Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Summer time in 2018 at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Summer Nights at Busch Gardens
Not going to lie, summer in Virginia like most of the east coast (except perhaps New England) is hot! Generally though, the humidity here in Virginia is more often lower than a lot of other places. (Most specifically where we lived in NJ just outside of Philly which was like a tropical rainforest). We do get muggy days of course, but overall, if you can find shade, water and a breeze it’s nice. Well except for the 100 degree days, but there aren’t too many of those. Busch Gardens this year is adding a bit more cool down for your summer. Besides their water park (Water Country USA) the park has 3 water rides,  misters and air conditioned stores and venues. But this year they are adding a few more ways to cool off and few more exciting surprises to make summer sizzle and shine a bit more, in the good way.

                                          Minus 321 in back of Ireland Wild life Reserve

This Summer is going to sizzle and shine highlights.

  • ·    Giant Mister fans (so far found this one above in France)
  •     Spritzer Squad walking the pathways to spray down willing guests.

  • ·         Dance party in France with a DJ, located where Demon DJ plays during HowlOScream.
  •        Spark, out door lazer show with music and a party with the DJ before hand.

  • ·         Fireworks Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday July 6-Sept 2(plus July 3-5 for the holiday) 9:30
  • ·         Projection Mapping in Germany on Wilkommenhaus House in Germany (the big clock in front of the fountain) it will change the landscape of the area. July 6-Aug 12. Busch Gardens lights up in a beautiful way at night most summers, this is a new feature.

  • ·         The Coca Cola ice cream place Minus 321 will be open for nitrogen coca cola infused ice cream teats. (in the back of Ireland's Wild life reserve, right before the entrance to France).The park is also having special summertime treats such as Splatter cake, super shakes and Tied dyed crepes. Crepes will be at crepes and coffee, and Splatter cake is at all the restaurants. Super Shakes are found at the Ice Cream location in France. They are huge from what we understand, but the line was very slow (as in not moving for 5-10 minutes and still a long way to go) So we had to skip it, but it was opening weekend so perhaps that will be better any day but Saturday. Because they sure look awesome.

  • Retro drink cup special in honor of the Lock Ness monster turning 40 continues now through August 12. Enjoy 40 cent beers (7oz sized) in a special line in Fest Haus 2 per customer.
  • Additional fun treats include Pork Tacos, Bacon on a stick, Acai Berry bowls, Spark Cocktails and fried twinkies. These are also found in France, where the Cuba kioski was (next to the ice cream place).

                         Splatter cake can be found through out the park where meals are sold

A Whole New park After Dark

After Dark many areas for the park are lit up with beautiful colorful lighting, so its a whole new experience in the evening.

New Shows

Spark – will open and run from July 6- Aug 12. The high energy show features a party area dance floor, complete with bubbles that are made with some kind of smoke inside them. You can also opt to just sit and view if you're not up for dancing. Both are fun! The soundtrack is older and newer dance music. The show will also feature laser lights and some pyrotechnics. Spark is a good time, there is a 9pm showing every day in France's outdoor Royal Palace theater.

                                                                        Light Balance

Light Balance in the Abbey Stone (where Celtic Fyre normally performs). From July 6-8  and again on Friday, Saturday and Sundays July 27-August  12 you can enjoy a limited engagement popularized by America’s Got Talent. These dancers with lighted costumes take to the blackened stage and light up the darkness. They are often described as a Neon dance troupe. Light Balance will perform 5 shows nightly during the limited engagement.

Be prepared to stand in line and get a ticket to get in. Its no additional charge, and only one person from your family has to stay in the line the entire time, but it was a very popular event opening weekend. We got in line just after 6:30 (not expecting a line honestly) for the 6:45 show, but was able to see the 7:45 show. We were seated around 7:20 and it was well worth the wait, the show was absolutely amazing!


Summertime can be very hot, but it is more tolerable at Busch Gardens than many other parks that don’t have as much natural shade. The 3 water rides, include a long flume (le Scoot in France), Escape from Pompeii which is a big drop flume (near the front of the park Italy); and Roman Rapids (Fiesta Italy) a rapid adventure sure to get you soaked. Also for those who don’t ride, if you want to get soaked you can stand at the walk out at the bottom of Pompeii and get pretty drenched as flumes come down. There are plenty of air-conditioned stores and misters in a few spots. Fest Haus, (Oktoberfest) the largest restaurant and only indoor one is large enough to hold a lot of people on a hot (or very cold) day.

Summer fun begins in July at the conclusion of Food & Wine (May 25-July 2).

Video walk through to "Europe in the Air" of Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Le Scoot

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Busch Gardens Food & Wine 2018

It’s that time of the year again when Busch Gardens gets more delicious for the 6th annual Food & Wine Festival. Food and Wine began in 2013 and has become a popular event, especially for foodies and anyone who appreciates the talents of the culinary team at the park. If you have been to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg Virginia, then you know the park is themed in the style of Europe, so you are already in a virtual paradise, now with more food. The landscape however is very beautiful this time of year, with flowers blooming.

