Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA
I recently took a Memorial Day weekend/last week of May visit to Virginia and its many tourist attractions. The one most relevant to this website being Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This was my first time at this park and, overall, I found the experience to be memorable. Not out of this world amazing but definitely a nice experience to remember. Upon first driving into the park on Saturday evening, I was immediately excited for Apollo’s Chariot which was prominently placed alongside the entrance road. I knew going in that it would be a busy night due to the sea of cars in their parking lots; I parked in the Ireland lot if that means anything to locals who read this site. Upon parking and walking not all that far, I came to a tram stop which was very convenient and not something that I’ve normally seen or expected at amusement parks. BGW runs their trams very effectively as one tram was constantly behind the one being loaded/unloaded.
After arriving at the main entrance, I used their U-scan machines or whatever they’re called, and processed my 1 park season pass (which was cheaper than a 7-day ticket and $10 parking for 3 days) in like 20 seconds. Anyway, I walked in the entrance and waited for my thumb print to be taken and went right into a beehive of activity. I’m sure the quaintness of the park was still there but it was hard to get around all of the people on the narrow walkways that the park has established. I definitely think all of the walkways could have been like 4 feet wider just so that people can move more smoothly on busy days like this day instead of getting stuck behind other people due to no room to navigate.
I was humored quite a few times by hearing guests ask ride ops how long a ride wait would be. The ride op said about 15-20 minutes and the guests would actually say that was too long for them to wait. Man, I hope these guys don’t ever go to an amusement park in Ohio or they’ll be gravely disappointed/disgusted.
I went off to Apollo first since hypers are my favorite coaster style and my verdict is impressive. The first two drops were pretty good and the third hill’s “twisting drop” created very odd sensations that I can’t remember experiencing before (in a good way). The way the ride interacted with its environment (bottoming out in a valley, skimming close to the river, and climbing up big hillsides) was also very cool, making it a terrain coaster. Now, I rode Diamondback about two weeks ago and if you were comparing these two coasters together, I would say D’back gets the slight edge but only slightly. I like the airtime that D’back gives but I like Apollo’s layout more as it’s more than just straight hills, turnaround, and bunny hills like all the B&M hypers of the ‘00s.
I then took BGW’s magnificent-looking steam train over to the New France/Canada section where I took a bridge over to Germany to ride Alpengeist. This was another coaster that I had high expectations for as I also rather enjoy B&M inverts. The ride was noticeably intense in some points especially the first drop and the cobra roll, which was just enough for me. Once again, this ride also interacted with its environment by coming close to the ground at several times and going through tight trenches lined with “snow.” Overall, I would say I enjoyed Alpengeist but time will tell if I like it more than Raptor.
I also rode Loch Ness Monster (at night) and that ride also impressed me with how smooth and overall fun it is. Very cool “old school” ride. I think riding it at night was also a factor in enjoying the ride due to BGW having no lights in the ride areas of their coasters so the particular ride I had was dark for virtually most of the time.
Big Bad Wolf was also a good ride and much more thrilling than Iron Dragon at my home park of CP. The last drop to the river’s edge is quite a doozy and is quite memorable. Thumbs up from me. Maybe I should have rode it more than once though given the rumor that it will be closed soon.
Finally, I rode the new signature coaster at the park, Griffon. The ride broke down while waiting in line for it in the morning but was back up in about 30 minutes. The seats are comfortable enough and the ride is comfortable enough, but that is it. The G-forces are really kept to a minimum on this ride and it almost made it boring. I’m not an extreme G-force lover like other enthusiasts can be but I expected to feel at least something. The overall length of the ride was also disappointing (I heard this from other parkgoers as well). The placement of the ride in the park, however, is magnificent. Griffon dominates the eastern part of the park and the light blue and elegant curves of the ride are very eye pleasing. The way the first drop goes under a pedestrian bridge and the Immelmann loop goes over that same bridge was a great idea for those who have no interest in riding Griffon but still allowing them to feel some of the excitement. The splash down area was also nicely placed by allowing visitors who wanted to get a little wet a sidewalk right by the splashdown area to catch the ensuing mist and water from the splash. Nice design/placement but average ride is my final decision. It was a good investment though as everyone in the park was talking about it and appeared to be a hit with everyone.
