Busch Gardens Williamsburg Not As Much Fun

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 1:10 PM

We went on Friday, July 17, and after starting the season at Hersheypark, this was truly a let down. We've been to Busch Gardens before, we knew what to expect. The last time my wife and I went alone (before having a kid), we did Griffon eight times (in just its second season) and that was because of other circumstances with few guests in the park.

What we noticed this time was strange. We kept seeing the same people in the different parts of the park throughout the day. It's not uncommon for that to happen, but this is a big park and in the past we'd see the same 5-10 families. This time, it was the same three groups that were in the park that day, and the same 10-15 families. The lines were almost identical at all rides as we were stopped many times by people who'd seen us in other parts of the park (one of the great things about having a cute baby with you).

We always start the day off with a ride on Loch Ness Monster, however in the baby swap, they put me at 6'2" in the back seat of the second car. I told them I need the legroom but they said that was the baby swap seat. Something I've never heard of and we've been to three parks now that offer baby swap (baby swap is where one parent waits in line, rides the ride then the other parent rides after that so someone is with the baby at all times, great idea!).

After Loch Ness, we went over to Europe in the Air. I used to get sick on Corkscrew Hill because of a slight mistiming of the video, audio and ride deck. Nobody else in my groups in the past noticed it, but I do because of my work with audio and video. EITA was ok for what it was but they really should have put something of value in here. It was kind of boring and I know I won't go back on it...neither will anyone I went with (wife and in-laws). Nobody was really impressed.

We then did a kiddie thing and stopped by all the animals. Got to hear the wolves howl and made me miss Big Bad Wolf.

Heading up to France, we stopped at Griffon and rode a couple of times (with all of us and baby swap, I had three rides, wife two, mother in law two and skiddish step-father in law twice). It was weird that the queue for the front row of Griffon was two rides. There wasn't much of a line for this awesome coaster in the middle of the day. By the end of the day, the wife and I did it eight times again and talked the ride ops into the final ride of the night. Mother-in-law wasn't happy! She wanted to ride again but got shutout at the last second.

After this we did lunch and rode the flume, the rest of the family did Alpengeist. It's too violent of a coaster for me and really isn't all that much fun after riding Griffon. I've ridden other hanging coasters, but this one just doesn't do it for me. While waiting near the exit for everyone, the little one was sleeping and I got to listen to a games guy say, "Alright, Alright" like Matthew McConaghy (sp?) so many times it's ingrained in my head. He started and ended all sentences with this catch phrase. He also would just randomly say it to kill the silence. It got tiresome quickly. Enough already, "ALRIGHT!"

We went to Germany and did Dar Kastle, I decided to wait this one out as it was looking threatening to rain and others wanted to do other things so I went with them. I like Dar Kastle and wanted to ride it, but given a choice between the ride and entertaining a 10-month old, I went with the latter.

The walk over toward the former site of Big Bad Wolf had us stop at the bumper cars where we beat the crap out of each other, it was fun, but sad at the same time to see two stations that once housed roller coasters that are no longer there. Busch seems to do a great job of getting rid of coasters than keeping them. I understand Drachen Fire, but Big Bad Wolf was a great ride and it was different. Now, nothing is planned for this space with ALL track and supports gone. Nothing really to indicate a great ride here.

Once crossing the bridge into Italy, we attempted to ride Apollo's Chariot. It was closing but nobody could give us a straight answer, the start to the bad part of today. One answer was there was a mechanical problem but the ride would come back up they just didn't know why. The second was weather was coming in (I looked at the radar on my phone, no rain). The third was high winds which I could understand on a 200 foot coaster, but Griffon was still going and is the same height. We also found that the restaurant we wanted to eat at was closed for no reason and nothing else was close enough to grab a quick bite. Not happy.

The wife and I then attempted to ride Pompei. Until we were thrown off the ride for...wait for it...going barefoot. Apparently, it's some sort of safety issue on a water ride to not wear shoes. However, on Griffon and Loch Ness (don't know why here) people were leaving their shoes on the side. Alpengeist, the same thing. On Griffon they were requiring people to wear their bags under the restraints, but heaven forbid someone not want to get their shoes wet on a water ride. We were not happy with this, especially since people wearing flip flops and sandals were allowed on, and a few were holding their flip flops up in the air after the ride as a virtual finger to the people there.

