Back in July my family and I returned to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Of course, I was excited to check out the park’s new roller coaster Verbolten. And I knew that the kids were going to enjoy Sesame Forest. My parents were also with us, so this was going to be a trip that included three generations of visitors.
Surviving the Heat
It was right around 100 degrees the day of our visit. And with our group having young and older members, I was concerned about dehydration and wearing everyone out. So, we took advantage of the park’s steam-powered train and skyride. They gave us some great views of the park and also saved us from walking in the heat. I made sure that my parents did a few indoor attractions like the Pirates show. They were surprised by the 4D elements. Anyway, we all managed to survive the heat. It would have been even worse if we were at a less wooded park. Luckily, Bush Gardens is covered by trees so there were plenty of shady spots providing shelter from the sun.
Sesame Forest of Fun
My daughters are Sesame Street fans. So, I knew they’d enjoy Sesame Forest. The area’s for younger kids, but it does have a roller coaster in Grover’s Alpine Express. It’s a little Zierer-designed coaster with just a few turns. Grover himself is in the zero seat at the front of the long train leading riders on the short adventure. It’s just long enough to get the kids a little bit of a challenge. And, thankfully it delivered a smooth ride. My five year-old daughter gave it two thumbs up. She rode it four times in a row!
The centerpiece of Sesame Forest is a stage where the characters perform. There’s a water play area below the stage and after the performance guests can meet a few of the characters and take a few photos. There’s also a few other rides in the area including a junior drop ride that my oldest was really excited to ride. Everything in Sesame Forest is appropriately gentle and well-run.
The Land of the Dragons
Before this visit, The Land of the Dragons had been nothing more than a landmark. It was something that I just barely noted as I made my way from one of the park’s steel monsters to another. It used to be all about those steel peaks popping up out of the park’s green treeline. Now as a dad, it was nice to be able to visit another children’s area in the middle of the park. It’s anchored by a big dragon-themed tree house where kids climbed and explored the area. My daughters liked the small collection of flat rides. They were right next to each other and had short lines because it was getting late. I even got a picture with one of them riding the ladybugs while the other was flying by on a dragon ride.
Near The Land of Dragons, you’ll also find the Busch Gardens’ carousel. This year alone, we’ve taken the kids on about 7 different carousels in our travels. It’s becoming fun to note the differences in terms of the ages of the rides and different themes. Sister park SeaWorld had an aquatic-themed carousel and Islands of Adventure had the unique Caro-Seuss-el at Suesslanding. Busch Gardens seemed to run theirs a bit longer than some of the others. I wonder if CarouselCritic.com is taken?
Just A Little Coastering by The Critic
In between taking the lead as amusement coordinator, I did get a couple (just a couple) rides in. While the family had a tasty lunch in New France’s Trappers Smokehouse, I scooted away to see how Verbolten’s line was looking. There was about a 30 to 40 minute wait. I knew that I didn’t have that much time, so I did some Olympic-level speed walking hoping that I could at least catch a quick ride on something else. I had my sights set on the massive, King of Inverted Coasters, Alpengeist. It was nearly a walk-on, so I got my wish. The ride’s still a beast. It’s size, maneuvers, and theming touches continue to keep it at a world-class level. Read my full review of Alpengeist. Here’s a spoiler, I gave it a rare 10 out of 10.
As much as I love Alpie, Apollo’s Chariot is even higher in my Top Ten coasters. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to get in a fresh ride. It was fun to show the family, Griffon. The blue dive coaster is always fun to watch as it finishes with that water splash section that’s both an awesome photo op and a way for guests to cool off.
Loch Ness Monster looked as good as ever, but I failed to slip away for a ride on that too. I did get a neat perspective of it from the train station in Banbury Cross though. As we waited for a train I noticed that you could see the tunnel that houses the huge helix through the trees. At least when you do family trips you get a chance to slow down a bit and notice a few things you normally fly by.
Later in the day, after recharging back at the hotel, we returned to the park. Right around 5-ish, I finally got to Brave the Black Forest. Verbolten’s queue and station were a substantial step up in theming for a park that already does an above average job of theming. There was plenty to look at as the queue weaves through a German travel agency. Fittingly, the ride boasts what may be the best looking car-themed trains I’ve ever encountered.
While I did miss flying through the village and woods like I did on Big Bad Wolf, Verbolten was definitely provided a unique experience. Also, the fact that it delivers three different experiences is a huge plus. The ride is a solid addition and it’ll definitely produce a lot of memories that’ll stick with kids and adults alike. Read my full review of Verbolten.
Fourth of July Fireworks & IllumiNights
That evening the park was alive with energy. As guests awaited the fireworks, there were different shows in the different countries. After my ride on Verbolten, I rejoined the group. The kids were riding a few rides in the Oktoberfest section. As night fell, we stayed in that area and got to see the Wunderbarn! show. Everyone was really into it and my kids loved the talking chickens and the Chicken Dance.
While I didn’t get to rack up a number of rides on some of my favorite coasters, I did get to see how the typical family spends a day at one of my favorite parks. I will say that I was disappointed to see Mach Tower down the entire day. But on the coaster geek front, I did get two new credits including a ride on Verbolten, one of the most anticipated new roller coasters of 2012.
For a unique, behind-the-scenes look at Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s roller coasters, check out my coverage of the park’s roller coaster tour: Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Roller Coaster Tours
Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? What are your thoughts on the park? Leave a comment below.