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Battle for Eire: Looking Ahead
News about Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s newest attraction, Battle for Eire, has been buzzing around social media for months. Scheduled to open April of 2018, the ride will feature a state-of-the-art VR experience that utilizes custom visual software and a musical score that will wow the crowds.
I had the honor of attending the media day/ Hard Hat Tour and was given access to interesting and new details about the ride. Suzy Cheely, the Director of Design and Engineering at Seaworld Parks & Entertainment, Jason Ambler, Executive Producer & Director of Production at Falcon’s Creative Group, and Larry Giles, the VP of Engineering at Busch Gardens Williamsburg were all on hand to discuss and answer questions.
What to expect:
Battle for Eire will be located in the Ireland section of the park and will be replacing the Europe in the Air simulator ride. It is a one-of-a-kind Virtual Reality attraction that will allow guests a unique visual experience each and every time.
What does that mean exactly?
Each headset, unlike other simulator rides found outside Busch Parks, has been programed with a separate mini computer which enables 4K resolution and 90 frames per second. In addition, this new technology provides each rider a unique visual adventure. Based on the individual’s head movements, the software will trigger specific animations for each rider. Someone could ride numerous times and still not see all the programmed animation.
Personally, that fact alone has me really excited. For a theme park enthusiast like myself, nothing like a good Easter Egg* hunt! (I was told there were a few, so let the hunt begin!)
The actual story behind Battle for Eire is original but will have strong ties to Celtic Mythology. It centers around a main character named Addie, short for Aednat (meaning Small Flame in Gaelic). She is a fierce female Fairy warrior trying to save the heart (or magic) of Ireland. In order to do so, she must recruit the help of guests entering the ride. It will be up to the riders to assist her in bringing magic back to Ireland.
Addie is accompanied by her Dragon Ollie, who will be carrying guests on their simulated adventure. Ollie, short for Ollipeist (meaning “Fabulous Beast” in Gaelic), is based on the mythological dragon that legend has it, inhabits a lake in Ireland. Addie uses her friend Ollie to travel through Eire in hopes to beat Balor and his minions, the Sluagh.
Balor, the antagonist of this adventure is based on a Celtic supernatural being that has been referenced in legend as a personification of drought and blight. He is also a Cyclops that creates destruction whenever his eye opens.
The minions of Balor, the Sluagh, also have a connection to Celtic mythology. In myth, they are flocks of restless spirits that are troublesome and destructive.
Being that both Balor and the Sluagh are featured in this ride, it’s a safe bet that these creatures will certainly be a fearsome adversary on the quest to save the magic of Eire.
Larry Giles, VP of Engineering, hinted that each rider may choose to aid in saving the magic of Eire or not. I am intrigued by that ambiguous statement and wonder how that plays into the VR experience. I guess that will be a wait and see kind of answer.
So….what about the technical aspects of the ride itself?
Here are some facts and figures that may help answer your questions:
- Height requirement of 42”
- 7.1 mix audio and Stereo 4K sound
- VR headsets will all have their own computer to generate a personal experience with 4K resolution with 90 frames per second. (Seamless graphics at all times)
- 59 seats in each unit. There are two separate units for passengers.
- Total ride experience from pre show, loading, and ride itself is approx 15 min.
- Ride video will be projected on-screen for those not wanting to use the VR Headsets (in case riders are prone to motion sickness)
- VR Glasses (or Enchanted Lens as they are called in the ride) are separate from the Headsets (or Emerald Masks).
- There are 10,000 Emerald masks that feature a magnetic locking device for your VR
- Each Emerald Mask is returned at the end and sanitized completely. The actual VR headset never touches your face and can also accommodate guests wearing glasses.
- Uses existing unit has 6 actuators (Internal Hydraulic System) with 2000 psi. Similar systems are used at NASA for flight simulation.
- Voice talent hired from Dublin
- Original musical score from Irish Composer Colin O’Malley and features a full orchestra, choir, and soloists.
During the tour, I was able to go under the ride to view the mechanics and discover how it operates. The existing simulator will have a much larger range of motion from other rides that came before it. Previously, the mechanics were always hindered by keeping a tight alignment to a fixed screen. According to Larry Giles, it really “Moves and Dances” like never before.
Regarding the Musical Composition featured in the Battle for Eire:
During the behind-the-scenes tour, we did not have access to listen to the soundtrack. Luckily, I was able to reach the composer Colin O’Malley directly and he provided me with background information about the music and those who also contributed the original score.
First of all, let’s begin with Colin O’Malley. He is a highly acclaimed songwriter, orchestrator, and composer who has previously worked for companies such as Disney, Universal Studios, and Electronic Arts. In 2005, he received an Emmy nomination for his score in the PBS WW II documentary The Last Reunion: A Gathering of Heroes. If you would like to know more about Colin and his extensive background in music, I would recommend visiting his website at http://colinomalley.com
In addition, the soundtrack for Battle of Eire will feature the Capellan Orchestra; located in Prague and run by the conductor Petr Polonlanik. The soprano soloist is Jennifer Thigpen, who has a long career singing in The Voices of Liberty at Walt Disney World. She is also known for her #1 song on the classical music charts called “A Place in Heaven”. The Irish Wind accompaniment will be performed by recording artist and remote session musician, William Arnold.
No doubt the music will be enchanting and true to the spirit of authentic Celtic melodies.
Here are some music samples that may give you a sense of how epic the music will surely be:
Colin O’Malley: http://bit.ly/2FvjgPE
Capellan Orchestra: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGh4FcZKekA
Jennifer Thigpen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tCg9P1QsMY
William Arnold: https://www.youtube.com/user/themusicinstigator
Well folks, now it is a waiting game from this point.
The park posted a generalized opening date of “April 2018” via social media but keep in mind that opening dates are always subject to change. Let’s hope that there will be no major delays.
So how do I personally view Battle for Eire so far? Honestly, I cant wait! The ride animation has this Don Bluth Animation style mixed together with a Labyrinth/ Dark Crystal vibe. The technical aspects seem to harness a superior version of an Oculus Rift with a simulator that utilizes the mechanics of a NASA flight simulator. It’s as if the technology of the best-selling novel Ready Player One* is here and we get enjoy the ride.
May the Battle for Eire begin!
(Top to Bottom: Interior Theming photo, Interior Shot of Battle For Eire, Suzy Cheely explains how to use the VR Headsets, Jason Ambler discusses the production aspects of the ride, and Larry Giles answers our questions regarding the mechanical and engineering behind the ride).
* Easter Egg: is an intentional inside joke, hidden message or image, or secret feature of a work (often found in a computer program or video game). The name is used to evoke the idea of a traditional Easter Egg Hunt. The term was coined to describe a hidden message in the Atari video game Adventure that encouraged the player to find further hidden messages in later games, leading them on a ‘hunt’.
