Friday, December 23, 2016

T'was That Night Skates into the hearts of guests at Christmas Town

In 2015 for the first time the stage of the Royal Palace Theater in the France Village of Busch Gardens was converted to a magical frozen pond to bring guests an ice skating show.
This year the ice skating experience with headliner 2 time Olympic silver medalist champion Elvis Stojko is back and is called T’was that Night.  The show is about 30 minutes in length, features music and original songs, some small fireworks, and of course Santa ice skating.   

Some of the highlights are the dancing/skating reindeer, and Santa skating in his sleigh.  The scenes retell the famous poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” by Clement Moore 1823 which most people refer to as T'was the night before Christmas with sugar plums dancing, Santa arriving and taking off as he tells you “Happy Christmas”.

The set is beautiful, colorful and the skaters do a wonderful job. This is the only theme park on the east coast (besides their sister park Sea World in Orlando) who offers an ice skating show and brings it to their guests for no additional charge. (Knott’s berry Farm in California puts on a Snoopy on Ice show). Other parks like Six Flags are following Busch’s lead and opening for Holiday magic with lights, hot chocolate and keeping a few rides open.

Besides the ice skating show, guests can take in Miracles in the other open air theater San Marco in the Italy village (you can also eat here, all the seating are tables with chairs). If it’s too cold for you, there are 3 indoor shows with heat such as Scrooge No More (a retelling of the classic Dickens tale) in the Globe theater in Englad (Pictured above); Deck the Halls a music review in Fest Haus the restaurant of Oktoberfest; and Gloria in the Abbystone Theater in Ireland which is a retelling of the first Christian Christmas. This in total gives guests 5 shows to enjoy.

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg glows with over 8.2 million lights and is open now through January 2, 2017 from 2-10 pm daily except for Christmas Day. On New Year’s Day there will be bonus fireworks at 9:30 PM. Ticket prices vary and are no higher than $38.

For a full review on the Christmas Town Experience click here

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Busch Gardens Christmas Town Shines Brightest 2016

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has the distinction of being Americas Most Beautiful Park for some 26 consecutive years and it has deserved that title each and every year.  They also have the notoriety of the largest light display in North American with 8.2 million lights. For the past few years Christmas Town has come to town, it’s extended the enjoyment of America’s Most Beautiful Park an additional 6 weeks. The halls here have been decked since 2009 and each year is a little brighter and more exciting than the last.

Fun now in the Forest.

This year the park has opened up the Forest of Fun for the first time at Christmas Town, so the little ones will have more rides, and opportunities to meet their favorite Sesame Street characters. All of the normal rides are open in Forest of Fun, except for the water spray area. Characters will be in and out of the area and offer meet and greets as well as photo opportunities. 

Rudolph and Friends in Holiday Hills

Also new this year over in Fiesta Italy, (Holiday Hills), is an indoor opportunity to meet Rudolph and friends. The queue is mostly indoors, but on very busy days you will still have a line outside. As you walk through the queue you can enjoy scenes from the Rudolph movie and eventually get to meet Rudolph, Clarice, Bumble and Yukon.

  Even the floor is sparkly. There is a play and dine also set up in the back of Holiday Hills (what is usually La Cucina) called Dasher’s Diner and here you can enjoy a buffet and meet all the characters. The buffet will have holiday themed foods, such as carved turkey and/or ham, a salad bar and plenty of kid favorites (pizza, chicken nuggets, and fries). Pass members can book this online and receive a discount.

Christmas Town Shines Brightest

If you have never been to Christmas Town and need some holiday cheer this should be on your to-do list, especially if you live in the area. If you do not, it may be well worth booking a weekend trip.  (packages are available here) Besides Busch Gardens there are plenty of other holiday sights to see in the milder temps of Williamsburg and surrounding areas.  The tag line for the park this year is “Where Christmas shines brightest” and it does.  But it really does more than that.

