Another season has begun at America’s Most Beautiful theme park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg. We can expect the usual fun from the rides in all of the European themed villages which are surrounded by trees, flowers and beautiful landscapes. All of the main rides are open as refurbishments happen during the off-season. Busch Gardens is also a haven for some animals, and foodies with their delicious food options. Entertainment lovers enjoy shows in many of the villages, including longtime favorites Celtic Fyre and Pet Shenanigans in Ireland.
Every year (for at least the past 8 years I can attest) the park has opened up either a new ride, event, or show is on the schedule for something new for park goers to delight. For the 2018 season there are several new things to enjoy including a new ride, new show, some new animals and a brand new membership program.
The Highland Stables also received 2 new editions this year. 2 baby Clydesdales, Axel and Ludo. You can visit them most days. If they aren't in the stables they are usually viewable from the train out in the pastures. Ludo always seems to come over when i say hi to him, he must like the sound of my voice.
BATTLE FOR EIRE
The brand new Virtual Reality ride (also known as Action VR ride) is finally open after a long intriguing wait. Fans have been following the progress of this 360 degree action adventure ride in the Ireland village, which replaced Europe in the Air. Since it’s in the same building Battle for Eire is using some of the same equipment. This combines the 360 virtual reality with a motion simulator makes it a unique ride in the amusement park, thrill industry (one of a kind).
Busch Gardens Engineers created one of a kind headsets which include a helmet and personalized attachable piece. They have been described as easy to maintain and convenient to use. The head mount is adjustable and you can fit it before you ride. This still needs some tweaking for some. My son and Step mother Ginger both rode a week after the ride opened and enjoyed the ride overall but did notice there were some issues with the headsets. Hers wasn’t secured properly, her hair got in the headset and she experienced some fogging, not sure if this was just an error on the ride operator, or the headset itself. Noah received a few errors. But overall they found it interesting. As with all new ride openings things can be alittle buggy, but the later you wait to ride the better your experience should be. I personally cannot ride because of my heart condition, on a good day I would consider but I am very prone to motion sickness so as more people I know ride it I may decide to give it a whirl.
The story behind Battle for Eire tells the tale of the last fairy Addie and her dragon friend Ollie in Ireland. The two fight dark forces, soar above lush landscapes and ultimately take on a battle with the evil dark lord Balor. The goal is to recover the sacred heart of Eire.
Battle for Eire is a family ride, with the height requirement being 42 inches and up, and is described as a moderate thrill. “We can’t wait to share this ride with our guests. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind attraction with so many features and surprises, you’ll want to experience it again and again,” said Kevin Lembke, park president at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA.
FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL Begins late May through July 1
Food and Wine opens soon and I will have a separate review on the the Food & Wine event, we will be visiting May 25th but here are some new highlights that I am aware of already. Food & Wine festival operates on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays plus Memorial Day from May 25-July 1, 2018. Kiosks are found throughout the park, in their previous locations. Maps are provided. Each area also has additional multi-cultural experiences. This year new cuisine is being presented from Brazil, Cuba, South Korea and Japan. Selected weekends will also have additional concerts. On June 9 you can see Country Music sensation Scotty McCreery and on June 30 pop music star Andy Grammer. All concerts are included with park admission.
BRAND NEW LASER LIGHT SHOW
In July there will be a brand new Laser light pyrotechnic show in the Royal Palace Theater in France village at the Royal Palace outdoor amphitheater. I have to say I am looking forward to this as I remember seeing a few laser light shows back when I was a youngling. Busch Gardens describes the show as being full of Lots of lights and pyrotechnics to wow guests. And is full of High Energy. The show will be available every evening from July 6 through August 12. This will be updated after we get to view it.
New memberships are part of the park now eventually replacing the Season Pass program. A membership is a “season pass” but it’s designed to me more like family, include more time in the park and all of the previous perks that the old program contained (10% discount, free tickets, discounts, free parking *) There is a calendar of new Member perks, including Member only times, where the park is open early or late just for members, free items and even additional discount days on top of the 10% discount. The decision to switch from your current program is going to vary. People who are new pass holders will benefit from switching as they will experience a savings on the tickets since they will no longer need to buy a Christmas Town pass for starters. Others who have been paying for passes for years (such as us) can’t really afford the new program prices. The new prices might be a large increase. (ours would go from $37 a month for 3 of us to $60 for example, we have had them 8 years). But also keep in mind this will include Christmas Town, which typically was another $50 per person for a funcard for the year. (plus parking for non-passholders) So with the new membership program you have both the free parking and Christmas Town.
There are 3 options a basic membership(completely new option) Unlimited (similar to the 2 park option) and Premier (platinum that gets you into all the Discovery Parks)
The Basic includes both parks but does have black out days which are posted on the website. In short
all Saturdays are black out days (Which is the busiest day anyway, we almost never go). Major holidays are blocked out. Which means the first week of April for Easter is all blocked out, and the first week of July for the 4 th of July. Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day. Once Christmas Town opens (which is open nearly everyday) all Sundays are black out days (but Saturdays are not) and Thanksgiving weekend. The rest of the calendar is open. They do however offer a $25 ticket on a block out date if it is that important. This is ONLY on the basic membership which is pretty inexpensive. You will also get 50% off of parking, which is better than when you had a funcard which did not give you this, and did not give you Christmas Town or HowlOScream (you had to buy specific card for the season).
Unlimited membership is as you have always known it, gets free general parking. Preferred/platinum still gets free preferred when available to your home park.
Tickets are still discounted at a $55 ticket for premier/basic and $25 for entrance to water country.
Platinum season passes still have the $50 and $20 tickets (a $40 discount, same day tickets have gone up to $90)
The changes are welcomed by many who took part in a survey and wanted these options, others of course are not. We personally are fine with it for this year as we can keep our current passes. We also get complemetry Unlimited passes or being in the blogger program, so we can still attend any member events and Christmas Town.
More Surprises as the Season Progresses
Besides these new things, this year is the 20 th anniversary of HowlOScream, so we will be expecting to hear more about that later. So far we do know there will be 3 new mazes and 2 to 3 new Terrytories this year (Vampire Point, Axe Alley and Side Show Square are all returning) this means there will be no more Ripper Row, and possibly 2 NEW areas, which means more scares. Stay tuned!