Side note: In Battle for Eire, I’m hoping for some “Questor or Corkscrew Hill” Easter Eggs during the ride. Fingers Crossed!
*The book/movie Ready Player One is fictional story about a character named Wade Watts, who embarks on his search for an Easter Egg in Virtual Reality game; the discovery of which will lead him to inherit a fortune.
This year, Howl-O-Scream Bites right into your fears with scares to make you shiver!
If you haven’t experienced Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens this year, now is your time. Every weekend until Sunday, October 29th, the park is ready to scare and entertain guests with new additions and returning fan favorites. This year’s schedule also includes an additional bonus! The park will be open on two Thursdays (the 19th and 26th) and on select Saturdays (the 7th, 14th, 21st, and the 28th), guests will have until midnight to experience all the event has to offer!
As for me…
I’ve been actively returning to the park since opening day of Howl-O-Scream; making sure to catch up on all the fun opportunities guests can experience. As always, the park goes above and beyond to bring the ultimate level of fun and creepiness for those willing to be scared.
So what’s new?
Let’s start with Frostbite. Located in the Oktoberfest section of the park, Frostbite is a walk-through haunted house that utilizes the interior of the Curse of Darkastle ride. It was a fantastic choice! Without revealing major spoilers, I’ll just say that the maze is a very chilling experience; literally. The AC is kicked on full blast and sets the tone from the first step inside. Just so you know, “Winter is Coming”. (Wink…wink to any Game of Thrones fan).
I sincerely enjoyed the haunted house, with its clever use of the projection screens, sound effects, atmospheric lighting, ghoulish costumes, and a generous use of jump scares. It was by far, my favorite haunted house this year.
*Also… a cool side note regarding some Busch Gardens History found inside Frostbite:
You have to look closely inside the maze, but with a trained eye you can spot the old Neptune statue that was once located in the center of a small fountain in the Rhine River, (way back in the Old Country era). This statue was also reused in the retired Haunted House, Bitten. Oh Neptune, how glad I am to see you well.
In addition to Neptune, the lighted Gargoyles holding cauldrons are also found in the maze. These were originally in the decor of the Enchanted Laboratory, a show that had tremendous success in the old area of Hastings, (currently Ireland). These gargoyles reappeared in the once popular Howl-O-Scream dinner show, Blood Banquet. I couldn’t get a clear picture due to low lighting. Hint: They are near the end of the maze and you have to look up to spot them.
Moving from Oktoberfest to New France, you’ll find the other fresh addition. Axe Alley is a new Terror-Tory that replaced last year’s theme of Windigo Woods. Axe wielding Vikings stalk guests with unexpected battle cries and staged attacks. The themed area fits well with the nearby coaster, Invadr. Be warned! The Windigo still remains chained up… for now!
Last but not least is the new Escape Room, the Case of the Haunted Hotel. In the midst of a cursed hotel, this new attraction features a series of puzzles to trick guests and delay the possibility of escape! Returning is the Case of Mr. Karver; a mad doll maker who wants nothing more than to trick you into staying indefinitely! To those who played the game of Mr. Karver last year, there is good news. All the puzzles and challenges have been changed to create a whole new mystery to solve!
If you wish to enjoy The Case of the Haunted Hotel or, The Case of Mr. Karver, there are some things you need to know:
Both escape rooms have a separate up charge and are not included with regular admission. Making a reservation online or immediately upon entering the park is strongly suggested. Only six guests are allowed in each reserved time slot. You must be 18 or older with a valid ID. In order to receive a discount on admission, you must have a valid season pass. If you are interested in booking a time slot at either Escape Room, more information is found on the Busch Gardens website here: https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/experiences/no-escape
So what’s back again this year?
As I mentioned briefly above, the indoor haunted house, Bitten, has been removed. However, many of the previous Haunted Houses/ Mazes and Terror-Tories have returned.
- Unearthed: Scarlet’s Revenge (Ireland)
- Catacombs (New France)
- Cornered (Oktoberfest)
- Lumberhack (Oktoberfest)
- Circo Sinistro (Festa Italia)
- Deadline (Italy)
- Ripper Row (England)
- Demon Street (France)
- Vampire Point (now located in Oktoberfest)
- Sideshow Square (Festa Italia)
What about the shows and adult beverages?
Let’s face it; Busch Gardens Williamsburg is constantly ranked high in theme park shows and entertainment category. Rightfully so I may add! Talented singers, actors, musicians, and dancers light up the stage in unforgettable performances all around the park. Just remember that all the major shows contain suggestive adult overtones.
This year there is a new spin on an old classic. Night Beats: Revamped features a new stage and story. Located inside the Festhaus, the show contains a new cast of characters with a quick paced story line that keeps the music going. I find the show quirky, amusing, and full of current pop songs cleverly mixed in with samples of original Night Beats music.
Side note: I was sad to see that the old characters of Ulrich and Beatrix have been retired. However, I do appreciate the little homage by placing their names on tombstones at the top of the stage. Speaking of, the stage is opened to reveal the location of once beloved German band platform. If you grew up in the old days of Busch Gardens, seeing the musicians play back in their old stomping grounds will certainly bring back some memories.
If you are a fan of last year’s shows, you needn’t worry. Monster Stomp (England), Fiends (Ireland), and the Starfright Orchestra (Italy), have all returned!
And last but not least….
Those who are 21 and over will have plenty of opportunities to find adult beverages at numerous places around the park. Most locations feature “Spirit Bars” where a host of costumed character actors serve up some spooktacular concoctions to guests. Since there are so many to choose from, here is a link to the park’s website listings: https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/howloscream/experiences/dining-and-spirits
This list does not include the wine tastings located in France, Germany, New France, and Italy. The France and Italy wine tasting locations also have themed cocktails!
Well folks, that’s a wrap!
It is always a pleasure to share my memories with all of you. I really enjoyed Howl-O-Scream this year and I hope you do too. Thanks for reading my blog and may you all have a “Wickedly Wonderful” adventure at Howl-O-Scream 2017! Cheers!
Here is an additional cool place to explore: A friend of mine, who runs IoMGeek.com, does an amazing job with theme park reviews and YouTube videos. He released a park walk-through and I highly recommend watching! Feel free to like, comment, and subscribe to his channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slObupBBF58
To the Team Members and Park Employees:
My gratitude extends to all those who have successfully come together to create a highly anticipated attraction each year. The amount of work transforming the park in such a short period of time always astounds me.
Thank you all so much. You guys and gals are all top notch!
It’s hard to believe but April 7th, 2017 has already sprung upon us; ushering in the official opening of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s newest attraction, Invadr.
Starting over a year ago, the park’s executives and marketing team, through a clever use of social media, openly revealed aspects of the ride in stages; even allowing fans to take part by voting on the name and logo for Invadr. This was a brilliant move. It created a palpable anticipation that connected coaster enthusiasts together.
