Happy Friday: The Enchanted Laboratory At Busch Gardens Williamsburg

One of the many nice things about being a big fan of Disney parks is that they give you a greater appreciation for and interest in theme parks in general. Liking more things means there are more things we like, if you know what I mean.

With that in mind, follow me now on a brief journey into my childhood, a fixture of which was Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Sure, Six Flags America and Kings Dominion were closer to where I lived, but Busch Gardens was worth that extra hour’s drive.

Just like Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has grown and changed a lot over the ensuing decades, and while we’ve gained some nifty new rides and attractions, we’ve also lost some of my nostalgic favorites. One such ride was my very first roller coaster ever, Big Bad Wolf, which while sorely missed thankfully found a worthy successor in Verbolten.

Alas, another lost attraction now has no successor at all: The Enchanted Laboratory of Nostramos the Magnificent, which ran from 1986 to 2000. Located in what is now the Ireland section of the park and ostensibly a magic show for children, The Enchanted Laboratory rose above its humble concept with a truly entertaining performance for all ages. 

Oh, sure, you think. When you were seven you thought that. But how about revisiting it as an adult?

Guys, this show is AWESOME.

I mean, sure, nostalgia may be coloring some of my opinion, but I stand by it – the magic tricks, while not mind-blowing for the most part, were performed with aplomb, the script was good, the songs were catchy, the animatronics were fun, and the actors were talented. You needn’t trust me; somebody even built a fansite for the show

Need a break from your Friday workday? Take 24 minutes and check it out below. And if you like it, definitely take a look at that fansite I linked above – it’s super comprehensive! (One of its fun facts: several former Imagineers were part of the project.)

P.S. SPOILER: One time, even though I’d already seen the show several times, the monster It that tries to escape at the end scared me. I asked my dad if we could leave and he said no. The show finished up and I was fine. 😆Having read on the fansite that Northrup had to actively wrestle with It, perhaps this was one of the times It rose a little higher than intended?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. It would thrill me extremely if you would leave a comment with any questions or thoughtsSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Rides Roller Coasters With Her Eyeliner On Fleek

Pat and I took our annual pilgrimage to Busch Gardens last Sunday, and it was… something. Unfortunately the experience was not quite what it’s been in past years.

This is mostly not Busch Gardens’ fault: they can’t control the weather, after all. Sunday’s predicted high of 60 degrees never came to fruition, and while it was pleasant enough in the sun the park is largely designed to protect from summer’s heat, ie, there’s a lot of shade. I wore a thermal under a light jacket and a hat and I was still cold (also my hat wouldn’t stay on on the coasters; I performed a stunning catch on my first drop of the day). Pat even bought a long-sleeved shirt to compensate.

Which brings me to my next point: given the cold and wind, every roller coaster ride was an exercise in involuntary tears. I got off each coaster with temples streaking by high-speed teardrops. And yet my eyeliner did not budge – it’s Nyx Epic Ink and YOU SHOULD ALL GO BUY IT.
Wait, where was I? Oh yes, BGW. They can’t exactly control the crowds, either, and for some unknown reason there were a lot of people there this time around. I can’t quite figure this one out – we went on the exact same Sunday in October last year and it was maybe half as crowded. My best guess is some sort of local school sporting event or convention or some such. Anyway, lines were much longer than usual.

The last thing is on BGW though, and that’s the way they stagger land openings. Namely, they do it. Fine. WDW does it something similar sometimes too. But BGW doesn’t seem to have a strong handle on what “open” means. They seem to think letting people into an area at a designated time is enough. Actually having the corresponding rides open is optional.

Oh well. Next year we’ll take the day off and go on a Friday earlier in the season. That ought to fix 2 out of 3. And we still had a good time! We rode our favorite roller coasters (Verbolten, Griffon, and Apollo’s Chariot) multiple times and it was lovely.

We also got a chance to try out the new motion simulator ride, Battle for EireThis particular simulator is unique in that each rider uses a personal VR headset instead of everyone staring at the same movie screen (although you do have thought option if you’re not feeling the VR). 

To speed up the process, you wear the VR headset in two parts. First you’re given some very attractive headgear, which Pat and I will model for you now.

Sexy!

Once you’re seating in the ride, you attach your VR “goggles” to your headgear via magnet. You need to do a little adjusting to keep the goggles from tipping your headgear forward and making the focus out of whack, but I didn’t have too much trouble.

Sadly, once the novelty wore off I wasn’t all that into the ride. The graphics aren’t bad, but they aren’t good either; I got a decidedly N64 vibe, if that, although allegedly it’s all in HD. I wonder if the projected 2D version was better. I did enjoy the VR aspect of twisting my head around to view different parts of what I can only assume was at least 180 degrees worth of world (I’ll have to turn my head all the way around next time and see if there’s anything happening behind me).

The VR aspect kinda shoots the ride in the foot in that the developers seemed to assume that it can do a lot of the heavy lifting as far as motion is concerned, too. I know some previous shows have been accused of being too herky-jerky, but I barely felt a lot of the movements. At one point I was on the back of a freakin’ dragon and hardly felt like I was going anywhere at all.

