News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Big thrills, big chills: What’s new at area amusement parks
BY ANNE ELDER
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
Venturing to amusement parks in the summer is usually linked with sunburn, waiting in roller coaster lines and smelling tempting wafts of funnel cakes drifting from sidewalk vendors. But this summer, Busch Gardens, Kings Dominion and Six Flags America promise to do more than buckle visitors into stomach-lurching rides by unveiling new attractions that will refresh your summer plans for even the youngest member of your family.
‘GRIMM’ THRILLS AT BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG
Completing the two-year Busch Gardens expansion, the park’s newest attractions launch guests into the ‘Brothers Grimm’ fairy tales, with a new ride and redesigned Oktoberfest entertainment.
The indoor-and-outdoor roller coaster Verbolten begins with the story of Gerta and Gunter Schwartzwald, a brother–sister team who own a Bavarian visitors center. While Gerta is welcoming and ready to show visitors around the village, Gunter is looking for an explanation regarding their previous guests—all of whom have mysteriously gone missing in the Black Forest.
Pay close attention to the detailed story elements in the ride queue, designed to keep park goers’ attention and introduce thematic elements. But on the ride, a wrong turn leads the roller coaster cars into the indoor, fantasized Black Forest, where special effects control what can be seen—as well as what can’t.
Located in the same area of the park as the retired Big Bad Wolf, Verbolten pays homage to the old ride with one of its three different endings, when the wolf appears from the darkness of the forest.
Contrary to other roller coasters, the next-generation Verbolten takes over where Big Bad Wolf left off, holding the rider’s adrenaline high beyond the first drop, with consistent twists and turns.
“With Verbolten, the thrills keep on coming,” said Busch Gardens spokesman Kevin Crossett. “It’s really designed as a family attraction. It has the thrill elements, but it’s not so overwhelming. It’s not intended to scare.”
Complementing the newest ride, the Oktoberfest entertainment has also gotten a facelift, with “Entwined,” a forest wonderland show inspired by Grimms’ fairy tales. The redesigned show boasts acrobats, dancers and singers, all while viewers refuel at Das Festhaus dining hall.
Other must-see attractions at the park this summer include a new pretzel restaurant; the Machtower ride, which opened last year; the Sesame Street Forest of Fun, where children can interact with the characters and enjoy rides with their parents; and the continued Glory in the Gardens and Busch Gardens Live concert series. And, if you stay late enough, stick around for the IllumiNights, where each of the countries celebrates uniquely before the fireworks conclusion.
PREHISTORIC GUESTS DROP IN ON KINGS DOMINION
At Kings Dominion this summer, watch dinosaurs come to life and fly above the countryside with the park’s newest attractions.
Thirty-six life-size dinosaurs have taken up residence in the six-acre animatronic dinosaur park in the woods, where families can explore five different time periods of the lives of these prehistoric creatures. But what’s most thrilling about the exhibit are their lifelike actions—these robots don’t move like robots.
“The movement is very fluid,” said John Taylor, director of marketing and sales at Kings Dominion. “It’s really cool being able to go to the attraction and watch the kids stand in awe of the [dinosaurs].”
At the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit, children have the opportunity to control some of them and dig up dinosaur bones, as well.
Complementing the exhibit, the educational 3–D movie “Dinosaurs, Giants of Patagonia,” which follows a renowned archaeologist, will be shown at the park and is included in the price of admission.
The two educational attractions further the park’s goals of offering activities that families can enjoy and experience together.
“It kind of creates a unique niche for us,” Taylor said. “That kind of allows us to provide our guests with a unique experience they can’t get in this region elsewhere.”
For ride enthusiasts, the park will be opening Windseeker, which Taylor called a “swing ride on steroids.”
The 301-foot-tall swing ride offers a view of the Virginia countryside as it swings at a 45-degree angle and 35 mph. At night, the arms of the ride are lit with LED lights, creating a “kaleidoscope of color,” Taylor said.
TAKE YOUR LAST STAND AT SIX FLAGS AMERICA
For those of you counting down the days to the end of the world, Six Flags America will prey on your anticipation this summer, as it introduces its new ride, Apocalypse: The Last Stand.
“It’s the only stand-up roller coaster in the state of Maryland,” said Havilah Ross, marketing communications manager. “We’re very excited.”
The park’s eighth roller coaster drops riders down 10 stories, moving at speeds more than 55 mph. And it’s more than just one drop—with Apocalypse, the twists and turns don’t stop until you’re safely back at the ride platform. The ride lasts approximately 2 minutes.
Apocalypse: The Last Stand will open on June 7, but season pass holders will be invited to a soft opening before its début on June 2-3.
WANT TO GO?
BUSCH GARDENS WILLIAMSBURG
Where: Williamsburg, off Exit 243A on Interstate 64
When: Open daily Friday through Sept. 3; closing hours vary. Selected weekends in September and October.
Cost: single tickets: $56.99 children, $66.99 adults online and at the gates.
Where: Doswell, off Exit 98 on Interstate 95
When: Opens Friday 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. daily Saturday through Sept. 3; closing hours vary. Selected weekends in September and October.
Cost: single tickets: $37.99–$49.99 online; at the gates $59.99 adults, $37.99 juniors under 48″ and seniors 62 and older, free 2 and under. $15 parking.
SIX FLAGS AMERICA
Where: 13710 Central Ave., Bowie, Md.
When: Doors opens at 10:30 a.m. daily Friday through Aug. 19. Selected weekends in August, September and October.
Cost: single tickets: $36.99 online, at the gates $56.99 general admission, $36.99 junior under 48″, free 2 and under. $15 parking.
Anne Elder is a recent graduate of University of Mary Washington and a freelance writer.