Virginia Trip

Sunday, July 12, 2015 10:53 PM

I had been stuck in Orlando working for two of the local parks for the entire year and hadn't gotten out of the state yet for the year so I planned on a 3 day driving trip up to Richmond to go back to 2 parks I have enjoyed greatly in the past, King's Dominion first and then Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Note that I blab on for a while on things; I like to talk about my experiences on each attraction and then I rate each coaster in the park at the end.

My friend and I left Orlando around 5:30 on Thursday night and headed up, staying the night in Savannah and getting to King's Dominion around 2pm. The park was as dead as I have ever seen a major theme park on a nice day with no more than 2,000 people in the park on a summer Friday afternoon. All rides were only running one train (except Volcano and Stunt Coaster) and everything was at a walk-on. Unfortunately my friend got sick (probably due to the long drive) and we only stayed in the park for 2 hours but was able to get on a few rides [I already had all the current credits in the park anyways even though I hadn't been to the park in years]:

We started with Volcano and it was running great. Still one of the top inverted coasters out there after all these years. We then headed to Avalanche because my friend was interested in the bizarre ride... and it is not a good ride at all. It looks decrepit and should probably be the next to join the chopping block after Shockwave is pulled.

We then headed over to Intimidator 305 and got a back row seat. This is my number 1 coaster in the world for it's sheer intensity and it's ability to be smooth and comfortable at the same time. I still can't believe that this ride consistently has no line. I had worried that time would not do this coaster well, but it's running exactly the same as it was a few years ago.

On a side note, I'd really like to complain about whoever did the section planning at KD. The park is an absolute mess. You have a section called Safari village which has a bobsled themed coaster, volcano coaster, racing coaster, stunt coaster, alien coaster, and snake themed coaster. I think somebody needs to go in a re-organize that section.

Speaking of which we then got a ride on Stunt Coaster and it was by far the worst of any of the 3 in the chain, none of the effects were working at all. Quite a bit disappointing there. It was also running really rough and it knocked out my friend for the remainder of the short day. I then meandered over for the solo ride on Anaconda... and that was a mistake. The ride looks great with its new paint job, but the ride is a disgrace after the MCBB. It is one of the only arrow coasters that gives such a terrible ride in my opinion.

We were on the way out of the park but I decided to at least hop on Dominator before leaving. The condition of the ride's building in completely unacceptable, but at least the ride still runs well and is one of the better floorless coasters out there. We then headed out for the day and took the 30 minute drive to the hotel in Richmond (Holiday Inn).

Overall Ranking of Kings Dominion Coasters:

  1. Intimidator 305 (10/10)
  2. Volcano (8.5/10)
  3. Dominator (8/10)
  4. Grizzly (7/10)
  5. Flight of Fear (7/10)
  6. Rebel Yell (6.5/10)
  7. Stunt Coaster (6/10)
  8. Hurler (5/10)
  9. Anaconda (4.5/10)
  10. Shockwave (4/10)

Day 2: We took the 1 hour drive from Richmond and got to Busch around 9:30 with my friend feeling much better. (To anyone visiting the park make sure you are there early and actually get a park map as the time that the countries varies by day) We parked close in the Italy section and the park was relatively quiet for a Saturday morning with heavy rain predicted all day. We headed over towards the path by Escape from Pompeii to get the easiest path to Tempesto to start the day. However, the Italy section didn't open until 10:30 for some reason and there was no way to get to Festa Italia so that plan got scrapped. We were told that Scotland opened at 9:30 and headed over to Loch Ness.

Loch Ness is still one of the nicest looking coasters out there and still runs really well for its age. She doesn't have the bite she used to with some extra trims added, but the ride was really comfortable and a good start to the day. We then headed over toward France. (We tried getting the coasters first with the rain predicted).

We got over to Griffon with it having a walk on for the front row and we grabbed the end seats. Griffon is running fantastic. It completely outshines its sister ride at BGT. My friend found this to be her favorite ride of the day. We then grabbed the train at the Caribou train station and headed over to Festa Italia and the rain started.

