• Madison Miller

Richmond & Rollercoasters

Updated: Feb 2

Last summer, Andrew, his brother Patrick, and his girlfriend Kaitlin decided to take a trip to Virginia to visit a couple of theme parks, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion. I’m not sure why I put a recap of this one off for so long, but I’m excited to share! Also, I’m missing summer, so hopefully thinking back on it will get me through a few more chilly days.

It’s important to understand that Andrew and Patrick are very much into rollercoasters. They go all out on the fast passes and there isn’t really a limit to how many times they will ride something. They also both have something I like to call the “rollercoaster laugh.” Instead of screaming like most people, they just laugh super loud during loops and drops. It’s like they are giant infants being thrown up in the air and I love it.

I also like rollercoasters for sure, but I do have to take breaks from time to time. Since I’m 100 years old, my back can start hurting after a few rides and I can also get nausea. But, it’s worth it! I was so scared of rollercoasters as a kid, so I really didn’t get to experience them until recently. On this trip, I was also excited to see the Richmond area since I’d never been before.

Day 1: D.C. and Richmond Exploring

We ended up flying through D.C. We were originally scheduled to connect in Charlotte and go to the Baltimore airport to drive down to Richmond. But, our flight got delayed and we were offered a direct to D.C. I had never been to D.C. either, so free mini trip! Andrew and I got a chance to walk around some spots while we waited for Patrick and Kaitlin to pick us up.

We explored a good bit of the National Mall, starting on the Lincoln Monument side.

The WWII memorial was beautiful. I have several grandparents/great-parents who were stationed in the Pacific, so it was cool to see and remember them. I also liked the Korean War memorial. The soldier statues were powerful. Something that really struck me was the size of these monuments. I’ve seen most of them on T.V. so many times, but it’s so different seeing them in person.

It was an incredibly hot day and we walked all the way to the Capitol with our suitcases, so by the time we got there, we were exhausted and very sweaty. Patrick and Kaitlin picked us up to drive into Richmond. We grabbed some Thai food and went to settle into the Airbnb. We stayed in the Union Hill area in Richmond. The houses in this area are adorable craftsman style mostly. Andrew and I walked to a small organic shop/restaurant called Union Market to grab some local beer. We found some great sours. I got some Don’t Tell Mom from Precarious Beer Project. It’s a raspberry sour, which was the perfect choice for a summer trip.

We decided to try out a brewery before dinner and found Lickinghole Brewing. Their bar space has a cute upstairs loft. We picked our beers and enjoyed them up there before heading to dinner at Dutch & Company. Patrick picked this place, and he did a great job. I got a rosé , which I was obsessed with all last summer, and we ended up deciding to do the 3-4 course dinner option. I think it was $40 per person and it was a great deal. We got appetizers, a main course, and dessert. For my main course, I had some tasty soft shell crab. It was a great way to kick start the trip.

Day 2: Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Have you ever been to a renaissance faire? Busch Gardens Williamsburg is like a renaissance faire plus rollercoasters. It’s the perfect place for thrill-seeking nerds. The park is sectioned off into different areas of Europe. It starts with Britain and works its way around from Scotland, Ireland, France, Canada, Germany, and Italy.

We ended up eventually getting the highest level of fast pass. However, there was a little bit of a mix up on whether or not we could get it at the park or just online. I would check online the day before going and seeing if you could buy it there, if possible.

The rides were very well done. We started off by going through the Scotland/Ireland section where we rode the Loch Ness Monster and Finnegan’s Flyer. Finnegan’s Flyer was one of my absolute favorites. It’s a giant swing ride. Normally, I’m not a fan of heights, but there was something about this that was really fun, despite my near panic attacks.

Next, we went into France where were rode the Griffon. This is a huge, steel roller coaster. It was so smooth and had a lot of good dives.

In Canada, we rode the Alpengeist, which is unlike any ride I’ve ever been on before. You sit by twos like you are in a sled and the whole ride is basically like a steel flume. I don’t think it even has rails. It was a unique and fun ride.

We happened to be there during their Oktoberfest celebration, so when we got into Germany, we decided to grab some local beer. They had a ton of options on tap. We also had some lunch. They have a cafeteria in Germany with all the typical park food. Pizza, sandwiches, etc. It was good, but nothing exceptional.

After lunch, we did was was ultimately my favorite ride, the Verbolten! A big reason why I loved this one so much was because it took me totally by surprise. Going through the line, it kind of looked like a kiddy ride to me. The cars look like little German race cars. I thought it would be fine, but nothing special. Turns out, the actual theme of the ride is getting lost in a haunted German forest. It starts out kind of slow, but speeds up very fast. There is one part where the car just drops and I didn’t see it coming at all. It was the best. I think we ended up riding it three times.

Finally, we got into Italy. I loved this section because it was all focused on DaVinci and Ancient Rome. I loved the Apollo’s Chariot roller coaster. It was steel and smooth, a lot like the Griffon. I wasn’t a fan of the Tempesto. It hurt a lot. So, if you have any kind of back issues, I would skip it.

With the fast pass, we went through the whole park pretty early, so we spent the rest of the day walking through and re-riding our favorites.

It was such a fun day, and I highly recommend making a trip if you’re a roller coaster nut.

Day 3: Kings Dominion

After a good night of resting, we spent day three at King’s Dominion. I had never heard of this park before we started planning this trip, but I was excited to see what it had to offer. It was a much less busy day than the day before. If I remember correctly, we ended up going on a Monday. We didn’t even have to get a fast pass because it was so empty, which is always a good thing.

King’s Dominion isn’t nearly as decked out as Busch Gardens. There is some general “America” theming, a Safari section, and a Snoopy’s Village, which is the kid’s section of the park. But, there isn’t really anything cohesive. This is fine, but it was a little bit of a let down compared to what we had seen the previous day.

There were some really great rides. Our favorite was called Twisted Timbers. It’s a hybrid coaster, meaning that it used to be wooden, but it’s now been converted to steel by adding steel tracks on the wooden frame. I love these because they are obviously much smoother, but they still have a classic roller coaster feel. They also tend to have great drops, which give you a great “tummy feel” as Andrew calls it. I think we rode this at least four times, but it might be more.

They had two wooden coasters. The first ride we did at the park was a wooden coaster called the Grizzly. It had a woodsy, camping theme, obviously. It had some great dips, but I couldn’t ride it more than once because of my decrepit body. The same situation applied to the other wooden coaster called Racer 75. This was a really cool concept because there are two cars running at the same time that “race” each other. For normal people, I’m sure these are very fun and not an issue, but if you have back problems, I’d stay away.

Another favorite was the Intimidator 305. This is a NASCAR themed ride for Dale Earnhardt. The initial drop is 305 ft, hence the 305 in the name. It is also the fastest ride I have ever been on. On the first drop, everyone grayed out. We lost our vision for a bit. It was insane and a little scary, but we rode it several times.

If you are into rollercoasters, I would definitely recommend a visit to King’s Dominion. I will say the overall atmosphere at Busch Gardens was much better, so I would pick that one if I had to choose. But, King’s Dominion is still worth it.

In my opinion, roller coasters are good for the soul. It’s really the closest I get to feeling like a dumb kid again. However, I get that they aren’t for everyone.

Please share your favorite theme parks with me! We’ve got to start adding more to the list.