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Monday, July 8, 2019

Steel Curtain Views

Since our last update, track construction has been completed and testing wrapping up. It is set to open this weekend and it is testing around the clock. Things are coming together nicely and finishing touches are being worked on as we speak. The photos speak for themselves on the latest progress. 
 The massive inversions should be quite fun.
 Banana roll action!

 This is one of my favorite spots to take in the action of the park from outside the park boundaries. It is located across the river in Braddock and you get a great view on so much of the action at the park.
Now we head into the park itself. This view is from the parking lot. The new coaster is seriously imposing from all angles and really builds anticipation when entering the park. As you get closer to the ride itself, the ride feels tucked into a nice corner without imposing upon the classic feel of the park.
This prototype coaster feels like the synthesis of S&S design elements, with Arrow influences. The tallest inversion is referred to as a Drachen-Fire Dive Drop, alluding to the Arrow influence, but its appearance and drop look similar to the quirkiness of an S&S El Loco.
 This spot will be so exciting on the midway.
 The signs are in place.

 The midway entrance coming together.

We are eagerly waiting to ride!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Seaside Fun at Family Kingdom & Myrtle Beach

A seaside setting, a classic John Allen/PTC coaster creation, a classic carousel, nice carousel, and lots of fun flats are pretty much a sure way that I will end up being drawn to a park. Family Kingdom is one of my favorite places to check out. In my opinion, this is the highlight attraction of Myrtle Beach. If you are staying within the center of the main area of Myrtle Beach, Family Kingdom is located within walking distance. Through most of the summer, the park is open in the evening hours through midnight, making this a natural stop during or after any long evening walk on the beach. With evening wristband options, and free admission/pay as you go options, the flexibility of visiting this park is perfect for unplanned and random adventures on beautiful summer evenings in the area. For a more detailed look at the history of each ride, check out this previous article of ours. 
A view of the park from the beach and Wither's Swash, the point at which a local creek meets with the ocean, bringing in tidewater. There is something so magical about this park, especially as the sun goes down. Visible are some of the slides from Myrtle Splashes Waterpark, the park's 100 foot Chance Ferris Wheel, and the beautiful Swamp Fox, one of the finest John Allen and PTC creations that is out there. 
We ended up spending the better part of a week in Myrtle Beach, and ended up spending time at the park on each of these days. Did I mention how much I love Swamp Fox? Everything about this figure-eight coaster is great. It has a zippy layout with airtime that ranges from light floater to extreme ejector. It is also meticulously maintained and one of my overall favorite wooden roller coasters. It is a shock to me how underrated this classic is.
Additionally, the lighting at the park, specifically the stunning LED package that the park has on its Chance Yo-Yo, really reflects nicely off of the white supports of the coaster, coupled with he classic chaser lights. The climb up the lift hill, and the slow turn at the top of the structure lead to a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean. 
Heading out for a front seat ride! I definitely enjoy the front seat the most on this coaster, though the backseat provides slightly stronger airtime. 
A view from the top of the ferris wheel
The park's awesome Hopkins log flume.
A daytime view of the park. Since most of the visitors at Myrtle Beach are on the beach for the bulk of the daytime, the park opens in late afternoon on each day, though the waterpark opens earlier.
Just down the beach, the Myrtle Beach Skywheel stands at 187 feet and is adjacent to Plyler Park and the boardwalk area. The boardwalk is home to the classic Gay Dolphin Gift Shop, several excellent arcades, and the Myrtle Beach Thrill Park.
The view of the Grand Strand from the Ferris Wheel
Myrtle Beach Sky Wheel and the thrill park at night from the beach.
Back to Family Kingdom and its own fun arcade.