More damningly, the story was pretty weak. You’re accompanying fairy Addie on a mission to save the Heart of Ireland from the bad guy, according to the preshow. It’s a pretty basic good-vs-evil plot, which is fine, but it’s thinly drawn and the climax is extremely cheesy. 

In conclusion: I miss the show from two versions back, Corkscrew Hill. What can ya do.

We skipped hitting up any of the bars this time around and left before Howl-o-Scream even started because it was just SO COLD and crowded. Cold and empty, sure; warm and crowded, I can deal. But cold and crowded is no good.

That’s okay – BGW is a great park and we have a better plan for next year. I would recommend it to anyone in the area. Ride Apollo’s Chariot on repeat and enjoy!

Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? Have you ridden Battle for Eire? What are your thoughts?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Kills A Bug With Her Face At Busch Gardens Williamsburg


After the physical difficulty of the Baltimore Marathon, my quads and Achilles were shot. Naturally I chose to spend my Sunday traipsing all over Busch Gardens Williamsburg.


WORTH IT.

Honestly it was probably good for me to keep myself moving and stretch out my muscles, and anyway we had an awesome time. And with a half price Groupon, why not?

BGW, for those unfamiliar, is themed to the various countries of Europe (mostly; New France, how’d you get here, eh?). The entry area is England (the “Main Street USA” if you will) followed by a Scotland hub. It was here I enjoyed the highlight of the whole day: I PET A BORDER COLLIE. Her name was Daisy and she was the sweetest and YES I would love an amusement park that was nothing but cuddly animals please build that for me.

But after our snuggly pitstop in the Highland Stables it was time to get down to the real business of BGW: the roller coasters. As soon as the lands opened we hightailed straight to the park’s newest coaster, InvaDR. A hybrid wooden/steel coaster, this was… only okay, frankly. It was neither particularly swoopy nor speedy nor elaborately themed. After one ride we wandered off…

… And over to France for Pat’s favorite coaster in the park and possibly the world, Griffon. It’s a dive coaster with a vertical drop of over 200 feet, and riding in the front row is mandatory. 

Next up was Apollo’s Chariot, my favorite coast in the park (but not the world). This coaster is so smooth and full of air time that riding it is almost soothing. I love the bunny hops at the end!

Finally we took a couple spins on Verbolten, the most Disney-esque ride in the whole park if you ask me. It’s barely more than a kiddie coaster but the queue is elaborately themed and the coaster itself features a show building with a vague storyline.

It’s kinda crazy how slow it was in the off season – by noon we’d taken multiple rides on all the coasters we cared about. We spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around, poking around in shops, having a couple drinks at the pirate bar in the Italy area, and occasionally taking in an additional coaster ride.

We had lunch at the Squire’s Grille, which seems to largely fly under the radar. The fare is simple – burgers and chicken nuggets and the like – but honestly it was better than any of the Festhaus or Trapper’s Smokehouse offerings. If you’re just looking to get some food in you with a minimal wait, I’d highly recommend it.

The Howl-O-Scream crowd started rolling in around 2pm, so we took in some shows instead. The More Pet Shenanigans show was cute and of course the animals were adorable, but the acting was pretty cringey. I wish they didn’t act at all. 

As for the new predator show, it’s… largely the same, if you ask me. They’ve rearranged things a bit and the dialogue’s been tweaked but, again, ENOUGH WITH THE ACTING. Just present the animals already! 

We were both pretty tired by that point and Pat wanted to go grocery shopping that night, so above my feeble protests he led me out around 5pm. So we missed all the Howl-O-Scream stuff. But I hate haunted houses so whatever. If we go again next year I’d like to check out some of the Terror-tories, though.

This is the fourth time I’ve recapped a day at BGW on this blog, and I worry sometimes that it’s all too repetitive to be worth posting. And I rarely have many pictures because of BGW’s no bags on rides policy; my phone (and everything else) is shoved in my bra most of the day.

I knew going in if I wanted to do a post I’d need to find an interesting hook, but before I could even really get any ideas going it happened for me:

It was our second ride on Griffon. As we surged down that first, massive drop something hit me in the teeth and lip and then just hung there. The coursing wind quickly blew it off but I was bothered the whole rest of the ride – what WAS that? 

Pat was quite convinced it was a bug. Okay, that’s a story of sorts in an of itself. But it got much more interesting when we noticed on subsequent rides that there are wasps ALL OVER the track of the first hill. So PROBABLY I killed a wasp WITH MY FACE.

And we all know what that means: I AM JUST LIKE FABIO.



Have you ever been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? Have your ever killed a bug with your face?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Sidesteps Theme Park Lockers

Girls, we’ve got it rough. We know this.

Our pockets are useless.

Hey, baggy cargo pants can be a cute look. But it’s not how we want to live our lives, and it’s definitely not always how we want to swan around an (often sweltering) amusement park. It’s cool, though; that’s why God invented the purse, right?

Unfortunately, some theme parks have declared war on bags. Busch Gardens Williamsburg won’t let you take them through the line – and its lockers aren’t free. Universal Studios will let you stow stuff in a locker, but it’s only free for a limited time; woe betide those who would wait in a lengthy line. I’ve had a similar experience in Six Flags Great Adventure. Universal, however, takes it one step further: for a couple of their big ticket coasters, there’s a metal detector stationed halfway through the line. Even those with zippered pockets can’t bring their phone through.

