Busch Gardens Williamsburg 2021 Highlights [Video / Photo Gallery]
For our first family trip outside of Dare County in more than a year and a half, we returned to Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, Virginia, for a hot day of fun rides and good times.
When we last visited (in 2019), our son, Oziah, braved almost all of the park’s high-thrill roller coasters for the first time, leaving only the mighty Griffon to tackle another day, and that day arrived on July 28, 2021, when we returned to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for our very first trip away from the Outer Banks since the pandemic began. With all three of us fully vaccinated, masks still in our pockets at all times just in case, it was truly our first adventure into “the wild” among hundreds of strangers.
Upon our arrival around noon, we learned that all of the rides (even the train and the smaller rides) were temporarily closed due to a severe weather alert. While occasional clouds drifted overhead, it never did rain while we were there, though the threat of thunderstorms kept the rides closed for about three hours. In that time, we ate (too much) inside the Festhaus, listening to the performers present their German song and dance show.
With unexpected time to kill waiting for the attractions to reopen, we wandered around the park just enjoying being out of the house and somewhere other than home.
We were in the New France section of the park when we heard a roar of cheering come from the line queue of the wooden coaster InvadR, and we knew that it meant the ride was about to start up again, so we ran to get ourselves in line, which then moved quickly.
InvadR was our first ride of the day, a fun family-friendly coaster with Viking theming, and it was a great way to warm up to the bigger thrills.
After three hours of waiting for the rides to reopen, we didn’t want to waste any more time walking than necessary, so we decided to next get in line for the runaway ski lift-themed Alpengeist coaster, which is located closest to InvadR.
With an overhead track, Alpengeist is a twisted steel coaster featuring six inversions that always leave me a little sick to my stomach (especially after that Festhaus pizza), so I sat out and shot video while Sue and Oziah took a second run on the ride later in the day.
We headed toward the multi-launch coaster Verbolten next, but saw that it’s line was significantly longer than the previous two rides, so opted to circle back later and pushed on to my personal favorite ride at Bush Gardens, the massive purple steel coaster Apollo’s Chariot.
It has the biggest and best airtime moments, and it’s just immensely enjoyable. There was almost no line for this ride, as we pretty much walked right on, much to our delight.
It was over 90 degrees on this day, with a heat index that pushed it to past 100 degrees, so we took numerous drink/shade breaks throughout the day, after almost each ride. During one of these breaks after Apollo’s Chariot, Oziah and I took a peek at the future.
Busch Gardens’ newest roller coaster, a record-setting steel multi-launch called Pantheon, was originally scheduled to open back in 2020 and is currently listed as “anticipated to open in 2021” on the official website, but as of our visit in late July, it was not yet open. There was actually no signs of any work happening around the coaster, which appears to be completed. We saw no test runs taking place, but we could get a fairly decent look at the track. The line queue is also completed, though I anticipate theming elements are still to be added.
Pantheon looks like it’s going another awesome addition to the Busch Gardens roller coaster family, and we can’t wait to experience it.
Up next, we hoped on the stunt performer-themed Tempesto, a compact but surprisingly intense steel coaster that travels both backward and forward at times, with a very slow inversion at its highest point.
We set our sights on the 46-year-old iconic Loch Ness Monster coaster next, but when we saw that it’s line was the longest we’ve seen it in years, we opted instead to head for Oziah’s final coaster left to conquer at the park, Griffon.
After hanging in a terrifying pause for the longest five seconds of your life atop its signature first 205-foot hill, the floorless Griffon plunges into a straight 90-degree dive that kicks off a quick, soaring ride meant to mimic a giant mythical bird, Oziah absolutely loved this coaster. We immediately got in line to ride it a second time, and the line moved quickly for both runs. Starting where a sign estimated it would a 45-minute wait, we were on the ride in far less than 30 minutes each time.
From there, Oziah and Sue took their second ride on Alpengeist, and then we finally got in line for Verbolten, a partially dark (indoors) coaster themed around tourist tours through the haunted Black Forest of legend.
Built on the site of the old Big Bad Wolf roller coaster, Verbolten features a number of fun nods to its predecessor throughout the line queue (see below) and inside the dark portion of the ride, as the Wolf’s red eyes that served as the original ride’s logo appear out of the blackness amid howls in the air. We all agree, it is one of the best rides in the park.
With less than 30 minutes until closing time, we made a mad dash for one more run on Apollo’s Chariot, and we just made it, next line to board with about seven minutes to spare, and then it was announced that the ride was again “temporarily” closed. So our day ended how it had begun, with a closed ride, which was a definite bummer at the time, but we concentrated on all the fun we had throughout most of the afternoon and evening.
A quick stop in the Emporium gift shop so Oziah could get his new Griffon t-shirt completed our day, as we all looked forward to resting our tired bodies and cooling off back at the motel.
With the new roller coaster Pantheon on the horizon presumably for next year, we are already looking forward to our next adventure at the park.
You can watch some highlights from our 2021 visit to Busch Gardens Williamsburg in the video below, and then scroll down to view our photo gallery.
(Click an image to enlarge and view in gallery browser.)
For more Outer Banks entertainment news, follow @obxe.