Busch Gardens Williamsburg (formerly known as Busch Gardens Europe and Busch Gardens: The Old Country) is a 383-acre (155 ha) theme park located in James City County, Virginia, about 3 miles (5 km) southeast of Williamsburg, originally developed by Anheuser-Busch (A-B) and currently owned by SeaWorld Entertainment, a division of Blackstone Group. The park opened on May 16, 1975, adjacent to Anheuser-Busch's brewery and near its other developments including the Kingsmill Resort complex. The park is themed around old-world Europe.
The park was originally called Busch Gardens: The Old Country, reflecting the European theme. In 1993, the park was renamed Busch Gardens Williamsburg before briefly being named Busch Gardens Europe in 2006 until it returned to the Williamsburg name in 2008. Similarly, its sister park in Florida was originally called Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent until it was officially renamed Busch Gardens Tampa Bay until a brief switch to Busch Gardens Africa from 2006 to 2008. In 2010, the estimated attendance of 2.8 million placed it in the top 20 most-visited parks in the US.
In addition to its landscaping and European theme, Busch Gardens is widely known for its roller coasters, including Griffon, Alpengeist, and Apollo's Chariot, which won #4 best steel coaster in 2012 from the Golden Ticket Awards.
Beginning in the early 1970s, the Busch Gardens theme park was developed by Anheuser-Busch (A-B) as a portion of the company's development investment in the Williamsburg area, which grew to include a brewery, the Kingsmill Resort, as well as residential and office properties.
The St. Louis-based brewer invested in the area following negotiations held between August Busch, II and Winthrop Rockefeller, a son of Colonial Williamsburg's initial chief mentor, John D. Rockefeller, Jr..Template:Citation needed Winthrop Rockefeller had been serving as both governor of Arkansas and chairman of Colonial Williamsburg in the 1960s and 1970s. (Water Country USA, a local water park, was acquired by A-B in the 1990s, and added to the company's theme park activities, which include a number of SeaWorld properties in other states as well).
In the last part of the 20th and early into the 21st century, as a brewer, A-B found itself competing in an increasingly global market. In 2008, after initially resisting an unsolicited stock bid, A-B announced it had reached an agreement to be acquired by the even larger Belgium-based InBev. The newer owners announced plans to sell-off the portions of A-B activities which were not part of the core beverage business as it worked to reduce debt incurred to fund the acquisition.
The Blackstone Group was selected in late 2009 to acquire and operate the 10 former A-B theme parks, including two in the Williamsburg area. In July 2010, the adjacent Kingsmill Resort was scheduled to be acquired by Xanterra Parks and Resorts, a company owned by Denver-based Phillip Anschutz.
Overview of Features
The park features a combination of roller coasters and Broadway-style shows. The park is broken into "countries", each having its unique style of food and music. The rides in the sections of the park are also themed to the country that they are located in.
Jack Hanna's Wildlife Reserve houses a variety of wild species including gray wolves and bald eagles. Busch Gardens is partnered with SeaWorld (also owned by Busch Entertainment Corp.) in the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, which offers guests the opportunity to contribute to wildlife conservation. The Rhine River Cruise's Boats are battery powered to cut back on power generation and prevent water pollution. In addition Busch Gardens and Water Country USA both use insects rather than pesticides in the park's commitment to organic gardening. All brochures, maps, show guides, and all paper products in the restrooms are made from recycled material.
Howl-O-Scream, the park’s signature Halloween event, offers more than a dozen attractions featuring vampires, werewolves, witches and skeletons. Guests are immersed in an elaborate Halloween atmosphere including haunted houses and Halloween-themed shows. The event's mascot was pumpkin-headed Jack until 2011 in which the mascot became the Lady of the Gardens. Since the 2013 season, there has not been a distinct mascot for the event. Howl-O-Scream opens September 13 and continues every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday usually through October 31. The event began in 1999.
