Back in July my family and I returned to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Of course, I was excited to check out the park’s new roller coaster Verbolten. And I knew that the kids were going to enjoy Sesame Forest. My parents were also with us, so this was going to be a trip that included three generations of visitors.

Surviving the Heat

It was right around 100 degrees the day of our visit. And with our group having young and older members, I was concerned about dehydration and wearing everyone out. So, we took advantage of the park’s steam-powered train and skyride. They gave us some great views of the park and also saved us from walking in the heat. I made sure that my parents did a few indoor attractions like the Pirates show. They were surprised by the 4D elements. Anyway, we all managed to survive the heat. It would have been even worse if we were at a less wooded park. Luckily, Bush Gardens is covered by trees so there were plenty of shady spots providing shelter from the sun.

Sesame Forest of Fun

Sesame Street Forest of FunMy daughters are Sesame Street fans. So, I knew they’d enjoy Sesame Forest. The area’s for younger kids, but it does have a roller coaster in Grover’s Alpine Express. It’s a little Zierer-designed coaster with just a few turns. Grover himself is in the zero seat at the front of the long train leading riders on the short adventure. It’s just long enough to get the kids a little bit of a challenge. And, thankfully it delivered a smooth ride. My five year-old daughter gave it two thumbs up. She rode it four times in a row!

The centerpiece of Sesame Forest is a stage where the characters perform. There’s a water play area below the stage and after the performance guests can meet a few of the characters and take a few photos. There’s also a few other rides in the area including a junior drop ride that my oldest was really excited to ride. Everything in Sesame Forest is appropriately gentle and well-run.

The Land of the Dragons

Land of Dragons - Busch Gardens WilliamsburgBefore this visit, The Land of the Dragons had been nothing more than a landmark. It was something that I just barely noted as I made my way from one of the park’s steel monsters to another. It used to be all about those steel peaks popping up out of the park’s green treeline. Now as a dad, it was nice to be able to visit another children’s area in the middle of the park. It’s anchored by a big dragon-themed tree house where kids climbed and explored the area. My daughters liked the small collection of flat rides. They were right next to each other and had short lines because it was getting late. I even got a picture with one of them riding the ladybugs while the other was flying by on a dragon ride.

Near The Land of Dragons, you’ll also find the Busch Gardens’ carousel. This year alone, we’ve taken the kids on about 7 different carousels in our travels. It’s becoming fun to note the differences in terms of the ages of the rides and different themes. Sister park SeaWorld had an aquatic-themed carousel and Islands of Adventure had the unique Caro-Seuss-el at Suesslanding. Busch Gardens seemed to run theirs a bit longer than some of the others. I wonder if is taken?

Just A Little Coastering by The Critic

Griffon - Busch Gardens Willliamsburg - 90-Degree DropIn between taking the lead as amusement coordinator, I did get a couple (just a couple) rides in. While the family had a tasty lunch in New France’s Trappers Smokehouse, I scooted away to see how Verbolten’s line was looking. There was about a 30 to 40 minute wait. I knew that I didn’t have that much time, so I did some Olympic-level speed walking hoping that I could at least catch a quick ride on something else. I had my sights set on the massive, King of Inverted Coasters, Alpengeist. It was nearly a walk-on, so I got my wish. The ride’s still a beast. It’s size, maneuvers, and theming touches continue to keep it at a world-class level. Read my full review of Alpengeist. Here’s a spoiler, I gave it a rare 10 out of 10.

As much as I love Alpie, Apollo’s Chariot is even higher in my Top Ten coasters. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to get in a fresh ride. It was fun to show the family, Griffon. The blue dive coaster is always fun to watch as it finishes with that water splash section that’s both an awesome photo op and a way for guests to cool off.

Loch Ness Monster looked as good as ever, but I failed to slip away for a ride on that too. I did get a neat perspective of it from the train station in Banbury Cross though. As we waited for a train I noticed that you could see the tunnel that houses the huge helix through the trees. At least when you do family trips you get a chance to slow down a bit and notice a few things you normally fly by.