The park's classic PTC carousel. The mechanism was moved from Asbury Park, NJ, with new horses cast from its original lot.
I'm in the front seat!
Brit on the park's Chance YoYo
Family Kingdom is a great place that is well worth spending some time at, along with the rest that Myrtle Beach has to offer.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Busch Gardens Williamsburg: Trip Report and Construction Update

I have long anticipated getting a visit in to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The stars aligned and we were finally able to make a trip. 
Visiting on a Friday, with a threat of rain, the park was pretty much empty. Everything was a walk-on. With the combination of the park running the maximum amount of trains on their B&Ms, and with their workers being both courteous and speedy, the visit was extremely pleasant, even with a rain out in the afternoon and evening. The operations at the park were especially fantastic. This park built a solid backbone of rides that produce a maximum throughput of visitors, which is the bare minimum of what you should come to expect from a large theme/amusement park. The operations for a large theme park of this size are about as good as we have seen. Minimal stacking of trains and cycling the riders through as quickly as possible. The only ride with single train operations (aside from Tempesto) was Loch Ness Monster. 

The park has earned recognition as being one of the most beautiful in the world. We have to agree. The themed lands are thoughtfully laid out, with attractions and food offerings that are based upon the culture of each represented country. It was really a nice idea to lay out the park as a collection of some of the cultures that are a part of the melting pot of our country. To pay homage like this to each country is a cool concept, though I would not mind seeing them expand some of the smaller cultural areas, such as the Latin American and Asian cultural areas, in addition to noticing the eastern half of European cultures, but I digress. Seeing how well the cultural aspects were covered at this park makes me really want to visit Busch Gardens Tampa to see how African Cultures are covered. 
For how much I enjoyed Apollo's Chariot, I did not end up taking too many shots of it. This B&M hyper, the first of its kind, celebrates its 20th year this year. The floater airtime on this coaster is absolutely excellent, along with the order of elements and pacing of the ride. It still holds up as one of the best B&M hypers. I was especially impressed by the pacing, which was relentless. I really liked the twisting element as the coaster moves to the right of the lift hill on the return run, and the large drop after the MCBR. I really like that the coaster kept its pacing after the MCBR and was generally relentless. The floaty airtime on this coaster is so much fun.
Tempesto is also the first of the Premier Sky Rocket II clones that I have had the chance to experience. They offer a great thrill for their small footprint. The airtime, hang time, and inversions are lots of fun. This coaster model was a great next step for Premier after building Sky Rocket at Kennywood. 
 Now for a look at the work for Project 2020. Lots of rumors are swirling around about the project. The scope of it will be quite large, reaching all the way down to the river area.
Did I mention that the themed areas are so nice and pleasant? Here is a view of the Italy section 
 Now for the park's world famous view. It did not disappoint. The thrill of observing this bird's nest of steel coaster track is on beaten by the thrill of riding each of these coasters. Loch Ness Monster ties for my overall favorite Arrow Looper, Griffon is my favorite Dive Machine, and Alpengeist is my absolute favorite B&M invert. Alpengeist was my overall favorite coaster at the park as well. Additionally, this is one of my overall favorite spots for how photogenic it is.

Verbolten's final drop down to the river. I really did not quite know what to expect from this ride, considering I had not read up on the ride or watched a POV of it in a long time. This ride is so much fun! That Freefall Drop mechanism is absolutely terrific, along with the twisted layout, which is mostly in complete darkness. This Zierer creation is great.
 A look at Alpengeist as we slowly work our way over to it. 
 The park's 1919 Herschell Carousel is a beautiful machine. According to the National Carousel Association, this machine was used on the carnival circuit for the first part of its life, and then sat in abandonment and was rescued and restored by Busch Gardens in 1973.
 The walk down at river level gives an absolutely stunning view of Loch Ness Monster, Alpengeist, and Griffon. 
I could probably spend a day down at this vantage point. 
The world famous view of Loch Ness Monster. This iconic coaster is lots of fun and one of the finest examples of an Arrow looper, though I feel like the first loop could use a re tracking like the lower loop. The thing that really took me by surprise on this ride was the awesome indoor helix. It probably ended up being my favorite element of the ride. Then, upon entrance to the second lift, the infield had some grazing deer in it, which was definitely a nice surprise. 

