One of Virginia’s best summer attractions is Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The sprawling theme park is located just off I-64 on the outskirts of historic Williamsburg, Virginia. Beautifully landscaped with indigenous flowers, shrubs, and trees this is without a doubt one of most beautiful amusement parks in the world.
With hundreds of exciting rides and attractions, including ten main stage shows, dozens of delicious restaurants and a magical place set aside just for children, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is the ticket to a amazing adventure for the entire family.
Busch Gardens is divided into European countries, to give its visitors a taste of the Old World. Guests enter the park in the wonderful English village of Banbury Cross, England. There, you can shop in quaint little stores for delicate English soaps and porcelain gifts from Her Majesty’s Fancy.
Those that are hungry can access delicious snacks any time at The Muffin Man, which offers freshly baked muffins and pastries galore. For something event sweeter, there is M. Sweets and Son, which provides the most tempting caramel and candied apples ever made, as well as homemade fudge, and decadent chocolates. For lighter fare, there are scrumptious sandwiches, delectable salads, and ice cream treats at Squires Galley.
While in the area, many visitors will catch the show at the Globe Theatre. Busch Gardens claims “This adventure comedy, starring, Leslie Nielsen, combines 4-D special effects technology with multi-sensory theater effects.” It encourages audience involvement and is perfect for everyone in the family.
Turn right out of Banbury Cross and enter Heather Downs, Scotland, the home of the world famous Budweiser Clydesdales as well as the lair of the fearsome Loch Ness Monster affectionately called “Nessie” by those who have conquered him. This roller coaster is definitely one of the park’s most popular rides with its famous interlocking double-loops of steel going up 13 stories into the air and dropping 114 feet down. This monster of a ride travels at 60 miles per hour and definitely delivers on its promise of spine-tingling thrills.
Continue right off Heather Downs to travel into Killarney, Ireland – – Busch Garden’s newest country addition. Irish tradition and heritage are beautifully depicted throughout this captivating Irish hamlet. Guests can enjoy strolling entertainers and interactive barkers and take time to savor traditional Irish food and a pint or two of cheer at Grogan’s Pub. Those that love to shop can have some fun amidst the handcrafted items made by Irish artisans and fine Irish imported giftware like Waterford crystal, Belleek or Donegan Parian china and Irish Dresden.
Many visitors will check out another of the Garden’s 4-D adventures. This one, called Corkscrew Hill, takes a trip through mythical Celtic lore. Here hungry witches and magical stallions are not out of the ordinary, but are instead the norm along with other mysterious creatures like leprechauns and banshees.
Here, one can discover the Secrets of Castle O’Sullivan as told by its young heir Aaron Shelly O’Sullivan. Guests relax and enjoy the authentic Irish music and more special effects, which include rain, thunder and a brilliant rainbow that magically appears right over their heads. By the time the show is over, everyone believes that wishes can come true.
Next on the route is Emerald Beat, an extraordinary dance production from Dublin-based O’Shea’s School of Irish Dance. This show celebrates Irish heritage through uniquely choreographed dance and an original music score.
While in the area, guests often take some time to enjoy Pet Shenanigans where the crazy antics of expertly trained dogs, cats, birds and other animals will amaze and delight everyone.
After taking a luxurious walk through the scenic gardens to the delightful village of Aquitaine, France, visitors will find even more adventure awaits. Hiding in this French village is the park’s newest monster – – The Griffon. This awesome roller coaster goes 205 feet up in the air before hurdling down at a 90 degree angle travelling some 70 miles per hour. Opening May 25th, 2007, The Griffon is sure to evoke both the power and speed so often attached to the mythical bird of lore. Believed to be part eagle and part lion, The Griffon soars and plunges and then twists and turns to give its riders an adrenaline-pumping adventure that’s unlike any coaster experience in the world.
Those that happen to visit in the evening can enjoy Kinetix – – a high-energy, show that combines dancers, singers, acrobats, dramatic lighting, and rock and roll music. This show is sure to keep guests entertained with its high energy and emphasis on fun.
From there, it’s a short walk through New France to visit Caribou Pottery where budding artists join the paint-your-own-pottery craze by adding their own creative touches to handcrafted pieces. In the rustic trader’s village, shoppers are sure to find the finest in leather gifts, glass sculpting, candle art and more.
Other highlights in the French Canadian logging village include an antique photo studio and the Le Scoot water flume ride, which features a 50-foot vertical plunge into a millpond.
If hunger takes hold, the barbecue pit nearby provides some of the best BBQ and corn-on-the-cob in the world. Guests can picnic in the countryside and enjoy the atmosphere and music.
For fun, many will go and see American Jukebox at the Canadian Palladium. This rip roaring show offers an amazing combination of favorite musical hits from the ’50s, outrageous tunes from the ’70s and contemporary country and pop chart-toppers of the ’90s.
Then it is time to move to the beautiful German Village of Rhinefeld, which offers authentic German ambiance from its quaint cobblestone streets to its charming European storefronts.
At the German Gift Shop, guests shop for Hummels because according to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, they are ” the only place outside of Germany authorized by Goebel Factory to kiln fire Hummels hand painted by visiting master artisans.” For something totally traditional, others will purchase a German beer stein, an authentic nutcracker, or even a Black Forest cuckoo clock.