The train drops you right off outside Tempesto's entrance. The ride looks very out of place, but it actually looks nice with the themed elements and its colors. The wait time was posted at 15 but was clearly way past that. They do not allow loose articles on the ride and they actually give out free fanny packs for you to use on the ride to secure your items (this is the first time I've seen this on a coaster and is a great idea). The staff also collects all small loose articles (not bags) from riders and holds them on the unload platform. They were very efficient and the line moves much faster than one would think. We had about a half full queue and got on a middle row in about a half hour. Tempesto was my 401st roller coaster credit and it is very hard to judge. It is a fun ride, but it is not the best coaster out there. It just has way too short of a ride time and the elements feature a bit too must twisting and not enough vertical motion. The restraints are very bizarre but they do not detract from the ride experience. I rode the ride twice during the day and have to say that I enjoy it (with the best part being the airtime at the top of the 3rd launch) but the non inverting loop gets a little bit rough.

We then headed out and decided to wait for the front row on Apollo's Chariot. Within 20 minutes (they were efficiently running 3 trains) we were on-board. Apollo was running great with plenty of airtime moments. It is still one of my favorite coasters even if it lacks the intensity of some of the other coasters out there today.

With the rain and thunderstorms coming we decided to hit the shows and indoor rides. We headed over towards Pet Shenanigans but made a pit stop at Escape from Pompeii on the way since it had no wait. All the effects were working (that I know of) and it still is one of the best shoot-the-chutes out there. We got poured on during the two animal shows (they were a bit lackluster in comparison to SeaWorld's).

At this point all the coasters were closed so we headed to Trapper's Smokehouse for lunch. (Highly recommend if the park has long hours to check out the meal deals; even with my employee discount the meal deal was the best deal) The smokehouse is probably the most recommended of the restaurants in the park (and they have the best bbq sauce out there)

We ventured over to Curse of Darkastle which had a 45 minute wait. I had remembered the ride being great but after this run, the ride seems like it needs some serious update. It was running very disjointed and the 3D seemed a bit messy and not matching up with the audio on the cars. The pre-show also needs to be played louder so that you can figure out what is supposed to be going on inside the ride.

We then headed over to Celtic Fyre. The last time I saw the show was when it was emerald beat. Have to say that the new show is more fun and energic. It was fantastic and one of the best theme park shows out there. It was the highlight of the day for my friend. As we exited, the rides were going back up and we headed over to Alpengeist.

We walked on the first train in the 6th row. I had heard a lot of complaints about the ride and its roughness but it is running better than many of the other B&M inverts out there even if it was a bit rough in the cobra roll (if anyone has ridden dragon challenge recently, it is much smoother than that). We then made our loop through the Germany section hitting some of the flats including Mach Tower. And then Verbolten stood in front.

I had ridden BBW several times and loved it, and this was going to be my first shot at Verbolten. I had ridden one other Zierer coaster (Wicked) and loved it so I had some low but decent expectations. We waited about 20 minutes to board and I have to say that I was BLOWN AWAY by the ride. It blends everything I love about coasters: launches, airtime, darkness, themeing, drops, lateral airtime, and the unknown. The event building is just fantastic. I went on two back to back rides and was very impressed. It may not be a top 10 roller coaster, but I didn't expect it to be anywhere close. Top 20 is a very real possibility.

The rest of the night we spent hitting up the other shows (Roll out the Barrel; which was actually a lot of fun. London Rocks; which is an awful show) and we grabbed dinner at La Piazza which was actually really nice. We rode some of the other flats and grabbed some re-rides on the other coasters for night rides. We closed out with watching the rather lame fireworks show.

Overall the park is in fantastic condition and I rate it as my number 1 theme park (not amusement park: that would be SFMM) It blends everything I love about parks with great shows, food, landscaping, and of course rides. We stayed from open to close and enjoyed every second of it (except for London Rocks; skip that)

Busch Gardens Coaster Rankings

  1. Apollo's Chariot (9.5/10)
  2. Griffon (9/10)
  3. Verbolten (8.5/10)
  4. Alpengeist (8/10)
  5. Tempesto (8/10)
  6. Loch Ness Monster (7.5/10)

What's your ranking of the coasters at BGW and does anyone feel the same about Verbolten and Tempesto?

