During spring break, my family and I had the opportunity to visit Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I have to admit I had not visited the park since the 1970’s, so I was wondering how my childhood memories would compare to the park of today and what my own children would think.
Busch Gardens opened in 1975 as Busch Gardens: The Old Country, originally developed by Anheuser-Busch. Each section of the park was themed to a specific European country, and I seem to recall my parents quit enjoying the free adult beverages provided in the brewery section of the park. Now owned by SeaWorld Entertainment, the free beer has gone by the wayside, there is still plenty to enjoy for both young and old.
The park is still divided into sections by country, as is quite evident by the music and food options and you stroll from one part to another. In one day you can visit Banbury Cross (England) to lunch on fish and chips, admire the clydesdales and Scottish blackface sheep at the Highland Stables in Heatherdowns (Scotland), enjoy some Irish dancing watching Celtic Fyre at the Abbey Stone Theatre in Killarney (Ireland), or sit back devour a veritable feast of Bavarian delights at Das Festhaus in Oktoberfest (Germany). That is just a sampling of the European delights that await your family. We dined at Das Festhaus, where the portions were quite large – one piece of cake could have easily been split by two or more people.
Least you think the park has forgotten the toddler sect, fear not for in keeping with its KIDSiderate Promise of fun areas for the little ones, there are plenty of rides and attractions to keep them entertained. The Land of Dragons is a mainstay from when the park opened which has a dragon-egg ferris wheel and other rides geared to small children. There is also the Sesame Street Forest of Fun features a junior coaster, Grover’s Alpine Express, as well as Bert and Ernie’s Loch Adventure flume ride, Oscar’s Whirly Worms rock-n-tug-type ride, Prince Elmo’s Spire shot-n-drop ride, and wet and dry play areas. The kids can even sing and dance with characters during Sunny Days Celebration, featuring Elmo, Cookie Monster, Zoey and other favorites.
My own children are teenagers so their main interest during our visit was the roller coasters, which Busch Gardens has several scattered throughout the park. My oldest son Matthew, seventeen, fancies himself a coaster aficionado, but was still most impressed with an old classic – the Loch Ness Monster. Legend has it that beneath the thick mist of a Scottish Loch, an ancient sea creature has swam undisturbed for generations. More than 30 years ago, this creature was awakened and ever since has thrilled visitors at the park with a 114-foot drop at speeds up to 60 miles per hour.
Another favorite attraction for my family was Curse of the DarKastle, a 3-D dark ride similar to Universal Studio’s Spider-Man attraction, which takes you on a daring journey through a deserted castle in the hills of Bavaria cursed for centuries by presence of a werewolf. Not only does it provide adventure, but it is also a great place to escape the summer heat as it is air-conditioned.
If coasters and kiddie rides are not your thing, Busch Gardens is also home to Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve. The area houses a variety of wild species including gray wolves and bald eagles. We had the opportunity to make some feathered friends at the Lorikeet Glen, a free-flight aviary where you can hand feed the birds with cups of nectar.
If you think it’s a bit much to squeeze everything into a one day visit, there are several neighboring hotels who partner with Busch Gardens offering packages for visiting families. We stayed at the DoubleTree Inn by Hilton, which was a convenient five minute drive from the park. Amenities included both an indoor and outdoor pool and breakfast buffet (for an additional charge). Note that delicious, warm chocolate chip cookies are offered at check-in, but they do contain walnuts. When I inquired about a nut-free option, as one in our party has a nut allergy, we were told the walnuts are a Hilton tradition and nut-free cookies are not offered.
For more information about Busch Gardens Williamsburg, visit https://seaworldparks.com/buschgardens-williamsburg/.
This spring, make a break for family fun at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. RFM is giving you a chance to win a family vacation for four to the world’s most beautiful theme park. With thrilling coasters, rides for all ages, lively shows, and exciting new events, there’s a hidden adventure waiting here for everyone.
Winners will receive Four (4) Busch Gardens Single-day Tickets, four (4) park meal vouchers, one (1) parking pass, and a one (1) night hotel stay (quad occupancy). Package valued at: $541.60
To enter, simply visit BaltimoresChild.com/BuschGardens. Winner will chosen at random on May 20th.