I checked the 3 top weather sites and they all called for 100% rain/tstorms all day Friday. I looked at the radar and thought, no way, it'll be clear. We made the 6 hour drive from central Jersey to Williamsburg and it poured the entire way. Once we made it into VA, the rain stopped, and we didn't experience one drop the entire day.
I've only been to Busch Gardens once, and I was 9, and didn't ride a single thing. We arrived at 1pm to a very empty parking lot. We parked in Italy, and I imagine that's one of the closest lots you can park in. Seeing Apollo as we pulled in just made us more antsy. However, heading towards the tram, we saw Apollo stop on the lifthill. We hopped aboard the tram and headed towards the park entrance. They had 3 people alone, just manning the tram station. At Six Flags, we're lucky if they have 3 people running a major coaster, but at Busch Gardens, they have 3 people at each tram stop. All of the employees were very nice too.
Landscaping was beautiful, of course. As you walk around, you can hardly see any rides, and would harldy know that you were in an amusement park. They made an announcement over the loudspeaker that the entire park had suffered a small power disruption and that the rides would be up and running ASAP. Well, that explained Apollo's train being stuck on the lifthill, and the people walking down the Pompeii lift hill.
Unfortunately, it was band/chorus day, so even though it was moderately empty, the park was full of children in matching shirts, and that's never fun.
When we finally reached the Apollo line, the power had returned. Was about a 15 minute wait for the back row, with 2 trains running. What I have to say about the theming and stations and operations is pretty much the same for all of the coasters, so I'll say it later. Apollo exceeded my expectations. The mini drop off of the hill caught us by surprise, even though we knew it was there. My biggest complaint on Apollo was at the bottom of the first drop, it flattens out, and you can feel it big time. On Nitro, it's a perfect parabola, and that's just so much better. Otherwise, these rides are very comparable. I loved Apollo's turns, and the last bunny hill is outstanding.
Next up was Curse of Darkastle. The wait was about 30 minutes. The outside and queue theming were excellent, and I loved the cold air coming out of the windows/grates in the queue, just like you would expect to feel. Disclaimer: I've never been on Spiderman at IOA. Darkastle was OUTSTANDING. The 3D-ness and the movement of the vehicle, and the drop at the end, was all brilliant. I wanted to hop right back in line. Bravo Busch Gardens.
Moving right along, we headed for Alpengeist. The wait was about 30 minutes, with 2 train operation. We settled for a row near the back, because the front row line was ridiculous and the sign in the station said the front row line was 40 minutes longer than any other row, which seems ridiculously high and false. Just as everyone says, the ride was fast and powerful. I haven't fully developed an opinion on the ride, but I know I wasn't 'wowed' by it.
Stopped at Trapper's Smokehouse for some ribs, they weren't too great, but for the sampler platter, which included 5 or 6 baby back ribs, 2 spare ribs, and a bbq chicken leg/thigh, fries, and dinner roll for about $15... it wasn't bad at all. A 16oz drink was only $2.93 which is very cheap compared to Six Flags and Cedar Fair.
The interaction that you get with Griffon from the walkways is just tremendous. It just looms over you from every angle. We waited under 30 minutes, with a 3 train operation. The ride ran flawlessly, as far as breakdowns go. There were easily 40 people in line for the front row, and actually 0 for the second row, so we jumped into the second row. The signs all over the station say that you can't wait for the front row, but they were clearly letting you do whatever you wanted to. The ride in the second row was 'meh'. I wasn't 'wowed', nor was I disappointed. We came back a couple of hours later and waited out the front row, which goes very fast considering 10 people get on every 2-3 minutes. The front row was OUTSTANDING... especially when you're on the end seat and you're hanging out over nothing. The first drop airtime was sick, and I actually greyed out on the first immelmann. The 2nd vertical drop was great, and one of my favorite parts was the twisted hill before the drop into the splashdown... that provided the most ejector air on the ride.