With the metal detector situation I can’t help you. But if it’s just the bag you’d love to ditch, ladies, I have good news! They can take our purses, but they will NEVER TAKE OUR BOOBS.

Behold: the Sports Bra Storage method of theme park travel.

It’s easy! All you need is a ziplock bag, four safety pins, and a substantial sports bra. Alternatively you can use a small cosmetic bag or similar, but there tends to be extra bulk there.

Steps:

  1. Flip your sports bra inside out.
  2. Align the sandwich bag so that the opening lines up with or just below the top of your sports bra.
  3. Smooth out the bag against the fabric and safety pin the bag to the bra at the top and bottom corners. Be careful not to catch the bra’s back in the pins. If the bag extends beyond the bra, do NOT fold it; instead, pin it just above the bra’s bottom, at the sides of the bag.
  4. Flip the bra back to right side-in. Put on your bra and smooth out the bag underneath. You are now free to insert your phone, ID, credit cards, and your average ticket media in the plastic bag. Seal it up et voila!

Wear a loose tank and unless you’re REALLY jamming it in there, no one will be able to tell you’re storing your stuff in your bra. No bag check and no lockers for you! I’ve never once had an issue with everything staying secure, but for extra safety you can always throw a hoodie zipped up all the way over your ensemble; this would catch an unlikely escaped item.

There are, of course, a few disadvantages to this method. It does limit what you can take into the parks. And if you have a phone so giant it won’t fit into a small bag, well, you’ll have to look into other alternatives. And there are lots! But this is my preferred method in the face of bag moratoriums and I thought I’d share it. Let me know if you try it out!

How do you prefer to store your stuff when riding?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Goes Back To Busch Gardens Williamsburg

This blog assumes two items:

  1. All amusement parks are, to varying degrees but with utmost certainty, inferior to Disney parks.
  2. They are still fun.

Therefore when a Groupon popped up for Busch Gardens Williamsburg about three hours south of us, Pat and I jumped at the chance. We’ve been there before and nothing has changed since then, but I thought a recap would still be fun.

Quick background for those who aren’t familiar: Busch Gardens is mostly themed to western Europe, with the park divided into France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and, for some inexplicable reason, New France aka Canada. (Plus a couple kids areas but I haven’t checked those out in several decades, so.) It’s a giant step up from your average Six Flags in quality but the majority of the rides do tend to be more thrill-based than story-based.

First, two things we did NOT do that may surprise you: the roller coasters Alpengeist and Loch Ness Monster. Alpengeist is only okay; Loch Ness Monster is a jolty ’70s coaster that does not rise above its age. If you’ve never ridden either, by all means do, as roller coasters can be very personal. But since we’ve done both we elected to skip them in favor of more rides on the coasters we LOVE.

And what coasters do we love? APOLLO’S CHARIOT! Swoopy, swoopy, swoopy, with a satisfyingly long track. The name of the game here is airtime, with some fun bunny hops at the end. Also, this is the coaster on which Fabio was hit in the face with a goose, so enjoy that.

GRIFFON! If you’ve ridden Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa, I understand you’ve ridden the same ride: the first drop is 205 and VERTICAL. We waited the extra time each ride to in the very front row because this is a rare case where ride experience is definitely affected by position. When they hang you over the edge of the first drop and make you think about it, looking straight down the track is absolutely glorious. The drop is smooth and fast and awesome. Don’t be afraid!

VERBOLTEN! Okay, I love this one more than Pat does, but he still enjoys it. The track itself has two fun slingshot accelerations and the surprise in the middle, and everyone loves a roller coaster in the dark, but it’s the themeing that really does it for me. I love that the designers took the time to tell a story, beginning with the car rental and botany lab of the queue, all the way through the blacklit show building and sound effects. This to me is the most Disneyesque thing in the park.

Only bad thing about this coaster: because of all the programming involved in the show building’s effects, it has a tendency to go down a lot. We had to come back three times to ride it successfully. At one point we were in the loading area when it broke down. Luckily we hadn’t been waiting too long, but it’s something to keep in mind when planning your day. Try to get this one in as early as possible.

You could argue that Curse of Darkastle, being a dark ride, is pretty Disney-ish too. I would liken it more to Universal’s Spiderman ride, myself, although frankly not as well executed. It’s got the whole dark ride sets plus 3D effects going on, but the story of Mad King Ludwig and his victims isn’t cohesive. Mind you, I remember riding this back in 2005 when it opened and they used to hold you in a room before you hit the load area to watch an explanatory backstory video. They now just have those doors open, and if you happen to walk through while the video is playing, you see it – if not, you don’t. I’m sure line flow is helped by this decision, but I’m not sure the audience gets the full experience without the video.

We also rode one more coaster, Tempesto: it is short and suffers for it. What ride time you get is fun but it’s basically over before it starts: forward, back, forward, up, over, done. Pat pointed out the entire experience would be improved if you repeated those motions but backwards. As it is I wouldn’t wait more than 5 minutes for it.

I think the only other thing we rode is the skyride, which isn’t going to blow any minds but it’s a fun throwback.

Then of course there is the predator show (ME: “Can we see the predator show?” PAT: “Do they own that franchise?”). There’s some hokey acting but the animals are ADORABLE. The fox might be my favorite.