This experience created the following statement which was received by many (including park workers) favorably..."Going out of business under new management"

I don't know how you take out a coaster and not have plans to replace it with anything, let alone doing it twice. Then planning a tower ride. There is too much space between rides which means there is room for rides to be added, not taken away. With the lack of customer service and everyone throwing out different ideas as to why the ride was closed, it makes me wonder about the quality of the management company.

In addition, every ride we went on had some sort of downtime while we were waiting in line. Typically, one or two, that's it, but EVERY ride makes me wonder about the safety, or lack thereof by the new owners. Is this going to be the money pit for Blackstone to use as a tax writeoff? Maybe, but there have been other parks that have gone this way for other companies and it ruined them.

We're hoping to hit Kings Dominion next month and will most likely be going back to Six Flags America in the fall. Our 10-month old has now been to four parks (Six Flags America, Hersheypark, Water Country USA, BGW), through three blizzards and a heck of a heat wave.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 1:19 PM

My wife and I went in the spring and we had the same great time as we do every year. Sorry you had such a miserable day.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 1:36 PM

Yeah, my trip to BGW last month was one of the best days at a park we've had in a while.

Seems like it was just one of those 'off' days for your visit. That happens sometimes. I wouldn't write off the park so quickly.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Tuesday, July 27, 2010 1:37 PM
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 2:10 PM

My friend and I also got caught with the footwear rule on Pompeii and were similarly baffled. We hadn't been waiting in line particularly long, and fortunately one of the ride hosts saw us before we got too close to the front and informed us couldn't go barefoot.

The larger annoyance was the distance you have to walk back to the nearest lockers (around the Pompeii lake) to retrieve one's shoes, and the fact that none of the signs indicate that footwear is required -- we had looked before taking our sandals off. Oh, this also meant we had to pay for the locker twice, since we still wanted to keep our phones and wallets dry.

By the time we got off the ride, there was an attendant standing near the lockers. If he'd been there before, we could have asked him whether we had to leave our sandals on. Really, all they need is a simple sign by the lockers, or even the ride entrance, telling you to leave your shoes on. I don't think it's unreasonable to assume it's OK to be barefoot on a soaking water ride.

Other than losing my camera on Le Scoot, the rest of the day was quite enjoyable though. I agree that Europe In The Air was meh.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 2:28 PM

I don't recall any water ride outside of a water park that didn't require footwear. I wear sandals to parks, and if it's too cold to wear sandals, I don't go on water rides, unless I'm prepared to deal with wet shoes the rest of the day.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 4:15 PM

Plunge at Holiday World does not require shoes.

SportsAnnouncing said:
In addition, every ride we went on had some sort of downtime while we were waiting in line. Typically, one or two, that's it, but EVERY ride makes me wonder about the safety, or lack thereof by the new owners.

Don't you think that's being a little dramatic?

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 4:19 PM

^But HW's Plunge is unique in that its located in both the dry park AND the water park. I think that distinction is why shoes are optional.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 4:20 PM

SportsAnnouncing said:
In addition, every ride we went on had some sort of downtime while we were waiting in line. Typically, one or two, that's it, but EVERY ride makes me wonder about the safety, or lack thereof by the new owners.

In theory, wouldn't that make you feel safer? I mean, they're taking rides down to make sure they're running correctly.

You should be worried about your safety if they not taking rides down to repair them.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 4:21 PM

I don't think pilgrims plunge requires footwear, and thats one heck of a water ride.

Edit - Jeff beat me to it! And I wouldn't say that pilgrims plunge is located in the water park, I remember it being a pretty descent walk from there.

Last edited by Degado, Tuesday, July 27, 2010 4:38 PM
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 4:52 PM

I haven't been to HW in 7 years, so I wasn't aware Pilgrims Plunge didn't require footwear. Is that the only one? Seems like if that's the exception, most people should expect to wear shoes on water rides.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 5:01 PM

Typhoon at WoF/OoF also does not require shoes, but just like the Plunge its a ride located in the water park and theme park.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 5:53 PM

Admittedly I don't go on water rides within amusement parks (as opposed to water parks) that often, because I'm the guy who consistently breaks the "you don't get that wet" rule and walks around in wet clothes the rest of the day whilst all his friends are bone dry five minutes later. So I guess I don't have prior experience from which to compare.

