The experience of the Big Bad Wolf begins before you’ve even set foot on the roller coaster itself. After all, your first encounter with it is likely as you approach the park’s Oktoberfest hamlet from the Italian village of San Marco. It’s then that you’ll see the deep red track of Big Bad Wolf emerging from the woods at the top of a steep hill and diving toward the Rhine River below. The track curves out just above the water’s surface and tears across the waterway before disappearing back into the forest at the water’s edge. This terrain-hugging fall looks impressive enough, but to see a train roaring through it helps make sense of Big Bad Wolf’s name.
The unassuming suspended coaster ride system adds extra oomph to the already-astounding maneuver. The train growls down this epic hillside and, at the last second before splashing into the water, it swings out to the side like a serpent.
This signature moment is certainly the most picturesque element of Big Bad Wolf. Of course, that’s by default, because it’s the only moment of the coaster’s 2,800 foot-long circuit that you can see from the park’s pathways. The rest is concealed deep in the forests of Oktoberfest. That's just how designers wanted it. What awaits aboard the mysterious coaster?
Aboard the beast
Seated aboard the black and yellow trains hanging beneath the striking red coaster track, the Big Bad Wolf begins simply enough: with an recorded spiel inviting you to “enjoy traveling at the speed of fright.” A small, harmless dip out of the station and a turn to the left serve to remove Big Bad Wolf from the hustle and bustle of Oktoberfest, isolating the train among the endless forests.
Once sufficiently out of the sight of park guests, the train reaches the ride’s lift hill: 50 feet tall. The click-click-click sound of anti-rollbacks builds anticipation on a ride that, for many, served as their first ever adult roller coaster. The train crests the lift hill and dips down just a bit. Those expecting a white-knuckle thrill and a record-breaking first drop will be surprised. Instead, this dip leads only to a banked turn.
This, though, is where the suspended coaster really gets to show off. As the train swiftly glides through the banked turn, the train swings up to the side in an extreme bank. Just ahead, a wooden building appears. As the train sways wildly, it appears you’re heading right for it! At the last second, you swing away – and right toward a Bavarian stone bridge! Likewise, you narrowly escape.
These are Big Bad Wolf’s starring moments: an entire Bavarian village is set among the hilly, forested terrain of the woods. Quaint German shops and Tudor-style homes all covered in crawling vines and flowering ivy. This is when you as the rider begin to realize, you are the antagonist in an age-old fable: you are the Big Bad Wolf, terrorizing this storybook town as you roar along its streets, doors and windows sealed with terrified residents no doubt cowering inside. The fully built village offers one near miss after another as you slalom and swing through the town, narrowly missing trees, fences, doorways, and rooftops.
The village recedes as the coaster gets its first view of an open hillside laced with interlocking roller coaster track – a relentless swaying helix you’re about to race through.
Then, the train enters the midcourse brakes and slows for a breath. Don’t get used to it! This is the prelude to one of the most explosive finales on any family coaster; a moment that looks much different on-board than it does from the safety of the bridge you stood on a moment ago.
The train crawls up a second lift hill buried among the trees. This one is twice as tall as the first: 100 feet up. At the top, the coaster teases for a moment, slowly circling among the canopies. Then, it turns to reveal the moment you knew was coming: a view out across the endless green of Virginia’s forests… and the Rhine River 100 feet below. It could be that the Big Bad Wolf has saved the best for last.
Teetering on the edge for just a moment, the train bends down and races along its biggest drop yet: 80 feet straight down. The train barrels down the drop at 48 miles per hour – its highest speed yet – and races toward the water below. Just before it skims the river, it pulls up and swings wildly out in its most aggressive move yet, absolutely rocketing as it sways up to one side, then the other.
It slaloms back and forth, burning up the tremendous energy of the plunge as it gradually weaves up the hillside and through the forest, darting alongside the bridge and over a gushing waterfall. Somehow, that single dive provided enough momentum to return the Big Bad Wolf back to the top of the hill with the safety of the station just ahead.
As always, we have to include a video that gives you a very real idea of the magnitude and power of Big Bad Wolf. Check it out below:
Big Bad Wolf wasn’t Arrow’s first suspended coaster, but it was among the first to stick around. The ride was, by all accounts, a family ride – the kind that could serve as the first “big” coaster for generations of guests. It was thrilling but fun in the kind of balance that’s not easy to strike outside of Big Thunder Mountain style mine trains.
Speaking of which, Big Bad Wolf helped to signal that Arrow’s suspended coaster could become a new standard; the kind of customizable, family-oriented, first-step coaster role that had been filled almost exclusively by mine train rides through the 70s and 80s. And Arrow did go on to build suspended coasters at many major parks from Six Flags Magic Mountain to Chessington World of Adventures. But none were quite as clever or thrilling as Big Bad Wolf, which showcased the power and intensity that the suspended coaster could have compared to more idling, calm iterations like Cedar Point’s Iron Dragon.
For 25 years, Big Bad Wolf raced through the forests of Oktoberfest and dove toward the Rhine River below, delighting generations. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t stay around much longer. Busch Gardens had plans for Oktoberfest, including a brand-new, 21st century coaster that would build on Big Bad Wolf’s legacy… and its land. What replaced this storied ride? Read on…