We were there for Howl-O-Scream, Busch Gardens’ Halloween event, but did not tour any haunted houses as Pat much prefers roller coasters and I much prefer not having a nervous breakdown. We did walk through a couple scare zones; these I tend to enjoy as the scares are less direct and the open spaces keep me from feeling trapped.

The Wendigo Woods scare zone took over New France, the idea being that some military science department had, I don’t know, built a wendigo? Trapped one? It wasn’t clear. Mostly there was an audio-animatronic “wendigo” animal in a cage with piped in screams (why? It’s caged…). The real “scares” came from guys in blue camo outfits and helmets, who would do things like shout in a bullhorn, snap a clipboard at you, or drag some sort of load metal something at your feet. More startling than anything.

On our last Griffon ride we could see a winged, demonic DJ (whom we affectionately referred to as “DJ Satan”) from the top of the first hill, but he had vanished by the time we hit the demon scare zone. I hope he’s okay.

I would’ve liked to walk through a few more but Pat’s been having recurring hip trouble and it was bothering him, so we headed out instead. On our way we walked through the Jack the Ripper scare zone at the entrance to the park. I’m not clear if Jack himself ever shows up; mostly it seems to be zombie Victorians. One nifty trick I hadn’t noticed during previous trips: headless Victorian ladies. I tried to take a pic but it was dark and I was walking which is why it sucks.

A couple notes on food and drink: food is only okay, with most of it being kinda heavy; BGW has not caught up to WDW for options. France does have crepes, which is nice, and Festhaus has sausage. Trappers Smokehouse has the same kids meals as everybody else BUT they also have waffle fries. The turkey leg place right outside Trappers yields Pat’s favorite turkey legs OF ALL TIME, and he fancies himself quite the connoisseur.

In addition to mazes, BGW offered some escape room experiences, which were intriguing but we never got around to it/didn’t want to pay extra. Right next to it, however, was a bar, which had some good fruity mixed drinks. We also had some hurricanes at the pirate bar in Italy. Both places served our drinks in souvenir light up glasses, but as we had nowhere to store them and didn’t feel like walking them back to the car we ended up chucking them.

Speaking of not having anywhere to store stuff: like Universal Studios, BGW will no longer allow you to bring any kind of bag with you through the line. You have to store things in a locker, which, unlike Universal, is not free. You can rent a locker individually, or you can get a $5 transferable locker pass. Unlike Universal, at no point does BGW require you to go through a metal detector halfway through the line, so I elected to use my tried and true Sports Bra Storage method. More on this in a later post.

Advice if you live in the BGW area but far enough away that it’s a bit of a haul: don’t get up early and drive in the morning of. Get a hotel. There are lots of cheap ones in the area, and you do NOT want to deal with DC-VA traffic, especially if it’s a workday. That’s what we did, and we awoke rested and ready to roll. Totally worth the money.

I hope to be back next year – they’re building a new wooden coaster! (Maybe even during the regular operating season; I haven’t seen that German Festhaus show in forever and I miss it.)

Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? If you go, can you confirm the health of DJ Satan?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

The Fairest Week In Review: 10/12

I feel like I spend so much time training for fall races, and then when those races arrive I run less than ever. Which makes sense, what with tapering and all that, but it’s kinda weird sometimes. Anyway, here’s last week’s runs:

Sunday | rest
I was gonna run this day, but it was dreary and rainy and I elected to put it off. No harm done.

Monday | 11.05 miles on the treadmill in 1:55
Not gonna lie, guys. This week was rough. My legs were pretty lukewarm about the whole running thing. I mean, I got it all done, but it wasn’t awesome.

Tuesday | walked 2.16 miles outside in 35 minutes; 70 minute ballet class

Wednesday | ran 9.58 miles on the treadmill in 1:40

Thursday | ran 5.28 miles on the treadmill in 60 minutes; walked 2.07 miles outside in 35 minutes
Normally this would be a non-running, ballet day, but Pat and I went to Busch Gardens on Friday; we elected to drive up on Thursday and get in a hotel in favor of NOT getting up at the crack of dawn and braving Friday morning beltway traffic. I don’t know how familiar you are with DC’s beltway, but… no.

Friday | walked around Busch Gardens Williamsburg all day
According to my phone, this amounted to about 10 miles. Can’t vouch for the accuracy of that number, but we certainly did traverse the park a great deal. Recap of our experience to come!

Saturday | rest

I managed one more long run this week, but from now on I’m in serious taper mode for the Marine Corps Marathon. Assuming the weather isn’t too terrible, I have a good feeling about this year’s effort!

Roundup time:

Just Me & My Running Shoes ponders that tapering thing I’m so into lately.
– Just in case you need it someday: Sparkly Ever After explains how to weather a hurricane.
Mouse on the Mind shares some nifty Tim Burton-ized Disney art.
Disney In Your Day reviews Chez Remy in Disneyland Paris.
Square Life Around the World ferrets out some Disney freebies.
The Disney Hipsters outline their favorite Disney character stops. I’ve got Baymax on my radar!
Living A Disney Life lists park pet peeves.
Main St. Gazette pokes around inside the history of the Carousel of Progress.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Does Blog Inventory

Internal roundup!