Invadr’s selected location is quite sentimental for an old park goer like myself. It is nestled between three of the original attractions that date back to the park’s opening day in 1975; Le Scoot log flume, the Busch Gardens Railway and Le Catapult. Invadr ties these iconic rides together through clever location and an organic flow.
This brings up another point.
It took major skill in the planning and design of Invadr. The wood-metal hybrid coaster winds around (and even over) both the LeScoot Log flume and the park’s iconic train ride. Though a relatively small footprint, Invadr feels like a continuous interweaving of lines and space; much like Norse art itself. Even the queue line mirrors the entwining aspect of the coaster and allows riders a great view of the structure below!
Theming of the ride is spot on with touches of Norse art. For example, the entrance is a showstopper! An enormous dragon-shaped battering ram is bursting through the wood fortifications; allowing guests to venture forth. Wooden shields riddled arrows mark the queue and height requirements. Fences lining the path are decorated with Norse symbols. I especially loved the queue line detail of weathering the wooden beams to mimic a ferocious battle with their slashed and scorched battle scars.
The coaster cars are actually the storytellers. Both trains are adorned with powerful beasts that represent the two battling armies. The Viking raider train features a stylized dragon; steadfast, like a mast of a ship. The Villager train is adorned with a carved wooden bear; teeth bared and ready for attack. Who will win? The answer awaits those who ride.
Overall Invadr is an instant classic. Between the 9 airtime hills and the 74ft first drop, the rides tightly packed twists, turns, and dips really gets the blood pumping. Its sharp banking makes the ride seem much faster than the max speed; much like the classic and beloved Big Bad Wolf coaster. The ride is smooth and packs a punch that will leave a lasting impression to both young and old.
Speaking of young and old, the neighboring coaster Griffon turns 10 this year and its nearby companion, the Alpengeist, turns 20! Both of those rides hold a special place in so many hearts. Invadr will now be a part of that legacy. It will bond parents and their children, thrill coaster enthusiasts, and delight all who ride. May it continue to battle on for generations to come!
Long live Invadr!
- Special thanks to all who brought Invadr to life. From concept on, you all have built something extraordinary and presented it to those who have visited the park from the very beginning, to first time guests, and to everyone in-between. Please accept my appreciation and gratitude.
- I would also like to send a personal thank you to a few people in particular: The brilliant creative team; Cindy White, Melody Methany, and Erin Payne (independent contractors), Janelle Picard (Seaworld Entertainment). Richard Smith, AIA, ASID at GuernseyTingle. General Contractor: Brandon Nice from David Nice Builders, Inc. The Civil Engineering team at VHB. Busch Gardens Williamsburg Communications Associate Manager; Nathan Warters. Park President; David Cromwell. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me and so many enthusiastic guests on opening day!
For most of the fall-winter months, I saw what looked to be a strange, orange erector set structure reaching into the sky near Apollo’s Chariot. Soon after, light blue coaster tracks started rapidly appearing. During the off-season, these twisting tracks taunted me across the empty parking lots whenever I drove by on Route 60. Busch Gardens was obviously building a new coaster and thus, the anticipation of the opening day weighed heavily on my mind.
All the planning, design, engineering, construction, inspections, testing, and sheer will it takes to both fund and produce any thrill ride always amazes me. These talented people work so hard to please the riders, who are inevitably the final product’s judge and jury. In many ways, building a roller coaster is no different than producing a big budget, block buster film and praying for success at the box-office. However, this movie will play over and over for decades to come.
So I am putting on my Roger and Ebert hat and review Tempesto, the newest thrill ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Tempesto was manufactured by Premier Rides and is now nestled in a very small footprint in the Festa Italia section of the park. It features three launch elements, a 154-foot inversion, and reaches 63 mph on 883 feet of track.
Sounds impressive right? Well it is! I was able to ride the front, middle, and back car and for a ride that is less than one minute, it packs a punch! Being shot through a magnetic launching system both forward in backwards makes the station house look like a blur. You then rocket straight up, twisting while you go to crest over a length of track that has what looks to be an impossible corkscrew twist.
The inversion is that of a slow roll, and before you even get to focus on the landscape, you are thrust straight down through a tight fit of steal beams and track. There is another disorienting go round and back through the station for a roll back stop.
What is behind the name, “Tempesto?”
Here is the park’s official statement:
“In the rich tradition of the classic Italian Daredevils, no single man wowed the crowds like Tempesto. Busch Gardens’ daring new roller coaster, Tempesto, lets riders take center stage and recreate his signature stunt. Guests daring enough to take on Tempesto will race into unbelievably tight turns at 63 miles per hour and defy gravity as they roll through a complete inversion 154 feet in the air.”
The ride delivered on white-knuckle elements, but just as impressive was the theming. In true Busch Gardens’ fashion, the park has taken a roller coaster and given it a back-story everyone can relate to. Imagine that you are in a crowd at the circus looking up at the acrobats, tightrope walkers, and trapeze artists. Safely you sit among the spectators with a bag of popcorn and soda and watch people risk their lives. But… what if you were the daredevil? What would it feel like performing such terrifying stunts?
In my opinion, the theme stems back to turn of the century daredevils. For instance, there was a real life daredevil named Diavolo, who performed in Adam &Sells Bros. Circus in 1902. His act seemed to defy gravity on nothing more than a bicycle. According to sideshow.com, Diavolo’s “…big trick was to ride the bicycle down a triple extension ladder placed at an angle of 52 degrees from a height of 60 ft, bouncing and jumping over the rungs, keeping upright all 79 feet of the way and riding down on the hippodrome track.”
Here is an image of Diavolo and his act:
Lucky for us we are not in a bicycle during the 154 foot inversion when riding Tempesto. The ride features a loose fitting, over-the-shoulder soft harness with a pressure lock lap bar. The front row offers a frightening view of the 154 ft inversion and for a brief moment you wonder if the coaster will make it through the complete turn. The back car gives riders a real gut-wrenching pull over each drop for an extra wow factor.
Going back to the turn of the century, people cried out for more stunts featuring bicycles, automobiles, and motorcycles. Their technology was new, edgy, and spoke to those who dreamed of the future. Busch Gardens uses that concept to their advantage with Tempesto.
The entrance and queue line reflects a time period of death-defying acts of a traveling circus from the early 1900s. Vintage inspired sideshow posters are placed on the walls and carnival like lights string across the entrance in all its retro glory. Even the ride’s gift shop carries the vintage décor of an era gone by.
Nevertheless, the park cleverly meshes nostalgia and modern technology. That is why Tempesto is perfect theming for the 40th Anniversary of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It takes a timeless story and pushes the envelope for the daredevil in all of us.