Here is Alpengeist in the midst of flying through its awesome Cobra Roll. I enjoyed this Cobra Roll more than most. The extreme height and speed in this section, coupled with the quick transitions within it, made it surprisingly intense and one of my favorite elements on the coaster.

A view of Griffon from the park's newest ride, Finnegan's Flyer, a midsized S&S Screaming Swing that is very good. Its placement at the edge of one of the valleys in the park helps to add to the thrill. These flats are so much fun.
More Griffon, with some classic Von Roll Skyride action. It is awesome that the park has opted to preserve its awesome skyride, an increasingly rare thing for parks to do these days.
Griffon is a pretty solid ride and probably my favorite Dive Coaster. These are so much fun, but I am always left wishing that they could have a longer layout.
The floaty elements on these rides make for so many fun photo opportunities when it comes to photographing the trains and riders. 
Now we move on to my favorite invert and overall favorite coaster at the park, Alpengeist. With a 195 foot tall lift hill, and a 170 foot drop, this coaster is an absolute giant. The swirling first drop down into the valley feels practically endless. 
The train then goes immediately a giant Immelmann. At this point, I expected the train to gracefully glide into the top of the inversion, like it does on Banshee at Kings Island, instead it has a great and forceful transition into the transition of of the inversion. This was a pleasant surprise, and the quick and forceful transitions are what makes this invert stand out from the rest for me. When compared to a ride like Banshee, which is also giant, but has smoother and much less forceful transitions between its inversions, experiencing the forceful transitions on Alpengeist was a pleasant surprise. These forceful transitions are further exemplified in the giant Cobra Roll, which is probably my favorite example of that inversion. 
Another aspect that stands out to me with Alpengeist is the sheer beauty of the landscape that it travels over. The way the ride is situated throughout a valley, filled with large trees, water, near miss elements and interactions with other land features, including the Le Scoot Log Flume, and the covered bridge, and then the faux snow that is on the ground under the track as it makes its way back to the station. The theming also adds some thrill to the ride. The theming to a ski area is pretty neat. The skis added to the sides of the train are a nice touch, in addition to making the station look like a giant ski lodge, and more. Overall, I could not be more thrilled with this ride. Busch Gardens and B&M really did a tremendous job on this ride. 
Another view of the snappy transition out of the Immelmann  
The giant loop is also a great element.
The Zero-G roll on Alpengeist is one of my favorite overall inversions on any coaster. The Zero-G roll is usually my favorite inversion on any inverted coaster, but the train on Alpengeist just flies through it, creating less of a feeling of zero-gravity, and more of a simply intense inversion. Here you can also see the park's classic Arrow Log Flume, Le Scoot.
Looking over towards InvadR. This recent GCI creation is a ton of fun. It has a relentless little layout that is snappy enough to satisfy pretty much anyone, but gentle enough to thrill riders of all ages. This was a great addition for the park as a mid-tier ride that everyone can ride, which rounds out their stellar coaster collection quite well.
Now back to the center of photography action in the park!
The park also has one of the finest overall train rides, with a fleet of three Crown Metal Products steam locomotives. It goes over scenic trestles and gives fantastic views of the rides at the park. It also serves as a great transportation link across the park, with three different stations.
It also gives you the best view of the action for Project 2020. The land clearing for the ride reaches all the way from the Festa Italia Station to the river. The size and scope of this project will be massive and you will get a great view of it from the railroad. 
The view of the river from the train.

A view of InvadR and Alpengeist.
We wrapped up our day on the carousel, a nice end to a decent day at an absolutely fantastic park.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a really special park, that really is flawless. There is not one bad ride in the park, and every corner is filled with beautiful theming, scenery, and more. Additionally, the employees make this park really stand out with their gracious, motivated, and kind attitudes. Ride and food operations were also fully on point, which is something that I do not often see when it comes to large amusement parks. Overall, we highly recommend that you check out this park. We will certainly be back.