Well, I know I’ve been back from this trip for quite some time now, but I finally decided to type up the TR now that I have the time.
A few weekends ago, my family and I had decided to head down to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Now, to properly set this story up, it needs to be said that my last trip to BGW was several years ago. On that trip, Apollo’s Chariot was the last major attraction built, Wild Mause was still in VA, and Pirates 4D was playing in the Globe Theater. Knowing that, you can see that there have been plenty of additions here and there around the park since my last visit, so I’ll stick to talking mainly about those newer attractions.
So we got to the park shortly after opening on Saturday. We had purchased our tickets in advance so there was no waiting, just straight into the park. First of all, I was amazed by the lack of security. No metal detectors, only a quick bag check where they really only quickly scan the major compartments of your bags,... but hey, as long as they aren’t having security issues at the park, might as well keep the flow of people into the park going as smoothly as possible I guess. After getting through the gates, we head straight for Curse of DarKastle. I guess I must also say here that I am a HUGE dark ride fanatic, so when I heard that BGW was getting a heavily themed dark ride for 2005, BGW quickly rose to the top of my list of “must visit” parks.
*Curse of DarKastle*
I’ll start by saying that I’m going to give away a lot about the ride in this next paragraph, so if you are hoping to keep all the surprises for yourself, skip down two paragraphs. When we got to DarKastle, the line was already extended out of the main queue, but we were glad to see that, although long, the line moved relatively quickly and had almost no breakdowns the five times we rode that weekend. My sister and I commented on the “levels of queue comfort.” Let me explain, if you notice, the longer you wait in line, the more comforts they give you to make your wait more enjoyable. You start the line out in the hot sun with the “melting ice” water almost teasing you as it drips from the tower in front of the attraction. As you progress through the line, you get to the far side of the garden where they have large fans set up. After that you get a water fountain, followed by shade as enter the castle walls, followed by air condition in the hallway before the preshow. And of course after that you get the actual ride. Speaking of the preshow, it is very well done, but the room was VERY cold. Call it sticking with the ride’s theme or just an air conditioner turned down way too low, but either way I always left the preshow rubbing my arms for warmth. The whole attraction is down very well throughout the queue. The attention to detail is just wonderful. Take for example the horseshoes hanging above the stalls when you enter the room where you load the car. If you know anything about superstition, you’re supposed to hang a horseshoe with the curved end down so it can “catch” the good luck, but hanging a horseshoe with the curved end up allows all the luck to fall out making it bad luck. All the horseshoes above the stalls are hung curved end up.
The ride vehicles themselves are built very well. Small enough to make you feel like you’re going on this journey with very few others, but large enough to keep capacity up. The high walls prevent you from seeing anything before you’re supposed to see it and the stadium seating means every seat is a good seat (though I still have a preference for the front row. The ride itself is seamless in blending what is real and what is projected and the animation is top of the line. You can read other TRs to get the play-by-play of the ride, so I’ll just give you the pros and cons. I love the part of the ride going down the stairs, that was still one of my favorite parts, and I love the library room before you go into the fire. The soundtrack to the ride was phenomenal and truly immersed you in the experience. The scene at the beginning with the knights throwing things at you was absolutely beautiful as well. However, I thought the continuity of the ride was a bit hard to grasp at times. At the beginning it seemed like it was hard to tell where exactly you were supposed to be at any given time. The transition from the library scene to the top of the castle was a bit confusing (the spinning part). I eventually conceded that during the spinning you are supposed to be spinning up the chimney like a leaf caught in an updraft until you emerge out the top of the building. I also thought the transition to the next scene where your all of a sudden looking down the side of the building was a bit confusing. I also thought the transition from the falling scene to where you’re turned around looking at the forest was a bit choppy, especially as you can really see where the screen stops. Maybe some for or something could fix that all up. But overall, I thought the ride was fantastic. Easily one of the best dark rides outside of Florida or California. I was always seeing new things each of the five times I rode over the weekend and always came off smiling.
So, with the “main event” out of the way, it was on to explore the rest of the park. Lines were bad all day. Over an hour for most all coasters. Even noticed while riding Apollo’s Chariot that the parking lot was completely full and they were making cars turn around at the entrance gate. I guess in a way it’s a way to make the park more enjoyable for the guests who were already there. I mean, if the parking lot was larger, than that many more guests would be in the park and lines would be so much longer that it really wouldn’t be as enjoyable. Anyways, had some great rides on Apollo’s Chariot, Alpengeist was good as always, but they were having a terrible time with stacking the trains, LNM is still a classic, but it’s trimmed so much anymore it’s hard to really make an opinion of it, and BBW is still running good, though I despise the trim on the final hill.
Somewhere in the two days we were at the park, we headed into Ireland. My first impression was “mehh,” but on the final day, while walking out the park at night, I went through Ireland when it was completely empty and really fell in love with the charm of the area. It’s just absolutely beautiful and so lush. It just left me lost for words. Corkscrew hill was a lot of fun and the show, “Castle O’Sullivan” was cute, though in my opinion not as good as the show that was previously in the same theater. The smells in the area are absolutely to die for and the little troll thing on the wagon cart that comes out and interacts with the guests is quite entertaining.
We also tried the “Haunted Lighthouse” attraction somewhere in our visit. I’m still a strong believer that “Haunt’s of the Old Country” was the best 4D show they’ve had yet, but as a huge Christopher Lloyd fan, I had to smile at this film. Much less “scary” than the previous shows to be in the theater, though still thrilling and entertaining for guests of all ages.
In the end, I must say that BGW never disappoints. It’s easily one of the best parks out there. Beautiful beyond words. I should say I did encounter a fair amount of line jumping at the park, which was highly frustrating. The worst part was when I confronted one of them about it I was practically verbally assaulted with ride ops there only a few feet away to do nothing about it. Ironically, that guy that did verbally assault me lost his sun glasses when trying to throw them to somebody out of the line, so I guess that’s karma for ya. The park was crowded both days, VERY crowded, but I still managed to get on everything I wanted. Overall, a pretty good weekend. DarKastle is definitely worth the trip and I’ll probably be back sometime this year or next to ride it again.
If you can't stand the heights, get out of the line.
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