Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion (5/19 and 5/20)

Sunday, May 20, 2012 10:32 PM

Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens is a spring tradition for my wife and I. We normally go in the first couple of weeks of operation to escape the cold of Pittsburgh but didn't have a chance until this weekend. We picked a great weekend again as Pittsburgh was hot compared to the sunny upper 70s in Williamsburg. We got there at 10 and left at 10 which is a record for us. No idea how we did it.

4 rides on Appolo's Chariot, two on Verbolten, two on Griffon and two on Alpengeist. Lines we short except for Verbolten and Griffon which were both around 45 minutes.

Biggest surprise: $64.99 for an entire summer and fall at Busch Gardens with the "Fun Pass." What a ridiculous price.

Best new attraction: Beer and pretzel stand outside of Mach Tower and Verbolten. The pretzels are fresh and delicious and they have a few great beer choices. Krombacher Pils and two options from St George Brewing Company (Black Forest Ale which I would describe as a mild porter and an Octoberfest) round out the draft selection in addition to the craft bottles. I wish Universal would get on the beer bandwagon as their boring domestic and import options get tiresome.

Second best new attraction: Verbolten. It's more forceful than I expected and the experience is exciting and fun. The surprise was still a surprise to me even though I knew it was coming and it was pretty damn cool. Most of the ride takes place in the dark with some black lit forest elements. We took two rides, one in the day and one at night and the night ride was ridiculously dark. The line spilled out on to the bridge but only lasted a quick 45 minutes. Two thumbs up. The last drop in the back row is great! http://instagr.am/p/K0vzOegl3j/

Worst attraction: Europe in the Air. Terrible projection, silly premise. It would love to be Soarin but can't compare. And I hate Soarin...

Biggest disappointment: No more big baked potatoes at Grogan's Grill. Busch Gardens is getting an email about this one.

Biggest surprise: Getting bit by a bird in Lorikeet Glen. Little bastard broke the skin on my finger, neck and ear lobe. http://instagr.am/p/K0USs3lHnT/

Williamsburg eating: Had dinner at Green Leafe which has a nice draft selection and good bar food. We had the cheese sticks and veggie burger with sweet potato fries. Had breakfast at The Trellis which was good, if a bit fancy. Prices are good depending on what your used to and the outdoor patio area has some good people watching.

Kings Dominion

We have a "big summer" semi planned with visits to Canada's Wonderland and Kings Island in addition to our annual Cedar Point Halloweekends trip with friends so we sprung for the Platinum Pass. Sticker shock almost prevented me from pulling the trigger but we will get our money's worth and it will force us to get out and enjoy the summer a little more.

Kings dominion is a really beautiful park but their landscaping doesn't come close to that of Busch Gardens'. I have a feeling a lot of that is due to the square footage.

Intimidator 305: This is the main reason I wanted to stop here. A huge Intamin giga coaster! The laughably tiny queue says a lot about this ride to me. B&M takes a lot of criticism for "over engineering" rides but I feel like Intimidator 305 is under engineered. There seems to be no regard for the well being of the rider. I struggled with greying out and felt like I could never catch my breath with all the quick changes in direction and violent airtime. Between the restraints and shaking of the trains there wasn't much fun to be had for me. One lap was enough for my wife and I took another ride in the back. I will ride it again but don't think it will even make my top ten.

Backlot Stunt Coaster: Still a fun ride but in dire need of some TLC. The trains are beat up and look terrible compared to Verbolten's design and the effects aren't working so well anymore.

Volcano: Pretty long line but it moved pretty quickly. Neat ride but leaves me wanting a lot more. After the launch it's pretty "Roller Coaster Tycoon."

Dominator: My favorite ride from Geauga Lake looks great in its new setting. Still the same great ride but I think it could use some new wheels. It had a vibration not unlike Hulk.

Boo Blasters on Boo Hill: Fun ride but can't hold a candle to Kennywood's Ghostwood Estate.

We didn't have much time as we had to get back to Pittsburgh at a reasonable hour but we enjoyed our time there.

Biggest annoyance: Not getting the parking refunded after shelling out all that money for a Platinum Pass.

What a whirlwind weekend. Well worth the drive!

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Monday, May 28, 2012 9:26 PM

I would really like to ride I 305, but surprisingly, I would much rather get the opportunity to ride Verbolten. Some of these "little" coasters pack such a punch and are so much fun. I'm envious of your trip! Glad you enjoyed it! :)

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Thursday, May 31, 2012 7:55 AM

How were the crowds at Kings Dominion? I wasn't originally planning on going there, but when I booked our hotel for the half-way point to the beach I realized it was only 4 miles from the park.

We'll be there next week, but unfortunately it'll have to be on a Saturday and we'll need to leave around dinner time to make it the rest of the way down. Hoping I can get to all the major rides between 10 and 6, as I haven't been there since the late 80s.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012 9:59 AM

I was there on a Friday at the beginning of this month, and the crowds were light to medium. Longest wait was for the front seat of I305--maybe 45 minutes to an hour--and a lot of that was because it was running one train, then the second train was added about 20 minutes into our wait.

Saturday I'm sure will be worse, especially with it being June. I didn't see anyone using Fast Lane when I was there, but I'd consider it on a Saturday. Hard to say what to expect; I've been there on Saturdays before and gotten on most or all of the major rides, and other times (one in particular, many years ago) I managed 4 coasters in about 5 hours.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012 10:07 AM

I went on a Sunday two weeks ago and I-305 and Stunt Track were walk ons. I have a feeling that if you get there when it opens and head to the back of the park you will get on a lot of rides. Just map out your path ahead of time, it's not clear how to get around.

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Thursday, May 31, 2012 11:37 AM

That's my intent. I changed my hotel to the LaQuinta that's right across the street, and my kids are always up around 7 (ugh) anyhow, so I plan on being there before they open to try to knock some stuff out early. My plan was to try to hit a couple of the more popular rides right at open before the line can build, then head toward the back.

I don't mind doing FastLane, but there will be 4 of us plus my two kids, so it'll depend on a consensus once we're there. I already floated the idea, though.

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