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Snow at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
When I was very little, I used to dream about what Busch Gardens Williamsburg looked like in the snow. Most kids would peer out their window and watch the falling fluffy flakes; thinking about snowball fights or building a snowman. Not me. I would try to imagine what the Loch Ness Monster Roller Coaster all covered with snow and ice; sparkling in the winter sky.
What happened in the park when it snowed? Did anyone get to walk around and experience the acoustic nothingness that only comes when snow falls? Did the Rhine River Freeze? All these questions plagued me back when there were no social networks updating fans with a constant stream of photos or Blog posts. Heck, you couldn’t even e-mail the park for a quick answer! You had to send in a handwritten letter; yeah, remember those folks? The paper and pen kind? Oh, how times have changed!
Still, a few decades later, my ultimate winter questions were answered. It only took two miraculous things to happen; Busch Gardens opened their doors throughout December with an event called Christmas Town and Virginia was hit with one of the largest snowstorms in decades. Of course the bad news was that in order to safely open the park, the employees had the arduous task of clearing over a foot of snow on all the pathways, bridges, steps, railroad trestles, and more.
Most of us get tired after cleaning off our cars and shoveling the driveway. Imagine doing that over 350 acres! The dedication of everyone involved in the clearing process allowed the park to reopen three days later. Knowing this, I had my camera charged up and ready to go with heartfelt appreciation. This was a real snowfall and the park had to be spectacular!
I got there as soon as the park opened; set out for the sole purpose of gathering the ultimate Busch Gardens winter photo showcase. I was not disappointed; icicles dangled from the roof tops like prisms, snow blanketed every inch of the landscape, the Rhine River was frozen solid, and the frosty air made Christmas Town at Busch Gardens reminiscent of a winter themed lithograph by Currier and Ives.
Being at the park after a snowfall was just as I imagined in my youth; it was magical. Perhaps Santa was finally answering some of my Christmas wishes on those old “handwritten” childhood letters after all. However, I am still waiting for my own personal roller coaster. Santa, I hope you are listening.
For more Winter Wonderland Christmas Town snow pictures, please visit BGW Memories on Facebook for the complete photo album.
Feel free to submit your own Busch Gardens in the snow photos to keep the album growing!
Tis’ the Season to be Jolly! Christmas Town 2013
While turkey leftovers are still in the fridge and families are together, many will set out to enjoy the joy of Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Already reaching the fifth year, Christmas Town has firmly established a yearly tradition for most of us. Every year the event brings friends, families, and even complete strangers together to celebrate the season with lights, fun, food, music, inspiration, and entertainment.
When Christmas Town opened on November 27, 2009; I was there; ready to go and see what Busch Gardens had to offer! Through the crowds I navigated with my brown coat and fuzzy earmuffs, bedazzled by decorations and the smell of hot cocoa and peppermint in the air! The Christmas music playing in the park gave me the warm fuzzies as I held my husband’s hand and just took the time to enjoy a lovely moment in time.
I am glad to know that five years later, I still have that warm fuzzy feeling at Christmas Town. This year the grand opening of the event was the weekend before Thanksgiving; a smart move on the part of Busch Gardens.
Having the event begin a week before the Thanksgiving weekend is brilliant when it comes to efficiency; performers get a little extra practice, retail shops make sure the registers are up and running, the rides operators are getting used to the cold, and the entire park gets a “test run” before a huge crowd lines up to enter the park after the Holidays.
I decided to go on both Friday and Sunday in order to capture all I could before the Holiday rush and to provide an overview of the ChristmasTown experience. Laughably and in typical Virginia fashion, one day the temperatures reached into the 70s the other, the 30s. Yet despite the temperature fluctuations, my experience remained the same on both days. For your enjoyment, here is an overview of what I consider the must see points of interest while visiting ChristmasTown this year.
This year France sparkles with a new look of silver and violet. The theme is the 12 Days of Christmas and the first thing one sees upon entering is a very large and beautiful tree with the numbers and corresponding “gift” for each day.
Also new in France is the roaming Royals of Aquitaine. Her Majesty Queen Florette, His Majesty King Francois, and their court Jester Harlequin loves to greet you and pose for a photo. The performers are fabulous and their improvisational humor will be sure to make wonderful memories for years to come.
Besides seeing the Royals, France offers a fabulous gift shop full of French themed merchandise, soap, and what else- wine! Le Belle Maison Gift Shop hosts one of the three locations in the park where guests can partake in wine tastings. The store sells the wine tasting package, bottles of wine, wine themed merchandise, clothing, jewelry, chocolate, Christmas ornaments, bags, French themed décor, and more.
Going past the gift shops and around the Royal Palace Theater is the Ice Palace Penguin exhibit. The ever popular exhibit features an up close look at the adorable penguins in a themed enclosure. The park also offers a behind the scenes penguin tour, but be aware that the tour must be purchased and booked in advance.
Here we come a Caroling!
Penguins and Roaming Royals are certainly entertaining, and so are the shows at Busch Gardens. This year features three returning classic shows: Gloria!, Deck the Halls, and Miracles.
Located in the Abbey Stone Theater, Gloria! set my holiday off right. It was the first show I saw this Christmas Town and even though the theater was toasty warm, the beauty and power of the performance gave me chills! Even the grouchiest humbug will admit that the soaring vocals of the music, accompanied by a live orchestra will make your season bright. The show is extremely popular and if you want a good seat, it is best to get there early.
Over in Oktoberfest Germany, Deck the Halls takes center stage at the historical Festhaus. The show brings back the classic Holiday Favorites that will get you tapping your toes. Kids will love the energy and fun of the performance and adults will appreciate the nostalgic flair. I never tire of seeing Frosty “thumpity-thump-thumping around the stage, but I do wish I could watch the show without singing “Heat Miser” for the rest of the day.
At the San Marco Theater in Italy, Miracles returns to inspire guests with moving music and contemporary dance. Located outdoors, I am always amazed at how well the performers dance and sing in downright frigid temperatures. They make it seem effortless and their hard work warms the heart and soul.
Unfortunately no times are given for three “roaming” musical performances, but be aware that there are Dicken’s style Christmas Carolers in England, a bagpiper plays in Ireland, and a Brass band performs in Holiday Hills. The musicians are amazing and if you are lucky, you may run across a performance.
Here Comes Santa Claus!
OK. I shouldn’t even have to mention it, but anyone wandering through Rhinefeld a.k.a. The North Pole, shouldn’t pass up the chance to see Santa, Mrs. Claus, and all the super cute Elves! Who cares what decade you were born in, no one is too old to see Santa and the photo op the park offers just screams Holiday Photo 2013! Even if you are too afraid to see Santa, at least peek into the window and give him a little wave.
“Please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree.”
Christmas is the season for giving, and there are plenty of places to find unique gifts for friends and family at Christmas Town. The stores are always so beautifully decorated that they become an attraction themselves. It is hard not to get inspired to go home and put up Christmas Decorations after walking through the gift shops.
Each shop offers guests something different, but a few stand out as being the most unique:
Artisans of Italy: Here one can purchase authentic Capodimonte Porcelain flowers created on site by master sculptor Nino Galoppo and hand painted by master painter Antonio Aprea. There are so many lovely choices of flowers; it is hard to choose just one.
Right next door is Bella Casa Gift shop where Italian wines, wine tastings, Italy, and Wine themed merchandise are sold.
German Gifts: No trip to BuschGardens is complete without a stop to German Gifts. The store harks back to the days of the “Old Country” era and features traditional authentic gifts from Germany including high quality, hand painted steins and carved wooden cuckoo clocks. In addition, hand Blown glass sculptures, German themed merchandise, Christmas Décor, Glasses of Glühwein, German Wine, and German wine tastings are also sold here.
Emerald IsleGift shop: A place to find authentic hand woven Irish sweaters, clothing, Waterford Crystal, and fine jewelry; as well as Ireland and Guinness themed merchandise.
Mistletoe Marketplace: Located in Oktoberfest, this open air market hosts numerous local vendors that offer guests the chance to buy locally made gifts.
These are a Few of My Favorite Things:
Of course there are rides and many other fun things to see. Lights and decorations are shining in every corner and smiles and laughter are found everywhere. Here are a few of my favorite things at ChristmasTown:
I never turn down a round trip ride on the train, where treetops glisten along your magical ride around the park.