Christmas Town is the park's Christmas event that began during the 2009 season. Several Christmas and holiday themed attractions and shows are showcased, including a 50-foot (15 m) animated Christmas tree called "O Tannenbaum" that lights up in sync to Christmas music in the Oktoberfest portion of the park. During this park is decorated with millions of lights. Shopping is also an important part of Christmas Town. The event starts the weekend before Thanksgiving and continues every weekend until the week before Christmas, where it stays open for the rest of December, excluding Christmas Day, until New Year's Day.
The park is separated into 10 different hamlets, themed to European villages from England, France, Germany, Italy, Scotland, and Ireland.
Two attractions provide transportation around the park. The Skyride gondola lift transports guests between the Sesame Street Forest of Fun, Aquitaine and Rhinefeld hamlets; while replica steam trains transport guests between the Heatherdowns, Festa Italia, and New France hamlets. The train serves as a convenient way for families with small children to travel around the park together as well as providing an "Old Country" themed method of transportation fitting the park's overall theme.
Banbury Cross (England)
Banbury Cross is fashioned after England, with stereotypical red telephone booths and common English architecture. Guest Services windows are located next to the turnstiles of the Main gate. A simulacrum of the famous St. Stephen's Clock Tower (Big Ben) is the central element of this area. Banbury Cross also includes The Squire's Galley, serving breakfast and lunch, as well as a funnel cake shop, ice cream shop, and candy store. The Globe Theatre, a double-sized replica of William Shakespeare's performance home, is the most prominent attraction in the area, having introduced in May 2014 the show "London Rocks," featuring puppets, animation, and live performances of music from classic British bands, including Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles. The theater previously featured the films Pirates, starring Eric Idle and Leslie Nielsen; Sesame Street presents Lights, Camera, Imagination!, a 4-D film; R. L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse; and Haunts of the Old Country. Prior to the 4-D films, the theater hosted a variety of live shows including Mark Wilson's Worlds Greatest Illusions, America on Ice, Hot Ice, Celebrate America and the People's Choice.
Heatherdowns resembles a Scottish hamlet situated at the top of the hill on the path leading from Banbury Cross. Tweedside Train Station offers a 20 minute ride through the park with additional stops in Festa Italia and at the central train station, caribou, in New France. Tweedside Gifts is located adjacent to the train station. Heatherdowns is also home to the Highland Stables featuring Scottish Blackface sheep, Border Collies, Clydesdales and a European barn owl. Guests can interact with the animals and see them in action as they demonstrate their skills during daily demonstrations. Prior to 2010, the stables were home to several of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales until the theme park unit of Anheuser-Busch was sold in 2009. Other points of interest include Pigs in a Kilt, a counter service walk-up.
- Loch Ness Monster is a looping Arrow Dynamics roller coaster. It is the first and (currently) only roller coaster in the world to feature interlocking loops.
Opened on April 24, 2013, MGM World features four new children and family rides and attractions themed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, including a SimEx-Iwerks 4-D attraction named Remy Rat 4-D, 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 area also features a stage for the main show "Sunny Days Celebration" and a gift shop. The hamlet also contains the skyride station nearest to the Main Gate. The Aeronaut (first leg) of the skyride departs to Aquitaine, France, while the Zeppelin (third leg) skyride arrives from Rhinefeld, Germany.
- Bert and Ernie's Loch Adventure is a flat flume ride with water effects
- Oscar's Whirly Worms is a rocking, spinning pirate ship-style ride
- Prince Elmo's Spire is family friendly a shot-n-drop drop tower ride from Zamperla
- Grover's Alpine Express is a Zierer family-friendly roller coaster standing 24 feet tall
Formerly known as Hastings, England, this section of the park was re-themed in 2001 as Ireland, the newest country in over 20 years. This area features Celtic Fyre, at the Abbey Stone Theatre, a celebration of Irish dance. Previously, the theatre housing Celtic Fyre was named the Magic Lantern Theatre, and housed some of the best theme park musical reviews in the United States. Shows such as Kaleidoscope, Hats Off to Hollywood, Journey into Music, Stage Struck, and Rockin the Boat are some of the names of these productions. Grogan's Grill offers Irish cuisine in this area. Outside the gateway next to Dining with Elmo, the walkway makes a sharp left turn and begins a long, moderately steep climb toward Aquitaine, France. Several animal sanctuaries and an animal performance theater are situated along this path.