Yes, it’s time once again for that favorite of posts: the one that links to all those other posts. I did it last year, but a lot (say, about a year’s worth) of stuff has happened since then, so here’s last year’s list augmented with new stuff. Woo! Let me know if you think I’ve missed any important post categories or are looking for something in particular.

Onward!

Here is a comprehensive listing of all my multi-day theme park (mostly Disney!) trip reports so far:


We also have some day trip park reports if you’re into that kind of thing:


And since this is also a running blog and people tend to enjoy race recaps, here’s a listing of those too:


Have thoughts on what you read? Feel free to comment no matter how old the post – I can assure you I’ll see it. And if YOU have a particularly good trip report you’d like to share, let me know; I love those things!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us atfairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Returns To Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Hello, humans! Last Sunday Pat and I ventured to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for their last regular operation day of the year. Elizabeth and I covered this park a couple years ago, but since it’s been awhile I figured I’d pop in with my impressions. Let’s roll.

Step one: always try to go on a gloomy, slightly rainy day. This, combined with it being the day after Halloween and a Sunday, meant that we walked on to almost everything. It was awesome.

Know before you go: Busch Gardens is similar to Universal Studios in that it does not permit you to bring any kind of bag or unsecured items into line with you. Unlike Universal, there are no free lockers, although if I remember correctly the fees are fairly low. Also unlike Universal, however, there are no metal detectors, and you can bring your phone and such with you if you’ve got to firmly attached to your person. I employed my very sexy plastic-bag-pinned-inside-my-sports-bra method of phone and credit card storage and it worked just fine.

For Pat and me the priority was 100% roller coasters. Our first stop was at one of my favorites, Apollo’s Chariot. The first hill is pretty intense and is not for the faint of coaster heart, but your reward for braving it is a LOT of super-swoopy air time. It’s also a pretty long ride, so if you do find yourself facing a line the payoff is decent.

Not so for the newest coaster, Tempesto, which is right next door. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but it lasted all of 40 seconds. It features some unique boomerang-style action where you zoom back and forth along the same bit of track, but it’s not so revolutionary that I’d wait a long time for it – and since only a single train can ever be operational, lines are bound to get ridiculous on a busy day.

From there we hit Verbolten, which I LOVE. In fact, despite its relatively tame ride experience, it may well be my favorite ride in the park. It features themeing and backstory that, while not quite up to Imagineering standards, come darned close to Disney style. And the little bit of a trick track? SO MUCH FUN to surprise people with. (Unless you’re with Pat, who’s like, “I kinda thought that would happen when we [redacted due to spoilers].” Savvy people are no fun.)

On to Alpengeist! Has this coaster gotten more boring or is it just me? It’s got a lot of rolls and loops, but the drop is nothing. Boring. Rattly, too. Next!

Ah, but Griffon. Griffon is a dive coaster, a veritable clone, if I understand correctly, of Sheikrah (or whatever) in BG Tampa. The main drop is totally vertical, and they dangle you over the edge and let you ponder your life decisions before you fall. Sounds scary, but it’s actually a very smooth ride. Highly recommended, but make sure you get in line for the front row; you just don’t get the same experience otherwise.

Last and, well, least: the Loch Ness Monster. The first and possibly only coaster with interlocking loops, this coaster is old and a little rough therefore. The tunnel feature is fun but otherwise it’s prety no-frills: drop, loop, tunnel, drop, loop, done. Eh.

We also rode a few non-coaster rides, including the sky ride (Pat lamented its passing at Disney parks), the spinning swing ride (if it rains, DEAR GOD WATCHING FOR FALLING WATER WHEN YOU TILT), and Curse of DarKastle, a 3D-film-plus-dark-ride that I found a lot more impressive ten years ago, but whatever. If you’re curious: it’s like Universal’s Spider-Man ride, only with Mad King Ludwig. Since the ride was a walk on, we missed the explanatory backstory movie in the pre-show room, and Pat noted that without it the story line is pretty disjointed. Some neat effects, though.

All the water rides were shut down for the season, including Roman Rapids, the Le Scoot log flume, and the Escape from Pompeii “splash down” ride. Nothing has replaced Europe in the Air in Ireland, sadly (RIP, Corkscrew Hill.) Additionally, all the shows had been temporarily displaced by Howloscream shows. We caught the end of the Casket Club revue in Das Festhaus and I found it to be about the same as last time. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it but it’s reasonably entertaining if you’re there to eat anyway.

Speaking of eating: we didn’t get a whole lot in the way of food, but here goes: pretzel sausage is bland; pretzel nuggets are buttery but charging extra for even a single sauce is mean; sometimes you get your coffee free if it’s the last day of the season and the till is broken; you can get a Disney-esque turkey leg in French Canada and according to Pat it’s amazing; the turkey sandwich in Das Festhaus is only okay but the house-made paprika chips are a nice touch.

We skipped most of the other shows, including the famous Fiends (PUT ON SOME CLOTHES, HOT GUY), but we did stay for the most important one: The Secret Lives of Predators! The demonstration is short and the acting is kinda dumb, but the animals showcased are ADORABLE. There was a rat, a buzzard, my buddy Cupid the barn owl, a Harris hawk, the world’s most eager fox, and of course a wolf (we had Odin). Pat and I were unable to reconcile our beliefs on Cupid; he feels strongly that barn owls are terrifying-looking while I think they are the cutest type of owl currently provided by Mother Nature. If we ever break up, this will no doubt be the catalyst.