The Flight of Lights turns the Aeronaut Skyride into a Santa’s Sleigh ride perspective of BuschGardens; alight with twinkling lights and the faint echo of Holiday music reaching every swinging cabin.
The feeling of riding the swings in the cold icy air never fails to make me feel like a kid again.
Sitting down with a bottle of bubbly with friends to toast to what we are thankful for.
Knowing that every time I come out to Christmas Town, memories will be made that will last a lifetime.
There really is so much to see and do around Busch Gardens during Christmas Town, that I could write a book. Just remember to take your time and enjoy the atmosphere of all the sights and sounds. Besides shopping, shows, food, and the rides; Christmas Town is a place to reconnect you to your childhood and to connect the young to their imaginations!
~~Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
The Art of Busch Gardens Part One: Howl-O-Scream
This year Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens has captured my imagination and inspired that neglected artistic side to flourish once more. Many people are surprised to find out that my degree is in Studio Art and Animation. Sadly, that life long dream of being a traditional Disney Animator was promptly crushed when the studio stopped producing hand drawn films.
Yep, you guessed it. Life happened. Bills needed to be paid and my passion for art fell to the wayside.
Still, through it all, Busch Gardens has been a muse for me on many occasions. Going to the park and seeing the murals and small details captured my heart and imagination for decades. The quality and dedication to themeing is what Busch Gardens has been known for; something that is rarely appreciated until it is gone.
Therefore, I decided to make a series of articles about my need to capture these works of art and present them to a broader audience. It is my hope that when you read my stories and view my work, that it inspires you to look at Busch Gardens in another way; to see the beauty in color, line, light, and form.. to see performances as art and expression and to enjoy the little things.
The Art of Howl-O-Scream
Busch Gardens equals entertainment. Whether you are on a ride, watching a show, having a tasty treat, or just taking in the sights, the goal of the park is to entertain you. Many dedicated people behind-the-scenes; the unsung heroes, work tirelessly to find a way to make the magic happen.
This year for Howl-O-Scream, the park tried something new with their “Terror-tories” concept. Obviously, there was a decision made to bring the adult entertainment to a new level. I found myself intrigued by the new sights and sounds.
The number of times I have seen the show speaks volumes for the production value and talent of the performers. For me, I feel that I got away with stealing a free ticket to see a Broadway show. From the costumes, lighting, sound production, set design, choreography, and vocals; I am continuously entranced by the quality of it all.
For example, the rich colors of the opening number, the soft hues of the nocturnal set, the velvety purples and gold of the finale all give me chills. The choreography uses these colors to compose the performers on stage much like painting a picture.
The newcomer this year is my strongest recommendation for a dinner-theater experience. Blood Banquet never fails to entertain your sense of humor and to please the pallet with luscious food and beverages. By far, it has been my favorite addition to Busch Gardens along with the Food & Wine festival earlier this year.
Blood Banquet set the bar higher at Busch Gardens. This is the one place you can interact with the performers and share a few laughs. You get to see their costumes and lovely personalities up close and feel like you are a part of the act.
The whole things reminds me of Threedneedle Fair. Back in The Old Country era of the park, actors ran the games and interacted with guests daily in this area. They constantly stayed in character and spoke strictly with Old English accents. I was happy to see a similar concept return to Busch Gardens this year.
The actual “show” does not take place on a stage, but around the tables themselves. There is a heavy influence of the vintage Hollywood Glam and a nostalgic humor reminiscent of Groucho Marx. The costumes and set design reflect upon 1940s cinema and the ending number evokes the Broadway show and dance number “That’s Entertainment.”
Therefore it was easy to get lost in the art and magic of the production. Here are examples of what inspired me:
Other Examples: It is in the Details!
The rest of my artistic inspiration is based on several magic moments around the park; an extremely energetic performer that goes above and beyond or the hidden details in alcoves around Busch Gardens. If you look closely, you can always see art everywhere you go.
So what inspires you? Feel free to share your favorite Howl-O-Scream art with me and the readers.
In conclusion, I would like to send a special shout out to all those people who give 110% at the park. Thank you for all you do and for the memories!
How many of you love food served at the Festhaus? Silly question right?
To those who were not old enough to remember when the park opened in 1975, it may come a surprise to learn that the Festhaus was not officially “there” until 1976. It also opened with along with the rest of the Oktoberfest section of the park. Der Marketplatz, Die Autobahn, The Trabant (Der Blitzschneller), Die Schwarze Spinne, Der Wirbelwind, Das Wirbelwindchen, the Arcade, all the skill games, Der Roto Baron, and the Schwartzkopf Wildekatze coaster.
Oktoberfest was a success for the park and so was the food!
Back in 1979, the park published a cook book that was written by the creative brains behind the Festhaus menu.
Yes. A cookbook for the Festhaus… the glory of it all… in vivid color and text!
Let us take a moment to thank Festhaus Chef Karin Elliot and Velma Wong (pastry chef) in a quiet meditation. Think of bratwurst with sauerkraut, a side of German potato salad, and a big old slice of German Chocolate Torte cake.
Sadly, this book is no longer in production and chances are that the only place you may run across it is in a used book store or in a thrift shop book bin. Speaking of, Kelly Sweeney Osato, one of the readers of BGW Memories, found this lovely book in a thrift shop and decided to cook her own “Oktoberfest” Feast right at home. Even better, she sent in photos of the fruits of her labor.
I bow to her culinary skills!
After reading carefully over my own copy of the Festhaus cookbook; I discovered that in order to properly cook traditional German food, the chef must possess a ton of patience and fee time. Also, the directions can seem vague and difficult to follow. However, after seeing the results from Kelly’s triumphant Top Chef Victory, I may have to break out the crock pot and skillets.
For those daring enough to follow in Kelly’s footsteps: Be aware that many of the ingredients may not be easily found at a grocery store. You may have to go to a specialty, international grocery store. Also, cheesecloth and numerous hours of simmering, pickling, and refrigeration are required for many of the dishes.
So, don’t go expecting an instant Festhaus meal in minutes! Nope. This is hard work; home cooking. Busch Gardens style….. and it is not for the faint of heart!
The reason I am spending my free time typing out this book, is to provide everyone the chance to experience this long forgotten treasure. I plan on making installments to this post with chapters being added every so often.
Ein prosit, ein prosit, der Gemutlichkeit!
Spoiler Alert: I found out why that German Potato Salad is so good; BACON! Yes, a good ol’ cup of bacon and the grease is simmered to make the sauce. Even in Germany, bacon always makes things better!
Disclaimer: Please do not email with questions about the recipes and how to cook things. I really don’t know. Check Google. It is a better chef than I am!
I should also mention that I am doing this in the spirit of Busch Gardens fandom and no money is being made by me or anyone that may help me with this little endeavor of mine. Since the book is no longer in publication, I thought it would be acceptable to share my treasure with you all.
Busch Gardens Festhaus Cookbook
Published for Busch Gradens
Taylor Lewis & Associates
Recipes provided by Festhaus Chef Karin Elliot and Velma Wong, pastry chef. The Old Country
Photographs taken by Taylor Lewis in Germany at The Old Country Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia.
Editor: Joanne Young
Designed by Ahia
Food Stylist, Dora Jonassen
First printing Copyright 1979
By Taylor Lewis & Associates
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
At Busch Gardens Festhaus, every day’s Oktoberfest – the happy season of good food, good fellowship, dancing and song. In Germany, where Munich’s huge Festhaus tents on the Theresienwiese are the heart of Oktoberfest, the holiday extends for sixteen glorious fall days as it has done since 1810. In that auspicious year, Bavarian King Maximilian proclaimed a public celebration of the marriage of his son to a Saxony princess.
Such a happy custom was too good to abandon when the wedding was over, coming as it did when the harvest season when the hops were in and Munich’s famous breweries were turning out kegs of golden beer. Today, the first Keg is tapped by the Lord Mayor to signify the opening of Oktoberfest. Brass bands play, carousels turn, roller coaster cars soar up and slide down. Young and old lock arms and sing, swaying to the music or raise their own on-litre steins (the only size allowed on Munich grounds) in merry toasts of “Ein, Zwei, Drei, Prosit!”
