A True Family Coaster?

When Busch Gardens Williamsburg sent out their media kit for InvadR, they didn’t apologize for the misspelling. Rather, they touted the opening of the park’s first wooden roller coaster. I easily excused the spelling, since this ride was themed to a Viking invasion, and English was never the Viking’s first language. But what caught my eye was their promise of a “True Family Coaster.” Their words: “This new attraction at Busch Gardens Williamsburg offers a true family ride. The 46-inch (117 cm) height requirement is lower than most wooden coasters across the country.”

I envisioned a mild, leisurely and not too fast wooden coaster that Mom, Dad, and the children could ride together. Then I read on. “Hold on to your Viking helmet and feel the wind in your beard on the park’s first-ever wooden coaster.” Do children have beards? Moms? “Fly over InvadR’s nine air-time hills, including a 74-foot plunge that reaches speeds of almost 50 miles per hour.” Nine air-time hills? I counted ten. Where’d that come from? And 50 miles per hour ain’t leisurely. “Blaze through the tunnels and let the world hear your battle cry as you race through the high-banked turns.” Family ride? “Grab your family and run for the hills aboard InvadR.” Or, grab your family after if they’ll still talk to you.

Family rides are usually found in the children’s portion of the park. Think kiddie rides with seats large enough to accommodate an adult to ride along with their child. The seats on family roller coasters are usually too small to ride with a child because the child is too large to ride with me. Find your own seat, kid. And if you hear me tell someone that a roller coaster is a great family ride, well, that’s the kiss of death. What I’m really saying is that the ride is boring. Why would any park describe their roller coaster as a “True Family Coaster?”

My point here is that Invader, er, InvadR, is a family ride only if your family are major-league thrill-seekers. Built by Great Coasters International and pictured behind me, it is not boring. Rather, the ride is thrilling and aggressive. I absolutely loved it, but my family? Maybe not so much. It’s the perfect height for a wooden coaster. Not so tall that it rattles your bones, but with plenty of energy to deliver a stomach full of thrills. The thrill elements come at you unrelentingly, there is never a moment to regain your composure. A twisting out-and-back ride that is curled into a fairly compact plot of land, it’s a wonderful addition to the park.

Calling InvadR a family coaster because of the modest height restriction is misleading. During my visit I didn’t see many families riding, but those who were riding were having the time of their lives. Other parks considering building a wooden coaster should follow the lead of Busch Gardens Williamsburg and many other parks. They built their wooden coasters between 50 and 80 feet (15 and 24 m) in height, the sweet spot for wood coaster height. These are the Goldilocks coasters. Not too big, not too small, just right.

Posted in: Park Hoppin'