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May 6, 2014
Hampton, VA USA
It was a beautiful, sunny day to visit this park for the first time.  After visiting the Williamsburg park for almost 40 years, would this park feel familiar or foreign? I began the day with a group of six that eventually became a group of four.  Entry into the park was familiar with similar parking, kiosks, ticket windows, security check, and ticket scanners.  I would first like to thank Bill and Nicole for tips and advice before my visit.  Their information was spot on and priority/preferred parking at only $5 more was worth it.

Trying to move a group takes time and this trip was no exception.  My hope for starting at park open turned into an 11 AM arrival. The group conceded to my request to visit Montu first.  Being an Alpengeist fan since it opened, I was curious to experience Alpie's sibling coaster. I'd guess we reached this coaster around 11:30.  One of our group was a SEAS employee from Orlando equipped with a Quick Queue Unlimited wristband. He advanced ahead of the line and said he would wait at the end.  After waiting in line 10 of the projected 70 minutes we quickly realized this could be a long, hot day of waiting in lines without a Quick Queue.  BGT smartly placed a QQ vending machine at the start of the line.  Three of us opted to buy the head of the line passes.  The remaining two split off from the group.  The vending machine does not offer the unlimited wristband and a couple in the group were unhappy and felt one head of line (plus one bonus repeat of one ride) was not enough. To appease them we eventually visited Guest Services and upgraded to unlimited which did come with a pretty pink bracelet, um sorry wristband.  Back to Montu.  For the first ride, we rode in the front row and enjoyed a nearly silent lift hill!  Fellow ParkFans, Alpengeist's lift hill has something wrong that should receive some attention.  Montu was awesome!

Catching up with our SEAS employee who scolded us for paying full price on the QQ passes, we moved on and crossed the park while enjoying the landscaping, animals and near-African heat and humidity.  Summers are hot in Williamsburg, but it reaches a new level in Tampa.  The park does a great job of providing shade and there are employees circling the park with misters to provide a laugh and a cooling spray.  This was a nice touch and I began to notice how often employees joke and interact with guests.  I was not sure I wanted to ride the large wooden coaster, Gwazi.  I am a coaster nut so, how could I not?  I followed my group and enjoyed the Quick Queue line past most of those waiting.  It was my first experience with this benefit.  I could get used to it...  I have ridden a number of wooden coasters including Rebel Yell, Grizzly, and the Hurler.  Was Scooby Doo wooden?  I think it was.  Anyway Gwazi is a woodie with a serious attitude.  By far it had to be the fastest, most insane wooden coaster I could have imagined.  It's a lengthy ride too, so if you are not a fan of rough rides, you may want to avoid it.

By this point it is past 1 PM and everyone is ready for something to eat.  I know the BGT version of Trader's Smokehouse is nearby so I start moving the group to the Zambia Smokehouse.  As we pass through Safari of Fun something odd happens.  Is that Billy Joel I hear playing over the speakers?  It is and to make it even more trippy, the song is, "I want you just the way you are."  This just feels really strange and unexpected but my hunger urges me to press on.  On most visits to BGW I choose either the brisket platter or sandwich.  At the Zambia Smokehouse I select the sandwich. It is served on flatbread and includes onions and a white sauce instead of the barbecue sauce I really enjoy at BGW.  Barbecue sauce is available in packets, but I do not find it very good.  The sandwich is okay but the brisket seems dry.  In my book, score a solid victory for Williamsburg's smokehouse.  Note: I later find that most areas of the park play modern, popular music so the Billy Joel track was a bit of an aberration.

Our next ride is the sibling coaster to Griffon, SheiKra.  It has a surprising red and blue color scheme and the layout seems familiar even if slightly reversed from the direction of Griffon's twists and turns.  While waiting to board, there are nice views of Falcon's Fury construction. There are also health warnings that I have not heard or noticed in Williamsburg for some time.  Riders with high blood pressure, neck or back pain, and several other common ailments are cautioned not to ride.  Despite my borderline high blood pressure, we ride in the front on our first ride.  There are 8 seats across instead of 10.  We ride again later in the back.  A notable difference that adds fun is that the water brake feature actually gives a nice cooling spray to unsuspecting passers-by below.  Mmm, SheiKra - tastes like Griffon!  Montu is still my favorite in the park, though.

Moving on to Jungala, I feel like a kid again exploring the Treetop Trails.  It's really fun and I never venture into the Land of the Dragons in BillsBurg. I may have to rethink that.