 It’s not just what you see with your eyes at Christmas Town that makes it a Christmas town, it’s this beautifully orchestrated symphony of sounds, smells and good feeling. When it’s all combined you can’t be there and not feel like you just walked into Christmas. It is a completely immersive experience. Busch Gardens has always had a way about it to melt bad moods, soothe anxiety and if any place can give make a Grinch's heart grow, I believe it to be here.

Come for the Ambiance and Magic.

You don’t generally come to Christmas Town for the rides, as there aren’t as many open. However there are 22 rides available, mostly flat rides, plenty for kids. For thrill seekers The Mach Tower, Verbolten, Tempesto and the Sky Ride (hey that is sometimes scary!)will all be open in most conditions. These attractions are the parks 3 newest rides, and with the capability of technology they are designed better for colder weather.  (Griffon we will see you in the spring.) This time of year many of the rides go through checkups, tune up and improvements. The Train will also be open, which will give you the opportunity to rest your feet and take in all the additional lights. Kinda like their own Polar Express (maybe this year they will play Believe on it, if they did, that was my idea).

Besides its beautiful lights, there are also more than 20,000 ornaments and other decorations and displays. The smells of pine trees are everywhere as they also ship in over 1400 trees for the event. If you are the type who comes to the park for its food, you will get to enjoy holiday themed dishes and some of the best hot chocolate you will ever drink. (Refills from a park mug are also only $1.50! If you don’t have a mug you can get one for $6 which includes your first round) 

Holiday music is piped in throughout and is themed to the area. So in Germany (The North Pole in Christmas Town) its German holiday music, as is the case for France, Ireland etc.  The bridge that connects Oktoberfest to Italy plays “Let there be Peace on Earth”.When you are there looking over the water, seeing the display, listening to this choir sing it, you feel it, you believe it, and for that moment, there really is peace.

Additional Fun and Benefits of Christmas Town.

Photo Key

If you want to get some photos done Busch Gardens offers a Photo Key service which costs $35 for the day or $60 for the season. There are 8 locations throughout out the park.  (Includes Verbolten) as well as characters, Santa and other picturesque areas in the park. These are all noted on the Map you can get when you enter. With Photo Key you scan the card with the photographer after you have your picture taken or have ridden a ride. There are unlimited downloads. You can also opt to purchase photos printed for you and photo gifts off the website. If you opt for the Premium (Season option of $60) you do get a 50% discount on those items.  Santa’s Fireside Feast is a separate event which includes a meal and is a separate price, even though you can get photos done there (you can use your own camera as well).

Dining Options

If you prefer to dine with Santa and Mrs. Claus you can also do so!  Santa’s Fireside feast includes a buffet meal, cookies for dessert from Mrs. Claus and the big guy will read you a story. There is also a photo opportunity. Santa’s Fireside Feast (Castle O Sullivan in Ireland) is a holiday buffet and interactive show with Santa. You can meet Santa, tell him what you would like for Christmas and get a picture.

 He also will read everyone a story, there is a small show with this including elves but you are part of the show. Ms. Claus will bring cookies out for dessert. It was a real delight and a must for kids. You can book this for lunch or dinner; bring your appetite the buffet includes a carving station of turkey or ham, Swedish meatballs, homemade mac-n-cheese, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and Trapper’s Smokehouse Chili. Plus there is plenty of food for kids plus a salad bar and more.

Other dining options include the Buffet in the Black Forest and Tastes of Christmas Town in Das Fest Haus where you will also get reserved seating for Deck the Halls. (which if you go there on a busy day at the wrong time you certainly need). Both buffets have holiday themed food including roast turkey and ham. Both locations are heated; the Black Forest is in a pop up heated pavilion tent just to the left of Fest Haus.

Holiday Shopping

Shopping at Christmas Town can be part of the fun there is plenty of it around. The normal stores will be open selling Busch Gardens merchandise as well as holiday decorations and gifts. In Oktoberfest there is a traditional outdoor German market of items from local artisans, winery, handmade gifts and ornaments. With all of the holly jolly around it makes a good time to pick up some special items, or get pictures done for your holiday gift giving, regardless of what you celebrate. Cashless wristbands are offered and can be purchased once you enter the park to make your day a bit easier. You can prepay a set amount or link to a credit card depending on your preference and needs. If you pay up front with cash and don’t use it all, it is refunded to you at the end of your night. You can use these for all purchases including dining.


