We were actually supposed to go to Hersheypark last Saturday but the forecast said 60% chance of thunderstorms, so instead we went south to Busch Gardens Williamsburg (BGW) for the day, about a 2h 30m drive. (And we ended up waiting out a bunch of thunderstorms in the parking lot anyway.)
Formerly known as Busch Gardens Europe, BGW is a chuckle-worthy grouping of cartoonish simulacra of various European cultures, planted around a collection of similarly themed roller coasters and other theme park rides. It’s a mishmash of historical and modern caricatures translated to cheap facades and merchandise, and in most cases even the restaurants don’t even try for culinary authenticity, except where foods like funnel cake, baby back ribs, and pizza happen to coincide with the regional theme.
Still, this isn’t meant to be a culturally accurate educational Renn Faire; it’s an amusement park, and in that stead it certainly does amuse.
Seriously, we did have fun.
First ride of the day: Apollo’s Chariot, on which Fabio was infamously hit by a goose. This was my first roller coaster in a few years and it was terrifying at first; I think I started yelling about halfway down the 210 foot first drop, but that was the highest coaster in the park, so after this one everything else felt like a little dip.
This was in the “Italy” section of the park, which was really more “Ancient Rome” themed, with imperial references laid over standard theme park attractions.
Nearby was Escape From Pompeii, a flume ride framed as a tour through the fiery ruins of Pompeii ending in a daring getaway from the volcano. Very cool (hot) fire effects ending in a refreshing plunge.
Roller coaster highlight of the day was defintiely Alpengeist, a Bolliger & Mabillard inverted steel coaster with an Alpine skiing theme and multiple inversions, including an Immelman loop and a cobra roll. This was my first ever inverted coaster, and I enjoyed the ride immensely, the sensations being almost like experiencing unaided flight.
Last coaster of the day wasn’t really a coaster, but more of a motion-multimedia ride: The Curse of Darkastle, a combination of motion-simulation cars on a rail through a series of 3D movie screens, carrying 3D-glasses-clad riders through vignettes of a high-camp semi-immersive horror narrative. It was hilarious. And the decor outside was lovely.
At the end of the day we rode the Skyride back to “England” from “Germany.”
As mentioned, food wasn’t entirely thematic to the regional villages, but “New France” (Canadian frontier?) had a very good ribs sampler with fried pickles, and the “Festhaus” in “Oktoberfest” had a fairly authentic sausage sampler with sauerkraut, potatoes, and red cabbage, accompanied by some German dancing. Also, fried pickles. And non-fried pickles.
We didn’t get to see much of the animal parts, but there were Clydsdale horses in “Scotland,” and a few barn owls.
Also some turtles in the “Rhine River,” and a cardinal graced us with its presence while we were eating lunch.
Fun day, and we’ll have to come back sometime. (Though really, I’m much more interested in the historical parts of Williamsburg than the amusement park.)
Full photoset here. (Roller coaster videos were taken with my camera glasses, very tightly and securely strapped to my head with a strong velcro-fastened elastic band. Please do not take roller coaster videos with a loose handheld camera or phone, as it could drop and injure someone.)