Busch Gardens Williamsburg / King's Dominion (4/21 - 4/24)

So our itinerary for this weekend trip included both BGW and Dominion (focus on BGW multiple days, if needed), among some other sight-seeing. The last time we had been to these parks was back in 2004, which is nuts. Visit was way overdue and because of COVID delaying more international-focused trips we had planned, decided to spend 2022 bouncing around the US and visiting parks on the ‘to do’ list instead. This started with Hershey in December (OK, so 2021…), California in Feb (SFMM, Knotts, SWSD) followed by San Antonio just a few weeks ago (SWSD, SFFT) and now Williamsburg (BGW, Dominion).

We flew into Norfolk early Thursday morning and headed toward BGW, arriving right at open to a lengthy, 30 minute wait through the parking tolls. Our hopes of a dead, walk-on filled visit went out the window, but planned to make the best of it. (Spoiler: It wasn’t busy at all, gates must have opened late? Everything except Pantheon/Invadr was <15 minute or walk on for the most part).

Right away, we made a dash right toward Pantheon, threw our stuff in lockers and hoped for the best in regards to my height… Pantheon has a 6’4” height limit, which puts my 6’5” frame (without shoes) in the danger zone… However, even though the ride host had a “max height” stick in their hand, didn’t even call me over to check as we walked right past (nor the equally tall dude in front of me, even though they looked right at us). So maybe luck is on my side? I totally expected NOT to ride this going to this park, given I heard how strict they have been with max height checks… Of course, If measured and told “no”, I was fine with that as there is plenty of other stuff to do of course and I obviously wasn’t going to give them a hard time or try over and over again. But it was worth a try!

We got into the station after a short 20 minute wait and hopped on the back seat… Still no height check (yay) and soon after, we departed the station. Happy times for sure!

The ride itself is a mixed bag… I’ll cut to the chase, at least for us, Velociocaster is a much stronger ride. In my mind, it’s not even really close. My biggest issue is the pacing of this ride… It feels fragmented and just kind of quirky. The first launch into the roll offers some good hangtime, with the following off-axis turns being OK but not really doing much. The two-stage launch doesn’t really offer much speed or power, but the backward portion is when things start to get better. A really awesome burst of airtime and a great floaty trip up the back spike. Finally hit full-speed forward with the great pops of air into the top hat and down the hillside. The following outward banked turn had a touch of float, then a quick turn into the stall. The stall here is ‘smoother’ and less snappy than on VC. Otherwise, similar elements of course. Twist out and a nice head chopper before a quick zig-zag into the wave turn which was a much better element than I expected it to be. One of the highlights for me, for some reason, just a lot of fun as my body stayed upright while the train swung off to the side and back.

The ride is really fun, smooth and a great addition to the lineup at the park. I like it a lot!

After that ride, we proceeded to make our way around the park… Tempesto was next, followed by back seat on Apollo’s Chariot which was running fantastic. Still delivers some 20+ years later.

Made our way through Italy and Germany to Verbolten. Waited about 15 minutes before climbing on board. What a cool ride! A more coaster-focused Mummy (and a bit more intense, especially in the dark ride portion). The trains didn’t track the greatest, being a bit more bumpy throughout, but the ride was great and the drop track is always a fun element.

Next up was Alpengiest, which back in 2004, slightly disappointed me at the time. B&M inverts are my absolute favorite, so I was excited to finally get on this beast again. Waited just a few trains for front seat and off we went…

Holy… Hell…

What an epic ride. Complete 180 from my impressions long ago! The power, speed, snap of the elements, the setting among Griffon and the rest of the park… Just stunning! Easily bumped up my invert list just below Raptor. We immediately moved back a few rows (got to stay on!) to row 7 for ride #2… A bit more shaky in the back of the train, but didn’t take away from how amazing this thing is! If only Banshee could be anywhere near this good… (Sorry, I like Banshee, but the weird banking and transitions into/out of elements is what kills it for me…). It might even crack my top #10? It’s that good!

Next up was Invadr, the longest wait of the entire trip…. About 40 minutes (should have come back later in the evening)… But anyway… Fun family GCI, more mild compared to most as expected, but still a fun one.

