Saturday, May 31, 2014

Busch Gardens Food & Wine a Feast for the Senses

This is some of the coverage of the food & wine event as it relates to Noah (or most ASD kids/special needs/picky eaters)


Friday, May 30, 2014

Busch Gardens Food & Wine 2014: Food, Glorious Food!

                           Caribbean Kiosk in between Land of the Dragons and Germany

Oh my, food glorious food. And true to its higher standards (not your typical theme park food) the Food & Wine Festival at Busch Gardens did not disappoint.  If you can fully immerse yourself into the experience, you can have a lovely-pseudo European vacation, in just a day or two right here in the United States.

                                                  Walkway into Germany from France

Busch Gardens Williamsburg was previously named “The Old Country” because of its theming. The park is sectioned as European countries, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France and “New France” (which is the France of Canada). So you are already enjoying themed architecture, specialty shops and food from those areas. The Food & Wine Festival is Busch Gardens food “kicked up a notch” as Emeril would say. If you have never eaten at Busch Gardens then you may not understand what this means. But it isn't your typical theme park food, sure there are burgers and pizza available in two of the six main dining locations,  but overall the food is specialized to the area--such as Irish stew in an Irish soda bread bowl in Ireland, or the German sausage platter with 3 types of sausages, cabbage and German potato salad in Germany. (Both meals are also under $10.) Offering themed dishes is of course delightful (ask anyone who loves Epcot), but it is the quality and the price that makes it outstanding. According to executive chef Justin Watson all the food in Busch Gardens is made from higher quality products. Much of it is fresh and some is locally sourced. All fish products are sustainable. And the desserts, well they are baked on premises, fresh and delicious.

                                    Strawberry shortcake, with real cream and real strawberries.

The festival was inspired by the current trend of "street food" that is mobile and in smaller portions allowing foodies to taste many items. So you can enjoy the many different foods from all of these countries in a true park setting (with fun rides and live entertainment). Busch Gardens is aptly named because the park is full of trees, flowers and shrubs; it is not like many theme parks full of concrete and no shade. Frankly, I can spend the day here and ride next to nothing and still feel like I had a wonderful time, it’s that beautiful.

                                                       The Gardens in Italy

                                                   View from the bridge into Ireland

                                           Canada kiosk, featuring Pumpkin Mousse

There are 14 kiosks and about 55 tastings available (not including beverages), though we did not eat every single item, we did enjoy about 20 tastings over the weekend.  Some were better values than others, and some were so delicious you will want to make a meal out of them. Like most things, each tasting, still comes down to personal taste.

                                                        Entrance to Ireland 

You can also enhance your European vacation by enjoying Europe in the Air in the Ireland section of the park; here you can take a journey through most of the same lands represented in Busch Gardens, in just 17 minutes. I don’t advise eating first, it’s not the type of ride to make you sick, however it is a little jarring to those with sensitive systems and eyes. I am someone who cannot ride things like the Battering Ram, or any type of ride that spins (yes, even the carousel makes me queasy) I have ridden this at least a half a dozen times, probably more. I know to close my eyes when the clouds show up in the show meaning we are taking off like lightning speed to our next destination.

                                                           Ice Sculpting in Ireland

One of our favorite foods was outside of Germany (between the Land of the Dragons and Germany) at the newly created Caribbean kiosk. The Jamaican Jerk Chicken was good on every level, from the flavor of the meat, the pineapple salsa, the guava barbecue sauce and the value. I am not a fan of BBQ sauce, too much vinegar normally-however the smoothness of the guava made me appreciate it. At the same stand you can also get Gamba Friiters (Gamba means shrimp) which was right up there with my favorites, which really there were too many and it almost dosen't seem fair to number them.

                                      Jamaican Jerk Chicken at Caribbean Kiosk outside Germany.

As far as best bang for your buck, if you are hungry I recommend the Pork Schnitzel sandwich in Oktoberfest section of Germany, it is a more thin than thick slice of breaded pork, topped with a caper sauce and slice of lemon. If you love curry, you must get the Curry Kielbasa…just the right spice without being spicy.  Over in Canada the Venison Sausage & Corn Porridge was one of the best things I have ever tasted. It was a nice size portion. If you have never had venison this is the time to try it. If you love seafood, the mussels in France are also an excellent choice, they were all open, beautiful and a nice portion for $5. 

                                        Venison & Corn Porridge with caramelized onions

                                           Gamba (Shrimp) Fritters at Caribbean kiosk

If you want to make your day simpler (it should be a vacation or at least a day off after all). Then consider the cashless wristbands, you can buy them in several areas of the park. There are two different spots before you even get to food (a well signed booth after the entrance but before the turnstiles and guest relations after you enter on the right), plus a few stores throughout the park. You can prepay with cash or link to a credit card. Then you just scan at the locations. If you don’t spend all of your cash, you stop at guest relations in England when exiting and they will refund you any money not spent. You can also purchase a Trio Certificate which will allow guests any 3 items (dessert, beverage or entree) for $12.