For sweet German treats, many try Das Gingerbread Haus or for traditional German food, make a trip to the Festhaus where Oktoberfest is in full swing all year round. With its 2,000 seats and oompah-style band accompanied by authentic German dancers, this is one of the park’s favorite places to rest, relax, and have fun.
Those who get a hankering for some thrills and chills, board The Big Bad Wolf and race through a deserted Bavarian village. This suspended roller coaster flies at speeds approaching 50 mph, rambling through natural terrain and dense forest, before suddenly dropping 99 feet to almost touch the Rhine River below. “The spirit of the wolf is present at every turn, from the distant howls at the boarding station to the authentically-detailed buildings.”
For more tame fun, guests jump aboard Die Autobahn, an exciting bumper car adventure, ride the swings, tackle the octopus, or try one of the many other traditional carnival rides. Others play skeeball or ring toss or any of a few dozen other games located nearby, winning their sweetie a prize and making the day totally memorable.
For Bavarian fun, there is always the Alpengeist. Always voted one of the “top ten steel coastesrs,” the Alpengeist reaches a height of 195 feet and a speed of 67 miles per hour. This coaster is a breathtaking adventure that sends its riders on a high-speed journey, all the while flipping, turning, and swirling. Screams will abound as the snow beast twists an innocent ski lift into six staggering inversions and a 170-foot drop.
Over the bridge lies Festa Italia, which is always bustling with exciting activity. Indulge in the beauty and splendor of the old world in the hamlet of San Marco, Italy. Here visitors will find a modern-day opera in the Italian Pavilion. It is the perfect complement to the area’s delectable cuisine. Guests can listen to dazzling musical productions while feasting on authentic Italian dishes. Others may just sit back and enjoy fine European wine, espresso, cappuccino, or traditional biscotti at the Vino é Caffe.
This is the perfect place to shop in cute little Italian boutiques or watch Capodimonte porcelain flowers handcrafted by a master sculptor. Others may opt to purchase stunning Italian glassware or sourvenir masks, mimes, or dolls.
Those who travel deeper into Italy will find where ancient myth meets modern-day technology. Those who board Apollo’s Chariot, Busch Garden’s most thrilling hypercoaster, are in for the thrill of a lifetime. Designed to reach great heights and super speeds, the chariot is a pulse-quickening journey that plummets passengers a total of 825 feet. Another Busch coaster constantly voted “a top ten steel coaster,” Apollo’s Chariot boasts nine drops, the first of which plunges passengers 210 feet down the steel track before racing along the rest of the journey at 73 miles per hour.
Next, visitors can tour the spectacular gardens designed in tribute to the 15th-century Italian artist and inventor, Leonardo Da Vinci. Stationed inside this beautifully landscaped area are three of Da Vinci’s ride designs: Da Vinci’s Cradle, The Battering Ram, and The Flying Machine. A variety of children’s rides are also located here.
Everyone can expect to hear screams as the The Battering Ram soars through the air, reaching chilling heights. This an enormous pendulum of crowd-pleasing proportions gives an unusual sensation of weightlessness to those sitting at the two ends of the boat-shaped device.
Others will ride into the Renaissance in Da Vinci’s Cradle. This wildly exciting, yet deceptively tame-looking “cradle,” rocks back and forth before pausing in mid air and reversing course; sometimes leaving the stomachs of its riders on the ground below. But that is part of the fun.
Some will choose to cool off with the awesome white-water adventures of the Roman Rapids. Set among replicas of ancient Roman ruins, with erupting geysers and gushing aqueducts, the Rapids create a thrilling family water ride. But visitors must be cautious not to bring anything they wouldn’t take to a Roman bath, because everyone will get wet on this ride.
Then there is the quiet boat ride through the ancient ruins of Pompeii. But everyone should beware that it just might turn explosive should Mt. Vesuvius erupt once again. This ride leaves visitors wondering whether or not they can Escape from Pompeii.
But that’s not all that Busch Garden Williamsburg has to offer. There is also Jack Hanna’s Wild Reserve, which informs audiences about the wild world of endangered and exotic animals and teaches the importance of habitat preservation. It also introduces the plight of a fascinating and often feared species, the gray wolf. The gray wolves here have a place to roam in a newly-expanded and enhanced habitat in the woodlands of the reserve.
The expansion also includes an improved viewing area for American bald eagles. Busch Gardens Williamsburg provides a haven for injured eagles as part of its commitment to conservation and wildlife preservation.
This is a park for children of every age; for young and old alike. Smaller children have there own once-upon-a-time kind of place that is certain to put a smile on every single little face. Magical creatures abound in the Land of the Dragons. These include Dumphrey the Dragon, Gordon the Dragon, and Sir Bumbly the Knight. This children’s adventure extravaganza features a three-story tree house, a mini-flume ride, a Ferris wheel — and a show starring a dragon or two.
All of that just begins to scratch the surface of all the adventures in store at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It also offers special concerts and events throughout the year, which runs every day from May 30th through September 1st and weekends from April through May and September through October. The park is closed the remainder of the year.
Hours vary somewhat according to season. For more detailed park information and for ticket prices, go to www.buschgardens.com.