Every so often, I travel around the country to take in one of my favorite pastimes: riding roller coasters. Living in the New York Metropolitan area, the closest place to enjoy thrill rides is over two hours away, at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. Being that Great Adventure is closest to me, I’ve ridden every ride the theme park has ever featured many times, great coasters such as Kingda Ka, El Toro, Nitro and more, but there are a great many other coasters out there that I don’t often get to ride.
In my travels I’ve visited amusement parks in and around the Northeastern United States, from Dorney, Knoebels, Kennywood and Hershey parks in Pennsylvania to King’s Island and Cedar Point in Ohio, and King’s Dominion and Busch Gardens in Virginia. Many of the coasters I’ve ridden at these parks have given me that great adrenaline rush that coaster enthusiasts seek when they ride and here I’d like to share one coaster that I absolutely loved.
Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia is one of the most beautiful parks in the world. It’s theme is “The Old Country,” named after the western European countries of Scotland, England, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy, and each section of the park makes you feel like you’ve literally stepped into each of these places. The park doesn’t have many roller coasters, but the ones it does have are among the best anywhere.
All of the coasters of Busch Gardens Williamsburg are world-class, from the legendary Loch Ness Monster to the breathtaking Apollo’s Chariot and the frenzied Alpengeist, these steel monsters are worth a trip to Virginia from just about anywhere. My absolute favorite coaster at Busch Gardens by far is the terrifying Griffon.
The griffon is a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle, and its namesake is located in the France section of the park. This is one fierce ride! My pal Rich couldn’t wait for me to ride it, and as we took off to that section of the park my stomach was starting to churn a bit because I had seen it from the sky ride across the park and it looks pretty intimidating.
Just watching the ride from the ground can get your heart racing at a quick pace. The cars are wide, ten seats across and only three rows deep, so if you’re sitting in any other seat besides the two directly above the track, well, you’re literally over nothing! As if that weren’t terrifying enough, what this coaster does before it flies on down through twists and rolls is something that would intimidate even the staunchest of enthusiasts.
I’d first become aware of this type of ride by watching Oblivion at Alton Towers Amusement Park in England. It’s look is the same as Griffon and it features the same terrifying element. Both rides, when they get to the top of the lift hill, begin to slow down and just as the train gets toward the precipice of the first hill, it slows and then stops, just at the edge. Imagine the anticipation and terror at sitting there for brief moment, staring down at the ground and the steep descent you’re about to take.
Then, without warning, the coaster is headed almost straight down a 90 degree angle, 205 feet below at 71 miles per hour and into complete mayhem. The first hill swoops right down over a pool of water before going into a smooth series of twists and turns, including two inversions. The ride, after that first terrifying element, is nothing but fun! By the time the ride is over, all you want to do is get back on again, which my pal and I did several times.
So if you’re an avid thrill seeker like I am and you ever have a chance to visit Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, don’t miss Griffon. Oh, and you must try it at least once from the front row, too!