Moving on, we hit up some beer. Decided to try the new Bud Light Lime, although I'd never had Bud or Bud Light before. It was pretty damn good, hardly tasted like beer. Only $5.44 for a 16oz bottle. Not bad considering other parks, or a ballpark where it's $6.50 for a 12oz. We tried to get in line for Loch Ness Monster with the beer, but the girl at the entrance refused and said that we couldn't take any food or drink into the line. Now, we had already seen people with beer/food/drink in every other line that we had been in, but I wasn't going to argue with her. Either the LNM line is different, or the people at the other coaster entrances weren't doing their jobs. LNM was about 15-20 minutes with 2 train operation. The ride was pretty smooth considering its age, and the tunnel was pretty sweet, but overall, it would soon become the worst coaster in the park. Not a bad coaster by any means, just the worst in the park.
We finally made it to Big Bad Wolf, the one I was perhaps most anticipating. It was about 15 minutes with a 2 train operation. We decided to wait out the front row, for an extra 15-20 minutes, and boy were we glad we did. The first half of the ride was great. The second half of the ride was NUTS. We'd seen that drop off the second lift in videos and watched it from the bridge in the park, but nothing could prepare us for actually experiencing it. We had just experienced our first two suspended coasters last year, Iron Dragon and Top Gun. Big Bad Wolf puts those two coasters to so much shame. The drop off the second life was breathtaking, even though they trim if halfway down. The 10-15 seconds following that drop are out of control, ridiculously fast, made my eyes water, and left me speechless.
We went back to Griffon to get our second and final ride on that. Then we went to Apollo for our second and final ride on that. Rode that in the 2nd row, and it wasn't nearly as good as the back, as we expected.
We really wanted to wait around til 9pm (closing) to ride BBW in the dark, but it was only 7ish and we were tired. We hit up BBW in the front again, after a 20 minute wait. Just as amazing, if not moreso. Then we hit it up towards the back and it was perhaps a little more out of control and whippy, but nothing beats the front row on this beast.
All in all, Griffon front row was fantastic, and Darkastle was a killer ride... but if I had to pick my favorite ride at this park, it would have to be BBW, and I can't even begin to imagine it in pitch black.
We loved the theming throughout the park and with the operators/attendants uniforms. However, our biggest gripe with Busch Gardens, and it is a big gripe... is that they don't fill the trains. They make NO effort whatsoever to fill empty seats. Every Alpengeist train was going out with 4-10 empty seats, and it had the longest line. No reason for that, period. Our last complaint would be that Alpengeists' and Apollos' stations were madhouses, completely crowded and full and disorganized. Some station control with a worker standing at the station entrance would have been nice.
To sum it all up... Busch Gardens Europe has leaped into my top 5 parks. They have 5 outstanding coasters, beautiful landscaping, and a great staff. I can't wait to go back next year.
Saturday May 17th, 2008
The park opened at 10:30 and we arrived about 11:10 to a fairly empty parking lot. However, just like at BGE, it was Band/Chorus Day. By 11:20, we reached Volcano's line and it was spilling out of the entrance. We were hoping that the switchbacks hadn't been utilized yet, and that we were only looking at a 30-45 minute wait, so we stuck it out. 2+ hours later, we finally got on Volcano. We waited for the front row, which only added 5 minutes to our wait, and it was excellent. I had been on it before, 5 years ago, and it was just the same. I think my girlfriend and I both came to the same conclusion, it was a good fun ride, but not great. However, after a 2 hour wait, who knows how badly that might have scarred our views. Kings Dominion staff must've been trained by BGE's staff, because they were sending out empty seats, constantly. When you only have a 16 person train, you should be filling all seats, every single time... but they were sending out 10-12 people on every single train. Even a GP in front of us in line was pointing it out to us and complaining. When we got off of Volcano, we looked over at Avalanche and saw the line spilling out of the entrance. We knew there weren't many switchbacks into the station, but we also knew that the capacity wasn't great, so we skipped it.
We headed to Backlot Stunt Coaster, which we had ridden last year at Kings Island. It had about a 20 minute wait. It's an okay ride, but more family oriented, and nothing to make me wanna hop on again, even if it was a walkon.
We looked over at Anaconda's line, and it was, suprise suprise, spilling out of the entrance. I'd been on it before and knew it wasn't worth a full queue wait. We headed back to Flight of Fear and saw a 90% full queue. Ten minutes after we had gotten into the line, it was spilling out of the entrance. We ended up waiting over an hour. The ride was great, but I think I prefer the outdoor version.