My final conclusion:
Tempesto: an awesome ride with a Steam Punk vibe!
Now, it is time for you to decide. Will you stand and watch or do you dare to ride?
Thanks for reading my review and please make sure to Like BGW Memories on Facebook for more photos of Busch Gardens past and present. Feel free to share you memories, park photos, vinatge Busch Gardens images, and love for the park with us!
A collection of Historical Markers with factual information that celebrates the park’s rich 40 year history.
Before you read this, be aware that this blog post is a labor of love. The quest was extensive and time consuming, but I could hardly resist the lure of finding so many cool facts and photos!
In case you haven’t heard, the park has scattered little nuggets of historical images and information around the park like a nostalgic Easter Egg Hunt. Hopefully, I found them all.
If you visit the park this year, take note of the painted color scheme reflects The Old Country Logo. (That did not escape my notice Busch Gardens; nice touch!)
I for one, was pleasantly surprised by the sheer number and quality of the signs. Someone took great care in the construction, documentation, and appearance of the displays. So, to those who worked on this project: I salute you!
The following are my reasons for putting together this blog post:
- Some of you may not be able to visit the park this year. If so, I typed out each of the sign’s descriptions the park listed under each photo. I would have added the little trademark symbol as they do, but I honestly have no idea how to do that on the computer. Just imagine they are there.
- This may help provide a check list of how many there are. Spoiler alert: Some of them are really hard to find. It made for a fabulous form of exercise; so I have no complaints!
- I love anything about park history and honestly, I just want to share it with you all. Therefore, you will occasionally see that I added my own commentary after the descriptions. Such comments will be notated by an asterisk and in bold. *Like this….(fancy isn’t it?)
~ A journey through time via Busch Gardens 40th Anniversary Celebration’s mega-awesome park signage begins.
Tally Ho Adventurers! Your quest awaits!
Busch Gardens, The Old Country
What’s in a name? Busch Gardens has had many through the years. It opened as Busch Gardens, The Old Country; Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 1992; Busch Gardens Europe in 2006; and Busch Gardens in 2008. The original park design featured three villages celebrating the spirit of European villages from which early American settlers came. During the construction, a workman discovered a 200-year old brass and steel saber that was thought to be owned by a French engineer officer of the Revolutionary War period. The Williamsburg theme park was one of three Busch Gardens in the country, including Tampa Bay and Los Angeles. More than 6,000 park guests, led by Governor Mills E. Godwin, Jr. and television personality Ed McMahon, dedicated and officially opened the Old Country on May 16, 1975 after just one year of construction.
The Globe Theatre was the park’s largest structure when it opened in 1975, and it continues to host live shows in the double-sized replica of William Shakespeare’s performance space. Through the years, the theatre has featured a variety of extravaganzas from Mark Wilson’s Worlds Greatest Illusions, America on Ice, Hot Ice, Celebrate America to today’s London Rocks, with puppets, animation, and musical performances from classic British bands. The Bard was a writer for all seasons, and the Globe Theatre showcases many seasonal favorites such as Monster Stomp on Ripper Row, part of Howl-O-Scream and Scrooge No More for Christmas Town. For a time, 4D movies were also shown including Haunts of the Old Country, R.L. Stein’s Haunted Lighthouse and Pirates 4-D.
* I would like to mention two shows; Ghosts of the Globe and Haunts of the Old Country. BGW Memories’ Entertainment Photo Album on Facebook, you may find images of Ghosts of the Globe.
Double-Decker Bus Stop
From the moment guests arrived to Busch Gardens, they were immersed in the European Theme. Guests boarded red, double-decker buses using a special multi-level bus stop to carry them from the parking lots to the main entrance. At the time, Busch Gardens had parking for approximately 3,000 vehicles. Today the park has seven parking lots, including Scotland and Bavaria located across from the park.
* Additional Photos of these buses are found in BGW Memories Facebook Albums “Park Transportation” and “Postcards.”
The sky-high mode of transportation provides guests with a three-minute, 3,000 linear foot tour of the “World’s Most Beautiful Park.” Passengers enjoy views of six European countries while traveling nearly 80 feet in the air. It is the most popular ride in the park, and has given more than 75 million rides since the opening in 1975. All Aboard! Passengers travelling to the following destinations: England (Aeronaut Skyride), Aquitaine (Blimp Debarcadere Skyride) and Rhinefeld (Zeppelin landing Skyride). It is the only ride of its type with a triangular layout.
The Budweiser Clydesdales were first introduced to the public on April 7, 1933, to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. The first Clydesdale hitch was given by August A. Busch, Jr. as a gift to his father, August Anheuser Busch, Sr. A Budweiser Clydesdale’s qualifications include having an even temperament, gelded, four years of age, eith hands (72 inches, 183 cm) at the withers when fully mature and weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds (820 and 1,040 kg). The Budweiser Clydesdale were and still are a symbol the Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC.
When the park opened in 1975, the bridge in Scotland was called Brittany Bridge leading to the medieval English Hamlet of Hastings on the other side. In the main court area there was a “Guess Your Age and Weight,” and the village featured a Battlements shooting gallery, a penny arcade and Turvey Manor Fun House. In 2001, Busch Gardens introduced Ireland, Replacing Hastings- the first new country to join the park in 20 years.
*Let’s also take a moment to remember the store Wizard Works that had magicians and magical items (Currently it is the store called “Pot O’ Gold.”) The bathrooms next to Wizard Works used to be Rooms of Illusionment and featured two rooms to walk through. One was a body heat reflection and a shadow wall. One could lean up against a wall and a bright light would flash. Moving away from the wall, your shadow was left until it faded and the light would flash again.
Michael Recycle was the featured character in Sid and Marty Krofft’s “Camelot Revue” in the Reynolds Aluminum Theater in 1976. Other shows have included Once Upon a Dragon with 50 puppets and directed by Bill Baird, a 73-year old marionette maestro who is considered the world’s foremost living puppeteer. The original puppet troughs are still located beneath today’s stage. The theater continued its transformation by staging live shows including Kaleidoscope, Hats off to Hollywood, Journey into Music, and Stage Struck. Times changed and Rockin’ the Boat was the last show in 2000 before it was renovated to become the Abbey Stone Theater. When Ireland debuted in 2001, Irish Thunder took the stage and the rest is history.
The Enchanted Laboratory
This unique and enchanting building was once home to Le Catapult for ten years. The art on the walls looked like a howling storm with crashing waves and dark lightening clouds themed after the Battle of Hastings. There were big changes in 1986 when this building housed a new show mixing animatronics, special effects, and live performers called the Enchanted Laboratory of Nostramos the Magnificent, which ran through 2000. Animatronic characters included a wise owl, a dog-like dragon, and a raven. With the introduction of Ireland, Secrets of Castle O’ Sullivan played from 2001 to 2008. Today you can Dine with Elmo and Friends at this theater, enjoy Halloween dining opportunities and Santa’s Fireside Feast during Christmas Town.
