wasn’t quite as disoriented this time. The ride is large, and most people complain that it is forceless. I’m okay with that. I did get more air in the 0-G roll this time, WAY more. And I really loved the last section, flying so close to the ground. Alpengeist does what it was meant to do really well. Not only that, but it looks good.
Another ride on Alpengeist and our day was starting to come to an end. But we had one more re-ride so we hopped on the train over to Italy. The train ride provided a nice cool break from walking. And the conductors even let off steam just for Bill to take a picture. I loved this park! Pompeii’s line was getting shorter, but we still headed to Apollo, which had a line comparable to the first time.
Apollo’s Chariot–Another good ride on Apollo. I forgot to mention that by this time in the day, I had a huge rip in the back of my favorite jeans. And I loved those pants. Oh well, I don’t mind, it wasn’t like I was going commando or anything. Apollo has a great layout, I just wish it didn’t have any trim brakes. Those kill what looks liked some killer airtime moments. We rolled into the station after our last coaster ride happy, but I still liked Raging Bull better.
After Apollo we headed towards the front gate. But the gang talked me into waiting for Escape from Pompeii. I’m glad we did too, as the line wasn’t as long as it seemed.
Escape from Pompeii-This was a really funky and fun shoot-the-chutes. I was impressed with the dark ride portion and that the effects were all running. I remember when this was built and how I had wanted to ride, and it was indeed lots of fun with fire, falling statues, and more theming. Why can’t all of these rides have this kind of theming? The drop was fun, and we weren’t soaked.
Matt and Bill would definitely have stayed longer, but Tina and I went in to parent mode and put a stop to the whining. I really was happy that we were parked so close to the gate at the end of our day. As for Busch Gardens, I had a new park to add to my favorite list. I loved everything about it. The food, the rides, and the theming. Pictures and words never conveyed how immersive this park is. And any park that encourages drinking alcohol everywhere but the lines is okay by me! I knew I’d be back to the park sooner rather than later.
We packed up the car and headed to pick Tina’s car up. We didn’t think about her car being on the other side of the interstate when we made the decision to leave it, so we had to exit, get her car (while I changed pants), get back on the road, exit, and get back on the west bound lanes. Once we arrived in Richmond we kind of lost Bill and Tina, who thought they were behind me and pulled off thinking they were following me, but we had phones and they knew where we were going. Matt and I stopped at an Applebee’s near Staunton Virginia to wait for the other 2 to catch up, but they missed the exit and instead we planned to meet back in WV.
Eventually we all arrived in White Sulfur Springs where I gassed up. Tina’s phone died, and Bill had left his in our car, so getting to the right gas station was an adventure. Once we met up there, we headed to Beckley, where I showed them to their motel and went my on my way.