We then decided to get some lunch. We wanted to get Chick Fil-A, but we didn't know where it was exactly. We finally came across it, and it's actually called something else, but has a tiny sign that says "featuring Chick Fil-A". The regular sandwich was $4.15 by itself, which I think is normally 2.85 outside of a park, so a 46% markup. But, nevertheless, the sandwich was amazing as usual.
We decided it was time to get our fix of wood. We hit up Rebel Yell first, which was actually racing every time. We heard easily 10 different groups of people debating over which side was backwards, or which line they were in. So if Cedar Fair thought most people wouldn't notice, they were wrong. It was about a 20-30 minute wait, and we rode in the very last row, and it was pretty dreadful, painful airtime. I imagine the front row was much smoother.
Next up, Hurler, with an almost full queue. About a 30-40 minute wait for the front row. This was running much better than 5 years ago. Dare I say, Hurler is a great coaster. For what it is, it really packs a lot into a short ride. I definitely would've wanted to grab another ride on it.
Our next ride was on Grizzly, with a pretty short wait of 20 minutes. We waited out the front row, and it packed a great ride. Just like Hurler, this was much better than 5 years ago. I can't believe what a wild ride it was. I wish we could've stayed until nighttime to ride it in the dark.
By this time, it was about 6:30, and we wanted to leave. We made one last sweep to see if we could hop on anything. Shockwave was spilling out of the queue, as was Volcano and Avalanche. After these 3 failed attempts, we left.
When I was at the park 5 years ago, it was in July on a beautiful day. We had nearly walkons for every single ride. Now, on a somewhat dreary day in May, we experienced overspilling queues on nearly every ride. I've never seen anything like it. Obviously Band/Chorus Day had something to do with it, but nevertheless, yuck. One thing I loved at KD was that every line allowed you to put your loose articles in the station in cubbies or whatever... becoming rare these days.
Six Flags America
Sunday May 18th, 2008
We got to the park at 2pm to a light rain. Light rain soon became steady rain, which soon became heavy rain. We processed our ridiculously cheap season passes (the only reason we came), which took about 30 minutes. They do NOT know what they're doing in there. At least 6 people taking photographs, and the system they have just doesn't seem to work. We entered the park and it was still raining heavily, and we noticed that there were only about 10 people in the park.
We headed straight to Roar (2 train op) and rode front row, walk on of course. Aside from the rain pelting on our faces, it was the best ride we've ever had on Roar. They clearly did some work on it recently. As soon as we got off of Roar, the rain stopped completely. We now had on our hands, a completely empty park, with no lines, and no rain. We went to Joker's Jinx (2 train op)... front row walk on. Great ride, I prefer it over the Flight of Fears. Next up was Superman (1 train op), rode near the back, walk on. It was pretty weak, as usual. But we're spoiled by Superman at SFNE, which we ride several times a year. Next up was Batwing (1 train op, I think). We walked on and had a great ride. Always provides a more forceful, exciting ride over the B&M counterparts. Two Face was closed, and we decided to pass on The Mind Eraser. Last up was The Wild One (2 train op), front row, walk on, excellent ride. 90+ years old and still kicks ass. We decided to grab a reride near the back, and it wasn't quite as good as the front. Before leaving, we wanted to grab another Roar ride, since our first was in the rain. We rode near the back, in the black train (as opposed to our first ride on the teal train). The ride was still very smooth and fun, but it was very obvious that the black train was the bad train. With that ride finished, we got in the car and left, at 4pm, only 2 hours after arriving. This was certainly the most successful trip I've ever had at the park. Aside from the pass processing crew, the park staff was pretty decent. My only complaint would be that there were no spiels in the station, and the workers didn't say a word. No "dispatch" "enjoy your ride" "fasten your seatbelts" or anything of that kind. I'm guessing it was only due to the rain and minimal crowds.
SFA has two outstanding woodies and some middle of the road steels. I don't think we'll go back until they add another coaster. Kings Dominions crowds really got us down and the park is lacking a spectacular coaster. Unfortunately, Dominator wasn't open yet... but we rode it at Geauga Lake last year. I doubt we'll go back to Kings Dominion until they get their B&M Hyper. I think we're ready to go back to Busch Gardens tomorrow, that's how much we loved it. My girlfriend is far from a coaster enthusiast, and even she pointed out to me that Busch Gardens is lacking a woodie. We both agree that the coaster collection is excellent and very varied, but a woodie better be next on the list. However, woodie or no woodie... BBW will keep me coming back again and again. *** Edited 5/22/2008 12:42:50 AM UTC by SFGAdv lover***
Oh and you did miss an amazing night ride of BGE, and for that matter LNM too. You'll have to try that sometime.