Last stop was Griffon, the towering B&M dive coaster. Big fan of Sheikra, so I was always looking forward to riding this one. It sports the good old fashioned OTSR’s, which is another +1… One train wait for back seat and off we went.

That first drop was officially dubbed the “yeet drop” in the back seat. Easily the best drop on any dive I have been on (Sheikra, Baron, Valravn) without question. Wonderful ejector and one of the few drops that makes the stomach butterfly a bit, totally unexpected. The rest of the ride just hauls. The pacing on Griffon is a step up from the others, it doesn’t feel as big/clunky/slow. The second half offers a great second drop and another immelman before the splash/turn finish. What a fantastic ride! The views are killer, too. Rode another two times before moving on.

With everything ridden, (Loch Ness not included, which we did ride the following day), we made our second lap around the park and rode more Alpengiest, Apollo’s Chariot, Griffon and another spin on Pantheon (no issue again!) to conclude our first day at BGW.

The park was just stunningly beautiful and exceeded my expectations going back. The ride collection here is just so strong, probably in the top few of most solid lineups top-to-bottom of any of the big parks. Everything was blooming around the park and it just looked so nice. Awesome!

Friday morning, we drove the hour to Kings Dominion and arrived at open. Parking lot was quite barren, so things were looking good. Park opened at 9am, but they didn’t actually open the access to the various areas of the park (chained off) until 930. We made our way right to I305, which was walk-on anywhere you wanted. We hit up front seat first and off we went.

I personally expected to not really like/love I305, but I was pleasantly surprised. The first turn is hella-intense, but the low turns and quick direction changes were a fun time. I really do hate these trains though, that is the big killer for me. Like Maverick, the vests dig into my collar bones (even in the station) and is uncomfortable/annoying. But anyway, I liked it a lot more than anticipated, so that was awesome. Immediately after, hopped back on for a back seat ride which was great as well (but prefer the front).

Rode the bobsled afterward, located right next to the new Tumbili (sorry, not riding… Can’t stand these free spins with a passion!). Watching some poor guy on the final flip smash his head into the headrest and immediately look into intense pain was enough for me! The area looked really nice, though.

Made our way over to Twisted Timbers, the parks RMC… I was excited for this one, as it appeared to have a more unique layout compared to most of the RMC’s (especially the trio of more parabolic airtime hills on the leg out). The ride delivers insane amounts of airtime of course with that signature RMC ‘bucking bronco’ positive-to-negative over and over again. I don’t know… I like RMC’s, but never love them. Not to mention, the shin bars feels like they are snapping my shin in two. I had visible bruises after just one ride, it sucks. The first half was fine, but the second half is just like “ugh, why do they do this?”. They just get so repetitive with the uncomfortable airtime and the layouts tend to lack like a ‘flow’ or offer any dynamics besides hardcore ejector to positive G’s on repeat the entire duration. I liked it, even if my little review here seems otherwise. We ended up riding again, but that was enough for me!

Grizzly was next, not much to say here. Decent woodie, but a few potholes that need some TLC!

Finished our (short) visit with Dominator… Our beloved BKF… First time on it since it was moved from GL. Had to have ridden it hundreds of times over the years, it was great to be back on it. It sounded and felt identical… A bit nostalgic for sure. Still a killer layout, but now that we rode Superman at SFFT a few weeks prior, that may just take it for a floorless! Sorry BKF! You just need a zero-G-roll…

Spent about 3 hours total at Dominion before heading out… A bit quicker than I had thought, but the park doesn’t really offer anything ‘special’ that you don’t see in any other CF park, rides aside. With walk-on waits, we got through all we wanted quite quickly. The park was really clean and looked great overall. We skipped Flight of Fear, Back Lot and Racer (ridden previously, no real need to ride again). So just after noon we headed out to ZZQ BBQ in Richmond, a top rated Texas-style BBQ joint nearby. And let me tell you, it’s insane! GO HERE if you are in the area and enjoy BBQ, it’s top notch. Killer vibe, fantastic staff and amazing food (that brisket is heaven on earth…).