*Pelinore was the name of the Owl, Talon was the name of the Dragon-like dog, and the raven was named Elixir. There was also a creature that popped up named “It” at the end. That monster was reused as a prop in the old Haunted Train Ride (No longer running) during Howl-O-Scream. The lighted Gargoyles that were located on theater walls are part of the décor at Howl-O-Scream’s Blood Banquet. I wrote an entire blog about this show located here: https://bgwmemories.com/2013/01/20/the-enchanted-laboratory-a-magical-mystical-show-to-remember/
The simulator building was constructed and debuted in 1990. Riding with a gnome-like character, guests traveled as companions that encountered a variety of obstacles during their mission. Questor combined a fast-paced motion picture adventure, with studio animation, special effects, and flight simulations. In 1996, King Arthur’s Challenge replaced Questor and in 2001 Ireland launched and Corkscrew Hill was introduced.
**Thanks to Frank Forrester for finding this sign beside Grogan’s Pub. The ride was also intrduced at the Busch Gardens Tampa Park and a video was posted to Youtube by weatherguru76 of the entire ride. Located here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTNWeVaY050
A fun and game-filled Renaissance festival greeted visitors in 1975. Theatrical hosts tempted guests to test their skills at a variety of games, and there was even a traveling gypsy show. True to Arthur’s day, fellowship was not forgotten, and the townspeople were always eager to share their good cheer. Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve opened in 2009, and brought a brand new look to the area. Park guests now have the opportunity to learn and get an up-close look at Grey wolves, eagles and other animals important to conservation and our environment.
*Make sure to notice the “Threadneedle Bridge” sign while in the area. It’s a little Ghost of the past.
Originally known as LaJolie Plume, a bird circus theater, today it is Shenanigans Theatre and hosts the side-splitting More…Pet Shenanigans. This unique and inviting space has always been a home to shows celebrating animals. The many productions featured Feathered Follies in the 1980’s, World of Birds and Wild Wings in the 1990s, Falcons and Fables in 2001 plus many others. Today, more than 40 of our furry friends were adopted from animal shelters and rescue facilities across the country. Now they reside at Busch Gardens where they receive veterinary care, plenty of exercise, and lots of love and affection.
Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center
Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center
When the park originally opened, the eagle-One Monorail transported guests on a 7,150 foot oval track from Busch Gardens to the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality Center. Anheuser-Busch opened the Hospitality Center in 1974 to showcase their products. Guests could watch history videos about the company; receive complimentary samples of beer, and tour the brewery.
*The best AC in the park was on the Eagle-One Monorail! It was so refreshing on a hot summer day. Not to mention two free beers! Need I say more?
This 19th century gypsy wagon, known as the Durton reading wagon, once traveled through the picturesque English countryside. The nameplate reveals A. Hooke Lynn as the original owner while the axle bears the inscription of V.R. Mason, Patent, London 1842. Ash is the primary wood component; however the cabinets and bunks are made from pine. There are touches of spruce and lemonwood while the fancy scroll-work is in a bas-relief. The wagon’s meticulous restoration insured matching the original paint, authenticity of hand forged hardware along with cut glass complete with small bubble imperfections and faults.
Three Musketeers Theater
The original Three Musketeers Theater was a 1,000-seat open-air amphitheater where trained animals performed against a mammoths French castle backdrop on a huge stage, separated from the audience by an authentic moat, which remains under the current stage. A fabric-type net tent provided shade. Today it is known as Le Palais Royal or the Royal Palace Theater. There have been several animal shows over the years, along with Circus Europa, Chinese Acrobats of Taiwan, Imaginique, laser shows, ice spectaculars, and popular concert artists. For a brief time, there was even a children’s petting zoo located in the back area.
Over 25 million races were run on LeMans Raceway as one of the original attractions when Busch Gardens opened in 1975. There were 49 recreated antique racing cars that traveled nearly ten million miles in 31 years before the raceway closed in 2006 to make way for the Griffon coaster. The cars, modeled after the 1913 Stutz Bearcat, had molded fiberglass bodies and were built on steel frames in California. Racecars followed of o three 2,000-foot tracks, accumulating a total of nearly 200,000 miles per car. The mileage total for the entire fleet equates to nearly 400 trips around the Earth with a top speed of only 7 mph.
*Did you know that the original design had the cars going the opposite direction? The straightaway was supposed to replicate the race to the finish. Due to the nature of how cars had to stop at the loading area, it was safer to have the ride end on a large curve to aid in slowing the drivers down.
Totem poles and tepees made Eagle’s Nest Village a popular stop for children. Here, a friendly Indian helped organize games amid the kid-powered activities, such as the “Ball Crawl,” the “Cloud Bounce,” and the “Punching Bag Forest.” The children’s interactive play area was located under the LeScoot Log Flume. The supports of the log flume still show remaining remnants of the original Eagle’s Nest theming based on Native American drawings.
*I loved this place as a kid. The ball pit was amazing. Sometimes water would splash from the log flume and we loved to wait for the water to fall on those hot summer days.
LeScoot Log Flume
The LeScoot Log Flume has given nearly 35 million rides since 1975. It recreates the thrills and excitement of a French Canadian logging camp, dipping and turning at tree-top level, ending with a plunge through a sawmill, then a splash into the river below. It was an original attraction when Busch Gardens opened, and featured a totally dark sawmill except for floodlights that shine on what appears to be a seven-foot cycling buzz saw, complete with buzzing sounds. Traveling 60 feet in the air, this dashing ride takes guests through a wild 1,420 foot course, and moves at an average 5 feet per second.
*This ride used to have two hills. The first dip was removed due to debris pooling at the bottom. It was more efficient to keep the one final drop at the end. The water pump is located behind the Alpengeist, next to the maintenance bay. Water from the ride is drained and recycled each day of operation.
Le Catapult has given more than 14 million rides and operated in four different locations, making it the most repurposed ride in the park. The original location in 1975 was inside the building known as Castle O’ Sullivan located in Hastings. The ride was moved and reopened with Festa Italia for the 1987 season when the Enchanted Laboratory of Nostramos the Magnificent was added to Hastings in 1986. It was later moved to Oktoberfest and renamed Der Katapult where Mach Tower currently stands before moving to its present location in New France.
Canadian Folk Palladium
The Palladium has hosted many hit shows since opening with the park in 1975. It is commonly called the Canadian Palladium and has offered bluegrass, country, and dancing performances. At various intervals, the Palladium featured gospel and clogging shows. The Busch Street Boys were featured in 1994, and in 1988 American Jukebox performed at this theater in various forms. Monster Stomp was a new show that debuted for the 2002 Howl-O-Scream season. It was quickly a fan favorite, and provided groundwork for Monster Stomp on Ripper Row which debuted in the Globe Theatre in 2014.