- Eagle Ridge & Wolf Valley - Animal exhibits located just outside the village.
- Europe in the Air - An immersive, motion simulator above the wonders of Europe, including Stonehenge, Neuschwanstein Castle (the inspiration for the park's The Curse of DarKastle attraction in Germany), and the Colosseum in Rome, using video projection nearly seven times clearer than broadcast HD, according to the park's website. Europe in the Air replaced Corkscrew Hill for the 2010 season. Europe in the Air closed for the rest of the 2013 season on June 30, 2013, although it is now operating again for the 2014 season.
- Pet Shenanigans Theater - An outdoor venue that currently hosts the More Pet Shenanigans show.
San Marco (Italy)
When Italy/San Marco was opened, it completed the outer circle walkway around Busch Gardens. Part of the park's expansion included a high pedestrian bridge across the Rhine River into Oktoberfest, Germany. San Marco is based upon Renaissance era Italy. A prominent feature within San Marco is Da Vinci's Garden of Inventions. This garden features Italian statues and flowers set amid rides based on sketches by Leonardo da Vinci. Also in the area is Ristorante della Piazza, featuring Italian cuisine and allowing guests to watch "Mix It Up." During the summer until 2008, sounds of the Starlight Orchestra could be heard while dining.
- Da Vinci's Cradle - A standard magic carpet amusement ride that swings back and forth, gaining in height until it rotates over the top. It does not invert riders.
- Escape from Pompeii - A shoot-the-chutes boat ride featuring an extensive indoor portion within the city of Pompeii, featuring fire and water effects as well as falling statues to simulate the destruction of the city.
- Little Gliders & Little Balloons - Family-sized carnival rides themed to Da Vinci's inventions.
- The Battering Ram - A high-capacity, high-thrill swinging ship.
- The Flying Machine - A lightly themed tivoli manufactured orbiter ride that spins riders.
Festa Italia (Italy)
Festa Italia is themed around a 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 festival theme. Its attractions are themed around Roman mythology.
- Apollo's Chariot - A Bolliger & Mabillard Hyper Coaster featuring dives towards and around ponds and hills. Apollo's Chariot also features a deep purple and gold color scheme which is easily visible from the park entrance and surrounding parking lots.
- Roman Rapids - A circular-raft rapids ride among Roman ruins.
- Tradewinds - A permanent-placement music express ride.
- Elephant Run - A child-friendly bobsled ride.
- Turkish Delight - A typical spinning "teacup" ride.
- New Rollercoaster - Next to Apollo's Chariot.
Rhinefeld (Rhineland Germany)
This section is based upon the country of Germany. It is largely themed to a runaway ski resort in the German Alps. The third leg of Busch Gardens' skyride arrives and departs from this section. Also in Rhinefeld is Land of the Dragons, a large children's play area featuring a playground, five rides, and seasonal shows.
- Alpengeist - A Bolliger & Mabillard inverted roller coaster, Alpengeist is themed to a ski-lift taken over by a local legend, the Alpengeist (Ghost of the Alps). In addition to its blue and white Alpine color scheme, the station of Alpengeist features ski gear and other decorations to simulate a ski lodge in the Alps.
- Kinder Karussel - The park's antique Herschell Carousel.
- Land of the Dragons - Interactive children's play area featuring a treehouse, children's rides and a Ferris wheel.
Land of the Dragons
When it opened in 1994 (replacing the former Grimms Hollow children's area), Land of the Dragons was the main kiddie area at Busch Gardens. It is home to Dumpherey the Dragon, the area's mascot. Other major notes taken to Land of the Dragons include its dragon-themed 3-story tree house, a wet play area with waterfalls, squirting geysers, and a serpent inhabiting the area, and a dragon-egg Ferris wheel. There are also smaller play zones, slides, smaller wet play areas and (formerly) a gift shop called Dragon Digs.