An aspect of the park that I loved was the food. This food was among the best I had on my weeklong journey to Virginia. Not only was the food good, but I also purchased at tremendous value with the BGE Adult Meal Deal plan which gets you two full meals (non-alcoholic drink included) at any restaurant in the park, and two snack vouchers good for non-alcoholic drinks, pretzels, etc at any snack stand in the park for a whopping $20 + tax. What a great deal for such great food and pretty healthy portion sizes at that. On Sunday, I used my first meal at Grogan’s Grille in Ireland for a pork loin, Irish stew, cheesy mashed potatoes, and a cup of fresh strawberries. On Memorial Day Monday, I used my other meal at Trapper’s Smokehouse for some beef brisket, waffle fries, Virginia-cured baked beans, and strawberry shortcake. The food for both meals was wonderful. Side note: I love how Trapper’s has a queue and a line assigner.
Decoration/Theming of the park was also fairly impressive to me although I guess I was expecting a little more. The park is fairly modest in terms of their flower plantings and appeared to be more about the nice big trees/vegetation on the midways and the nice valley that the park is built over. The buildings did look pretty nice though and the attempt to make it feel as if you’re walking through the streets of a small European village was pretty good.
One of the primary features of the park was its live entertainment and the shows at the park were fairly impressive, a clear winner if comparing them to an average Cedar Fair parks’ productions. During my weekend visit, I watched the Emerald Beat, Pet Shenanigans, Wolf Valley, and This is Oktoberfest. All shows were entertaining in their own ways and I was particularly pleased with the Oktoberfest program since they used an actual brass band to play the polka tunes. This made me almost feel like I was near my parent’s home in Frankenmuth, MI. I also visited the animal exhibits at the park: wolves, bald eagles, and the Clydesdale horses. These exhibits were very nice as well allowing visitors to come really close to these beautiful animals.
Overall, I would say Busch Gardens Williamsburg is definitely worth a visit, perhaps even as a destination park mixed with Colonial Williamsburg and Norfolk/Virginia Beach. The park attracts as many (or more) people than Cedar Point on an annual basis and I can understand why: the overall experience of the park is very pleasant. It is very well balanced with literally something for everybody to enjoy. The shows alone can take up a whole day at the park not including all the sightseeing opportunities with the intricate walkways crossing the river along with the train and sky rides affording even more unique visuals. The food was out of this world awesome for about the same prices as Cedar Fair food and the attitude of the employees was also exemplary with even the tram operators eliciting cheers from the park’s visitors. If you go to the park for coasters/credits/thrills alone, it may leave something to be desired but if you take in the whole experience like I prefer to do, it is a park well worth visiting. It’s definitely on my list of parks to which I will return frequently. Thanks for reading.
Thanks for the awesome trip report! I'm leaving for vacation in VA a week today and this just got me super excited. I'm doing pretty much the 'destination trip' you suggested with BGW, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, Jamestowne, and KD.
I'm going to BGW next Sunday and if the waits are 15-20 minutes like they were for you on a holiday weekend, I'll be ecstatic. That is extremely reasonable.
Where can you buy the BGW Adult Meal Deal?
^I saw the meal deal on their website. I had to look for it after reading your TR.
Great TR. We are heading down to Va. in 2 weeks hitting BGW, KD & SFA. I just hope we can get a good feel for BGW in just 1 day.
The link for the meal deal is on this page: http://commerce.4adventure.com/EStore/Scripts/Skins/BGW/diningbooknow.aspx .
One note though on the meal deal; when scanning your voucher at the U-scan machines at the entrance make sure to grab all of the tickets that the machine spits out. I mistakenly thought it'd just be one ticket being produced so I was kind of shocked when the cashier at the first restaurant I attended just took the ticket away and said it was good for one meal only. Upon talking to customer service, they said that the machine would have spit out four individual tickets with the Adult Meal Deal voucher. They did give me another meal pass and a snack voucher if anyone was curious. Great deal on food but grab all the cards at the machine when redeeming your initial voucher. FYI, everyone.
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