Unlike the sandal-wearing Florida natives I am with, I wear socks and sneakers for comfortable walking.  I am not really into riding Congo River Rapids, but relent and board the bathtub, I mean tube.  At every opportunity I am the one that is splashed, soaked, drenched, and poured on!  Yea!  By the way, the health warning recording is played while waiting to board.  Although it did soak me, I feel much cooler for the next hour.

Next we ride Kumba.  Being a fan of Bolliger & Mabillard's work, I am curious to ride this sit-down coaster that has no sibling at BGW.  Even though it has been around the park since '93 when it was BGT's premiere coaster, it is still a very popular ride.  I can see why.  It's a really attractive coaster and the train design is really colorful and nice, reminding me of Apollo's Chariot trains.  The ride was fun, but hurt my ears a few times as they banged back and forth between the headrests.  At this point Montu (another B&M coaster) is still my park favorite.

Throughout the day I keep finding myself back in the center of the park, Pantopia (formerly Timbuktu).  The new decor is cool and includes large dog and cat sculptures made entirely of recycled grills, appliances, cars parts, etc.  I appreciate Falcon's Fury amazing paint scheme and watch as workers toil away to finish it.  I pass the Scorpion coaster several times, but we never ride it.  I believe it may have been the park's first coaster.

Our next stop is a ride on Cheetah Hunt.  At this point I have really messed up Nic and Bill's tip to go here first and even with QQ we wait a good amount of time to board the train.  This is an Intamin coaster with launch technology similar to Verbolten.  It's a far longer coaster with an amazing 5 trains so carrying capacity is very good.  There are three launches and the second one is a nice surprise.  Just as you are approaching what appears to be a 102' lift hill you are boosted to 60 MPH and fly right over it! Wheeeeeeeeeeee!  Near the end of the ride, the track jogs several times from side to side reminding that you are an animal on the hunt for prey.    I rode twice, once in the front and once in the back.  It is a really well done, ride.  It's a fun, original coaster but for me Montu is still king.

We visited a number of animal habitats and all were well done.  I felt sorry for the kangaroos who just wanted to nap in the extreme heat.  The Animal Care Center was cool (as well as a nice AC break) and thankfully no animals were sick and being cared for during my visit.  Did I actually see and repress that the first room of the Animal Care Center is a set for a cooking show?!?  That just cannot be possible -- I think the heat was getting to me!

We ended the day riding the very last train of the day on Montu and walked over to the Kinetix and fireworks show.  It was an entertaining show and I loved the fireworks.  It was a nice way to end the day!  I really enjoyed the park and found it a nice mix between foreign and familiar.  BGT earns serious kudos from me on the availability and friendliness of staff.  At strategic locations in the park, they have smiling employees on microphones chatting with passersby and offering to answer questions.  Even the Mouse doesn't go to this extreme.  If I was forced to choose a favorite between Tampa or Williamsburg it would be the latter, only because of childhood familiarity.  Thank you Busch Gardens Tampa for a memorable and fun day!  I will try to recover and add photos from my cellphone later.  It survived the park but not my past two weeks of travel.
Great review Geo! I stay away from other SEAs park's versions of Trapper's Smokehouse. They try to replicate it, and ultimately end up failing. QQ is a must at BGT if you ask me, otherwise there's just no way you'll be able to get everything done.
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Great trip report! No Scorpion though? :( At least now you have something to look forward to on your next trip.
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I passed Scorpion twice and the rest of the group refused to stop. It's a fun looking, little ride! I will hit it next time Zac. Crown Colony was another casualty of the group, Nic. I could not drag anyone in, even to the pub. I also begged to visit Wild Maus (Sand Serpent) to no avail. Three stops for a future trip!
You totally have justification for a return visit!

And as I mentioned to you before, I never manage to do everything when I go either. I try to rotate the attractions I am forced to skip.
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GeoUSA said:
I passed Scorpion twice and the rest of the group refused to stop.  It's a fun looking, little ride!  I will hit it next time Zac.  Crown Colony was another casualty of the group, Nic.  I could not drag anyone in, even to the pub. I also begged to visit Wild Maus (Sand Serpent) to no avail. Three stops for a future trip!

Shame on you for missing a classic Schwarzkopf!!! :O

Seriously though, you missed an opportunity to ride a rare breed of roller coaster - one of six left operating in the USA. And most of all, you missed a chance at nostalgia as Scorpion and KD's King Kobra have the same style of trains.

Scorpion better be your first coaster when you go back and visit!
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