                             Cruising down the "Rhine River" in Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Va.

For a special treat you may want to spend the $20 and do the "Wine of the Rhine" cruise. During the festival you get to enjoy an extended version of the Rhine River cruise while listening to a jazz band and enjoying some fine cheese, fruit, wine, chocolate and some wine of course (juice for the kids).

                Chefs James Parker and James Butauski  creating art from watermelons. 

Even if you don’t wish to eat all day (maybe just drink) or perhaps you have a restrictive diet, there is more to the festival. There are three Art of Food booths (France, Ireland, Italy) where you can watch these master chefs carve beautiful sculptures out of food.  I can never understand how someone knows to make a rose out of watermelon, I can't even draw a rose. Chef James Parker said he can't draw one either and he doesn't plan what he sculpts,most of his sculptures take their own shape. Food isn't just sustenance, it is art, it's pleasure and it's culture. The festival celebrates all of this. Each kiosk also has information about the country represented, so you learn things like the country of Italy is the same size as the state of Arizona, and the lollipop originated in Spain.

Like many food & wine events, those who are the most adventurous will have the most choices. But there still are things you can try if you are vegetarian, vegan or even gluten free. Vegetarians can find items at every kiosk. When you get to the festival pick up a small guide with descriptions.  The truth is carnivores and vegetarians will have the most choices, but that can be expected for this type of event.

                         Time is ticking, don't miss out on the festival it only goes until June 29th

Facts on the Festival
Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Food & Wine Festival (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays May 23-June 29) included with admission to the park, pay for the tastings you wish to taste. Food becomes available at 11 A.M until the park closes.

Majority of tastings are $4-$5, most desserts are $2-$3. Some that are higher include the cheese plate in Italy, beer flight of 4 beer tastings in Germany and the cured salmon on a potato pancake in Scandinavia are all $12. And on the flip side the Toffee in Scotland is just $2 and enough for 3 people to taste.

There are 71 varieties of wine and beer available for tasting.

As 2 adults tasting around for dinner, the cost was about $40 for about 9 different tastings, which we shared. It was all plenty filling as a meal.

The kiosks/countries represented are : France,  Belgium, Coffee & Crepes (in France), Canada, American South West; Ireland, Scandinavia, Scotland, Italy , Spain, Greece; Germany, German Beer, Caribbean.

Every area has beer and wine tastings, except Spain, which only has Pancho Sangria.  You can also find cocktail tastings in the Caribbean, Scandinavia, France, Italy & Greece.

Festival is inspired by the popularity of street food that is mobile, and eating smaller portions so you can try more items.

The Caribbean Kiosk was added by facebook fans.

The Austria kiosk from last year was omitted but the 2 most popular items (Schnitzelwich and Linzer Torte) were added to Germany's kiosk. And 3 New kiosks were added (American Southwest, Scandinavia and Caribbean)

Vegan Options

Scotland: Neeps & Tatties - Roasted Turnips & potatoes with carrots and chives

France: Ratatouille (hold the parmesan bread crumb topping)

Caribbean:  Palm Salad -Palm hearts, black beans, shrimp and citrus on a bed of spinach-(hold the shrimp)

Spain: Tapas (paprika roasted marcona almonds, marinated olive medley, quince pasta); Gazpacho (chilled cucumber soup)-also comes with a salad that has fish and ham, but you can opt out of that or give it to someone else in your party.

Greece:  Greek Dip Trio (humus, Pasta Elias)-also comes with a feta dip; Salata (traditional Greek Salad with lemon vinaigrette, oregano & pita chips)

Unfortunately due to the fact the food was so delicious, sometimes we ate it up before we could photo it. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Utilizing Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival to Bust Through Picky Eater Blockades

We will be attending this festival this weekend. I am hopeful Noah will try some new foods, and I will report back on our experience. For those of you who don't know, Noah like many ASD kids eats maybe a dozen foods (hardboiled eggs-white part only, hashbrown patties or tater tots, pasta, pizza, french fries, applesauce, bacon, pepperoni, rice crackers, some cereal and wendy's cheeseburgers --this is new!)

Examiner article with slide show 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Highlights of what is on the agenda at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 2014

This year at Busch Gardens Williamsburg there is new attractions to enjoy and celebration of older ones.

The Sesame Street Forest of Fun marks its 5th anniversary as of April 4th, 2014. A parade and all of the Sesame Street characters will be out to celebrate.