Later in the day, after recharging back at the hotel, we returned to the park. Right around 5-ish, I finally got to Brave the Black Forest. Verbolten’s queue and station were a substantial step up in theming for a park that already does an above average job of theming. There was plenty to look at as the queue weaves through a German travel agency. Fittingly, the ride boasts what may be the best looking car-themed trains I’ve ever encountered.
Verbolten - Busch Gardens Williamsburg
While I did miss flying through the village and woods like I did on Big Bad Wolf, Verbolten was definitely provided a unique experience. Also, the fact that it delivers three different experiences is a huge plus. The ride is a solid addition and it’ll definitely produce a lot of memories that’ll stick with kids and adults alike. Read my full review of Verbolten.

Fourth of July Fireworks & IllumiNights

That evening the park was alive with energy. As guests awaited the fireworks, there were different shows in the different countries. After my ride on Verbolten, I rejoined the group. The kids were riding a few rides in the Oktoberfest section. As night fell, we stayed in that area and got to see the Wunderbarn! show. Everyone was really into it and my kids loved the talking chickens and the Chicken Dance.
IllumiNights 2012 - Busch Gardens Willliamsburg
While I didn’t get to rack up a number of rides on some of my favorite coasters, I did get to see how the typical family spends a day at one of my favorite parks. I will say that I was disappointed to see Mach Tower down the entire day. But on the coaster geek front, I did get two new credits including a ride on Verbolten, one of the most anticipated new roller coasters of 2012.

For a unique, behind-the-scenes look at Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s roller coasters, check out my coverage of the park’s roller coaster tour: Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Roller Coaster Tours

Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? What are your thoughts on the park? Leave a comment below.

About The Author

Founder of My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

4 Responses

  1. DRU

    I went again on Friday for my wife's first ride on Verbolten. She had no idea about, and was totally surprised by the vertical track drop section. How lucky! It scared the crap out of her! Also they finally have Verbolten's on-ride video system working. It was great to see myself riding, but even better to see my wife cringing in fear! The video has a ton of extra story integrated with the ride footage, It's good high production value CGI like from the early teaser videos. It was only like 15 bucks more than a regular photo package and came with the regular photo package, an internet based downloadable copy of your pic, a frame for the pic, and a dvd of your ride. All for $35
    It was great to be at Busch Gardens on a rare late season midweek day. They ban the children after 6pm and then it gets very creepy! They had the Halloween thing in full swing. Lots of Fog and ghouls running around freaking out the guests. Very cool!
    It was raining off and on that day so we were lucky to walk onto the old favorites and only had a 10 minute wait for Verbolten.
    Such a sweet park!

  2. Mike M.

    I used to think we had the better Busch Gardens experience down here in Central Florida due to having all of the animals to go along with the African theme. But after finally traveling to BGW this summer, I have to give the edge to “The Old Country”. The scenery and European theming was fantastic, as well as the many types of food you can have (especially enjoyed the sausage platters in Das Festhaus!). On the other hand, I don’t think there is much distinction between the different locales at BGT, besides maybe Egypt. Whether you’re in Nairobi, Stanleyville, or the Congo, you just know the scenery is tropical, and that it’s hot.

    As far as rides go, I used to think it was a wash between the two parks since many of the coasters are sisters to each other. However, there is absolutely NO equivalent to Apollo’s Chariot anywhere in Florida. That ride alone gives BGW the edge. On top of that, I don’t think there’s a coaster at BGT that easily trumps its counterpart. Yes, Kumba > Drachen Fire, but the latter is gone. And yes BGT has Gwazi but now that I’ve actually ridden some of the higher rated woodies in the country, it isn’t much of an addition. Let’s just say that I would easily trade Kumba, Cheetah Hunt, and Gwazi for Apollo’s Chariot and Verbolten.


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