Unfortunately due to scheduling restraints and generally tiredness we had to leave the park at 4pm, a disheartening six hours before closing. It wasn’t too bad, though – we’d knocked out every ride we’d wanted to hit and were escaping just as the Howloscream crowds were starting to show up. I’m a little bummed to have missed the scare zones, which are often nifty and atmospheric, but NOT AT ALL UPSET to have bypassed the haunted houses. Once is enough for me on that front.

This was Pat’s first trip to BGW. His thoughts? “Worth driving the extra hour past Kings Dominion. [Me: I’ve never been to Kings Dominion.] Don’t bother. This is way better.”

So yeah! I don’t know if I’d make a massive trip to Busch Gardens by itself, but if you’re in the area it’s definitely a huge step up from your average Six Flags-or-similar experience. And it might be worth a longer trip if you’d be into nearby Colonial Williamsburg and battlefields. If you do go – take me with you!

Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? What are your thoughts?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Points Out Posts You May Have Missed

Hey, you know how occasionally you’ll be watching a sitcom and it will dawn on you with slow horror that what you’re actually seeing is a clips show? Yeah, I’m doing that.

It’s not so bad! I applied logic to this decision, I swear! It’s merely that it occurs to me that this blog is closer to its second birthday than it isn’t, and there are probably at least a few readers who are kinda new. I happen to be a huge fan of trip reports, and I’ve been known to plumb archives for them myself. Why not make life easier for others?

Hence this comprehensive listing of all my Disney trip reports so far:

We also have some day trip park reports if you’re into that kind of thing:

And since this is also a running blog and people tend to enjoy race recaps, here’s a listing of those too:

Have thoughts on what you read? Feel free to comment no matter how old the post – I can assure you I’ll see it. And if YOU have a particularly good trip report you’d like to share, let me know; I love those things!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us atfairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn & Elizabeth Go to Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Hooray! Elizabeth is here again to help me with another review!

JENN: A round of applause for my faithful guest judge, Interplanetary Explorer Extraordinaire Elizabeth!

ELIZABETH: I dunno about interplanetary: after watching Gravity I don’t think I ever want to go out there.

JENN: Haha, good call.

ELIZABETH: I have my moments.

JENN: So, a few weeks ago Elizabeth and I got a great deal on Busch Gardens Williamsburg tickets. This was the good news. The bad news was that the only remaining days of the season were all Howl-o-Scream days. O.o

Busch Gardens does not do Halloween Disney-style. It does Halloween SCARY-style.

ELIZABETH: It’s what the people want, apparently. I thought it was pretty clever how they had the park separated into different themes. How many were there? Four?

JENN: Four or five, I believe.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. They had vampires, demons, pirates… Victorian zombies… you know, the usual. I think there may have been a few vampires.

JENN: The scare zones were very impressively rendered, especially, to my mind, the demon zone in France.

ELIZABETH: Yeah, that was pretty cool. They pretty much had a rave going. If your timing was right/wrong you couldn’t see ANYTHING.

JENN: The demon actors even got a few people with the help of the fog machines. By “get” I of course mean “startle,” not actually steal anyone’s soul.

ELIZABETH:  At least, we didn’t SEE any soul-stealing. But they didn’t start sending people out to actually scare you until 6PM.

JENN: The pirate scare zone was my favorite.

ELIZABETH:
Where was it we saw the guy with the bungee-chord thing? That would bungee out into the path from behind a tree? Was he one of the pirates?

JENN: Yes!

ELIZABETH: That was pure genius.  I wish I had that job.

JENN: They were also some of the most confrontational even while, to me, being the least scary.

ELIZABETH: Yeah, they stopped us a couple of times going over the bridge.  I don’t think we got the one guy to ever say anything.

JENN: Unlike your Victorian zombie friend!

ELIZABETH: That poor guy. He seemed to be a good sport about it, though.

JENN: A scare actor in the Jack the Ripper scare zone in the England part of the park started stalking Elizabeth, so we just chattered at him until he eventually broke character. By the end he was trying on my sunglasses to see if he could perfect Elizabeth’s over-the-glasses stare. Which he couldn’t, of course. Ya gotta be part of her family to nail it.

ELIZABETH: It was a pretty good imitation, but the fact that they were sunglasses detracted a bit, I think. Especially since they clashed with the rest of his costume.

JENN: I fear I came unprepared.

ELIZABETH: FOR SHAME!

JENN: ALWAYS BRING REGULAR GLASSES FOR THE VICTORIAN ZOMBIES. Write that down, everyone.

ELIZABETH: It’s important!

JENN: We caught all the Howl-o-Scream shows, which thankfully were completely harmless. Das Festhaus in the Germany portion of the park featured a sort of cabaret song-and-dance show populated by undead performers.

ELIZABETH:  I liked the announcer at the Festhaus. But the adult-themed one in the Abbey Stone Theater in Ireland was pretty cheesy.

