Nessie’s back: Busch Gardens’ Loch Ness Monster opens to the public Friday

Nessie is back!

After months of renovations, the Loch Ness Monster roller coaster opens to the public Friday with a slightly updated appearance, but will leave riders with the same undeniable joy and feeling of excitement.

The black-and-yellow interlocking double loop coaster closed last fall for a revamping, which includes more than 900 feet of new track, a new soundtrack, new storytelling elements and other special effects.

“Overall, the attraction is a straight improvement in every way and this is easily the best Nessie has ever been,” summed up the Facebook page BGWFans.

The roller coaster was open to pass holders last weekend, but Friday will mark Loch Ness’ official introduction to the public. Coaster enthusiasts who have gotten to ride Nessie have described it as much smoother than before.

“We’re celebrating thrills and fun and memories,” said Elizabeth Ringas, president of American Coaster Enthusiasts, who attended a special ride session on Thursday. “That’s what these roller coasters are, and Loch Ness Monster is the heart of that.”

“It’s so iconic,” Ringas said, explaining that she was glad the park had made efforts to sustain the ride for memories to be made for generations to come.

“They did an incredible job. Not only did they preserve the ride that we all already know and love, they have enhanced it with all this reimagining of a great story line that you’re immersed in with theming and technological enhancements,” she added.

There are hidden gems throughout the ride as riders search for Nessie, experiencing muscle-clenching drops, loops, twists and turns. Video screens on the walls inside the cave section of the ride show something monstrous running around — and some growling sounds — as the coaster zips through.

Improvements to the cave section and new features in the queue area were included in the renovations, along with a new sighting center, where visitors can learn about the history and story of the ride that opened in 1978.

“For a lot of folks, this was their first real roller coaster — we hear that a lot — and now you know their kids are riding it and so it’s going be great to keep it around for future generations,” Busch Gardens President Kevin Lembke said Thursday.

Lembke said the ride was “just too important to the park to move on from and we knew we wanted to keep it around.”

Sam Schaffer,