You can enjoy the festival from May 25-July 1st. Every year there are typically 2 new kiosks to replace lesser performing ones. This year there wasn't necessarily a "lesser performing" kiosk, but there are simply so many types of food to try there will be 3 (and a half) new kiosks. The half, is a revamp of Asia. There will also be a few changes to some of the other kiosks.

Busch Gardens in Williamsburg is meant to have a food and wine event since the food here is a much higher caliber than you will find at the majority of theme parks. It has grown into a decent sized event to celebrate food, drink and culture. You can learn little tid bits about the countries represented.  As far as the food, the majority is made in house, all of their desserts and sauces are made on the premises, they smoke all of their own meats and sometimes special chefs join the team for Food & Wine (this year it was a sushi cook for the Japan kiosk!). Fish is always sustainable and the fruits and much of the vegetables are locally sourced.

I would consider the event a walking tour of Europe and the tastes of culinary dishes from around the world without the high price tag. It’s a beautiful escape for those who want to travel, but really can’t go too far. We have attended 4 of the past 5 years and the quality and product is consistent.

Above is the brand new mac-N-cheese from Hawaii which of course has ham and pineapple in it, and is topped with a macademia nut crust. The drink is the wheat puff shake from Cuba. called Batido de Trigo. Just like sugar smack milk.

What's New in 2018

New Kiosks
  •  Brazil replacing Canada (in same location) 3 items 1 cocktail, 1 specialty. The food items: Brazilian Sausage, Beef Chimichurri, and grilled pineapple with coconut caramel sauce.
  • Cuba replacing France (in same location) 3 items, 1 dessert, 1 cocktail, 1 specialty; Food: Cuban Sandwich, Shredded beef over rice and beans, Fried plantains, Flan
  • South Korea- In Fiesta near train station and Elephant Run- 3 items, 1 cocktail, 1 specialty. Food: Beef on a stick, Ribs, Kimchi Sampler.
  • Revamped Kiosk- Japan replacing Asia- still has 2 of the items, with 3 brand new items. Green Tea ice cream, Sushi, Lettuce wrap, chicken dumplings and Soba noodle bowl.

 Vegan dishes are noted with a green leaf on the kiosk menus. This year there are 6 vegan options (American Southwest : Ghost Chili Guacamole; India : Samosas, Japan : Lettuce Wrap; Mediterranean : Falafel; South Korea :  Kimchi Sampler; Spain:  Gazpacho. There are also 38 vegetarian options (including vegan, and does include desserts, but does not include drinks)

The Gazpacho went vegan this year by omitting the shrimp

 As far as drinks, or the "wine part" of Food & Wine, there are Tequila tastings by the Fest Haus (where Argentina Wine was in 2017)
In Fest Haus you will find a Beer flight, plus the famous Pork Schnitzel slider (schnitzelwich) which has a lemon caper sauce.

There are  5 Wine tastings - French Wine tastings, Niagara Region, German,  Italian,  Ireland. And for those who don't prefer wine a Scotch tasting in Scotland.

Previous years have had different entertainment in the form of Chef demos, this is also set up for 2018. This year they will be making some of the food from the festival in kiosks about every hour to hour and half. You will also get to try bite size samples for free.

This year there will also be 3 concerts. Scott McCreery on June 9.  Hunter Hayes on June 16, and Andy Grammer on June 30.

  • No additional Ticket, part of your admission. Buy what you want
  • All normal attractions are running
  • Food kiosks open at 11am and serve all day, or until they run out of food. In the case of lightening they do temporarily close
  • Tastings range from $2-$4 for desserts and about $4-$6 for entrées, a few are more.
  • To make your day a bit easier, you can purchase cashless wristbands.
  • Wristbands are available in several areas of the park, 2 different spots before you even get to food (Booth before the turnstiles and guest relations after you enter), plus several other locations in the park.
  • You can prepay with cash or link to a credit card for the cashless wristband. Then you just scan at the locations. This is a great choice when your hands are full and you need your stomach to be. If you don’t spend all of your cash, stop at Guest Relations in England when exiting and they will refund you any money not spent.
  • You can eat and drink your way around the park, and even take a short cruise down the Rhine River, while delighting in some jazz music and savoring some fancy cheese and chocolate. 
  • The Kombucha being sold at the Japan Kiosk is kept in a kegerator and does not contain alcohol, its by Coca Cola.
  • The Kimchi is also not fermented so no fish used for those with an allergy and is vegan
  • Sampler Cards cost $50 for 10 items, or $65 for 15 items.

·         The park goes all out for this event with additional decorations, country flags, lights and informational boards giving interesting tid bits from the countries represented. Truly a feast for the eyes as well. (no calories for that).

