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Busch Gardens Williamsburg has opened their doors for the 2014 season! The weather was absolutely picture perfect; sunny, cheerful, and a much needed break from a very long and bitter winter.
As any Virginian knows, Sunday was the exact opposite. So much so, I decided to stay home in the warm cozy confines of my couch wrapped tightly in a blanket and missed out on opening day for the general public.
The park did not have any official announcements or meetings for Pass Members. In all honesty, I have nothing to report about future attractions and events this year. Thus, all I can discuss are the small changes I saw around the park.
The first thing was a ginormous sign advertising the new water ride “Colossal Curl” at Water Country. Personally, I burn as fast a boiling lobster, so Water Country is not a place I can utilize or enjoy. I do believe that this is the first time such a large ad for Water Country was built inside the gates of Busch Gardens.
Last year we were told about a new show called London Rocks. The show was not ready by opening weekend and from what I gather will be opening in May. There were no real changes to Banbury that I could tell.
Apollo was my first ride and for a good reason. Apollo is turning 15 years old March 30th; thus please see the gathering I created as a special event for Apollo fans here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1458860284333719/ Yay for Apollo! I noticed that by the time we reached the top of the first hill, we could see the traffic to get in the park stretched to the interstate. I tell you folks, it pays to get there early.
In San Marco, the Artisans of Italy and Bella Casa gift shops got a new and classy face lift. The displays were much brighter and cheerful. The artists looked happy and the porcelain flowers looked as lovely as ever.
Also in San Marco, the new deck and dining area was completed. It looked fantastic and allows more seating, which will be nice come the food and wine festival.
The Rhine River cruise was closed due to upgrades, but the bridge was open and the renovations looked to be mostly complete. The extra space will certainly allow more traffic on the bridge; a much needed improvement.
Nothing much to report in Oktoberfest except the Festhaus floor has partially been repainted to a blood red color. Not exactly sure what purpose that serves; it struck me as rather odd.
Heading towards Rhinefeld, the Bunny trail was up in all its glory. The interesting critters from Illuminights found their way on the Bunny Trail and also into the gardens near DarKastle. The snail (who many park enthusiasts have named “Oscar”), the ants, bees/lightening bugs, giant turtle, and frog are all there. Oscar the snail was missing his French chef hat and mustache and Mr. Frog was missing his top hat and monocle. Interesting, and I am not sure the purpose behind it all.
Land of the Dragons has been spruced up with fresh paint and looked to be cleaner and brighter all around. The kids should enjoy the new look for the 20th anniversary of the play area. Rumor is that there will be a new show. Something I hope happens. The area would greatly benefit from another family fun show and activity.
Le Scoot was mostly refurbished. Hopefully there will be no delays in opening the classic ride when the weather is nice enough to enjoy it. I am just thrilled to see one of the original rides at BuschGardens get some love. It is a true gem and one that holds tons of memories since 1975. Also in New France, the newly renovated bathrooms have not been completed.
Oh, and before I forget; Europe in the Air was running again. I didn’t get a chance to ride it, but it was nice to see that Killarney had an operating attraction this year.
Entertainment wise, Entwined was the only major show playing. The lovely Killarney village band and the Italian Ensemble were performing in Killarney and San Marco.
Celtic Fyre will be opening (hopefully) next weekend along with “This is Oktoberfest.” A Sesame Street show will replace “Mix it Up” until the end of April at the Teatro di San Marco. Rumors are buzzing that the Maypole dancers and the Aquitaine village band will not be returning this year. If so, I will miss both performances immensely. They really added character to the park.
That is about it. Not much to report other than I had a good time and enjoyed seeing my friends and meeting new Busch Gardens enthusiasts. I’ll be heading out again next weekend, so if there are any new additions, I will let everyone know.
I hope you all get to come out and enjoy the park this year! In the meantime, no more snow Virginia- please!
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!
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!
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 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.
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!
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.
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.