USA 06/22 – Busch Gardens Williamsburg + Kings Dominion
This was the most recent addition to the already overly stacked roster, thanks to the long-awaited opening of a certain Intamin. It was a park I had already thoroughly enjoyed before, although it was at the time lacking that killer instinct. Have they found it?
Day 17 – Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Got to ride the car park tram this time, which was an indicator that it must have been at least slightly busier than before, when we had wandered straight into England on foot. They weren’t doing any of the staggered ride opening business either so we immediately headed towards Pantheon to find that it was attracting a crowd by doing some test laps but also being closed.
Rather than immediately start the day in a stewing queue, we took a reride on Apollo’s Chariot to start the morning fresh. It remains one of the better B&M hypers for me, there’s a bit of character to it with the old style drop again, some decent and varied airtime moments, a bit of terrain action and an overall more rugged feel. I really like the camelback that curves off to one side as it drops away, which doesn’t appear to be something they’ve tried much of since. The turnaround is still the dumbest thing ever, but overall I’ll take it over the Candy.
Obviously not wanting to suffer Tempesto unnecessarily, though we overhead an unfortunate number of guests singing its praises throughout the day, the best option at this point was to rejoin the now slightly more orderly line outside the entrance to the Pantheon section. A staff member was trying to get the queue to disperse or shift out of the way of certain lesser attractions but this was once more met with amusing defiance. One man pointed out that there was plenty of space if they would at least let us wait up and over the bridge into the new area, to which he didn’t quite know how to respond and promptly walked off.
Eventually they got their act together and after a longer external wait than actual queueline we were able to experience some new blood. Must say I expected more when it comes to presentation, especially with all the extra time they’ve had to prepare this attraction. Short of a few signs in the walk to the station that name some elements, there’s very little to indicate that you’re supposed to be riding the gods and all that.
It all begins on #1 Pantheon with a little slither out of the station and into a satisfying mini-launch with Taiga-style first inversion. This flops you out well into a low turnaround before some kinda slow wobbly bits reminiscent of an RMC pre-lift section. Dare I say it feels a bit faffy at this point before you’ve even reached the triple launch part.
I had no idea this had one of those humps in the middle of an LSM launch that are becoming a bit of a popular thing now. It’s by far the best execution of one however and contributes to what is probably the most standout part of the ride. The first (second?) launch is a decent surprise, shunting you forward over said hump and most of the way up into the top hat. A moment of contemplation before rolling back and hoping the switch track has done its job.
The power with which the backwards launch hits was familiar to me, but I didn’t expect how violently it would take the hump in reverse, particularly from the front row. It’s a proper can’t see it coming, chuck you out of your seat moment that really threw something special into the sequence. Vertical spikes are usually pretty glorious, except when in Impulse trains, and this one goes up nice and high for the first real overview of what’s to come. The final launch is again weird and satisfying as it hurls you over the speed bump one last time and up into what’s basically Velocicoaster’s top hat again.
From there you dive nice and low to the ground, with a decent first drop style kick if taken from the back row and then out into the big Kondaa style wonky hill. This is suitably spectacular in any seat really and takes you into a reasonably forceful turn before what’s basically Velocicoaster’s stall again. I didn’t love it there and I didn’t particularly here either. It’s very much just a thing that happens in the layout, there’s a certain clinical rigidity to the transitions both in and out that are quite hard to describe. Here comes stall, stall, stall ends. Are we overdoing them at this point?
The ride gets a little fruity after that, as if to compensate, with a much more whippy slither, then a sideways airtime hill that doesn’t do much happens and you hit the brakes.
While dwelling on what had just transpired we took a lap round the park to reride the classics, starting with Verbolten, Busch Gardens previous best coaster. I still love this thing, the detail, vibe and theme are all spot on and it’s a real adventure of an attraction. Something I did notice this time is that the train had developed the distinct Zierer ESC rattle that they all seem to be getting around the 10 year mark, which didn’t hurt the ride experience on this occasion but definitely could do if it goes unchecked.
Alpengeist was looking mighty fresh after some TLC and a lick of paint. I still want to like this one more than I actually do. The massive swooping spiral of a drop and unconventional initial element order is really spectacular, but it’s still a little unpleasantly jerky in one or two spots of the first half and then dies way too hard into the second half. Crawling through the fake snow at the end is not a good look.
Griffon was gone, Invadr was disproportionately busy, the wolves were hiding and their Irish dark ride has dropped off the radar presumably due to covid, so there wasn’t a whole lot left for us to do except for Escape from Pompeii. This was also new to us after spiting the previous visit, though for some reason my phone camera decided to fail me at this point in time.