Apollo’s Chariot marks its 15th year anniversary this year. The coaster may not go upside down, but it packs in a thrill with its smooth and fast moving at 73 m.p.h right over the Rhine River and its huge 210 ft drop, oh and there is no floor. You are held in by just a lap bar and physics.  Apollo's Chariot has received a "Golden Ticket Award" for top steel coasters every year since its introduction, placing as high as number 4 on a list of coasters from all over the world.

Spring Break begins April 4th through April 21st daily, then on the weekends only until May 23rd when it will be open for summer. You can purchase a 7-day Spring Bounce ticket which gives you admission to both Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and Colonial Williamsburg for 7 consecutive days, must be purchased by April 24th. (You can use 3 of those days at BG and the remaining at Colonial Williamsburg) There is also a Springtacular vacation package (March 16-May 19) that will combine accommodations, dining, quick queue with tickets and a fun card (good until September 1)so they can return so guests can have the most bang for their buck, less worry, ease ofvacationing. Link-

The Land of the Dragons is also receiving a makeover and will reveal the new Land on April 26th, the voice of the Dragons will be returning and guests who listen closely will be able to hear the roar. More shade trees and fans will be added for families to rest while little ones climb and adventure in the enclosed land.

London Rocks!

London Rocks will premiere on May 23, 2014. London Rocks will take place in the newly renovated Globe Theater and takes the place of Pirates 4D. The 25 minute live-action show, takes guests on a musical journey through the of rock n roll from legendary British musicians and bands. This new show was 4 years in the making and will include state of the art equipment normally used for concerts. Click here for more information

Food & Wine Festival (May 23-June 29) take your taste buds on vacation for an extra special culinary tour through BG. Since the park is separated into countries already that showcase those countries food, (France, Ireland, Germany, Scotland, and Italy) you can find additional offerings in the form of tastings within those countries. Such as Pork Schnitzel in Germany and hand crafted German Beers. There will also be additional representatives like Spain, Canada in New France, Austria in Germany, Scandinavia in Ireland and this year a Caribbean themed menu will be added. Tastings range from 3-7. For your convenience you can buy a cashless wrist band that you either pre load with a specific amount or attach to a credit card. No fees and your account is settled at the end of the day. You can preview a map on the BG Website. There is also a special Wine on the Rhine, live Jazz music and delicious offerings while you cruise down the Rhine River. For $20 you can purchase cheese, fruit, crackers and gourmet truffle and 2 wine or beer samples.  For guests 21 and over (younger guests will get juice and the cost is 5 less) and take 25-30 minute cruise down the Rhine River.
Water Country will open Colossal Curl an adrenaline pumping family thrill ride. Some of the columns added are as tall as a 6 story building. A huge 1400 sq. foot funnel (bigger than my house) where riders are in a four-leafed clover raft is the crowning glory. Colossal Curl promises to be one of a kind because of the large funnel and wave elements. Opens Spring 2014

Busch Gardens Concert Series
Kicks of May 4 with former Poison front man and reality star Bret Michaels. Glory at the Gardens begins May 11 with Christian band Mercy Me. Busch Gardens Live and Glory at the Gardens shows are held at the Royal Palace Theater located in the France section of the park. Seating begins at 7 pm, concert is held at 9 pm and is complimentary with park admission but tickets are still required and are picked up at Guest relations the day of the event. All members of your party who wish to have tickets have to be present to ensure seating.  You can call (800) 343-7946 for more information.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Deals

Free Preschool Pass for children under 5 (proof of age is required) unlimited admission to both parks through September 1st, you have until May 31st to get this pass. (Children 3-5 at time of purchase, children under 3 are always free) You can register here. You can only do this online, fill out form and print E ticket. Once registered you will take it to the front gate on your first/next visit and provide proof of age through birth certificate or passport.

Meal deals, get both lunch and dinner for $24 a person, add $5 and get a refillable souvenir cup for .99 refills.

The best deal is always the season pass. For either $120 one-time fee, or $10 a month, you get free parking, unlimited visits all year and discounts on merchandise, food and Christmas Town Tickets. For a little more you can upgrade to include all discovery parks, and free preferred parking at your home resort.

You can call (800) 343-7946. For more details or visit Busch Gardens Williamsburg

LONDON ROCKS! Comes to Busch Gardens May 23, 2014

This year at Busch Gardens Williamsburg there is new attractions to enjoy and celebration of older ones. One of the most exciting is the introduction of London Rocks in England (the entrance of the park)

London Rocks will premiere on May 23, 2014. London Rocks will take place in the newly renovated Globe Theater and takes the place of Pirates 4D. The 25 minute live-action show, takes guests on a musical journey of rock n roll from legendary British musicians and bands. This new show was 4 years in the making and will include state of the art equipment normally used for concerts. The Globe Theater will be transformed with lights and over 2000 speakers, placing 2 in every seat.