- Eggery Deggery - A Ferris wheel with "dragon egg" carts
- Flutter Splutter - A flying dragon ride
- Chug-A-Tug - A boat ride
- Bug-A-Dug - A music express-like ride with ladybug cars
- Dragon-themed Treehouse
- Brook - A wet play area
- Riffle Rapids - A mini flume that ran under the Treehouse that had dragon-shaped boats, a small drop and rapids. (This ride was relocated to the Sesame Street Forest of Fun and was renovated and renamed as "Bert and Ernie's Loch Adventure" mini flume.)
As of the 2012 season, the Lost Children building has been relocated from its former building, dubbed Wild Moose Lodge, in New France, to what was formerly the Dragon Digs gift shop.
Oktoberfest (Bavarian Germany)
Like Rhinefeld, this section is based on Germany during the annual celebration of Oktoberfest. Oktoberfest features many of the park's flat rides. It is also home to a large assortment of carnival-style games. Das Festhaus is a large, air conditioned eating facility where guests can purchase German food or American classics. While eating in Das Festhaus, guests can experience Entwined", a show incorporating the Grimm Brothers' most famous fairy tales. This section of the park formerly hosted The Big Bad Wolf, a suspended roller coaster. The Big Bad Wolf was closed on September 7, 2009.
On September 18, 2010, it was announced that in 2011, Oktoberfest will be renovated with new shops and sights including a new beer garden and pretzel shop known as Beste Brezeln und Bier with a Bavarian maypole occupying the flower garden in front of Das Festhaus, along with a 246-foot (75 m) drop tower called Mäch Tower. Also announced was a new "multi-launch" roller coaster that will open in spring of 2012 on the former site of the Big Bad Wolf roller coaster. On September 17, 2011 it was announced that the new coaster would be called Verbolten. On May 18, 2012, Verbolten officially opened to the general public.
- Der Autobahn (Bumper Cars)
- Der Autobahn Jr. (Kiddie Bumper Cars)
- Der Roto Baron (Red Baron)
- Der Wirbelwind (Waveswinger) - classic yo-yo swings ride
- Wirbelwindchen (Kiddie Swings)
- Mäch Tower - Opened on August 19, 2011, this 246-foot (75 m) tall free-fall tower is located on the site previously occupied by Der Katapult, which has been moved to New France. Riders are seated in a 30-person ring around the tower, which rotates as it makes its way to the top. Special effects include vibrating seats and on-board audio.
- The Curse of DarKastle - An indoor, technological dark ride haunted house in which an ancient German king terrorizes guests with 3D effects, water, and wind in a motion-simulator style.The exterior of the ride is decorated in the style of a Bavarian castle "frozen in time". It features stone wolves as a nod to the Big Bad Wolf ride that existed in the same area of the park until 2009.
- Verbolten - Brave The Black Forest - A family-style, Black Forest themed launched roller coaster with a top speed of 53 mph.
Centering around the village of Aquitaine, this section is based on France. It is home to many boutiques and one of the park's skyride stations, where the first leg of the skyride arrives from England and the second leg departs for Rhinefeld, Germany. The Royale Palace Theatre in France hosts numerous shows throughout the season.
- Griffon - A dive roller coaster, named after the legendary creature, the griffin; contains a ninety-degree drop from 205 feet, 2 immelman loops, and a "splashdown" finale; the brother ride of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's SheiKra. Year opened: 2007
New France (French Canada)
New France is based on French colonial Canada and consists of a hub of Canadian-themed shops with a colonial tone throughout the area. Rides in New France include the Busch Gardens Railway departing from Caribou Station and Le Scoot Log Flume, featuring a 50-foot (15 m) plunge through a saw mill. A predominant feature in this area is the Trappers Smokehouse which has an outdoor grill centrally located. Trappers Smokehouse offers grilled and smoked items such as chicken, ribs, and beef brisket.