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Monday, July 13, 2015 11:37 AM

Jimmy Boy said:

[Avalanche] is not a good ride at all. It looks decrepit and should probably be the next to join the chopping block after Shockwave is pulled.

Sacrilege. Granted, it's been a couple years, but I can't imagine it needing much other than maybe a paint job. If I recall, it ran a little rougher in the trough than in past years, but even a rough ride on Avalanche is not an uncomfortable one.

On a side note, I'd really like to complain about whoever did the section planning at KD. The park is an absolute mess. You have a section called Safari village which has a bobsled themed coaster, volcano coaster, racing coaster, stunt coaster, alien coaster, and snake themed coaster. I think somebody needs to go in a re-organize that section.

That's the unfortunate result of having several different owners over the years with completely different intentions for the park's theme(s). Fortunately, Cedar Fair isn't really known for top-notch theming, but you're right that Avalanche (KECO), Back Lot (Paramount), Flight of Fear (Paramount), and Intimdator (Cedar Fair) are quite out of place in Safari Village. Volcano and Anaconda have always fit perfectly, in my opinion.

The condition of the [Dominator]'s building in [sic] completely unacceptable

What condition is it in? I don't recall ever thinking there was anything remotely notable about the station.

What's your ranking of the coasters at BGW and does anyone feel the same about Verbolten and Tempesto?

I haven't been there this year, but I absolutely agree with your assessment of Verbolten. It's not a top-10 coaster, but it's a really great family ride that's very well-themed and executed, and its fun factor is hard to beat.

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Monday, July 13, 2015 12:57 PM

Rankings are over-rated.

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Monday, July 13, 2015 5:19 PM

Jimmy Boy said:

On a side note, I'd really like to complain about whoever did the section planning at KD. The park is an absolute mess. You have a section called Safari village which has a bobsled themed coaster, volcano coaster, racing coaster, stunt coaster, alien coaster, and snake themed coaster. I think somebody needs to go in a re-organize that section.

Sadly, "attraction creep" is hardly unique to Kings Dominion. At Six Flags Great America, Orleans Place is home to Superman Ultimate Coaster and a Gotham City Transit station, X-Flight soars over County Fair, Sinestro and Catwoman hang out in Hometown Square...

I've long held that most self-described theme parks (by and large many Six Flags and former Paramount parks) these days have long since become amusement parks, having abandoned many of their themed areas. (And there's nothing wrong with amusement parks, by the way.)

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Monday, July 13, 2015 5:52 PM

Enjoyed reading your trip report. I'm getting to visit both parks in late September for the first time, and I'll be sure to have my own opinions of it all.

Has anyone used the Virginia Thrills pass? I was planning to use it for my trip, but according to the website the tickets are only good through Labor Day. Any word or suggestions on offers after September 7th?

My plan is to visit Busch Gardens on a Thursday and Kings Dominion on Friday with Fast Lane passes -- unless anyone on here suggests contrary.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015 10:55 PM

cmwein: both those days should be fine for your visits to the park.

I agree with your assessment of Verbolten. I got my first ride on it a couple of weeks ago and was absolutely shocked out how unique, fun, and special that coaster is!

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Friday, August 14, 2015 8:19 PM

RE: Avalanche

When My son and I visited last year, we hopped on this expecting it to suck and just to be a cheap credit for him. (I'd ridden it before, but had no real memory, good or bad, so it was almost like a new ride for me too.) We rode in the front and had an amazing time. Both of us were so pleasantly surprised we turned to each other and said "Let's do that again!" Sat in the back next, but this is mainly a front seat ride, as it shuffles a lot in the back. Took a 3rd ride in the front row again. By then the novelty of the peasant surprise had worn off. Yeah, fun ride for sure, but if they tore it out for a newer, better something or other, I probably wouldn't be too concerned. It's not the Whizzer, that's for sure.

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