We will be attending and I will update on the experience for those who have sensitivity to lights and sound (or the seekers who will appreciate it).

This show will use new technology so you will be seeing a live action concert as well as "mind bending" movie elements on the monochromatic set.

An Introduction to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, one of the greatest places in the world

Busch Gardens in Williamsburg Virginia is one of the greatest places on earth in my opinion. And I am fortunate to be honored with the task of writing for them this year.  Originally referred to as “The Old Country” the park has been designed much like Epcot (this came first in 1975 and Epcot wasn’t complete until 1982) The different areas are all European countries. You can visit England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy and France and New France (colonial French-Canadian), the architecture, shops and even the food is themed to these countries. Want some Irish stew; head to Grogan’s pub in Ireland…also where you can get a nice variety of drinks. If you are craving Italian, you can head into Italy of course for some Lasagna, chicken or eggplant parm, and if German food is your thing, you can find a nice assortment of sausages and German sides in Festivus house in the Oktoberfest section of Germany.  Busch Gardens is a family friendly place despite that fact it was originally started by a brewery. There are two separate areas for children, The Land of the Dragons and the Forest of Fun, plus other rides mixed into the other countries. The pricing for food is reasonable, but the booze is pricey, which I think curbs the people who enjoy abusing themselves and encourages moderation.

                                                          Part of Ireland, outside gift shop.

All types of visitors can enjoy themselves, those who love thrill rides, those who love food, beer coinsures, and those who want a clean place to take the kids. Busch Gardens works for people who don’t ride, flower lovers, animal lovers, music lovers and even more.  All of these options exist within the 383 acres of the park. A true balance for many people. You have rides like The Lockness Monster with its multiple inversions or The Griffin which is even more intense. But if you don’t care for the feeling that you are going to die you can take a peaceful ride around the park on the train, or down the “Rhine River” on a boat.
There are numerous musical shows, and the entire park is beautifully landscaped deserving of the title “America’s must beautiful park “for 23 years in a row.

                                                                              Entrance to France.

 If you love animals BG also rescues animals from shelters and those injured. There are several bald eagles, wolves, a Golden Eagle and more that have been rehabbed and are spending their time on several acres. And a whole crew of dogs, cats and other critters who have been trained that put on one heck of an adorable show called Pet Shenanigans.

In fact BG’s mission beyond providing fun (and a viable business model of course) is in conservation. All of the parks napkins and paper products (including maps) are made from 100% recyclable materials, the boats run on battery power to not cause pollution to the river and additional drainage of power, and those beautiful gardens are organic, free of pesticides. They take great care of the animals here; they aren’t just for our enjoyment. They have a purpose and are thus taken care of. You can find sheep, border collies and horses in Scotland, and in Ireland there is Jack Hanna’s Wild Life preserve where you will find the eagles, wolves, a bird reptiles, and the pet shenignagns show.

We started going to Busch Gardens because they have a program for kids like Noah, and because it is an affordable option. Since you can purchase season passes that you pay for monthly (at no additional cost) it made it a viable option for us. Passes for all of the parks start at around 12.00 a month, and since we live close to Sesame Place, this was our best deal.  

                     Noah very happy and engaged by Jim the magician at "The Magic Shop" in Ireland

The first year we did this started out as a consolation prize because we couldn’t get the money together to go to Disney. But it wound up being one of our favorite places, and we hope to actually move to the area if life brings us the opportunity. Williamsburg is a lot like the best parts of South Jersey, just not as crowded and a bit more spread out…and more affordable.
                                 Enjoying the Shenanigans of BG's special Pets.

All of Discovery Parks have a pass for kids with special needs; it works like a fast pass at many other parks. You sign up for a ride and are given a return time, if the line is under 30 minutes you are allowed immediate access to the fast pass return line, or in through the back door of carnival style rides. There is no fee for this; you just register at Guest Services. It has been greatly useful for us and anyone who has difficulty waiting in lines for reasons of stamina or overstimulation.

Affordable, beautiful, friendly, great customer service, options for those with special needs, lots of fun, delicious food and treats are just the highlights of what makes this place so wonderful.  We have visited the park on 8 different trips over the past 4 years, meaning we have been in the park about 22 days. Each time is just as exciting as the last, like coming home, a feeling of peace and contentment embraces us. Maybe it is because it is so beautiful and all those things, or maybe it’s because it was one of the first places we were able to take our son that didn’t have a bunch of sad-stressy-drama with it. Doesn’t matter, it is magic.
New London Rocks this year 

click here for HIGHLIGHTS of what is happening in 2014!!