Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"Busch Gardens: Williamsburg"

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A while back, I was driving through Virginia, and saw a billboard for "Busch Gardens Europe". My reaction: why the hell are they advertising European theme park advertising in Virginia? Well, Busch Gardens Europe is what they're calling Busch Gardens Williamsburg now. (The one in Tampa is "Busch Gardens Africa".) Personally, I think when you have multiple theme parks with the same name, that their individual names should reference their location, not some far-away continent. (That's one thing that Six Flags actually gets right.) So, whatever - I'm going to persist in calling it "Williamsburg", because that's where the park is located.

I had never been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg before last weekend. During the week, I asked Amber if she wanted to go somewhere semi-far away over the weekend. And, I let her decide where. Her response was, of course, Busch Gardens Williamsburg. (We also visited the Delmarva peninsula last weekend, which I'll talk about starting tomorrow. This is the first of four posts about last weekend.)

The main intrigue with Busch Gardens Williamsburg is their new coaster, "Griffon", that opened May 25th. Griffon is a coaster with a straight-down drop, much like Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. In fact, it might even be the same coaster. So while this kind of coaster was new business for everyone in Virginia, it was old news to me. But that didn't make it any less fun. (Well, actually, it did. It was a little more thrilling the first time around. But that's the way it goes.) Our initial plan was to ride it first before the lines get too long. But that was everyone else's idea too - when the park opened, there was a mad rush towards the back of the park, where Griffon was located. So much for that plan. Instead, we rode other stuff first. The other rides had short lines in the morning; I guess everyone was waiting in line at Griffon. I think this was the first time I've ever been to a theme park and ridden the log flume first. We went back to Griffon in the early afternoon, and only had to wait in line for one hour. I'll take it.

Other rides at BG Williamsburg? Well, they're a little light on coasters (at least compared to a lot of theme parks). I think the main reason for that is that there are no small-scale old coasters. Every coaster is a modern big-deal type coaster that seems to have been built in the last 15 years. What was there here 20 years ago? Did they tear down all the old coasters to make room for the new ones? If so, that's too bad - I think every theme park needs an old coaster or two to be complete. BG Tampa Bay has two old coasters (Python and Scorpion), plus a "Wild Mouse" coaster.

BG Williamsburg has five coasters (classifications are according to this post: the afore-mentioned Griffon, Alpengeist (an inverted coaster), the Lochness Monster (a semi-modern steel coaster, much like Kumba), Apollo's Chariot (a fast steel coaster), and the Big Bad Wolf. The Big Bad Wolf is a suspended coaster where the track is above you, much like an inverted coaster, except that the entire car is suspended, so that it can swing back-and-forth. Apparently, I didn't make a classification for these coasters in my afore-mentioned post. I'm not sure why not, so I'm making one now: Suspended Roller Coasters. The Big Bad Wolf was the third one I have ridden, in addition to Kings Island's Top Gun, and Cedar Point's Iron Dragon. Of the three, the Big Bad Wolf was the best - it was the tallest and the fastest.

Some other words about these coasters: I've decided that the "fast steel" coasters are among my favorites. I want speed and big drops; I can generally do without the twists and the loops. Thus, I've decided I'm not really a fan of the inverted coasters. More often than not, they usually make me feel a little queasy. I just don't have the stamina I used to at these theme parks. How I went all day at Cedar Point last summer from open to close with no discernable break is beyond me. But that's probably because Cedar Point doesn't emphasize twists and loops; they emphasize speed and height. They have twisting/looping coasters (like Raptor), but you don't find yourself riding that type of ride all day. Cedar Point has enough variety and enough fun rides that don't spin you around where you can ride stuff all day without getting disoriented. As for BG Williamsburg, I am quite disappointed that they did not have any wooden coasters. Come on, guys - BG Tampa Bay has wooden coasters!

I guess Busch Gardens' emphasis isn't so much coasters as it is a variety of rides. There were many other rides at the park besides coasters: the afore-mentioned log flume, the Pirate Ship (which did not go upside down, thankfully), a "Splash Mountain" ride (which we did not ride, and which had a really pathetic "splash zone"), a River Rapids ride (which we also did not ride), a Theater Ride ("Corkscrew Hill"), another indoor ride that was more like a Haunted House than anything else ("The Curse of DarKastle"), and the obligatory Sky Ride. So, I should probably give the park more credit than I am. But I think BG Tampa Bay is a far superior park. They have more coasters, and they got the straight-down coaster before Williamsburg did. They also have a better animal area that includes a ride. It's easier to pull off an animal section when your theme is Africa. What kind of animals live in Europe? BG Williamsburg had a small-animal section with some birds and a couple of wolves, but that was about it.

If I were to choose a Busch Gardens park to go back to, I'd pick Tampa Bay in a heartbeat. Tampa Bay feels like more of a complete park. (Which, it has to be, if it wants to compete with the Orlando parks. Williamsburg's only nearby competition is Paramount's Kings Dominion.) While BG Tampa Bay still ranks #3 on my Theme Park Rankings, I'd rank BG Williamsburg right behind the Paramount parks, but ahead of the Magic Kingdom. Thus, BG Williamsburg ranks behind both theme parks that are actually closer to Raleigh (Cary). BG Williamsburg is more thought out and visually appealing than Kings Dominion or Carowinds, but I had more fun at those other parks. And, admission to BG Williamsburg is about $15 and $20 more than to the Paramount parks. So, I'm not sure when we'll be back to Williamsburg.

Today's random thought:

- So, last Friday, I talked about the NCAA baseball tournament. How did Florida State do last weekend? A first-round flameout, of course - they lost twice to Mississippi State. Ugh. Yet another season of high expectations and a terrible tournament result. Why do you do this to me?

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