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Late April Height Survey

Two Balloons Appear Over Festhaus Park

Two Balloons Appear Over Festhaus Park

Here’s a wild twist: There was a height survey in Festhaus Park today.

Wilder yet, there were two different balloons flown.

Oh, and it gets weirder: We don’t think this is Drachen Spire.

Before we get to that though, here are a few photos showing both of the height survey balloons in the air earlier today. Huge thanks to ParkFans member, Jahrules, for sending these pictures in!

As we always caution with these sight line surveys, estimating the height and location of these balloons is a very risky business. With multiple photos, you can normally work out a rough location, but because of wind and the like, it’s impossible to be terribly accurate. Even harder than working out a point above ground-level is working out a height above ground-level.

In fact, we’re not even going to attempt the later here at all. We can say that they certainly appear lower in the sky than the original Drachen Spire height survey balloon did, but we’re not going to speculate beyond that. We’ll leave that to the people over on the ParkFans forum.

That said, we will take a stab at the ground locations of these balloons. In fact, thanks to Jahrules, we can actually confirm the location of one of them! While riding the train today, Jahrules was able to capture a photo showing the anchor point of the further of the two balloons from Oktoberfest. His photograph shows the balloon tied down to a point behind Drachen Fire’s former maintenance building. I’ve taken the liberty to notate the location of the balloon and anchor in the photo below.

In addition to the balloon behind Drachen Fire’s maintenance bay, there was a second height balloon flown on the opposite side of the Festhaus Park site much closer to Verbolten. This balloon seems like it may have been moved during the survey though so estimating any specific point from which it may have been flown has proven to be incredibly difficult.

Below you’ll find a map showing the estimated locations of both balloons. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the second balloon, we’ve marked out a pretty large area on the Oktoberfest-side of Festhaus Park as possible area(s) over which the second balloon was flown. That said, as previously discussed, balloon #1’s location is crystal clear—you can find it marked below as well.

So, naturally, everyone wants to know what this height survey means for Drachen Spire and, more broadly, for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s future attraction plans.

Let me get this out of the way right off the bat: Given the locations of these balloons and the heights at which they were flown, this survey does not appear to be directly related to Drachen Spire. The second balloon could have been flown somewhere around the site of Drachen Spire’s signature, evil-looking spire, but the height certainly appeared lower than the 355 foot height of Spire’s original height waiver.

Even more mysteriously, the first balloon—the one we know the exact location of—was flown over a point that the previously-leaked Drachen Spire plans didn’t interact with at all. That second balloon in particular almost certainly ensures that we’re looking at something not directly Drachen Spire-related here.

So, what could this new height survey mean? Allow me to offer three different possible options.

First, we have to always consider that a height survey could be conducted for some non-ride purpose. In all of my years covering these balloons, I’ve always cautioned readers to keep this possibility in mind. That said, as far as I remember, each balloon we’ve reported on has ended up being related to a new attraction plan at some point down the line. Does that mean every balloon will always be attraction related? Certainly not. That said, I’ve learned to take these height surveys pretty seriously over the years…

The second option I want to pitch is that this could signal that an alternative to Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s long-leaked, giga, shuttle coaster we’ve dubbed Drachen Spire is under consideration. Though the original height waiver for that attraction was just renewed and rumors have all pointed to its largely-untouched return, we are still well within the window of time where plans could be changed if the park so desired. In fact, just last week I published plans over on ParkFans showing that SeaWorld San Diego’s originally-planned-for-2021 roller coaster addition had actually undergone a significant redesign during COVID. It’s possible that something similar could be occurring in Williamsburg…

A third option is that Busch Gardens Williamsburg could already be starting to plan for their post-Drachen Spire attraction addition (Project 2025?). Given how far-removed Festhaus Park is from current guest areas, we’ve long assumed that any expansion out into that region of the property (read: like Drachen Spire) would likely require more than just a single new attraction—particularly after the anchor attraction’s initial opening hype wares off. Could Drachen Spire be slated for 2024 with an additional investment in that same area planned to follow it for the park’s 50th anniversary in 2025…?

Anyway, enough speculation. Until Busch Gardens Williamsburg files a height waiver citing one or both of these balloons, we’re unlikely to learn much more about this line of sight test. In other words, cross those fingers for a permit sometime soon!

If we do hear anything more solid though, we’ll be sure to keep you all updated! Make sure you follow BGWFans on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to ensure you don’t miss any important park news! Thanks for reading!

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  1. I’m excited for anything that may come even remotely soon. I just hope its not another multi launch!