The German heritage of the Busch family is reflected in Rhinefeld Village. It was the original performance space of the park’s first German-themed show played on a bandstand near the gazebo. The 19th century-style Wilkommenhaus is a true replica of a German town hall, and was a hub for good food, drink, and friendly people. The Busch Memorial Fountain was built in 1914 and originally stood in St. Louis for many years. It was commissioned by Lily Busch as a tribute to her late husband, Adolphus Busch 1839-1913, founder of Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC.
*Sadly, I could not locate a sign for the lovely glockenspiel. The clock was repaired and functioning opening day which was a very joyous surprise! If you wish to see a version of this lovely style clock located in Munich, here you go: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rathaus-Glockenspiel
Originally a petting zoo, kids visited and fed baby animals in the nearby forest while adults enjoyed libations at Rhinefeld. It was transformed into Grimm’s Hollow, a fantasy world of children’s rides and experiences for the 1979 season. Rides such as the Lady Bug catered to Children’s whims, while a puppeteer played to their imagination with a Punch and Judy show. A Captain Kangaroo show took place on stage for a short time. In 1994, Land of the Dragons replaced Grimm’s Hollow. The original sign has been repurposed for Chug-a-Tug and Bug-a-Dug.
* Grimm’s Hollow also had a fun sand pit area with a play Gingerbread House and rocking horses. There was a boat ride (still in operation at Land of the Dragons) and a circular buggy and motorcycle ride as well.
Park visitors have enjoyed more than 16 million rides on this historic merry-go-round. Allen Herschell, a pioneer of the mobile carousel, built this unit in 1919 in Tonawanda, New York. For more than 50 years, it traveled throughout the United States before being abandoned. In 1973, Busch Gardens located the dismantled carousel in a Dallas, Texas auction barn. Under the direction of the builder’s grandson, fourteen craftsmen spent six months restoring it to its original condition. All side panels, ponies, castings, and brass rails are either original fittings or genuine Herschell replacement parts.
*Technically, this is the oldest ride in the park.
Das Katzchen is German for “The Kitten.” The roller coaster was introduced to Oktoberfest expansion in 1976 and operated through 1984. Built by the Allen Herschell Company, (the creator of the Busch Gardens Carousel), the coaster was a single train with three cars. Riders were arranged two across in two rows for a total of 12 riders. Some of Das Katzchen’s supports were extended to accommodate its hillside location. Nearby, there are still hints of the footings from the original Oktoberfest Bridge, but you have to look carefully since the bridge has since been removed.
The park soared above its expected attendance in the 1975 operating season, so Oktoberfest, a new section of the German village, was added in 1976. This grand hamlet included a 2,000-seat Munich-like festival hall (where food, drink, and oompah music still abound), several new rides and roller coasters, restaurants, and additional restrooms. Oktoberfest continues to capture the excitement of Munich’s famous street festival. It was the first expansion to the original park layout and originally included Oktoberfest Bridge, since removed.
The Glissade was a wild ride just like those found on the grounds of Munich’s Oktoberfest. This German-built bobsled-like coaster was referred to as the best thrill ride of its size and kind in the world. Cars raced over the 2,00-foot course in 30 seconds, reaching speeds of 60 mph. The Glissade stood where Curse of Darkastle operates today, and still gives rides in Guadalajara, Mexico. It was one of the park’s original attractions in 1975.
Wild Izzy, a steel wild mouse coaster was named after the 1996 Summer Olympic Games mascot. Busch Gardens was a proud sponsor of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games that were played in Atlanta, Ga. Renamed Wild Maus in 1997 and removed at the end of the 2003 season, it was then relocated to Busch Gardens Tampa and renamed Cheetah Chase. In 2005, Curse of Darkastle opened where Wild Maus once stood.
Das Festhaus, a Munich-like dining hall, opened in 1976 as part of the 1976 Oktoberfest Village expansion. At the time, it was thought to be the world’s largest dining hall seating more than 2,000 dinners. Today, it is Busch Gardens largest structure. Over the years, it has hosted a variety of live shows including This is Oktoberfest, Polkamania, and this year’s new show Roll Out the Barrel. Guests can still be overheard talking about a time they dined on a park favorite, the delicious Black Forest Cake. The Festhaus cookbook calls it a Bavarian Torte, Bayrische Torte in German. Look Closely- the stained glass windows on the front of Das Festhaus celebrate the park’s original countries, including Hastings.
*Shockingly, there is not a sign that discusses the famous stage that once stood inside the Festhaus which featured a unique rotating and lifting platform for the band. The dancers would then perform underneath the band. In addition, a 40th Anniversary sign in honor of Bob Bauman, the Burgermeister that hosted the shows in the Festhaus and served as a major icon for over 25 years should be considered. Bob retired in 2002 at the age of 87. He passed away in 2009 at the age of 93. An article with this information is found here: http://articles.dailypress.com/2009-11-10/news/0911090122_1_busch-gardens-lieutenant-colonel-mr-bauman
Drachen is the German spelling of Dragon and the looping roller coaster, located in Oktoberfest, opened in 1992. Special lighting illuminated the sides of the coaster car in red. When Drachen Fire was completed, it has six inversions; a wraparound corkscrew midway on the first hill, two Cobra Rolls (referred to by Arrow Dynamics as a “Batwing”) and a cutback between the corkscrews. Two counter-clockwise corkscrews completed the count. The ride’s loading station is currently being used for Howl-O-Scream.
Die Wildkatze, a Schwartzkopf Wildcat steel coaster, debuted in Oktoberfest as part of the 1976 expansion. The ride featured single-car trains with riders sitting two across and became a park favorite. Removed at the end of the 1983 season to make room for the Big Bad Wolf, it still operates at a park in Maryland.
The Big Bad Wolf
The Big Bad Wolf opened in 1984, and provided over 29 million riders the thrill of traveling at the speed of fright. The coaster’s debut, originally scheduled for April, was delayed until June so that trim brakes could be added on the after the second lift hill because the trains were travelling faster than expected. The “howl” heard on the first lift of the Big Bad Wolf was added in 1985, and in 1992 Bavarian buildings were added in the Wolf’s village. The ride closed in 2009, but some of the footers, queues, and part of the station were left standing and have been repurposed for Verbolten.
* My friend the Big Bad Wolf, how I miss you. I wrote two stories about the Wolf. Feel free to check them out should you wish to read my thoughts about my favorite ride of all time.