Germany’s famous wurts are in mouthwatering abundance, along with spicy sauerkraut, red cabbage, and tangy hot potato salad. Over all hangs the tantalizing fragrance of barbecued beef, roasted daily on huge spits.
Join the fun at Busch Gardens Festhaus and when you go home, have your own Oktoberfest with the help of these authentic German recipes.
Table of Contents
Food for Oktoberfest and other German Recipies
Soups and Salads
- Potato soup
- “Clear Across the Garden” Soup
- Noodle Soup
- Chef’s Salad Dressing
- Herring Salad
- Carnival Coleslaw with Apples
- Beet Salad
- Hot Potato Salad
Favorite Side Dishes *to be added soon
Meat, Poultry, and Fish *to be added soon
Breads and Pastries *to be added soon
Miscellaneous *to be added soon
Festhaus Songs *to be added soon
SOUPS AND SALADS
4 Medium potatoes
1 medium cucumber
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
2 small green onions
1 ½ cups half-and-half cream
½ teaspoon dried dillweed
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon celery salt
Peel and dice potatoes and boil till soft in salted water. Peel cucumber, remove seeds, and chop. Mix with finely chopped onions. Place large sieve over bowl and pour potatoes and cooking water through. Reserve several table-spoons of cubed potatoes to give soup texture, and press remainder through sieve and mix with cooking liquid. Return to saucepan. Add cream, seasonings, cucumber and onions, and simmer over very low heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently. Garnish with thin cucumber slices and a dash of dill.
“Clear Cross the Garden” Soup
(Quer durch den Garten Suppe)
4 cups of beef stock (or 4 cups bouillon)
1 onion sliced thin
½ tablespoon chopped parsley
3 tablespoons of butter
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup sliced carrots
½ cup chopped cabbage
½ cup cubed potatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste
The best thing about this soup is its versatility. Walk clear across the garden, pick whatever vegetables are in season and add them to the soup! This can include green beans, limas, brussel sprouts, zucchini, spinach, turnips, green peas, or whatever you like.
Sauté celery, onion, carrots, and cabbage in butter. Add to soup stock or bouillon), add mix to potato cubes and parsley. Then add your own variety of vegetables plus cubes of meat left-overs (or sauté 1 cup cubed beef round with vegetables if you like). Simmer until potatoes are tender. Serve with herbed croutons or slices of fresh homemade bread and butter for a complete meal.
For variety: Add 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, or 1 cup of fine noodles, or ½ cup alphabet macaroni.
4 pounds beef chuck with bones
2 quarts water
2 large carrots
2 stalks celery with leaves
½ large onion
½ teaspoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 pinch each of marjoram and thyme
2 sprigs parsley (or 1 teaspoon parsley flakes)
4 ounces thin noodles
½ cup sliced carrots
Cut meat off bones and reserve. Cover soup bones with cold water and bring to boil in sauce pan. Strain off water, cover soup bones with 2 quarts fresh water, and continue cooking. Tie leeks, carrots, celery, onion, and herbs into cheesecloth square, and place in soup pot along with salt. Simmer for an hour, then add meat which has been cut into cubes and sear on all sides in a very hot skillet. (German cooks prefer to sear the cut side of onion the same way before tying into cheesecloth bag, but this method is optional). Continue simmering for at least two more hours, skimming as necessary. Correct seasoning and cool. Remove fat congealed on top before making the soup.
Heat stock to boiling, then remove meat with slotted spoon and keep warm. Add ½ sliced carrots and cook until partially tender. Add very thing noodles, approximately 1 ounce per cup of stock, stirring so noodles do not stick together. Cook until noodles are tender and serve. Pass meat cubes in separate dish, letting each guest add desired amount to soup bowl.
Chef’s Salad Dressing
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon carroway seed
1 teaspoon salt- dash of freshly ground pepper
½ cup chopped parsley
Chop Parsley very fine, wrap in cheese cloth, and wring out parsley juice. Mix ingredients except sugar and parsley in bowl. Let stand for at least two hours. Add sugar and parsley, and mix again. Chill before serving over salad greens.
For variety: Add ½ cup finely chopped onion as a delicious marinade for fresh tomato slices; or pour over sliced boiled potatoes and garnish with crisp bits of bacon for a simple cold potato salad.
3-4 ounce jars marinated herring fillets
12ounce carton of sour cream
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 tart apples
2 small onions
½ teaspoon dillweed
Core but do not peel apples and cut into thin slices. Peel onions and slice thin. Drain herring fillets and gently stir into sour cream in bowl. Add vinegar, sugar, apples, and onions. Chill in refrigerator 4 to 5 hours, or overnight. Transfer to serving bowl, sprinkle dill on top, and garnish with thin apple slices if desired.
Carnival Coleslaw with Apples
2 cups grated green cabbage
2 cups grated red cabbage
1 small orange, chopped
1 large apple, cored and chopped
2 medium carrots, grated
½ cup raisins
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
Grate cabbages and place in ice water to crisp while preparing carrots and fruit. Do not peel apple- the red skins adds color and flavor to this bright salad. Drain grated cabbage and dry between paper towels. Toss with chopped orange and apple, grated carrots, and raisins. Combine lemon juice with honey and pour over cole slaw, tossing lightly before serving.
(Rote Beete Salat)
#2 can (16 oz) sliced beets
1 tablespoon super
1 tablespoon vinegar
½ teaspoon carroway seeds
1 small Bermuda onion, sliced thin
Drain beets and mix juice with sugar, carroway seeds, and vinegar. Mix beet and onion slices together in bowl, stirring lightly. Pour marinade on beets and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors.
For variety: Add 2 tablespoons Burgundy wine to marinade.
Hot Potato Salad
6 large potatoes
¼ pound bacon (approx) to make 1 cup chopped bacon (uncooked)
1 cup chopped onions
2 cups water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup each pickle relish and chopped pimento
Boil potatoes then refrigerate about 6 hours. Peel and slice. Chop bacon and onion fine and brown in skillet till bacon is crisp. Do not drain. Add Cornstarch mixed with water to bacon grease, stirring till mixture thickens, and simmer for several minutes. Stir in sliced potatoes and simmer until they are hot.
Breads and Pastries
Black Forest Cherry Cake
2 Cups Flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ¼ cups milk
½ cup butter
1½ teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
½ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, and measure rest of ingredients into bowl. Blend on low, scraping constantly. Beat 3 mintues on high speed. Pour into two 9 inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-50 minutes.
Filling: 2 cups black cherries canned in heavy syrup; combined with 2 tablespoons of Kirschwasser.
Frosting: (Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte) pint heavy cream, whipped or 1 large container non-dairy whipped topping
Slice each cake round horizontally to make four layers. Place one layer on flat plate. Fill pastry bag with whipped cream and pipe a generous ring around the edge of cake layer and a large rosette in the center. Fill exposed ring of cake with cherry filling. Place the second layer of cake on top and repeat. Place third layer and top and frost the entire cake layer with whipped cream. Crumble the fourth layer into fine crumbs and sprinkle on the sides of the cake. Using whipped cream, pipe two rosettes on top of cake and top each with a maraschino cherry. Garnish the center top of cake with chocolate curls.
Use chocolate cake recipe for Black Forest Cake.. (see above) or your favorite Devil’s Food Cake Recipe. Bake on rectangular sheet cake pan at 350 degrees until cake pulls away from the edge of pan and toothpick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean. (About 25 minutes) Cut cake into thirds so you have three equal rectangles.
Place one portion on cake board plate and spread with non-dairy whipped topping about ½ thick. Place second portion on top and press down slightly to level off top. Spread Second Layer with whipped topping and place third layer on top. Frost top and garnish with chocolate sprinkles.
More to come! Stay Tuned. 🙂
In the meantime- enjoy learning the lyrics to a Festhaus Song:
In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus:
Eins, zwei, g’suffa . . .
Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus:
Eins, zwei, g’suffa . . .
Da hat so manche braver Mann:
Eins, zwei, g’suffa . . .
Gezeigt was er so vertragen kann
Schon früh am Morgen fing er an
Und spät am Abend kam er heraus
So schön ist’s im Hofbräuhaus.
Zicke Zacke Zicke Zacke Hoi Hoi Hoi!
Howl-O-Scream adds Fright to your Night!