- Le Scoot Log Flume, a traditional high-in-the-sky theme park log flume
- Le Catapult - a basic carnival scrambler
Existing (listed by first year)
- Loch Ness Monster (1978 — present)
- Alpengeist (1997 — present)
- Apollo's Chariot (1999 — present)
- Griffon (2007 — present)
- Verbolten (2012 — present)
Defunct (listed by closing year)
- Die Wildkatze (1976 — 1983)
- Replaced by Big Bad Wolf
- Das Kätzchen (1976 — 1984)
- Glissade (1975 — 1985)
- Replaced by Wild Maus
- Drachen Fire (1992 — 1998)
- Wilde Maus (1996 — 2003)
- Moved to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay as Sand Serpent
- Replaced by Curse of DarKastle
- Opened as the Wild Izzy as a tie into the Izzy, mascot of the 1996 Olympic Games, for which Budweiser was a sponsor.
- Big Bad Wolf (1984 — 2009)
- Replaced by Verbolten
- Grover's Alpine Express (2009 - 2012)
- Replaced by Remy Rat 4-D
Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve
Along with various birds that inhabit Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve, attractions here are the bald eagles and wolves. Eagle Ridge is a 3,000+ foot area set aside for housing and rehabilitating bald eagles and providing education to visitors. Wolf Haven is a viewing area where guests may observe one of Busch Garden's pairs of wolves. One pair is on exhibition at a time. Busch Gardens also provides Wolf Valley for those wolves not on display. Over 8,000 feet (2,400 m) of natural habitat is intended to ensure the animals' health and well-being.
Busch Gardens’ Highland Stables features Scottish Blackface sheep, Border collies, black Clydesdales and a European barn owl. Guests can interact with the animals during daily demonstrations.
Parking and Transportation
At the park, special parking areas are provided for persons with special needs or disabilities, recreational vehicles, and groups arriving by buses and motorcoaches. Trams provide shuttle service to and from entrance gates from outlying parking areas.
Within the park itself, three steam locomotive powered trains operate on the Template:RailGauge narrow gauge Busch Gardens Railway, a 2-mile (3.2 km) loop of track, providing transportation between the Heatherdowns, Festa Italia, and New France themed areas. Additionally, a skyride provides transportation between the Banbury Cross, Aquitaine, and Rhinefeld themed areas.
Awards and recognition
|Golden Ticket Awards: Best Landscaping - Amusement Park|
|NAPHA Survey: Most Beautiful Park|
The National Amusement Park Historical Association (NAPHA) named Busch Gardens the world's Most Beautiful Park for the 23rd consecutive year in 2012.
|NAPHA Survey: Favorite Theme Park|
|3,094,000 ||2,900,000 ||2,800,000 ||2,744,000 ||2,854,000 ||2,726,000 |
- Coaster Grotto Theme Park Attendance Estimates
- Christmas Town Official Website
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg - Loch Ness Monster
- Bush Gardens Williamsburg (April 5, 2012). The Wait Is Over For Busch Gardens' Verbolten. Blog. Sea World Parks Blog. Retrieved on April 5, 2012.
- Busch Gardens Official Blog
- YouTube video released during the September 17th, 2011 Pass-members Appreciation Event.
- A New Home to Roam at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. WildLIFE Conservation News (Spring 2006). Retrieved on 2007-06-24.
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg - Highland Stables
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg Media Room
- Amusement Today 2011 Park and Ride Winners
- TEA/AECOM 2008 Global Attractions Report. Themed Entertainment Association (2008). Retrieved on June 25, 2014.
- TEA/AECOM 2009 Global Attractions Report. Themed Entertainment Association (2009). Archived from the original on June 2, 2010. Retrieved on June 25, 2014.
- TEA/AECOM 2011 Global Attractions Report. Themed Entertainment Association (2011). Retrieved on June 25, 2014.
- TEA/AECOM 2013 Global Attractions Report. Themed Entertainment Association (2014). Retrieved on June 25, 2014.
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg expansion announcement page
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg official website
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg Howl-o-Scream official website
- Busch Gardens Williamsburg Christmas Town official website