First of all you can visit Santa at his Workshop in the North Pole. (Germany). There are 6 shows you can enjoy throughout the park besides character meet and greets and carolers over in England.  Scrooge No More in England, an adaptation of the Charles Dickens Classic A Christmas Carol, takes full advantage of the technological enhancement done on the Globe in 2014. At Fest Haus there is a musical holiday review show called Deck the Halls. In Italy at the San Marco Theater is Miracles a winter themed acrobatic show. And for Christmas traditionalists you can enjoy Gloria, a classic retelling of the Christian “first Christmas” at the Abby Stone theater in Ireland.  But the crowing gem is T’was the Night, an ice skating show over in France in the Royal Palace based on the story T’was the Night before Christmas. For additional entertainment you will also find outside of the Fest Haus a 50 foot tree that will light up nightly to a musical score, properly named O’TannenbaumVideo here

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

You can visit Christmas Town in all its glory from now until January 2, 2017. For the first few weeks it is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday then the park is open daily from December 9th-January 2nd except for Christmas Day. Operating hours are generally 2-10 pm; the gates typically open before 2. You have the option to purchase a ticket at the park or online. If you think you will attend more than once you should consider the Fun Card. To do and see everything you do need more than one day. The shows alone would be difficult to all see in one day. And rushing around isn't really fun, you're not really in the moment. 

Parking for pass members is complimentary and $15 for non-season pass holders. Prices for a Fun Card is $38 and gives unlimited admission. Single tickets are $16-$38 depending when you buy (they are discounted at the writing of this piece). Best days to visit will be most weekdays to avoid crowds. Sunday's are usually a slower day as well. 

The only thing Christmas Town lacks is Christmas Karaoke, which I understand isn't everyone's cup of tea, and perhaps that would be a bit of merriement overboard. But a girl can dream.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Busch Garden's Williamsburg Show All For One Swings into Action Summer 2016

All For One swings into action this summer as part of the Summer of Thrills at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

For the first time in seven years a live action adventure show is being performed at the Royal Palace Theater in France. In 2015 an Ice Skating show was developed and shown during Christmas Town, which paved the way for future shows back where they belong.  The Royal Palace typically is the home for concerts typically in the later spring or summer season. This is where you will see Glory at the Gardens or any special performer for Busch Gardens Live.

The Royal Palace is an open air amphitheater that seats about 5,000, out of these seats most are available for a first come, first serve basis. The park puts a few hundred on reserve for various VIP.s including guests who purchase VIP packages and dinner.  The Royal Palace received a small face lift this spring changing the previously blue building to a faux brick fa├žade to go with the show.

All For One is a story full of action, adventure, a little romance and some pretty cool special effects. There is sword fighting, rope swinging, pyrotechnics and much more. It is a new spin and retelling of part of the Three Musketeers story.

Peter Dunklee VP of Entertainment said “This is the most ambitious show we have ever staged at Busch Gardens.” The show was a year in the making and it’s apparent between the effects and the choreography for the fight scenes.  

Anyone who loves pirate stories, the three musketeers, or even appreciates good costuming will enjoy this show. All for One is not a musical, though background music is orchestrated specifically for the show to add ambiance.

Will bravery, loyalty and the power of friendship be enough to win?
You will have to go see for yourself.

All For One will be shown throughout the week and weekend from July 1 through September 4, in the evenings. Show times can be checked on the website, typically there will be one performance during the week and two on Saturday and Sunday.  

And check out the new signs!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ice Carving at Food & Wine Busch Gardens 2016

Food & Wine is a new annual event at Busch Gardens Williamsburg that runs from Memorial Day weekend through all of June, but only on the weekends (Fri,Sat, Sun).

It is a delicious time and big fun for foodies, and people who enjoy the whimsy of the park. Besides, food there are some Art of Food kiosks and shows where you get to watch world class chefs create beautiful art from, well food!