Fear has a way of Spreading at Howl-O-Scream 2013
This year I had no idea what to expect from Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream event. So much has changed at the park in the last few years; I was at a loss at how the new attractions would stack up against years past.
Like any event, there are highlights that stand out from the rest. One in particular is the new Blood Banquet at the Vampire Point Hotel located in the Rhinefeld hamlet of the park.
On paper the separate up charge for a dinner-theater sounded interesting enough but would it be worth the extra cost? The answer is an astounding YES!
Directly stated from the Busch Gardens Website:
“The all-you-care-to-eat dinner buffet is located at Wilkommenhaus and features hand carved meats, interactive pasta station, lamb stew, chili, a baked potato bar, assorted vegetables, tossed salad, dinner rolls, assorted desserts and non-alcoholic beverages. Beer, wine and mixed alcoholic drinks are available for purchase separately.”
The food was fantastic or as Count Vlad would say, “Vladtastic!” The hand-carved beef and spiced turkey was to die for, the baked potato bar was delectable, and the chili was perfect on a cool September night.
I have a food allergy so unfortunately, I was unable to sample all the items on the dinner or any of the deserts. However, the group I was dining with had nothing but positive things to say about all of the dinner options.
Also, the “Vladtini” house Martini was a cranberry delight and came in a light-up glass.
Being able to talk to the actors, especially Count Vlad, made my night. Lionel Lonnie Ruland plays the count and he brings tons of charm and comedy to the role.
The show consists of Count Vlad, a lovely French chef, two lovely ladies as the bar staff, a surly dry-witted Bellman, a gypsy violinist, and three Vampire Tourists. The improv style of comedy allows some over-the-top cheesy puns; but I found it endearing. What can I say, I love punny jokes! Ba dum tsss!
Even better, the show does not distract you from your dinner; it enhances it. It lasts around 10-15 minutes, so by the time you are done with your first plate and want to get up for seconds, there is no awkward walking around the performers in order to grab your food.
My favorite part of the night was when I asked Vlad about his rings. We both had on owl and snake rings and he made sure that they were introduced formally. “Owl meet Owl.. hello owl.” I kept laughing about it for the rest of the night!
I would recommend purchasing your ticket in advance from Busch Garden’s website before going to the park. Those who purchase tickets ahead of time have reserved seating and receive first access to the buffet, table selection, and have time to start eating before the show starts.
The reservation was at 4:30 and just before 5pm, Count Vlad and his eerie cast of Characters makes an appearance and begins to roam around. If you do not reserve your seat; you may have to watch the show from outside the restaurant. Tickets for the buffet are sold on site only after reserved diners have arrived.
This is a must for anyone going to Howl-O-Scream this year. Busch Gardens put together a hit that is guaranteed to create many wonderful memories.
Other Favorites of the Night
Terror-tories: New for 2013. They incorporate new themeing, scares, and a fun club atmosphere that appeal to the 21 and up crowd. Make sure to bring your ID to experience all the fun adult beverages at the park!
Ports Of Skull (new)
Italy is swarming with Pirates and the new additions bring the night life to San Marco. A creepy skeletal Captain greets you at the Birate Baarrgh (new). I highly recommend the Hurricane; the classic tropical fruit and Rum cocktail.
Bella Casa has transformed into Captain Barghbie’s Booty (new) and features the best store transformation this year. The inside looks like a pirate ship and houses all the Pirate Booty ye could ever ask for. The Captain himself is there to serve spiced rum cider and various wines from Italy.
Dead men tell no tales in San Marco this year. Da Vinci’s Gardens are now the center hub for the Pirates to jump out and make you walk the plank. Well, sort of. The park has built several fun photo ops for you and your friends to be placed in many unpleasant scenarios. Have a photo taken in a Crow’s cage, the stocks, walking the plank, or even in a replica crow’s nest.
Entertainment: Dig it Up: returns this year to provide comedy to your night. A museum comes to life bringing musically talented Romans, Egyptians, curators, cavemen, an alien, and one very entertaining cave woman!
House/Maze: Cut Throat Cove is the newest Scare Maze replaces the clowns from Fear Fair last year. Loacted in Festa Italia near Roman Rapids; this maze twists and turns around various stages. Enter if ye dare!
House/Maze: Deadline (returning) Located under Escape from Pompeii, Zombies are running around the Italian Subway system again this year.
Demon Street (New)
France is on fire this year with roaming demons sure to jump out and give you a fright.
Demon Drinks and the Demon DJ (new): Located next to each other, a Demon perched upon a giant skull with flaming eyes pumps techno beats into the crowd. Demonic Beauties serve you hellish beverages.
House Maze: Catacombs. (Returning House) Located under The Royal Palace Theater. The maze features a creepy crypt to run through.
Vampire Point (new)
Rhinefeld has been taken over by Vampires! Watch out for the creatures of the night waiting to pounce. The Terror-tory features the must see- must do extra offered this year; Blood Banquet. Say hi to Count Vlad and all his fiends at the Vampire Point Hotel.
Ripper Row (new)
England (Banbury Cross) has been turned into the year 1888 in the Whitecastle district of London. Narrow pathways make it hard to avoid the Ripper who wants nothing more than to terrify park guests. My favorite? The headless Victorian ladies that seem to float down the cobblestone paths.
Oktoberfest is not a Terror-tory, but features the well loved show Night Beats (returning). Ulrich, your vampire host with the most, is sure to dazzle you with his charm and powerful voice. Don’t get too entranced. His jealous fiancé Beatrix will put a stop to your adoration in a heartbeat.
The show, as one can tell, is my favorite show in the park and features a wide variety of catchy night beats.
Open Casket Bar (returning): Alright all you vampire fans, time to pull out your ID and wallet. These vampires are out to make sure you have the time of your life. Just make sure to never turn your back on them; you never know when one may decide to take his “dinner break.”
Der Marketplatz is the Dark Side of the Gardens Store where you can purchase all your must have Howl-O-Scream gear!
Bitten: (returning) Located at the old Drachen Fire station house, this maze is one of the longest running mazes in the park. For those history buffs out there… make sure to take in all the props when walking through and see what you recognize.
This is not a Terror-Tory this year as well but features three Howl-O-Scream attractions.
Fiends (returning): The Doctor is back and making sure his Creature comes to life with the help of his assistant Igor, a werewolf, a vampire, a creature from the black lagoon, and a whole bunch of naughty nurses. The music is catchy and many of the cast is new this year including the doctor.
Inoculation Station: Everyone can be naughty sometime and you may wish to have these beauties help you to a syringe jello shot to get your heart beating faster. The one thing I will say is that the actresses this year have been so friendly and never fail to stop and pose for a photo.
House/ Maze: 13 Your Number’s Up (returning) an indoor house that features 13 fears. When the park is busy, I recommend buying a Quick Que pass to bypass the long line.
There is also an added extra that you would need to purchase in advance called Fiends Feast. I am unable to review it at this time.
That about sums up my adventures! Hope everyone has a very safe and enjoyable time at Howl-O-Scream this year! Make sure to like BGW Memories on Facebook to see more photos of Howl-O-Scream and Busch Gardens Park history! https://www.facebook.com/bgwmemories?ref=hl
Link to dining experiences at Howl-O-Scream: http://seaworldparks.com/en/howloscream-williamsburg/Book-Online/Extras/Exclusive-Dining
Link to Behind the Scenes Tours at Howl-O-Scream: http://seaworldparks.com/en/howloscream-williamsburg/Book-Online/Extras/All-Extras
Link to Busch Gardens Howl-O-Scream Page: http://seaworldparks.com/en/howloscream-williamsburg
Link to Howl-O-Scream Map for 2013: http://seaworldparks.com/en/howloscream-williamsburg/Frightening-Features/Map
The Reason Behind BGW Memories
Deciding to create the BGW Memories Facebook Community and Blog was not an easy decision. I knew exactly how much effort and time would have to go into making this concept come to life. Despite worrying about late night editing, networking, frequents updates, messages, responses, and the occasional mean-spirited comments sent my way, I felt compelled to make it all happen.
If you are reading this, then you have the answer: You
We all go through our lives hoping to make a connection with others. We seek out people who have similar likes and interests. We want to know that we are not alone.
Often we look to our past in order to help us find these connections. What city we grew up in, what schools we attended, what ancestry we shared; are all bonds formed among a group of individuals.
