May 17, 2012 Busch Gardens Williamsburg Mike Collins

When you talk to any of the executives at Busch Gardens Williamsburg about Verbolten, you get a sense that they know the pressure is on.

Sure, it's important that they design a ride that is universally enjoyed and brings guests though the gates.  But in this case, the ride they have designed is replacing a legend.

Three years ago, Busch Gardens suddenly announced that they would be removing "The Big Bad Wolf," an Arrow Suspended Roller Coaster that had been in operation since 1984.

A whole generation of theme park fans (including me) grew up riding this iconic roller coaster.  So, it was a big shock when it was suddenly being removed.

I remember going on the Coaster Radio podcast saying that I was fine with the decision to remove the aging ride, as long as the creative minds at Busch Gardens had something just as good (or better) waiting in the wings.

So, now we fast forward to May 17, 2012.

Today,  I had a chance to ride the attraction that stands where "The Big Bad Wolf" once stood.

Before I tell you whether "Verbolten" can make me forget about the previous tenant, let me describe the ride experience for you.

First of all, the queue line and surrounding area has some of the best theming Busch Gardens has ever done.  I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say it is "Disney-esque."

As you walk up to the attraction, you immediately notice a German "Targa" automobile that has been severely damaged.  By the looks of the gigantic vine that has smashed through its windows, you can tell that the car has been in a terrible accident.

But what caused it?

Next, we work our way through the incredibly detailed queue line that runs directly through a German Tourist Center run by the brother and sister team of Gerta and Gunter.  As we make our way through the queue, we come to realize that the center's rental cars keep disappearing and the passengers are never seen again.

To cover up this dark secret, Gunter collects the personal effects of the missing motorists from the crumpled, vine-entangled

cars.  He then sneaks back to the center and hides them amid the messy clutter.

One particularly interesting part of the queue are the video monitors that show live feeds of the Black Forest.  Obviously, Gunter is keen to figure out what is happening to his cars (and to guests like us!)

Finally, we make our way up to the station and it looks NOTHING like it did during the "Big Bad Wolf" days.  In fact, the design of the entire area makes one (start to) forget that the classic attraction was ever here in the first place.

When the trains pull in to the station, one can't help but be impressed.

There are five trains that hold 16 passengers each.  They're shiny, they're new, they have bright colors and working headlights! They really look like cars that you would see on German highways. Most importantly, they're pretty darn comfortable.  Although, the headrests might be a bit too high... and they might block the view for smaller riders.

Once we've been given our rental car by Gunter, we're off.

The ride begins with a few leisurely twists and turns as we make our way to the event building.  I was surprised that this section actually had a bit of speed, especially if you're sitting towards the back.

Finally, the cars take a sharp right turn and begin to head up a steep hill into the Black Forest.  It's then that we hit the first of two launches that this coaster will become known for.

As the cars pick up speed, we leave the bright sunlight behind and are thrust into the middle of a foreboding forest.  There are strobe lights, environmental effects and a pretty good soundtrack to make you feel like you're heading someplace you shouldn't be.

Because the ride is in pitch-darkness, you can't brace for what's coming next.  But the cars dive into a pretty-intense helix and a few surprise drops.

The best compliment that I can give to this point of the ride is that it reminded me of Space Mountain.  There was one drop in particular that got a good laugh out of me.

At one point the cars slow to a crawl and you get to enjoy some of the visual effects and scenery of the forest below you.  But soon, you're diving back down another hill and into some more twists and turns.


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