Another unique feature is the Ice sculpting show.
This show runs in the evenings of the Food & Wine event, in the main square of the Ireland Village. 2 rival carvers will battle it out in a timed event to win your votes for the best ice sculpture. They start with a block of ice, and its amazing what they turn it into.

Here is a link to a short video of the event. (the event is about 20 minutes live).

 Or you can view on You Tube Here

REVIEW of Food & Wine 2016

Thursday, June 9, 2016

From Cork to Fork Busch Gardens Food & Wine 2016

How can you make America’s most beautiful park even more beautiful and fun? Add The Food & Wine event!  Busch Gardens  true to their nature doesn’t just plop out little carts and boring kiosks for their Food & Wine event, they go an additional step and design beautiful structures themed to the area they are showcasing. This includes music and sometimes even smells. From cork to fork there are over  70 wonderful tastes and samples to try. Don’t worry about it going from lips to hips, with all the walking you do from one kiosk to another, you’re just refueling. This event is so much fun we travel over 600 miles round trip. Busch Gardens is worth every mile.

The food first off is of high quality. Much of it is local, all the fish used is sustainable. They smoke their own meats, bake their own desserts and breads, and have a near legendary saucier  (sosje)taking care of the sauces. (all homemade). The menu is thought over for a long period of time to decide what will be added each year. Executive Chef Justin has said he can sometimes have too many ideas and eventually scales them down. This year fans selected the two new kiosks Virginia Local and Hawaii. The Hawaiian theme got park employees excited for the possibilities of design elements, and it did not disappoint.

New kiosks replaced the least popular ones from the previous year.  So no Scandinavia (oh little meatballs) or Scotland (Scottish Egg will be missed, but at least Thanks to Justin, I know how it’s made-shush it’s a multi-step process which involves both deep frying and refrigeration).This maybe the last year for new kiosks for a little while. But one can’t be sure until the season concludes.

This year we were treated to trying everything in the new kiosks. Plus given Sampler tickets. A sampler will give you 10 samples of entrees or dessert (not beverages) for $35. You can also get a deluxe sampler for $50 which includes 15 samples. This picture shows 10 samples, we each had 5 which had you satisfied without being too full.

Hawaii Menu
Root Vegetable Chips with Maui Onion Dip- Sweet Potato, Taro Root and Beet Root, made into chips with a caramelized sweet onion dip (vegetarian)
Spam Slider-Spam with Sriracha Mayo, grilled pineapple and pineapple-coconut Cole slaw
Huli Huli Chicken- Sweet Pineapple and Soy BBQ Chicken served with Orange and Purple sweet potato salad
Tuna Poke- Soy & Sesame Sushi tuna served in a wonton flower with wasabi aioli, wakame seaweed salad
Haupi Tart- Sweet coconut mousse with Kona coffee ganache in a crispy tart shell
Drinks :consist of two types of beer, a Blue Hawaiian and a Hibiscus Lemonade

Hawaii was fantastic!! Noah, our resident “picky eater’ who eats like 5 things did try the spam Slider, he liked it! He loved the hibiscus lemonade. 

                           Virginia replaced the Scotland kiosk, in the Highland Stables area.

Local Virginia Menu
Pork Rinds with Virginia dips- Deviled ham pate, smoked bacon onion dip, Pimento cheese dip.
She-Crab Soup- a Virginian favorite, creamy crab soup made with Chesapeake bay crabs, sherry, and crostini instead of croutons.
Smithfield Ham tasting- Red Eye Country Ham, Hickory Smoked Pit Ham, Applewood carved ham; served with biscuit, apple butter, raspberry jam and honey mustard
Bacon & Cheddar hush puppies-cornmeal fritters with Virginia honey butter(may be magical)
Pecan, Bacon & Chocolate Bars
Beverages: 4 kinds of Beer, 4 types of Wine and Apple Pie Moonshine

Everything at the new Kiosks, like everything we have tried has been amazing. If I had to pick a favorite at each I would recommend the Spam Slider in Hawaii and Hibiscus Lemonade, and the Pecan Chocolate bacon bars from Virginia for dessert. I also realized I am a huge fan of pimento spread, really loved the Virginia dips.  The She-Crab soup was one of the best I ever had, only rivaled by a place on the Eastern shore of Virginia that has perfected it over the past 15 years, it was that good.