Since 1975, millions of people share the wonderful experience of visiting Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I am proud to be one of them.
I have always lived near Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It was my constant, my babysitter, and my best friend. Many kids go to a summer camp. I went to Busch Gardens. In the 80’s my parents would drop my brother and I off at the park and we would roam freely around during the summer. It was heaven!
For that reason, I decided to reach out to others like me and form a kinship by creating BGW Memories. It is my hope that by preserving the past, we will strengthen the bonds between generations of park goers.
I am already thrilled that so many people have responded. What is even more amazing is that some kinships have already become friendships! There is one friend in particular I would like to mention. His name is Gary Terrell.
Since Gary first posted photos and stories here at BGW Memories, I was instantly drawn to how much we were alike. I thought to myself, “Here is a person that remembers those long forgotten details of the past and loves them as much as I do!” In fact, many of the photos shared here came from his collection.
One item he sent to me recently was a video of his family visiting Busch Gardens in the 90s. When I watched the film, the happiness I heard in his voice and the smiles I saw on his wife and son’s faces brought such joy to my heart. It also brought me back to my own childhood.
It was me waving to my mom and dad in the Little Balloon ride. It me sitting on the battlements shooting gallery in Hastings. And when Gary asks his son where he is on the video, I can visualize me looking up at my dad at that age saying “Busch Gardens!”
By sharing such a wonderful moment from his life, Gary helped me to remember my past as well; a truly priceless gift.
So to all the people who wish to find a connection to their past at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, you are not alone. In fact, you may be holding that missing piece of history that someone out there has been searching for.
Three Stars for Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival
The Michelin star rating for restaurants has only three awards with “Three Stars” being the highest an establishment can receive. Three stars is only rewarded to those rare places exceptional cuisine where diners eat extremely well, often superbly. Distinctive dishes are precisely executed, using superlative ingredients. “Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage” (Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey).
It’s official. My mind is blown. It’s been three days since I attended Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival and I am still finding it hard to put into words just how amazing this event is. It’s like trying to describe the Mona Lisa or Niagara Falls to someone who hasn’t seen it. No matter what I say, I doubt I am capable of capturing the fun experience in writing.
But I’ll try.
I was there for both the first “official” day of the event and the following day. Even with two full days of gluttony, I barely scratched the surface of what the Food & Wine Festival has to offer. For the first time in Busch Gardens history, I failed to ride any coasters. The only ride I did manage to hobble onto was the train and that was only to speed up the process of getting to and from food kiosks.
The first day was spent learning how the Festival works and how to navigate through the lines to receive small tapas like portions of the various culinary delights. The choices! The flavors! How can one decide? It is as if Chef Gordon Ramsay made a smorgasbord of food and then told you to pick just one dish to eat. It cannot happen. “One simply cannot choose just one.” Thanks Boromir for providing us that lovely internet meme to use in this situation.
Then, on top of that, each station has an array of beer and wine to select to go perfectly with your choice of delectable yumminess. There was one moment I envisioned myself looking like Jabba the Hut slithering around the park in a gorge fest of debauchery. I refrained.. barely.
At the end of each day, I felt like the Mr. Creosote on Monty Python’s Meaning of Life that after eating, “one wafer thin” mint could cause my stomach to explode; and I was OK with that. I was happy. Very, very happy.
I was also lucky. Bacchus must have been smiling upon me because I was picked for being the first contestant in the new show Grape Stompers, given a complimentary opportunity to enjoy the Chef’s Guest dinner, and also attend a special VIP event that included meeting the Resident Chef of Busch Gardens, Justin Watson, before setting sail on the Wine on the Rhine cruise. Thrilled, is not even close to describing how I felt about all this good fortune.
However, my good fortune is yours as well! Now I have a very clear picture of the events, food, and wine to share with you here. It is my sworn duty to provide you with a breakdown of what I saw, tasted, sipped, and experienced during those fun filled two days.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy my overview of my weekend in more detail. It is so extensive that I decided to put it into categories of Entertainment, Food & Wine, and Merchandise. If you find that my writing style fluctuates, I apologize. It is just that getting everything down on paper is not an easy task!
Well here goes… prepare yourself for a Busch Garden’s fan-foodie extravaganza of information! Are you all a twitter yet? You should be!
The Chef’s Guests
~an interactive dinner show with Virginia Willis, a highly acclaimed chef and writer.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this show as I have never attended a cooking demonstration-dinner hybrid before. I was pleasantly surprised.
Virginia Willis was charming, funny, and the meal she prepared for us was divine. Her story about her grandmother was so heartwarming and thanks to Virginia, I will never look at Grits the same way again. She made me a “true grit” believer! I am already planning my own version of her recipe in the near future.
Overall Experience: Well worth the cost. The food was fabulous and did I mention the grits? They were absolute perfection of a Southern classic dish! I chose Elios Mediterranean White Wine to pair with my Pork Loin and found it was a very smooth and went great with my meal. I highly recommend it.
What is included: Learning how your meal is prepared along with recipe cards to take home. Menu includes Gold-Peak Sweet Tea Brined Pork, Tangle of Bitter Greens, Grits with Corn and Vidalia Onions, assorted desserts including Coca-Cola Cake. One Alcoholic Beverage is provided with proper ID, water, soda, or coffee.
Cost: $19.00 (pass member discounts apply)
Dates available: These may sell out fast! There are only two more days left to book the dinner- June 15th and 16th so book it now y’all!
For More Information: Virginia Willis website http://virginiawillis.com/biography.html and Busch Gardens information and ticket reservations: http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival/Extras
** If you do not wish to purchase a ticket, you may still be able to see Chef Willis on stage for no additional fee at San Marco Theater June 15th and 16th (dinner and beverage are not included).
~ an interactive show where four guests are selected to actually stomp grapes on stage at the San Marco Theater.
I was anxious to see the show and made sure that me and the group I was with got to the theater early to find a seat. However, I didn’t sit down long as I was immediately selected to be a participant! Talk about exciting!
The performers gathered me and three other individuals in a huddle and gave us directions on what to do. We were to put on these white suits and protective goggles, go on stage, and stomp the living daylights out of some grapes in a friendly competition of sorts. I did my best, but alas… I will not harbor any “sour grapes” towards the victor.
Overall Experience: It was hilarious! I had a complete blast being in the show and came back later to see the show from another perspective. It is just as funny watching people hop around on grapes. The music and humor make the show very entertaining. A memory I shall forever cherish! Thanks Busch Gardens for making my day!
The whole event was captured on film and can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iTwfRH0DrQ&feature=youtu.be
Thanks to www.bgwfans.com for filming and sharing their link with me.
For more information: http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival/Complimentary-Activities
Wine on the Rhine
~ A live band performs on a Rhine River cruise while you enjoy a glass of wine and treats.
As soon as I heard that Busch Gardens was offering a separate cruise on the Rhine River to enjoy music, wine, and food, I never hesitated. I bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale. This was something I had hoped the park would do for years and I was not disappointed.
My cruise was perfect. The evening had cooled off and dusk allowed the landscape to be lined in soft shadows. The quiet motor of the boat was a perfect tone to set a relaxing zen state of our group. Our hosts and hostesses made sure we were clear the bridge and a tray of food and the cutest bottle of wine were both handed to me.
The band began to play the perfect blend of nautical, whimsical music. I was so lost in the music, wine, and chocolate that it really surprised me to see the boats take us all around the right bend of the Rhine River; an area that was once a part of the old cruises in the early years of the park’s operation.
Overall Experience: I adored every aspect of this cruise from beginning to end. Perfect. Book the tour now as I think it is an absolute steal! This is a perfect date night, girl’s night out, or just a fun way to spend a weekend evening.
Cost: $16.00 (Pass Member Discounts will apply) Seriously- $16.00 – book it before it is sold out! Otherwise, Que Syrah Syrah. ~ba dum bum!
More Information: http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival/Extras
The Art of Food
~Busch Gardens has rounded up 15 various food art experts and will having food demonstrations of their work in three locations in the park during the Festival.
I happened to run into Burton Farnsworth, an extremely talented artist who can make illustrations out of fondue that you would not believe! Being an artist and trained in animation, I was entranced by his work. Please make sure to look around at the Festival for these booths and see what magic is being made at each station. Obviously no one told Burton not to play with his food!