However, Big Bad Wolf was the surprise of that show for me as well.
As for Kings dominion i have to agree as well there. A collection of roller coasters, but nothing all that great its like a kings island on the east coast, it felt almost familiar in a wierd way. SFA i havent done but with good reviews of the wood coasters i might have to check it out on our way to or from busch back to ohio. Yes Superman spoils a bit from SFNE as compared to the Darien Lake model i have been on, i am interested in making that trip just to get a ride on it.
1) The flat section at the bottom of Apollo's Chariot first drop-I honestly don't remember that. I'm thinking of going there in two weeks since someone else has offered to drive and I'll have to pay attention to it
2) All band/chorus days should be permanently banned, as well as, cheerleader competitions to weekends where the general public will not be sharing the same space:) I think it places too many people in the same space, and BGE is not a place you want to be at when it gets really crowded.
3) Ditto on the empty seat comments, especially with any B&M. My sister who is not an enthusiast cannot stand B&M coasters for that reason alone. I mean, she likes how they ride, but she gets really annoyed by the amount of empty seats that go out when things are busy at a park.
Great Bear is one that has really gotten her irritated because of the queue that follows the train around after the brakes at the end of the ride. It makes it too easy for her to count the number of empty seats.
4) I have to go with an opposite opinion on BBW. I think I've ridden it so much (going back to opening year), that I don't find it as exciting as it once was.
The first half of the ride dies down so quickly to make it up the second lift and the drop off the second lift promises so much and gets so quickly reigned in.
For me, my number one suspended is Top Gun at KI, because it's non-stop action the whole way through, even if it is a short ride.
5) Sorry that you don't like S:ROS at SFA. We rode the SFNE version in 04', so we completely understand. We were robbed! I can't complain too much though as that third hill still delivers everytime.
I sincerely hope as you do that SFA gets a new coaster next year. There gets to be a point where it becomes agonizing. Having Ultra Twister show up and not built was also a big tease.
But, I'm glad you noticed the changes on Roar as we did, and that Wild One is still great. Come on Mark, get us something next year! Some parks have gotten two in a row, and we're still waiting since 01'.
6) Good luck with the woodie at BGE. I don't believe it's ever going to happen due to the neighbors. The only way I see it working out is if they were to buy an Intamin prefab, and I don't see that happening just to have a wood coaster that rides mostly like a steel coaster.
Besides, you'll probably have to wait years for something like that to happen. Look at the gap in time between Apollo's Chariot and Griffon.
7) B&M hyper at KD. Again, I don't see it happening. If rumors are true, the only way they got Dominator into KD, was because it was relocated and not built new. I seem to remember some kind of non-compete clause with BGE on the B&Ms due to the mileage between the two parks.
Besides, where do you put the hyper at KD? My plan (it's evil) has always been to take out one side of Rebel Yell. With both sides going forwards now, it's even more of a reason to remove a side for a fairly bad coaster.
I think PKD needs a coaster with a good length most of their coasters are pretty short and have low capacity excluding the wooden coasters.
SFA hmm...that Dark Knight coaster that Gadv's got should've been their new coaster as they need it more than Gadv's do. It's like giving Donald Trump a Toyota when someone who commutes could make better use of it.
It's also Great Adventure's third family steel coaster to SFA's none. Sometimes, I just don't understand how corporate thinks.
Intamin Fan said:
^I've said it too many times already. It especially hurts that the SFNE one got cancelled altogether for this year. You could have put it next to Joker's Jinx, or in between S:ROS and Batwing, and not have had to worry about any flood plain issues (that I know of). You'd also would have had plenty of room surrounding the building--another reason the SFNE version got canned for this year.
It's also Great Adventure's third family steel coaster to SFA's none. Sometimes, I just don't understand how corporate thinks.
I was just thinking about it and the more I do the less sense it makes SFGAM & SFGADV could surely survive without TDK. I really feel bad for these smaller parks perhaps SFA is being sold off so they feel they shouldn't put any money into it? Im trying to find logic behind these decisions.
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