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Behind the Ride: Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

© SeaWorld Parks.

Deep within the dense uncharted forests of Virginia, a dark and sinister mystery is waiting to be unearthed... In 2012, Busch Gardens Williamsburg opened what may be one of the most mysterious, clever, and thrilling family roller coasters to ever exist. Today, we're determined to take you Behind the Ride to explore the story, special effects, and spine-tingling surprises that make Verbolten a must-see adventure for any themed thrill ride enthusiast.

Busch Gardens: The Old Country

Opened in 1975, Busch Gardens: The Old Country was a project undertaken by Anheuser-Busch to invest in the Williamsburg, Virginia area. The theme park (situated in the shadow of a 1.2 million square foot brewery) was themed to European countries from the start, both as a complement to an Africa-themed Busch Gardens in Florida and as a component of the historic Colonial Williamsburg story, celebrating the cultures, countries, and customs of European immigrants during colonial times.

For 25 consecutive years, the National Amusement Park Historical Association has named Busch Gardens Williamsburg the Most Beautiful Park in the World. That’s no coincidence. The gorgeous park is settled among the towering and dense forests of Virginia, following the natural terrain of the land with steep hills, rivers, waterfalls, and lush gardens. It’s renowed the world over for its authentic food, original entertainment, and gorgeous scenery, made up of storybook “hamlets” representing England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Canada, Germany, and Italy, each packed with real craftsmen, live artisans, authentic entertainment, and hand-prepared food.

Put another way: Busch Gardens Williamsburg is that rare kind of park you could spend a full day at without riding a single ride and still leave feeling satisfied.

Which isn’t to say that the park is without rides. In fact, Busch Gardens epitomizes “quality over quantity.” Its six (soon to be seven) adult roller coasters represent the best of their kinds, partly due to their placement in such a gorgeous setting. Rides like Griffon, Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, and Tempesto are stunning in scale and style.

Big Bad Wolf

Since 1984, one of Busch Gardens’ headlining rides was tucked away in the dense forests of the park’s Oktoberfest: Big Bad Wolf. One of the first suspended coasters on Earth, Big Bad Wolf was revolutionary in its time, placing riders beneath the roller coaster track in suspended buckets, able to swing freely as the coaster negotiated banked turned and drops.

Racing through the full-grown woods and slaloming through a fully-built Bavarian village, Big Bad Wolf was what many recall as a perfect family coaster: an ideal blending of Busch Gardens’ beautiful setting, thoughtful theming, and family thrills. Generations of park visitors remember Big Bad Wolf as their first “big” roller coaster – a bridge between kiddie coasters and the park’s 200-foot thrill-machines.

Image: Martin Lewison, Flickr (license)

But Big Bad Wolf’s time came. In 2009, the park announced that the ride would be no more. A victim of time and of the bankruptcy of its manufacturer, Big Bad Wolf would retire despite the cries of locals. So beloved was Big Bad Wolf, it earned a full, in-depth feature as part of our Lost Legends series – worth a read, since it’s the perfect prologue to what comes next.

Because even if Big Bad Wolf was gone, Busch Gardens had plans to build on its legacy –and its land – in a brand new, 21st century family thrill ride. 

Oktoberfest

Beginning in 2010, Busch Gardens announced that it would set out to refresh the park’s Oktoberfest hamlet, re-energizing the land with a new consistent style and story. The results were pretty wild. New textures, colors, banners, bunting, and stages filled the hamlet, creating an energetic and lively land. The smell of hand-rolled pretzels and on-tap beer wafting through the land, Oktoberfest was once again a festive place, even if it was without Big Bad Wolf.

The first new attraction to open was Mäch Tower, a 246-foot tall drop tower featuring on-ride audio, rumbling seats, panoramic views of the infinite forests of the region, and – of course ­– a freefall plummet.

While all eyes were turned skyward, though, a construction fence appeared around the old Bavarian station used by Big Bad Wolf and the woods it had raced through became a construction zone. The fences outside bore a ominous symbol: a metallic shield cut through with a lightning strike. While Oktoberfest may be in the midst of perpetual celebration and optimism, something dark was blooming within the woods just outside of town. 

 

The capstone of Oktoberfest’s rebirth, Verbolten would open in 2012, providing a 21st century family roller coaster shrouded in mystery. What do riders on board Verbolten experience? Read on…

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