Locations: Ireland, France, & Italy.
For more information: http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/FoodandWineFestival/Complimentary-Activities
Food, Wine, & Beer
Kiosks are set up around the park that house samples of various famous dishes from various European Countries. After my second day at the Food & Wine festival, I would recommend purchasing a pre-paid wristband at the Food & Wine Welcome Center when you enter the park, grab a “passport” food & wine brochure and a pen, and set off on a major culinary adventure!
Over two days, here is what I have experienced so far:
Location: Where Pigs in a Kilt normally operates. It is tucked under an overhang near the stables. This is the location of the famous Scottish Egg, so you may want to have a little “Egg Hunt” of your own!
Chilled Pea Soup: The day I went to the park was extremely hot! The first stop was Scotland and I chose the chilled soup. This is not for everyone, but folks who enjoy a little adventure in their meal will love it! Presentation: a beautiful swirl of green and cream. Taste: Minty, Sweet Pea Bliss!
Wine: I chose the Chateau Morrisette Vidal Blanc as I thought it would balance my sweet pea soup. It did. A lovely Virginia Wine on a hot Virginia day.
Location of Kiosk: Tucked away in the old Bistro 205, France is a bit hard to locate. However, I highly recommend stopping there. I made it my first destination of the day as I thought it was an appropriate way to start out the Food & Wine Festival. C’est Si Bon! Magnifique! Having waiters bring you the food to your table was a nice touch.
Vichyssoise: I had this dish on my first day at the park. What can I say; I am a fan of chilled soup on a hot day! Basically the soup consists of sweet onion, leek & potato puree with truffle essence. Presentation: Simple as it should be. Taste: A balance of bitter and sweet. The name may be hard to pronounce, but what a wonderful treat. This dish is for folks who wish to extend their pallets and try something a little different.
Moules Provencales Avec Rouille: Balancing my meal, I decided to try the steamed Mussels in Tomato Fennel Broth & Lemon Saffron Mayonnaise. This was the first time I have ever had seafood at the park and shellfish of all things! Presentation: Three Mussels in a light red broth. Taste: I enjoyed it. I just wish there were more than three mussels. I love seafood! I see food and I eat it. Ba dum bum. Thanks, I’ll be here all week!
Wine: Horton Viognier: Horton is Virginia Winery and many people may not know that the Viognier was pronounced Virginia’s State grape in 2011! I love Viognier and this sample had that refreshing splash of flavor I needed with my seafood dish.
Location of Kiosk: Trapper’s Smokehouse outside grille. Look for the very large Canadian apple and onion themed sign. It screams Oh Canada!
Pumpkin Carmel Mousse: I actually tried this at the “Chef’s Guest” show but nevertheless shall review it here. Presentation: a generous portion of crème’ brulee style custard in a clear cup. Taste: Creamy, smooth, and oh so good. Pumpkin and Carmel- how can you go wrong?
Location of Kiosk: This may the hardest kiosk to spot. It is inside the Funnel Cake building in Rhinefeld Germany. The line begins to the side closest to the carousel. Hopefully, it is not too tucked away. I would hate for people to miss the dishes of Austria.
Tafelspitz mit Apfelkren: Being that I traveled to Germany and Austria; I was really being critical of this dish. It is the national dish of Austria, so I was nervous about how they could possibly get the flavors authentic enough for my liking.
Presentation: In a little tray are several slices of beef that has been simmered in a broth and sliced thin. Next to it is a horseradish and apple sauce that you dip the beef in. Taste: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I will say that before you run out and buy it… you have to like horseradish. If you don’t, forget it. It is not for you. I am still impressed how the chef’s got the horseradish to balance with the apple flavor, but they nailed it. Bravo.
Location of Kiosk: Centrally located near the Festhaus, Darkastle , and Mach Tower. The food and beer stand in Germany is impressive and worthy of the center stage. Da isst es sich gut!
Currywurst: This was the dish I was craving since the announcement. I loved this dish when I was in Germany and I often ordered this is little restaurants and street carts in Berlin and Leipzig. Presentation: a little paper tray with several cuts of Knockwurst with spicy curry tomato ketchup and a side of roasted potatoes. Taste: It took me back to Germany. I felt like I had just handed my money to a vendor in Berlin, not Williamsburg. I will be enjoying this dish again and again for the remainder of the festival. Es schmeckt gut!
I am unable to drink beer; but was lucky enough to be with folks who were enjoying both beer flights. Option 1: German Beer Flight or Option 2: Virginia Beer Flight. I am providing photos of the samples as I felt it was a great deal! Even though I couldn’t drink them, I thought they smelled wonderful! The presentation of the samples was fabulous and even included a break down of the beers and their flavor profiles.
Location of Kiosk: Behind San Marco Theater. This Kiosk may be missed if you are walking from Italy to Germany, but could never be said if you were walking the other direction. It has a gorgeous sign made out of wine corks in the shape of huge grapes. I love that detail. Molto Bene! Bellissimo!
Caprese Salad: One of the best deals in the park. Fresh Mozzarella, grape tomatoes, and a salad mix with Italian Vinaigrette. Presentation: Salad in a cup. Taste: Cold, refreshing, tangy salad with lovely chunks of mozzarella.
Antipasto Platter: Sliced meats, olives, mozzarella, and roaster red peppers. I wasn’t super hungry and this dish offered a nice portion for those who would like a nice snack with wine. Taste: meats, olives, and cheese. Again, how can you go wrong with that?
Panna Cotta: Vanilla Cream Pudding with strawberries. Presentation: Artistically presented on a platter with a sliced strawberry to the side. Taste: Delicious. I wish this was served all year long.
Wine: I love Chianti and so I chose the Donna Laura Chianti. It was mellow with a few peppery notes. It went well with my Antipasto Platter. Delizioso!
Location of Kiosk: In Italy on the right hand side between Da Vinci’s garden and San Marco Theater. It is a brightly colored kiosk that cannot be missed. If you look closely at the silver sun on the top and side, you may be surprised to find out that it is actually made from cooking utensils!
Tapas: Roasted Marcona Almonds, marinated olives, and manchego cheese with Membrillo (quince paste). Presentation: Most impressive presentation of food in the park I have seen thus far. A clear plastic three divided tray is used to separate the ingredients. Taste: I could eat these items all day long… on weekends, at night, in a box, with a fox, on a train, in the rain. I was surprised at how something so simple in concept, could be so enjoyable at a theme park.
Venera con Jamon: Scallop Wrapped in Cured Ham with Saffron Rice and Romesco Sauce. Presentation: A jumbo scallop cooked with a strip of bacon skewered together and a side of rice. Taste: The Scallop was amazing. It was wrapped in Bacon. Case closed. I wish the rice had more saffron but since it is the most expensive spice per pound, I shouldn’t be too picky! Still, it prepared well and I will never, ever turn down a scallop. Or Bacon. Mmmmm bacon.
Pancho Sangria: I was told by two of my friends that this was astounding. Therefore, I shall try it on my next trip.
Location of Kiosk: Next to Escape from Pompeii. White with a blue tile mosaic pattern; there is no confusion that the kiosk represents Greece. However, don’t forget to look up! There is a super cute little red table on top with two bistro chairs. Simply adorable. I wonder if you can ask for reservations.
Halloumi: MY FAVORITE DISH AWARD GOES TO THE MIGHTY HALLOUMI! Griddled Greek Cheese with Clover Honey and Crushed Pistachious. Presentation: Exactly that. Taste: Heaven in Cheese form with honey and pistachios on top! More please?
Souvlaki Tzaziki Presentation: a marinated roasted pork & sweet pepper skewer with cucumber dill & yogurt sauce over a bed of fresh greens. Taste: Awesomeness on a stick.
Salata: Greek Salad with Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette and a crispy pita chip. Taste: Greek Salad is hard to make unique when you can order it so often at restaurants. However, the Lemon Oregano dressing makes this salad a little different and I really enjoyed it.
Wine: Elios Mediterranean Red Blend: Smooth and somewhat dry. I chose this wine to go with my pork skewer and salty Greek salad. It was a good, but I could also see the Elios white wine being a better choice with the pork.