We had both ridden Pilgrim's Plunge (barefoot) last year, but that didn't even enter into our minds; we just figured big splash = you get wet = footwear will also be wet and squishy afterward. The sensible thing to me is to remove said footwear and store it the lockers that were obviously placed near the water ride for things you don't want to get wet.

I mean, now that I *know* that this is an industry-wide procedure, it's not a big deal. I don't think it would kill them to have a sign though. I actually meant to email the park when we got home expressing this, but now that I know I'm in the minority, they'd probably have just written me off as a whiner anyway. :)

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 7:02 PM

I've read reports that STR does not require footwear, either.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 7:10 PM

Nope. We rode it barefoot.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010 9:37 PM

Nor does Thunder Canyon.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010 12:39 AM

Thunder Canyon and White Water Landing at Dorney also don't require shoes, you can just wear a bathing suit on those 2 rides as well even though they are not in the waterpark.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010 9:25 PM

My question though, why would a ride that's primarily in water require you to wear shoes, while the two floorless coasters they encourage you to ride barefoot. I don't get the logic. In the past, they allowed us to take our shoes off and did the same on similar rides around the country. We didn't get over to the raft ride to find out if we had to wear shoes there (hadn't had to in the past) because we figured it was down (and it was).

My worries on the safety side, and if you read my previous post about Hersheypark on a ride in which the restraints weren't down, are why was it EVERY ride had down time. I understand safety cutouts, but in all the time I've been going to parks, haven't seen EVERY ride at some point with lengthy downtime. This included the coasters along with a few flat rides. I don't mind a quick stop on the lift hill because the computer didn't like something, that's usually fixed quickly, but when my wife and mother-in-law were stuck on Griffon's sky platform for 10 minutes, then I wonder. Most of the problems weren't quick either, they were down for a while.

The looks on the faces of those running the rides were like, "oh great, not again" and found out from some who were there after I was that they too had to deal with ride downtime numerous times.

Compared to other parks, I think BGW (they want it referred to as Williamsburg again) is lacking in many areas. Kings Dominion has so much to offer and I think they could take Festhaus Park and drop the entire Water Country USA in it's place. I've even considered going to Six Flags America on a public day (been there twice recently when it was rented out) to see how things are there.

I just need rides closer together (I'm all about total number of rides ridden and how many of those were roller coasters/thrill rides!).

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010 10:23 PM

I've got a theory... ;)

On a ride that doesn't feature an enclosd car, loose shoes such as flip-flops, Crocs, or whatnot are viewed as loose articles. This primarily means inverts and floorlesses. The likely accident would be someone's shoes flying off and hitting a guest below the ride. On Montu, for instance, many people leave their shoes behind, but they don't let you do that if you have sneakers on.

On rides that have enclosed cars, the likelihood is that you'd smack your toes getting into or out of the ride vehicle. So in this case, shoes prevent more accidents than not.

Oh, and I rarely leave a ride that's broken down. Why? I'm already there (and lazy!), people leaving the line greatly offset the total number who would be riding otherwise, and most breakdowns last ten minutes or less. Wait out a test train or two, and you can sometimes score a second ride before enough people come along to chase you from your row!

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Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:07 PM

SportsAnnouncing said:

Compared to other parks, I think BGW (they want it referred to as Williamsburg again) is lacking in many areas. Kings Dominion has so much to offer and I think they could take Festhaus Park and drop the entire Water Country USA in it's place.

I will only respond to this part as really, there is no point in my discussing any other part.

WCUSA would need a bit more space than just Festhaus Park to plant that in. Also the land back there doesnt easily support construction of a water park do to the land terrain and Rhine River curving back there, as well as the support (Bone Yard) is also back there.. Lastly it would disrupt the theme of BG which KD isnt as focused in (except for the Peanuts area).

This is why they have the combo ticket so you can enjoy one day at one location and another at the other.. And neither has to sacrifice size of their entertainment venue as they are in separate location with their own allocated land. Also allows the closing of one earlier in the season without people seeing a "ghost town" location as they stroll through the park.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010 12:41 PM

Different strokes for different folks. BGW remains my favorite park not located in Florida, all of their coasters are extremely reridable, they have a great collection of water rides, Darkastle, great food and good shows. WCUSA is also second only to Schliterbahn in my opinion as well.

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