We hit up two breweries and then headed back to BGW for the evening, arriving 2.5 hrs prior to close… Park was just dead, so we lapped Alpengiest and Griffon a few times, a ride on Loch Ness for our homie BrettV, another ride on Invadr and Vertbolten, as well as another ride on Pantheon (front seat at night!) before finishing off on Apollo’s Chariot for our last ride. Just stunning… Moonless sky offered pitch black night rides, it was bonkers. SO GOOD! Pantheon was also a bit better at night, which isn’t surprising. Again, pitch black so it made it feel a bit more wild.

Saturday we went brewery hopping in the early afternoon and arrived at BGW yet again at around 3-4pm. The plan for this day was primarily to check out the shows, shops and ride the train/cable-cars and such in hopes it died down late evening for some more riding. And we did just that (along with a meal at the BBQ joint by Griffon, which was quite good!).

Come evening, we basically rode Alpengiest and Griffon the final hour and a half. Finishing our BGW 3-day extravaganza with a front seat night ride on Alpengiest. Doesn’t get any better!

Our final ride count at BGW over the three days:

11x Alpengiest, 7x Griffon, 3x Apollo’s Chariot, 3x Pantheon, 2x Invadr, 2x Verbolten, 1 Tempesto and Loch Ness. Can you tell which was the favorite?

We were surprised we actually went back to BGW three days in a row… But there was just always more we wanted to do. Compare to Dominion where we spent 3 hours and that felt like enough… But BGW certainly is a multi-day park, for sure. It’s beautiful, plenty to do and the ride collection is top notch. It’s fun just walking around doing nothing… People watching and enjoying the sights. Love it here!

Sunday our flight left at 7:30pm, so we had some time to kill in the morning and afternoon to do some stuff. We went to the Virginia Zoo and then headed over the to the beach for a bit. Grabbed lunch and a beer and then headed to the airport to fly back home.

We won’t wait so long to get back to BGW next time… Certainly will make a point to stop back here much more frequently!

Last edited by SteveWoA,
eightdotthree's avatar

SteveWoA said:

My biggest issue is the pacing of this ride… It feels fragmented and just kind of quirky.

100% agree. I love the ride but it does have some weird pacing. I feel like the outward floater airtime hill is just too floaty and not taken with enough speed so it feels like another stall in a ride full of stalls. On another note, I have never ridden a smoother coaster. There isn't a single rattle or bump anywhere. I'll be back in June so I am curious if it develops the typical Intamin shuffle.

Vater's avatar

Haven't ridden it yet, but I really dig what Pantheon looks to offer. So many unique elements. Also like seeing love for Alpengeist. I never quite understood the criticism it gets, but then again I never subscribed to the seemingly universal enthusiast opinion that quicker/snappier elements were a requirement for inverts to be good.

ApolloAndy's avatar

Thanks for the TR. I'm headed to KD for the first time in 17 years this summer. How were the lines?

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Non-existent! Walk-on everything the few hours we were there.

Outside of spending three days in the park and only riding Loch Ness one time, sounds like a great trip! Kings Dominion is a full day park for me, but outside of that you guys had a fantastic long weekend itinerary.

As for Alpengeist, I know the Batman: The Ride clones are often thought of as the most intense B&Ms, but Alpengeist is a strong contender as well. That thing hauls from start to finish with the old school B&M intensity. And where Montu always leaves me a little queasy, Alpengeist (and Raptor) never have that problem for me.

I agree about Twisted Timbers. The first half including the cutback flows well. Right after the cutback there is a jerky hill and then the rest of the ride is weird and unnatural. They crammed too many elements into the second half.

BrettV said:

...Montu always leaves me a little queasy, Alpengeist (and Raptor) never have that problem for me.

Same with me! Not sure what it is, but after that second loop helix on Montu, I always feel really queasy. Likewise, no issue at all with Raptor or Alpengiest, either. At least for me, I know my motion sickness is directly tied to rides that have a cyclical positive-to-negative G force profile that repeats (i.e. Big Dipper at GL was one of my 'worst' offenders!). Now the crown goes to most RMC's and usually the out-and-back B&M hypers, to a lesser extent. I would probably die on a cruise without being heavily medicated. Just funny a slight up-and-down will tear me up, but spinning or strong positive G's or tons of inversions don't bother me.

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