Kiosks I missed~
Location: As soon as you enter Ireland from Scotland to your left. Previously a food cart, this area was touched up to have more of a Celtic Flair and offers Irish food like Bangers and Colcannon, Irish Cheese and of course, Guinness.
Location: Ireland; across from the Abbey Stone Theater. Rustic décor with a mighty big fish hanging off the building signifies you are at the Scandinavian station. Cured salmon, Swedish meatballs (that I heard were fantastic), and a waffle cone cookie are your choices here along with wine and a frozen cocktail.
Crepes & Coffee
Location: France near the Le Belle Gift Shop. A beautiful new addition to the park; this stand is under a wooden trellis with hanging wisteria. Here you can buy a crepe, coffee, or a glass of wine. Having French waiters greet you and ask you about your day while enjoying your food selection: Priceless!
Location: In France near Griffon Gifts. It was formally a drink kiosk and features a lovely little sampler platter of Belgian chocolate, toasted hazelnuts, and Edam Cheese. (Much like the Spain Tapas plate). The booth also has a Belgian “Beer Flight” of four beers.
Different from the wines featured at the kiosks, the Wine Tasting is offered at three gift shop locations: Bella Casa, Le Belle, and German Gifts. These locations also feature wine related merchandise, apparel, and even bottles of wine.
Each location offers the guest four samples of wine and a souvenir Food & Wine Festival Glass for $14.95. Once the glass has been purchased, one can take it to the two other locations and partake in the tasting for only $6.95 (Season pass member discounts apply). DEAL!
Located near San Marco Theater and adjacent to the Artisans of Italy Capodimonte shop; Bella Casa features an Italian Wine Tasting or an Italian/ Virginia Wine Comparison. My favorite wine of the festival so far belongs to a local vineyard and featured a wine at the Bella Casa Gift Shop. So Congratulations to Ingleside 2007 Cabernet!
Located in the Aquitaine section of France near Le Aeronaut Skyride, Le Belle offers a selection of French Wine or a Virginia/ French comparison. The French rosé was my favorite, but honestly; they were all very nice.
Located in the Rhinefeld section of Germany, German Gifts hosts an array of German Rieslings as part of their tasting set. I am not one to drink sweet wines such as Rieslings, but after tasting their selections; I was impressed.
Each of the above gift shop locations offers full bottles for purchase either to enjoy in the park or to take home. Just be aware that once the bottle is opened, it cannot leave the park! So if you plan on drinking a bottle with friends, best to start early and finish it in time before you leave.
Tee shirts and tote bags with the Food & Wine Logo are also being sold in the park.
Food & Wine Cashless Wristbands are also sold in several stores in case you miss the Welcome Center entering the park.
I cannot encompass the true experience of the Food & Wine Festival into words. It is just that expansive.
Speaking with Justin Watson, the resident chef of Busch Gardens, I was amazed at how much planning and preparation went into each dish and how even something as having fresh parsley for such a large crowd could pose such a challenge. He seemed quite anxious to hear feedback on the recipes created by the talented culinary team at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
He needn’t worry. Everything was exceptional! “Une des meilleures tables, vaut le voyage” (Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey). Three Stars!
So hop on out to Busch Gardens and discover what your favorite dish is! Just remember to stop and smell the rosé along the way.
This is an event to savor!
Time to Wine and Dine at Busch Gardens
Something new is brewing at the park and surprisingly, it isn’t beer. It’s wine! Busch Gardens Williamsburg will open their arms and wine bottles to welcome all to their very first Food & Wine Festival in 2013!
Austrian, German, Canadian, French, Scandinavian, Grecian, Italian, Scottish, Spanish, Irish*, and Belgian* cuisines will be featured at various locations (kiosks) around the park. Suggested wine pairings to the various food samples will be offered at each location. (See below for more details on dates, times, and pricing.) There will also be a German Beer*, and Crepe & Coffee* kiosk as well.
In addition to the festival, the park is offering quite an array of extra wine experiences. There will be wine tastings offered in France, Germany, and Italy, a “Wine on the Rhine” cruise, and also a very elite VIP tour for the serious wine and food aficionados out there. Most of these will require advance booking, so make sure to visit the Busch Gardens webpage or the Tour Center inside the park to see dates, times, prices, and availability of purchase.
As a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur and foodie (A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet), I cannot wait to enjoy all the park has to offer this year in wine, food, and fun!
*Note: (Above information marked with an asterisk was added to the Busch Gardens Website on 5-15-13)
Please note all information listed below was directly found on the Busch Gardens Williamsburg website as of May 15, 2013 and therefore, event details and pricing may be subject to change.
The Food & Wine Festival basics:
Dates: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 31 – June 23
Time: 11 a.m. until one hour before park closing
Admission to the festival is included with park admission, and individual tastings range in price from $3-$7.
It’s a merry Merlot mess at Il Teatro di San Marco, where our all-new interactive grape-stomping show is a fantastically fun spin on a classic Italian tradition. Bring your friends and family and watch as our crazy cast smashes grapes. Think you’ve got what it takes to be a champion? Get ready, because you could be challenged to a stomp-off.
Live cooking demonstrations with Chef Virginia Willis throughout the day at Il Teatro di San Marco on May 31 – June 2 and June 15 -16. See venue or park map for show times.
Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center
Situated right outside the main gate, our Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center is a one-stop information shop. Have a question about our brand new event? Ask one of our friendly hosts, or pick up a special event guide that will point you toward the closest culinary adventure. Browse culinary-themed merchandise, or register for unique experiences like wine tastings, behind-the-scenes VIP tours and celebrity chef encounters.
Additional Food & Wine experiences to consider in 2013
Please note all information below was found on the Busch Gardens website as of May 15, 2013; event details and pricing may change.
French Wine Tasting
Enjoy a tasting of four French wines in our newly renovated wine bar located at La Belle in New France.
Wine Tasting details:
- Taste (4) different French wines.
- Each sample is (1) ounce of wine.
- Learn about the wine offerings of France.
- Recieve a complimentary souvenir wine glass.
- Tastings are approximately 20 minutes in length.
- Available daily from May 24th – October 27th, 2013.
- You must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol.
- Positive proof of age is required.
- General admission to the park and parking are not included and are required.
Please arrive 15 minutes in advance to confirm your reservation.
Pass members receive a special rate by logging into the pass member area of the website.
Cancellations: Dining reservations must be cancelled or rebooked a minimum of one day prior to the scheduled dine or total payment will be forfeited.
Food & Wine VIP Tour
The Food & Wine Tour offers a sampling of foods and wines from around the world. This experience will excite your palate for sure!
- Each tour will be enlightened by its own personal guide.
- Learn about food and wine pairings from various cultures.
- Experience the flavors of 6 food menu items and a choice of 3 beverages.
- Tour is approximately 3 hours in length.
- Available every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 31 to June 23.
- You must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol.
- Positive proof of age is required.
General admission to the park and parking are not included and are required.
Cancellations: Tour reservations must be cancelled or rebooked a minimum of one day prior to the scheduled tour or total payment will be forfeited.
Wine on the Rhine
Enjoy a glass of wine served with cheese, crackers, strawberries, grapes and a dark chocolate truffle while cruising the Rhine River
- Wine choices for guests ages 21 years old include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Moscato, Chardonnay and White Zinfandel.
- Beverage choices for guests under 21 years old include water, soda or a juice pouch.
Your cruise details:
- Check in at the Rhine River Boat Docks 15 minutes prior to your selected cruise time.
- The boat will leave the docks promptly at the designated cruise time.
- The cruise is approximately 25-30 minutes in length.
- You must be 21 years of age to purchase and consume alcohol.
- Positive proof of age is required.
- The Rhine River Boat Docks are at the bottom of a hill and a steep set of steps.
- The area is not wheelchair accessible.
Cancellations: Reservations must be cancelled or rebooked a minimum of one day prior to the scheduled cruise or total payment will be forfeited.
Park admission and parking are not included and are required.
Pass Members receive a special rate by logging in to the Pass Member area of Busch Gardens’ website.
Busch Gardens Live concert series Sailed Away with a Rocking Start!
Upon hearing that the legendary progressive 70s rock band Styx would be the opening concert series at Busch Gardens this year, I couldn’t have been happier. I grew up as a roller-skating Rink Rat kid and therefore, the music of Styx was engrained in my head at an early age. Their music is a part of who I am and my journey in life. What a joy to finally hear them play live and at Busch Gardens Williamsburg no less! Woot~ mega Score!