Having been sceptical about the significance of the ‘dark ride section’ and worried that the wetness wouldn’t justify the experience, we were proved entirely wrong.
The copious amounts of fire effects used was the main appeal of course, but several moments of collapsing scenery, including one hilariously unconvincing one with a statue gently laying its head down to rest, also added to the charm. If anything it just needed a crowd of Italians to pull an Etnaland and all scream ‘eyyyyyyyyy’ down the drop, which turned out to be just comfortably wet given the weather.
And then it was time for as many re-rides on Pantheon as we wanted to queue for, simultaneously drying off and getting more of a measure of the coaster.
For a multi-launch Intamin, these days, it’s not quite as good as I had hoped/expected. There’s some truly killer moments in there but the pacing is all off for me. The highlight of the ride being in the middle of the triple launch can’t help but make me see it as more of a gimmick coaster than a full blown, non-stop, kick your ass package. After all the many build up sequences it feels like as soon as you finally get into that end game high speed, high thrill coaster section it just ends unsatisfyingly quickly.
It’s Soaring with Dragon kinda territory – I wanted a top 25 and got a probable top 50.
But that’s all good, we had another fun half day out at Busch, which is still a lovely place to be. The trouble always is that there’s a special something not too far up the road, which also happens to be free with this platinum pass.
Ah yes, back amongst the much preferred Paramount Park experiences of the Cedar Fair chain, I really do get on with these King parks better than most of the others.
They’re both all about their Timbers and we were immediately back to remind ourselves what the ‘best RMC of the last big US road trip’, Twisted Timbers, was really all about.
God damn Iron Gwazi, it’s better than Steel Vengeance, the very first thought that popped into my head as we hit the brakes after a single lap. It’s relentless, it’s ridiculous, it ‘urts me. I’d almost forgotten how good it was and now I love absolutely everything about it.
The nitpicks are gone, the first drop is amazing with that little lurch out of the seat as the world twists around your head. The many little overbanks are great fun.
The best bits are back and better than ever, those three consecutive hills remain up there with the absolute pinnacle of RMC airtime sequences, the violent yank through the structure is unrelenting and the inversions serve to spare you from the otherwise endless assault from start to finish.
I guess we need that +1 to calm down. Of course I now dread the sight of these after my last concussion-based experience but thankfully #2 Tumbili was riding in tame, Six Flags mode. It actually looks rather nice and is refreshing to have a bit of a different theme on one, they’ve done a decent job on the whole area especially in making it less concrete and rides. Bring on Volcano 2.0 next.
Courtesy was thrown to the beast that is Intimidator 305 of course. Even when it doesn’t particularly interest me, you can’t come to Kings Dominion and not damage your health in some capacity.
What did I learn this time? Eh, it might have been riding the best it’s ever been at for us, but that still doesn’t do a whole lot for me. The sun had been cooking it all day and we took multiple laps in the back row of a full train, which hadn’t even been filling on the last visit.
It might sound weird but I found myself thinking that 305 provides the ‘most comfortable grey-out’ in the world. I don’t have a huge amount of comparisons to draw on but let’s say something like Lech Coaster thrusts me uncomfortably into and back out that sensation in unwelcome fashion whereas Intrimidator eases you into it, holds it there for a good few seconds and then gently lifts off again. I wouldn’t call it pleasant but I have to respect it. The rest of the ride doesn’t really justify it, failed airtime and a couple of fun, high speed, left to right snaps. I’ll be in a right conundrum if they ever do make a ride that backs it up.
Oh and the ‘start your engines!’ announcement was turned off. That’s no good at all.
Never found the time to ride Boo Blasters on Boo Hill here before, so gave that a go. Another Sally special, it’s pretty good for what it is, colourful and fun.
Felt generous in giving Dominator an unwarranted courtesy lap, something about the awfulness of Rougarou made us want to prove that they do make better ones, right?
Nah, not for me. It just rattles around and does stuff. Either all these B&Ms have hit a certain deterioration threshold, or I have.
Just put me back on this thing all night. Forgot to say they’ve added the Steel Vengeance style lockers and metal detectors here too, which was a novelty. It ended up being walk on so we just left the stuff in there and lapped it until it closed. Nothing short of incredible, the ride threw me around so much it scraped the skin off my shins like I was pulling deadlifts. The others don’t do that.
It’s not often I find myself having a re-awakening about coasters I’ve done before but Twisted Timbers is getting an upgrade, if that’s even possible.