  Noah's favorite was the Hibiscus Lemonade
                                                               and Pizza.
However, that is always there at Fest Haus, & now the Marco Polo Marketplace (different review)

This year’s Kiosks

·         American South West
·         Asia
·         Canada
·         Caribbean
·         Crepes & Coffee
·         France (adding Beignets- French doughnuts)
·         French Quarter
·         Germany (swapped out the linzer torte for a German Chocolate cake)
·         Greece
·         Hawaii 
·         Italy (no more Italian bites)
·         Ireland
·         Spain (no more dessert)
·         Virginia 

Our Favorites (everything!)
This year tried the chicken mole,(American South West) also repeated some of our favs the Jamaican Jerk chicken, Gamba fritters from the Caribbean, the Venison and Polenta in Canada (eh!) Joe loves the beef peppercorn crusted with brandy cream sauce in France. I like the Muffaletta in French quarter, Empanadas in Spain, scallop bacon wrapped everything, it all was delicious.

                                               SPAIN: Scallop and Bacon, with a little rice.

Samples are generous portions for being a sample, I highly  recommend the sampler ticket. 10 will get you through the day,  5 samples can fill u up. It’s nice to have it prepaid and then you just scan it where ever you go, no need to dig for money. If you don’t use all your samples during the weekend, they can be used anytime during the event (all month long). 

Seriously our Favorites

                              Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Guava BBQ sauce

The Gamba Fritters in the Caribbean or the Empanadas in Spain


Couldn't pick one, these have stolen our tastebuds, The New dessert in Virginia and the Bananas Fosters in France.


The Venison Sausage in Canada, and the New Spam Slider in Hawaii. I also ate my Dad & Ginger's Tuna Poke's since they aren't sushi fans. So very fresh, wasabi aoli was perfectly balanced.

Here are a few tips to make your time at the Food & Wine even the most fun, and maximize your food time if you are only going for a day. This is our third event, the first one we missed by a day (however I did get to sample one thing that opened early ) This year I went to all 3 days of opening weekend, by day 3 Joe and Noah were done, but not I. I had a sampler ticket to use, Tupperware, a backpack and a can-do attitude! The people of BG were both impressed and helpful with my exploits. Some of them even packed my food for me. Gosh I love this place.

OK Tips!
* Look at the kiosks on the website beforehand, try to narrow down where you want to go (in case of only having a day) if you have all weekend, well then just get your stomach ready.
They will give you a small booklet that looks like this.

It will have descriptions, a map and even more tips.

*Consider the Sampler or Deluxe Sampler for a good value, or the cashless wristbands. We used them last year I linked a credit card, which closed out at the end of the day. You can also just prepay in cash. I was able to also use this for regular dining, as well, not just the Food & Wine. It was really convenient and I kept to my budget. The bands can be found at the Welcome Center before you enter, England at Guest Services, Castle O Sullivan (back of Ireland) and three other locations in the park (Griffon Gifts in France, Marketplace in Germany and Bella Casa in Italy)

*Stash a couple of cheapo Ziploc type Tupperware in your bag  or sandwich bags, if you want to take some food out to enjoy later. Better if you have an insulated type. I was in the park for 2 hours the day I gathered food, it was still warm, not spoiled when I returned.
Enjoy yourself! Take in the ambiance, catch the art of food displays or the Ice sculpting it’s a cool show. (pun intended)

The Festival lasts from May 27 - June 26 and is on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. (Plus was open Memorial Day). Kiosks open at 11 am. and serve all day.

What kind of Thrill Seeker are you ?

Tell Next time!

But if you can't wait, here is a video montage of photos of a walkthrough America's most beautiful park