Thursday, May 17, 2012 my wife, Kat and I traveled up to Williamsburg, Va. We didn’t go to visit Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement, in what would just 168 years later become the United States of America. We didn’t go to spend time on the battlefield of Yorktown, where General Cornwallis was defeated by George Washington, allowing us to go forth as our own nation. We came to Williamsburg to celebrate an event of a more fun nature. The opening of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s newest machine to produce thrills and chills, Verbolten. AdventuresByDaddy.com was invited to attend as part of a blogger’s preview event, one day before the official opening of the ride for the public on May 18th.
So early Thursday morning we set out in search of adventure. Traveling up to Busch Gardens we were given directions to the cast member parking area. Getting a little glimpse of behind the scenes was a great plus. And getting to walk into basically an empty park was a different experience for sure. We made our way over to Verbolten, which is in the location of the retired and dismantled Big Bad Wolf.
The attraction building is beautiful. Bright yellow and green, two story old world European style. As you look around though you see a red Porsche 911 crashed into a wall just to the left of the building. It’s obvious it’s been here awhile as tree branches are growing out of the car. As you enter the building, you have lots to look at while you wait for your rental car to be ready. You see you have entered the waiting area for Gerta and Gunter’s Tours and Rentals. This brother and sister team is always walking about helping customers as best they can with their European driving tours. The waiting area is filled with auto posters, an unusual amount of luggage and lots of vines and tree branches. Old auto parts have been re-purposed for many uses, as signage and decorations.
As your car enters the station and you take a seat, you must securely strap yourself in. This vintage euro sports car must be fast, you think to yourself. As the car pulls out from the station, a smiling Gerta waved and shouted “Auf Wiedersehen” As you round the bend, you see that you are headed toward the dark forest, but as you try to turn the car, some mysterious force seems to reach out and grab your car, drawing it into the forest. Inside the forest, day turns to night. You seem to be speeding along some dark road, twisting and turning every which way. Your surroundings occasionally illuminated by lightning or a glow coming from the flora as if by magic. You see eyes watching you from the forest depths. As you race through the woods, you notice a pair of deep red glowing eyes watching you, and you realize that the former inhabitant of this place has not left. The Big Bad Wolf is watching.
Your car soon comes to a stop, under the glowing canopy of trees. As you sit wondering what you are going to do next, the roadway under you drops and you free fall at least ten feet. As your car comes to a rest, the forest canopy separates and an escape route opens up. As you ease forward, happy to be leaving this dark forest, the force that grabbed your car and drew you in, appears to grab the car again and flings you out of the forest. Your car huddles up a hill toward an old covered bridge that appears to be broken. As you race through the bridge you slam on the brakes, but too little, too late. Your car plunges over the side and hurtles toward the Rhine River, 88 feet below. You close your eyes, hoping this is all just a bad dream. Seconds later you open your eyes again and notice that your car is back on the road and is pulling into Gerta and Gunter’s shop. You are safe and sound, but not quite sure what just happened.
And so ends your ride on Verbolten, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s latest addition to it’s family friendly theme park. As many coaster fans will already know, Verbolten was built on the land that once housed the Big Bad Wolf. As one of the first suspended coasters in the world, the BBW was truly a unique and enjoyable ride. It was the coaster that many a family used to introduce young ones to the fun and adventure of roller coasters. And the Big Bad Wolf had the signature plunge to the Rhine River. So when the Big Bad Wolf reached it’s end of life a couple of years ago, Busch Gardens management made the painful decision to replace it. And so was born Verbolten.
Interviewing both Carl Lum, vice president of Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Larry Giles, vice president of Engineering for BGW, I learned that they insisted on several items as a carryover/homage to the Big Bad Wolf. First they insisted that the coaster accommodate riders 48” and taller, allowing children to ride. They did not want any inversions, again for the same reason. They also insisted that the new coaster include a drop to the river like the Big Bad Wolf did. New items that were incorporated include the two magnetic launch systems; this coaster does not use any chain lifts. The dark ride building element was included, allowing them to include many theatrical elements into this ride. The free fall drop is a totally unique item to roller coasters. And while Busch Gardens has always done a first rate job with it’s theming and storyline, they have raised the bar with is ride. Hopefully a sign of things to come for this park.
Mr. Giles informed us that the steel from the Big Bad Wolf was recycled, except for the piece of track and one car that Busch Gardens donated to a Roller coaster museum in Texas. He also informed us that many of the concrete foundations used were the original Wolf foundations, especially the important ones at the bottom of the river drop, thus avoiding major construction work in a designated wetlands area.
Talking with Mr. Lum, I asked him what did Busch Gardens offer to families that would make them decide that they wanted to spend their family vacation together at BGW as opposed to another park. He simply stated that Busch Gardens was a wonderful park and fit in so well with the other local attractions offering a complete vacation experience to families. So if you find yourself in the Hampton Roads area on travel, or if you live nearby and have never been to Busch Gardens, or if it’s been awhile, I highly recommend you visit, and enjoy all that Busch Gardens Williamsburg has to offer.
For on-board, point of view, as well as Busch Garden’s official video of the Verbolten ride experience, click here.
Mike McGuire is husband to Kat, and father to 4 children. They live in the small town of Boykins, VA, in a big house, that they hope to turn into a Bed and Breakfast one day.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Mike McGuire for attending this media event for “Adventures by Daddy,” and for submitting this initial post. Hopefully it will not be his last. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.