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Puffy white clouds sailed away in blue sky above the venue and the quiet breeze kept the temperature just right to rock the night away. I decided to upgrade and pay a bit more for the reserved seats for me and my husband. This also included my dinner for the evening and made for an excellent date night.
The seats we found were a few rows from the front-right and without any obstructed view. Pretty soon the Royal Palace Theater was full of guests and the energy started to grow while up tempo 80s music got the crowd moving.
When the band came out, I was impressed. Being that most of the 80s bands are returning to the touring circuit, I’ve seen many famous groups return to the stage. Some bands hold up well and they look and sound amazing. Others; well… so the story goes. Styx was a band that fell in the former category.
Tommy Shaw, guitarist-singer-songwriter for Styx, looked better than he did in the 70s. I have no idea what diet and exercise regiment the guy is on, but sign me up! Vocals for the group sounded just as I remembered and it was if I was transported back in time. Classic; timeless and influential to modern music; Styx really did their music justice that night.
Their setlist had a great balance of their Progressive Rock history with hits such as: Lady, Come Sail Away, Too Much Time on my Hands, and Renegade. I stood and danced the night away! Even with the obvious omission of Mr. Roboto, my husband and I had a blast! The fact that such an event was technically free to park guests still astounds me.
Busch Gardens should be proud to have added such a classic rock band to their roster and I am super excited to see who else will grace the Royal Palace stage in the years ahead!
Now I can hold my head high and proudly say I saw Styx perform live in concert! Domo Arigato Busch Gardens. Domo.
The Ultimate Insider Tour: Ultimately Awesome!
Taking the Ultimate Insider Tour was for me, the “ultimate” Busch Gardens guru was a no-brainer. I was a very happy camper pulling up to the parking lot at 8:30am; ticket in hand and meeting my friends for an 8 hour adventure!
The tour includes preferred parking, early access to the park, touring the bakery, a behind-the-scenes tour of The Curse of DarKastle and Pompeii, VIP access to rides during the tour, VIP seating for Celtic Fyre and Entwined, and a meal voucher that includes a entire main course, side item, desert, and drink!
All of this awesomeness set me back $80.00. However, when you calculate the meal into the ticket price, your actual tour is closer to around $63.00. Being that I had one of the best trips to Busch Gardens in quite some time, I say it was worth every penny. Also, my season pass offered me a discount on the price, so it was even less.
Our little group of four consisted of a serious gang of Busch Gardens enthusiasts. We all planned on taking the tour together in order to maximize our park knowledge. I sure hope that our tour guides enjoyed all the geeky trivia we were blurting out the entire time.
Speaking of, we had two tour guides greet us at the park entrance; Ashleigh and Kelsie. Both of them greeted us warmly and immediately began the tour. Kelsie was currently training under Ashleigh, so I made sure to stay close by and give her as many trivia facts as possible. She now possesses the knowledge of how many cabins are on the skyride, the hidden “Grimm’s Hollow” throwbacks found in Land of the Dragons, and pretty much everything and anything you needed to know about the Big Bad Wolf roller coaster.
There is nothing I love more than talking about Busch Gardens and I am glad Kelsie was patient enough to listen to me. “Much to learn you still have…my padawan. Now, know the exact date that Busch Gardens opened do you?”
Going back to the tour, we started out with a trek to the Festhaus bakery. For someone with a wheat allergy, it was like being set in the Garden of Eden and told not to touch the forbidden fruit. Torture I tell you; absolute torture!
Cakes, rolls, and all kinds of floury treats hit your senses as soon as you walk in the door. Racks of torte cakes rolled by, bakers were applying icing on carrot cakes, and even a plate of chocolate chip cookies were set out with a little note that said “Thank you for Taking Our Tour.”
I was so touched by their kindness but since I couldn’t eat my cookie, I passed it on to another in my group that was more than happy to sample the dessert on my behalf.
The bakery was amazing. It was a flurry of workers getting everything made for the day. The supervisor stepped in and explained that all the bread, cakes, and so forth were made fresh everyday at the park. Yes. Everything at Busch Gardens is made fresh for you everyday! There are no “frozen” cakes that they thaw out. So next time your mouth begins to water over a layered torte cake at the Festhaus, just remember, it was made with pride right there at Busch Gardens!
We were led outside the Festahaus bakery and made our way over to the maintenance area of DarKastle.
Instantly, we were greeted by a long row of mechanical sleighs. For a moment, we all just stood in awe before we all whipped out our cameras; it was one of those eye-opening WOW experiences!
Joe and Jason, two members of the DarKastle maintenance team, went over the questions we had about the technical aspects of the ride. They were very considerate of our inquiries and seemed to really enjoy the interaction with our group. They even allowed me to have a little cup of their coffee; a much needed boost to my early morning adventure at Busch Gardens.
After testing one of the sleighs right in front of us, we all headed through the ride on foot. Seeing all the detail of the ride first-hand was astounding. During the ride, you are turning and swerving all the time and you hardly get a moment to really notice all the detail. I was extremely impressed at the craftsmanship of the ride and the technology behind it all! The tour guides made sure we were finished our walk through by the time the ride opened for the general public.
The tour led us to the control booth were we got to witness the testing of the ride. We were shown all the safety checks and how the ride securely operates on a day to day basis. I was in theme park heaven at this point. I could almost see the clouds part and a ray of light hit the control panels with a choir of harmonious voices singing “AHHHHH!”
Saying goodbye to all the staff at Darkastle, Ashleigh and Kelsie took us onward, stopping at a few rides along the way.
Escape from Pompeii was next on our agenda and upon reaching the ride, we went inside the secret passage that no guest dares to venture. It was a dark hallway and very spooky. In fact, many of the Howl-O-Scream decorations were still up, so the haunted atmosphere was a little disconcerting walking up stairway that led us up to the Pompeii control tower.
Many times I looked up to the Escape from Pompeii facade and noticed a little mesh covered window next to the final drop. I’ve often wondered who is peering at me from behind that curtain; making sure all the riders were securely seated in the boats. Four long flights of stairs later, we met the team member who does just that. The room was air conditioned too, which must be nice on those hot summer days.
Back tracking a little, we went into the room were the pyrotechnics were being controlled. Yes. A team member is responsible for all that fire you see leaping around you as you pass by safely in your boat. I will say that control room was rather hot but it was absolutely hilarious to watch guests scream at all the explosions; oblivious that they are being watched from above.
We took this time to grab some lunch and watch Entwined at the Festhaus. After the walking for four miles, the air conditioned break was perfectly timed. It was also very nice to have dining passes. We could have any meal and dessert of our choosing. Score!
During our trip, we decided to sign up for the Verbolten Insider Tour in addition to the Ultimate Insider Tour. We purchased our tickets and met up with the 1pm tour group at Verbolten. I had been in the building once before, but I have never had the joy of climbing up the hill behind the building were the final drop is located. It was like standing on sacred ground. Looking around, I could feel the start of tears thinking that I was right were the Big Bad Wolf roller coaster once stood. Being so close to that special place and also having a rare glimpse of the new ride that will always contain a part of “the Wolf’s soul,” was a bit overwhelming for me.
The inside of the building was rather intense as you can hear all the sound effects and the coaster roaring by! It was fun to have such access to what only a few park employees get to see on a daily basis.
After the Verbolten tour we rode a few more rides and went over to Ireland to watch Celtic Fyre. Having VIP seating allows you front row access. I’ve seen Celtic Fyre over a hundred times, but nothing beats seeing the power of the dancing just inches away from your nose.
Lastly, we took a peek in the maintenance bay of the Loch Ness Monster and also inside the control room of Europe in the Air, where I ran into Cristal who used to work at the Big Bad Wolf. I was so happy to see my friend again and to also find a little “Wolf” sticker hiding out at Loch Ness! It was a perfect end to a perfect day.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, and I was sad to say farewell to Kelsie and Ashleigh since I thoroughly enjoyed their company on Busch Gardens Ultimate Insider Tour. Eventually, I hope to take all the tours the park offers because as I always say:
“One can never have too much of Busch Gardens Williamsburg! EVER!”