Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Busch Gardens VIP Verbolten Launch Party

Last Thursday, my husband and I attended a VIP party hosted by Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA, to celebrate their brand new roller coaster Verbolten, which officially opened on Friday, May 18.

Having been long-time fans of Busch Gardens and avid roller coaster enthusiasts, we were so excited to be invited! Not only does Busch Gardens know how to throw a party, but they know how to do roller coasters right! (Two of their coasters have been nominated in the Travel Channel's Insane Coaster Wars: Apollo's Chariot in the "G-Force Giants" category and Alpengeist in "Hang 'Em High.")

The park was closed to the public, but Busch Gardens opened Germany, home of Verbolten, to guests of the party. There was amazing food, drinks, costumed entertainers, games, a fabulous live band (Slapwater), and of course, the star of the party, VERBOLTEN!

The very first thing we did before anything else was ride Verbolten, which I'll describe below. But first, I'll talk about the rest of the party so as not to give any spoilers away to those who want to be surprised when they ride the coaster.

There were so many great people at the party, including state dignitaries and officials of Busch Gardens. Here, Matt and I pose in front of one of the best Verbolten props (a wrecked old Porsche) with Busch Gardens president Carl Lum, who is such a nice, down-to-earth guy:

We listened to Carl give a speech about what went into planning Verbolten and then we got to hear from State Senator Tommy Norment:

We dined on bacon-wrapped scallops, Budweiser grilled shrimp, homemade potato chips, and pretzels with beer mustard that were to die for! (You must try those when you're in the Germany section of Busch Gardens, or try the 2,000 calorie pretzel sandwich they're famous for!)

We loved the delicious drink of the night, The Verboltini:

And we made a few stops at the dessert table:

We had game passes which allowed Matt to try a few times to win a ladybug stuffed animal I really wanted. He not only won that one, he also won a puppy for me!

We had fun interacting with the characters, with Matt pulling me onto the "dance floor" at one point, and we do-si-doed arm in arm with them. Thankfully I do NOT have a picture of that, lol! But here we are with the main characters behind Verbolten, Gerta and Gunter Schwartzwald, who are brother and sister and owners of Verbolten Black Forest Tours:

Click here to read Gerta and Gunter's full story, which is really imaginative and whimsical and gives you the background of Verbolten.

Here's a quick video I shot of the party in full-swing:

And here's video of the live band Slapwater. Watch how that cute little girl gets down with one of the characters and you can also see Verbolten taking off towards the end:

Now on to the ride! Oh! My! Gosh! It was AMAZING!! The ride itself is like no other ride you've ever ridden before and the attention to detail and the storyline behind Verbolten are simply astounding.

From what we heard, the lines were super long on opening day as everyone clamored to ride Verbolten for the first time, but Busch Gardens has put so much thought into the decorations and features inside of the queue line that you'll be quite entertained if you have to wait.

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read any further if you want to be surprised by the queue line and ride!

Still here? Good! Because I'm so excited to share what we experienced with you!

The first thing you'll see, after winding around a cobblestone path, is a "ticket booth" where a television plays a recording from Verbolten Black Forest Tours owner Gerta. Apparently, cars they have rented out have been disappearing in the Black Forest and you're about to be on one of those cars!

There's so much attention to details with old German cupboards, coo-coo clocks, gnomes, maps, etc. Some riders have stated that they actually wish they'd had more time in the queue line to soak everything in.

As you enter the second section of the tourist agency, you find an old desk and televisions with "kameras" showing people getting in their cars:

I just love the old suitcases and antique feel...it's like you're transported into another place and time! Finally, you arrive at your final destination before take-off:

Now, here's a little tip/trick you'll want to know to get the most out of Verbolten...There are actually three different experiences depending on which line you get in: Spirit of the Woods, Wolves, and Storm.

My memory is horrible so I don't remember which line is which, but you'll definitely want to ride three times and wait in the first, middle and back aisles to make sure you get to experience all three stories.

Where you sit makes a difference as well. The front seat seemed to be the most popular and if you're prone to dizziness, you'll definitely want to sit there as the G-forces are strongest in the back. And man are there G-forces on this ride!!

What sets Verbolten apart is that it is the only coaster in this country to feature a vertical free-fall, Tower of Terror style, at one point during the ride. The entire track and car drop. I know, right?

I don't do droppy rides, so I was a little afraid of this part. I don't mind hill drops, of course, otherwise I wouldn't be a roller coaster enthusiast. But free falls are definitely not my thing. I actually enjoyed Verbolten's drop though, so if you don't do droppy rides either, you should still give Verbolten a chance.

This is also a multi-launch ride, and Busch Gardens uses the same technology that is used on Navy carriers to launch jets. As you wind down the beginning part of the track, you come to a stop just before hitting the Black Forest, which is something else I love about this ride...it's an indoor and outdoor coaster with the Black Forest being the indoor part.

You are launched into complete darkness and depending on which experience you get, you'll see either wolves eyes and hear them howling, be treated to a pleasant woman's voice (the spirit) which then turns sinister, or be thrown into the midst of a violent thunderstorm with falling rocks all around you. Pretty cool, huh?

The scariest part for me was the "spaghetti bowl" twist. You can't even see where you're going because it's so dark...you just feel those G-forces taking over. Then, you suddenly stop.

Busch Gardens worked hard to ensure that every last detail on the Verbolten cars were realistic. Amazing!

You know that game you played as a kid, where someone held onto your hands and spun you in circles around the room and then came to a sudden stop? Yeah...it's kind of like that! The ride suddenly comes to a halt after going down the spaghetti bowl, but my head was still spinning!

I was actually grateful for the pause so I could get my orientation back. Just as the spinning in my head finally stopped, we were heading forward again to a "bridge" that was about to break. You hear creaking and come to yet another stop, waiting on the edge of your seat for the free-fall drop.

I knew it was coming but it still freaked me out in a totally good way! As soon as you drop, you're launched full-force for a second-time out of the Black Forest and up a giant hill.

Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens
You then careen down toward the river, which is a tribute to the Big Bad Wolf coaster that used to be there (and was my oldest's very first roller coaster ride).

Here's a POV video shot by wavy.com, but be warned that no video can truly do this ride justice! You really have to ride it to fully experience it!

Again, it's even better in person, so I strongly urge you to head to Busch Gardens and give the ride a try for yourself! It's a perfect family coaster and the height requirements are lower than they are for some of the other coasters in the park so your younger kids might be able to ride with you.

As we left the party, we were handed t-shirts and goodie bags filled with awesome Verbolten swag:

There's a gorgeous silver Verbolten key chain, a really cute car-shaped pen, note pad, window cling, and a collector's pin with the license plate for one of the cars (WOLF XING). How awesome is that?

Thank you, Busch Gardens, for the gifts, food, fun and most of all, for such an amazing new roller coaster that we can't wait to come back and ride again!

For more information on Verbolten, click here. There's a live web cam coming soon so you can watch people experience the thrills in real time! 

You can also follow Busch Gardens on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Finally, visit Busch Gardens' official website for information on hours, vacation packages, tickets, special offers and more.


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