JENN: Yeah, I think that’s the same show from BG Tampa. Fiends got too cheesy for me.

ELIZABETH: It was a little much.  I mostly enjoyed your reactions to their antics.

JENN: SPEEDOS ARE FOR OLYMPIC SWIMMERS. If you are NOT swimming in a competitive sport, DO NOT WEAR A SPEEDO. And above all, DO NOT WEAR ONE ON STAGE IN A CROWDED THEATER.

[To clarify: The
Fiends show ends with a “monster” played by a hot guy who ends up ripping off all his clothes except a speedo. Which proves that Jenn will complain about anything. Now get off her lawn!]

ELIZABETH: Well I mean, clearly he was meant to be eye candy.  You gotta show off the goods.

JENN: I don’t care how hot you are; if you’re out in public PUT ON SOME BOXERS AT LEAST, JEEZ. Harrumph. Harrumph, I say!

ELIZABETH: Ha!

JENN: I think I liked Dig It Up the best of all the shows; it was performed in the amphitheater in the Italy section of the park. There were a couple dancers, but mostly the musicians in this one took center stage, dressed as museum denizens. I don’t mean the musicians were dressed like workers – rather, they were dressed like Egyptians and gladiators and cavemen.

Mind you, that was cheesy too, but the musicians were all really good! (Plus one of the trumpeters was both pretty AND decently clothed.) And it did spark one of my favorite games, Guess Which Members of the Band are Local Music Teachers.

ELIZABETH: My money’s still on the tuba player. The ending was weird though.  I still think it looked like they were depicting an alien ship crashing into earth, which, at that scale, would obliterate all life. I thought it was rather dark, personally.

JENN: You know I like it cynical.

Did we see another show? I feel like we saw another show.

ELIZABETH: Hmmmmm.

JENN: Oh, I think I’m thinking of the predator show!

ELIZABETH: Oh yeah!

JENN: Busch Gardens has a kind of mini wildlife preserve, and they do a predator show with adorable animals!

ELIZABETH: Even the rats were cute!

JENN: Foxes, wolves, a falcon, and the cutest barn owl in the whole entire world. His name is Cupid and he is stupid. I’m not saying it just because it rhymes; it’s also true!

ELIZABETH: You can’t have everything. He did his trick, though!

JENN: He did! Last time we went to BG, about two years ago, he was still in training, so we watched him get confused and lost when attempting to fly around the area. Now he does it like a pro! I wish I’d thought to grab a picture of him.

ELIZABETH: A couple of the kids were asking to pet him at the end.  I can sympathize: he looked so cute!

JENN: We also went through the Lorikeet Glen and looked at the birds there; very very pretty.

Let’s see… we rode Curse of DarKastle, a spookily themed dark ride loosely based off Mad King Ludwig and his Neuschwannstein castle with ghosts and werewolves and such. I had an interesting conversation with one of the ride operators. It went like this:

GUY: [creepy low raspy voice, right in my ear] Imwrngyou.

ME: What?

GUY: [normal voice, smiling] I’m warning you!

ME: Oh, okay!

And then he laughed. I got laughed at a lot that day.

ELIZABETH: You just break the monotony!

JENN: We also rode ALLLL the roller coasters! Because that’s how we do it! Alpengeist and the Loch Ness Monster once each; the former being essentially the Great Bear at Hershey Park (swoopy and twisty) and the latter being old and loopy.

ELIZABETH: And then we went on Verbolten, which I hadn’t ridden yet.

JENN: We rode Verbolten twice and OH MY GOD was the first time satisfying. The very first time I rode it back in December (during their Christmastown event) I immediately thought to myself “Elizabeth must ride this!” I mean, at the one bit I was like, “I didn’t even know they could DO that!!!” And then I rode it a bajillion more times.

ELIZABETH:  Shall we give away what happens? Or just say that there’s a surprise?

JENN: I think I’ll put a link to the Wikipedia article here, and people can spoil it if they want to. But seriously, if there’s ANY chance you’ll be riding Verbolten in the future, don’t do it. It’s SO much better when you don’t know what’s coming.

And it’s almost as good when you don’t tell Elizabeth what’s coming, and then she turns to you right after and yells “You jerk! You didn’t tell me about that!”

And then you bounce right there in your seat and laugh and clap!

ELIZABETH: Yeah… I got over it pretty quickly though, as the ride is pretty awesome. And it was better not knowing! Although I should have ben suspicious of the fact that you didn’t gush about exactly what happens on the ride.

JENN:  Some of the finest self-control I have ever exhibited.

ELIZABETH: You should be proud.

JENN: In terms of thrills, it’s probably the least impressive of all the coasters in the park. But in terms of theme, execution, and FUN, it’s probably the best. Kind of Disney-like that way!

ELIZABETH: I was reminded of the Disney coasters, yeah.

JENN: We rode Apollo’s Chariot three times, because that roller coaster is awesome. It has this very free-flowing, up-and-down track that gives you serious airtime.

ELIZABETH: It’s like going over a really steep hill in your car, except better, and multiple times.

JENN: Sadly we were only able to ride Griffon once, but it was GLORIOUS.

ELIZABETH: We waited in the extra long line to be in the front.

