There's only one word to describe Apollo's Chariot: smooth. And exhilarating. And one of the best coasters
anywhere. (OK, that's way more than one word. So sue me.) But the operative word is smooth.
Apollo's Chariot up-front Info
- Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 8.5
- Wild speed, height, and G-forces
- Coaster type: Steel sit-down hypercoaster
- Top speed: 73 mph
- Height restriction: 52 inches
- Height: 170 feet
- Drop: 210 feet
- Ride time: 2 minutes, 15 seconds
- Apollo's Chariot Photo Gallery
The classic coaster experience may best be exemplified by the Cyclone at Coney Island
's Astroland. The vintage 1927 ride is so rough and tumble, its first drop has been likened to falling down an 85-foot ladder--and hitting each tread along the way. That's part of the gonzo charm of wood coasters. Steel coasters, on the other hand, with their precision engineering and fine-tuned layouts, are supposed to be relatively smooth. In reality though, they are typically at least a bit rough and can be violently jarring. (I'll take the Cyclone's slamdance over the headbanging of the Manhattan Express
at Las Vegas' New York, New York Hotel and Casino any day.)
Apollo's Chariot, the first hypercoaster from the Swiss coaster gods at Bolliger & Mabillard, is the quintessential steel coaster. It is glass-smooth, as smooth as a baby's behind, as smooth as--well, you get the picture. Despite its considerable height and speed, Apollo's Chariot is, dare I say, smooth.
Open and Vulnerable
Apollo's Chariot is the first coaster guests see as they drive into Busch Gardens' parking lot. Its towering purple track punctures the sky and sets hearts racing before folks even find a place to park. Set in the Festa Italia section of the park, near the picturesque Roman Rapids, the area around Apollo's Chariot bears the park's signature beautiful landscaping and attention to detail. Riders on the way to the queue are too consumed with the smell of fear to stop and smell the roses, however.
The unique and impressive design of the massive 36-passenger trains is evident as they pull into the loading station. The cars have low-slung-sides and raised seats that leave riders exposed. Since there are no inversions, there are no over-the-shoulder harnesses. A single, unobtrusive T lap bar ratchets passengers into place and contributes to their sense of vulnerability.
Did I Mention that Apollo's Chariot is Smooth?
The lift chain smoothly (of course) engages the train and brings it to the apex for some beautiful views of the park. Then, it's--whooooosh--down a face-melting 210-foot drop into a ravine and immediately up a second hill for some heavenly airtime. The out-and-back layout of Apollo's Chariot is deceptively simple. Besides one small helix before the turnaround, it's simply a series of glorious hills and drops. No punishing double or triple helixes, no inversions, no trim brakes--just rib-crushing positive G-forces (up to 4.1 Gs) followed by the sweet release of floating airtime.
And the whole ride is so incredibly, wonderfully smooth. (I know I'm being redundant here, but I can't emphasize the velvety contours of the ride enough. Apollo's Chariot may be the smoothest coaster on the planet.) A couple of bunny hills towards the end of the ride send passengers into the station with wide grins and hoots for another go-around.
I Can't Believe it's...a Goose?
With a tenuous grasp of classical mythology
at best, I was a bit mystified to see Apollo's Chariot in the Italy section of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I thought Apollo was one of the Greek gods. Since the park doesn't have a land themed to Greece, the name choice seems a bit odd. It turns out that Apollo IS the Greek god of sun and light, and he drives a golden chariot to move the sun across the sky daily. The Romans, it also turns out, appropriated many of the Greek gods, including Apollo for their own mythology. Who says theme parks are devoid of any cultural or educational benefit?
Fun fact: Apollo's Chariot was forever enshrined in the pop-culture hall of fame after an errant goose blindsided supermodel Fabio while he was aboard the ride for a media preview. What were the chances of a bird hitting a coaster passenger, much less the designated spokesperson who happened to have a bunch of still and video cameras trained on him? Fabio may look like a Roman god, but he was apparently no match for a goose on a mission.