Loch Ness Monster
The Loch Ness Monster is a myth and a legend, but at Busch Gardens it is real, at least as a roller coaster. More than 53 million rides have been given since its 1978 debut. The Loch Ness Monster was the first double-looping coaster in the world when it opened and is the only one to this day. For the coaster’s 15th anniversary, 20 Elvis impersonators, from the popular movie, The Flying Elvi, parachuted into the park and rode the Loch Ness Monster. It was a day fit for a king. Stretching over six acres, the double-looping steel Arrow Dynamics roller coaster was designed by renowned International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Hall of Fame member Ronald Toomer. The Loch Ness Monster was added in 1978 and was the first roller coaster to feature interlocking loops. The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) organization was founded at this coaster. History was made in 2003, when ACE designated the Loch Ness Monster as a historically significant ACE Coaster Landmark.
*For the 20th anniversary, the park added growling sounds, strobe lighting, and a face of the Loch Ness that flashed right before you as you exited the cave; conveniently timed to misters that went off right at that exact moment. Those special effects have since been removed.
Busch Gardens Railway
All aboard! More than 58 million park visitors have been boarding and enjoying the train ride at Busch Gardens since 1975. One of the park’s original attractions, the railway line was designed with two trestles, offering spectacular views. The first custom built trains were Balmoral Castle, and English-style locomotive, and Der Hochbeinige, a Prussian-style locomotive. The original locomotive loop was nearly 2 ½ miles with two stations and trains traveled an average of 10 mph. The Alpen Express was added in 1997, and the train was outfitted with a snowplow and alpine style paint on the caboose as it debuted in conjunction with the park’s Alpengeist roller coaster. Originally built in 1972 for Lakeside Park in Salem, VA it is an American style locomotive with a matching four-coach train and caboose.
Royal Preserve Petting Zoo
*Thanks to Frank Forrester for locating and sending the image of this sign. It is located near Sesame Street’s Forrest of Fun. I am unable to read the description and I will make sure to get a close-up the next time I visit the park to fill in the details. However, I will give you the information I know. The Petting Zoo was located where Forrest of Fun is located today. It was wooded and housed various animals like Black Bear cubs, llamas, goats, chickens, a pot belly pig, a Condor, Parrots, and various other critters. Children were able to touch and interact with some of the animals and even feed them. There were these little pellet dispensers and for a quarter you feed the chickens and goats. (Side note, those machines were also located on Grimm’s Landing Bridge, where you could feed the ducks and turtles that lived in the Rhine River at the time). Here is one of my memories at the petting zoo:
Since 1990, Busch Gardens has been consistently voted the “World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park” by the National Amusement Park Historical Association. When original built in 1975, care was taken to preserve the mature landscaping and natural terrain of the parl. Some of the trees on site are over 400 years old. To this day, the park carefully stays true to its European style theme and landscaping. Grooming, watering, and replacing plants takes place daily prior to opening. There are more than 250 flowerbeds, 150 hanging baskets, and 1,000 planters throughout the park.
Festa Italia was added in 1987, adjacent to the Italian village of San Marco. Themed around the fair celebrating Marco Polo’s return to Italy from his famous visit to China, it contains many of the park’s midway games, all with a fun and festive theme. The big attraction was the Gladiator’s Gauntlet, along with five additional rides all housed in open air-pavilions and each depicting a country visited by Marco Polo. The expansion also included Festa Station, the third stop on Busch Gardens Railways.
Gladiator’s Gauntlet, a non-inverting Vekoma Canyon Trip attraction, was a 46-foot-tall contemporary thrill ride with a two part boat shaped vessel, which hung on two massive rotating cranks. As the ride began, the boat separated into two parts and the passengers slid back and forth. When the rotation started the boat began to move up and down as the ride swung high in the air.
The Sea Dragon was a Mack Sea Storm ride, featuring a center water fountain. It was removed in 1998 to make way for Apollo’s Chariot. The original metallic Sea Dragon pavilion is still overhead, serving as the roller coasters queue house. The ride had boat-shaped cars with red sails. Based on the ride’s movement, guest could end up forward, backwards, and feel the sensation of an exciting swing.
* This ride was extremely fun for its small size. There was also a feature that allowed the boats to turn horizontally to face the fountain. Sometimes the boats would turn in a way that had you facing the other riders. It was always fun to wave to them before the boats turned again. From someone who worked the controls, I was told these turns were initiated by the ride operator at their command.
Introduced in 1980, Italy was the first new country added to Busch Gardens expanding the park’s footprint and offering guests another taste of the European experience. Known as San Marco, it is a recreation of a 17th century Italian hillside village and covers nine acres. It completed the outer circle walkway around Busch Gardens. Included in Italy is Leonardo’s Garden of Invention which pays tribute to the genius of the 15th century artist and inventor Leonardo de Vinci.
*The Battering Ram, Balloons, and the Flying Machine all opened together. The Gliders and Da Vinci’s Cradle were added later. The Balloons were originally located where Da Vinci’s Cradle is now.
Rhine River Cruise
An original attraction when the park first opened, the cruise line has given more than 15 million rides. As cruise boats wind through the 65-acre man-made river, riders enjoy a tranquil and relaxing experience. The original seven boats were modeled after the early Rhine passenger steamers and had large nonfunctional side wheels. Today, the park has three boats. The photo from 1974 shows the trestle before the river was filled.
*Nothing to add but just to say that this picture is amazing. It is hard to imagine a time where there was no “Rhine River.” Of course it is hard to imagine a time without Busch Gardens as well. Thank goodness I was born right after the park opened!
Forty years ago, this section of the park was a picnic area, a ticket center for concerts and a popular place to get mouth-watering barbeque at Three Rivers Smokehouse and a beef brisket sandwich at Mackinak Café. The barbeque baby back ribs, chicken, and brisket became so popular; the park opened a new 650-seat smokehouse restaurant in 2003. Trappers Smokehouse now features a mesquite-fired show grill, three rustic-themed dining areas and an unprecedented theme park menu selection. Signature items like grilled salmon, smoked turkey, grilled vegetables, mouth-watering deserts, and fried pickles are just a few fan favorites. Here is a tasty fun fact: Trappers served over 70,000 pounds of brisket last year!
Did you know there is a 40th sign located next to the administration building behind the scenes? The wording is the same as the first sign you encounter entering the park and features the original 1975 park map instead. I find this a beautiful way for park administrators and team members to reflect on the long standing history of Busch Gardens Williamsburg and how they are now part of park history. Thank you to all who have worked there in the past and those there today. Your hard work and efforts to provide Virginia with the World’s Most Beautiful Theme Park is greatly appreciated!
Well, I hope you enjoyed a look through memory lane. Please feel free to share your memories and photos here at BGW Memories. Together, we all put pieces of a very large theme park puzzle that is enjoyed by generations of enthusiasts just like you.
~Celebrating 40 Years of Fun~
Spring is almost here and so is the opening of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The park opened May 16, 1975 to a huge crowd. This year will be no different.