JENN: Indeed! Griffon is a dive coaster with a 90 degree drop. They pause the car right before that drop and let you dangle there for a moment to contemplate your fate. Being in the front row for that reason is imperative.

And may I just mention again how incredibly SAFE I felt that whole time? SO SAFE.

ELIZABETH: Whatever do you mean?  Haunted houses are completely safe!  🙂

JENN: This brings us to our final topic: the haunted house. Howl-o-Scream features five. We did one. Because um.

ELIZABETH: I decided that dragging Jenn in without warning was the best strategy, because she never would have gone otherwise.

JENN: See, we had just come out of the Fiends show, and we were discussing what to do next. The 13: Your Number is Up line was right there and (deceptively) didn’t seem to have much line, and I JOKINGLY said “We could do that haunted house” and then Elizabeth was all “OKAY LET’S DO IT” and I was like “?????!”

ELIZABETH: We’ll get her desensitized yet!

JENN: Because guys, before last Friday I had never been in a haunted house in my LIFE. I mean, unless you count Disney’s Haunted Mansion, but there’s no reason why you would. And I didn’t even ride that until I was eighteen.

ELIZABETH: You were overdue.

JENN: Here’s the thing. Several years ago, a coworker of mine decided it would be funny to jump out from around a corner at me. So I threw him on the floor and punched him in the head.

ELIZABETH: Which is why you don’t do that to Jenn. Or alternatively: why she would survive a horror movie.

JENN: I am not a screamer or a clutcher. I am a flighter and a fighter.  I understand these things are frowned upon in most haunted houses.

ELIZABETH: True, but at least you know the scares are coming.

JENN:  I didn’t know a darn thing! 😀

I went through the haunted house as follows: one hand clamped down on Elizabeth’s shoulder so she could lead me seeing eye dog style, with my eyes trained FIRMLY on the ground. And squinting, for good measure.

ELIZABETH: I tried to keep up a running commentary to keep things light.

JENN: Here is what I remember from the haunted house, which was themed to thirteen phobias:

Caskets. Floor. Corner of a hospital bed? Sheets of tarp you had to push through. Creepy little girl voice. Elizabeth saying “Look, a security guard!” (He was dressed normally and looked bored; I liked that.) A stuffed clown hanging from the ceiling. Mirrors on the ground. Rubber snake curtains. A broken mirror. The end!

So any real description of the house will have to come from Elizabeth because I saw practically nothing. It was GREAT. When we exited she had to tell me I could look up again.

ELIZABETH: And she didn’t believe me at first!  Let’s see, there was: death, claustrophobia, doctors, going to bed, mirrors, snakes, insects, clowns, bad luck. What were the others?  I can’t remember, now.  Oh well, you’ll all have to go and figure out the other fears!

JENN: One guy did come out from a small door near the floor and jumped at me, which I thought was very unsportsmanlike of him. He asked me if I was scared yet, so I said “Yes. Thank you.” And then the people behind me laughed and declared it the best response ever. So there’s that.

ELIZABETH: That was pretty awesome. He didn’t seem to know what to do with that.

JENN: Didn’t he? I didn’t really see him. I’m working off peripherals here.

ELIZABETH: Oh, I forgot to list zombies!  There were zombies!

JENN: In the house? When? Totally missed that. Of course!

ELIZABETH: Yeah, they were one of the fears, one of the ones where stuff was hanging fro the ceiling I think. So I think I’m only missing three now.

JENN: Ohh, I remember pushing through “bodies” hanging from the ceiling.

ELIZABETH: There was a lot of that.

JENN: Y’know, it’s funny – none of the phobias were things that particularly scare me on a conceptual level. It’s the prospect of people jumping out at me that gets me all anxious. I was fine with the scare zones! What I need is an intermediate level. A haunted house where you can just walk through and be atmospherically scared. Or at the very least some sort of high sign that makes the actors leave me, personally, alone.

I want to point out again that I laughed my way down the 205 foot vertical drop of Griffon. And I felt so wonderfully SAFE!

Let’s see, are we missing anything? We got the monster cake at lunch! It was green and purple.

ELIZABETH: Yes! Although it was definitely a yellow cake (a good yellow cake, though).

JENN: Cake is awesome.

ELIZABETH: And the Festhaus Sampler was quite good.

JENN: How was your strawberry wine crepe from France?

ELIZABETH: It was delicious!

JENN: All in all, would you want to do Howl-o-Scream again?

ELIZABETH: I would!  It was fun. I’d even try one of the other haunted houses.

JENN: Maybe we can get one of some of our tall guy friends to go so I can hide behind them. Andrew is 6’3″ and Scott is 6’5″, so I think if I could convince them to surround me I’d be in pretty good shape!

ELIZABETH: Ha!

JENN: If they do a pirate house again I think I could survive that.

ELIZABETH: Pirates aren’t as existentially scary as, say, ghosts.

JENN: Precisely.

ELIZABETH: I think that’s actually the first time I’ve stayed at a park for the full twelve hours it was open!

JENN: Well there ya go! As always, thank you for your fabulous commentary. I hope we meet again on many another roller coaster, and the sooner the better!

ELIZABETH: Yes!

Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? How about Howl-o-Scream? Or maybe something similar? Are you braver than Jenn about haunted houses? (Answer: yes.)

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!