We visited on May 25, opening day

Kiosks of the Countries & regions represented

  • ·        American Southwest (moved to Scotland near Loch Ness Monster)
  • ·         Asia – Japan (NEW) -located in Italy walkway near big tree- between Pompeii and other rides in Italy at walkway to Fiesta
  • ·         Brazil (NEW) - in New France, replaced Canada
  • ·         Caribbean- Germany on the way to Oktoberfest.
  • ·         Coffee & Crêpes (part of France all year, but with different options for F&W)
  • ·         Cuba (NEW) - France-replaced France Kiosk near icecream and outside of Griffon
  • ·         French Quarter- France
  • ·         Germany - Oktoberfest near swings
  • ·         Greece/ Mediterranean- in pizza cone/donut bite location by Pompeii
  • ·         Hawaii- Ireland- in Wildlife reserve across from back of Abbystone theater-New Mac-N-Cheese
  • ·         India (new in 2017)- Germany
  • ·         Ireland- Ireland- near entrance after exiting bridge
  • ·         Italy- Italy, usual location  all desserts- NEW Mini Cannoli Trio
  • ·         Island Freeze Drinks (NEW in 2017) Back of Oktoberfest near Verbolten
  • ·         Spain- Italy walkway passed stores and Marco Polo, before rides
  • ·         South Korea (NEW) Fiesta near train station and Elephant Run
  • ·         Virginia- Scotland in Scotland pigs in a kilt.

Our Favorites

Best Dish- Hawaii- Tuna Poke. So good, I could eat a dozen I am sure. The seaweed salad is delicious also. Both are very light and fresh.

Easiest to Eat while walking in the Park- Virginia- Bacon Hushpuppies and honey butter. I wish they would make this all year.

Best Dessert- America South West- Chocolate lava Cake. So gooey, and a very nice size. Its almost impossible to pick a best dessert, not only is this chocolate its the best value being the size of a cupcake.

Runner up -Cannoli Trio in Italy. You get 3 mini's but they are very close in size to the full sized in all three varieties the park sells in Marco Polo Italy. Ricotta, Strawberry and Nutella

Best  Speciality non-alcoholic Drink, Hawaii, Hibiscus Lemonade. 
RUNNER UP the Brazilian lemonade which is a frozen shake made with limes and sweetened condensed milk. Tastes like sherbet! Delicious and about the same size as this..

Best Soup, Virginia, She-Crab Soup. Very good, lots of crab.

Best New item from 2017 Mediterranean - Lamb Slider. Meaty, delicious not gamy

Best New item for 2018 TBA

Best Value- Virginia- Ham sampler; For $4 you get 3 kinds of Ham,- Country Ham, Carved Ham, and Ham pate, Plus as garnish- apple butter, honey mustard and whole grain mustard with a nice sized honey biscuit.

Carnivore’s Delight- Brazil- Sausage with grilled mushrooms, peppers and onions. perfect crisp sausage. delicious and a good portion.

Vegetarian Delight- Caribbean- Mojo Shrimp on Hearts of Palm Salad- Citrus marinated shrimp on bed of hearts of palm, black beans, corn relish, cilantro lime. Nice portion of shrimp! 

Sweet Tooth Lovers- Virginia- Pecan Bacon Chocolate bars.

Vegan Delight  - Lettuce Wrap - Japan. Marinated Tofu, veggies in chili sauce wrapped in butter lettuce. 

Food and Wine is fun overall. And if you have never been to the park, it may be a good time to check it out. Busch Gardens is more than just a theme park, it's not known for an excessive amount of thrill rides, but has thrilling rides. It is much more. You go here for a full experience, a nice day out in the fresh and sun, time with your loved ones and some delicious eats.

Don't miss this wonderful event!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What’s new in 2018 at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Another season has begun at America’s Most Beautiful theme park, Busch Gardens Williamsburg. All of the European themed villages 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  animal lovers, 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 to keep things exciting and fresh.  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 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. 


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 which makes it a unique ride in the amusement park thrill industry (currently 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. My son and Step mother Ginger both rode a week after the ride opened and enjoyed the ride overall, (Europe in the Air was their favorite) they especially enjoyed it visually. They did have some issues with the headsets which is expected early on. 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 a little 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.


Lock Ness Monster turns 40 celebration June 6-10th
For 5 days the park is celebrating the Lock Ness Monster, when it was first created it was the tallest and fastest coaster of its time. You can see an original car  up at the front of the park (all the cars have been updated this year).  The ride itself also had a mini update with new lighting effects in the cave and a Lock Ness Roar! There will also be the following specials.

  • .40 cent beers- certain beers at Das Fest Haus will be just 40 cents (2 max per guest)
  • .40 refill Green popcorn
  • Special Lock Ness Dipping Dots
  • Special donuts and cupcakes
  • $40 tickets (june 1-10 th)
  • Specialty Lock Ness clothing and accessories
  • Ride photos for $4.40


In July there will be a brand new Laser light pyrotechnic show in the Royal Palace Theater in France village. I have to say I am very much 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 the show will be 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) will see an increase. The new prices for us for example will go from $37 a month for 3 of us to $60 for example. We purchased in 2010. 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 program is better than a funcard, and an inexpensive option. It includes both parks but does have black out days which are posted on the website.  It is not the same as the Unlimited 2 park, this is something completely different.  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 4th 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 is also blacked out for the basic program. 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 20th 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!