With a new coaster premier, more additions to the Food & Wine Festival, and a new show in the Festhaus, there will be plenty to draw people of all ages back for another year of fun.
In honor of providing us with 40 years of traditions and wonderful memories, I would like to post an amazing find that Gary Terrell has shared on the BGW Memories Facebook Page. It is a preview brochure that advertises Busch Gardens in 1974 and features some stunning conceptual art.
This year I look forward to seeing the park evolve and also seeing it reflect on the past history. 40 Years is certainly something to celebrate!
Without further ado~ The brochure.
Here it is, 2014, and Thanksgiving is already behind us. You know what that means right? Busch Gardens Christmas Town has begun! The park is ready to boost our holiday cheer.
But you know what the best part of that is?
Nestled amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, the familial obligations, and shopping chaos, Christmas Town offers up a chance to slow down and smell the roses; or in this case, soak in the beauty over 8 MILLION lights!
Relaxing at Christmas Town is, hands down, my favorite tradition.
This year was no different. I attended the opening day festivities and it was a rather cold evening; alright…… very, VERY cold evening. Nevertheless, the entire park looked stunningly beautiful that frigid, frosty November night.
Upon entering, several Marines were stationed outside collecting unopened toys for the Toys for Tots program. Their enthusiasm and smiles warmly greeted those entering the park.
There is still time to assist: Donations will be accepted through December 14th. Just drop new and unwrapped toys at the Busch Gardens Welcome center to support local families in need.
Going back to Christmas Town, here is what I wish to point out for those seeking something new based on my experience on opening day:
England’s decor along with the new show Scrooge no More is high on the list of what I adore. All the while, Banbury Cross (as us old-timer Park enthusiasts say), was adorned with floating wreaths and lights galore!*
* I changed that whole paragraph to rhyme on my third edit. You’re welcome.
In front of the Globe, snow falls from the sky at night and Carolers and a Brass Band wander through the crowds at various times each day. The Hamlet is simply dazzling at night!
Over where the portrait artists are during the regular season, the park has converted the area to a bar staffed with Victorian dressed baristas, who serve you all kinds of tasty beverages, spirits, and treats. In addition, Squire’s is now Dickens Tavern and serves guests traditional Christmas dinners.
The Globe now features a new show aptly named Scrooge No More. My review?
I was blown away! The show is an instant park classic and a hopefully a tradition for many years to come. As the title suggests, it is based on Charles Dicken’s classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey to rekindle his Christmas spirit. It is a perfectly balanced with music, dance, theater, and high tech special effects.
I promise to write a full review after this season. But for the sake of those who have yet to see it, I dare not ruin the magic and surprise!
*On a side note: My appreciation goes out to all those folks who worked diligently to put this together. It is a strong, well choreographed musical that as a local, I am honored to have showing at Busch Gardens. Love, Love, Loved it!
Outside the Globe Theater, there is a photo opportunity where you may take a picture of yourself with friends and family with very Victorian themed backdrop. Possibly with a Clydesdale! Keep in mind that the horses have a limited time range with guests, so try not to fret if you miss it. The Highland Stables will still offer photo packages.
This brings me to another bonus this year: the “Photokey” option. If you plan on making memories with all the photo ops around the park, you may want to consider purchasing a Photokey in order to save money. Here are the locations included:
- Front Gate Photo (Fountain)
- Highland Stables (Scotland)
- Polar Pictures (Polar Pathway in Italy)
- Frosty Friend Photo (Festa Italia)
- Christmas Carriage (Big Ben in England)
- O Tannenbaum (Oktoberfest)
- Verbolten (Oktoberfest)
- Pierre & Penelope Photo (France)
The park offers a Single Day Photkey and a Premium Photokey (good through the entire event – until December 31st) . There are differences in price and what is included, so please link here if you are interested in either deal and read more about exactly what each package includes, availability, and pricing: buschgardens.com/photokey.
* Some of my own personal Photokey pics taken that day:
Most of the park, as well as the shows, remain the same. The shows: Miracles, Gloria, and Deck the Halls return this year. As always, they are amazing. Since I have reviewed them all before, I will move on to some tips that may come in handy regarding the entertainment:
- Get to each show early as seats go fast! Gloria especially.
- On busy days the Festhaus may reach capacity, so if you wish to eat dinner and watch the show, plan your trip accordingly.
- Dress in layers. The Virginia weather is iffy, always. It is also very warm in the Festhaus and in the inside theater. So keep that in mind.
- Download the Busch Gardens app or pick up a map upon entering the park to have an idea of the showtimes.
If you are a wine drinker (like me), you may wish to take advantage of the lovely wine glass set you can gather by visiting the France (Le Belle), Germany (German Gifts), and Italy (Bella Casa). These shiny goblets, etched with Busch Gardens on the base are sold as is, or as I prefer… (for a little extra cost), with wine in them!
They are so sparkly and festive with Busch Gardens softly etched on the base, that I was in complete “Must Have” mode when I saw them. So yes. Thank you Busch Gardens. I always wanted a themed sparkly wine glass set of my very own.
My Personal Wine Tips:
- Wines served at tastings vary through the seasons. Check them out periodically. There is a fan page dedicated JUST to wine at Busch Gardens. Did you know? Post your photos and keep in the loop here: https://www.facebook.com/OldCountryGrapevine
- Pace yourself. There are several places offering wine tastings. If you purchase a wine tasting you get a Christmas Town wine glass and when using the glass at the other locations, you get a discount.
- Don’t forget that if you are a season pass member, even wine has a 10% discount!
Christmas is also the season of giving. So don’t forget to peruse all the goodies at the gift shops this year. You may just find that perfect gift for your loved one.
For me, the Emporium is one of my favorites. You can get the latest Christmas Town items including the 2014 ornaments, Department 56 Colonial Williamsburg sets, and even personalized custom ornaments.
**They also had this mistletoe, frosty display that was so pretty. So yes, I had to get a picture of it.
So basically Christmas Town where you can enjoy, world class entertainment, lights-lights-and more lights, rides, seasonal foods and beverages, and visit jolly ol’ St. Nick all-in-one!
Speaking of Santa, I was finally able to enjoy Fireside Feast! If you want your family to get a unique experience with Santa, this is it. The dining extra is something best spent with the little ones, but I highly recommend it.
In case you are interested: The food was well seasoned and satisfying. During the meal, Santa recites the Night Before Christmas in a building that is both cozy and as warm as toast. After the recital, everyone gets a chance to go up on stage to visit with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the Elves. It certainly made me feel like a kid again! Yep. Even I saw Santa…… and took my husband with me!
Click here for more info: http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/christmastown/dine-and-shop/santas-fireside-feast/
Overall, Busch Gardens tied Christmas Town up in an exquisite bow for all of us to open and enjoy. I wish I could cover every store, every show, every little thing; but my suggestion is to get out there and see it for your self!