Monday, October 12, 2015

Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VA - Review & Tips

We went to Busch Gardens theme park over Columbus Day weekend. Here's the review.

What if Some Members of My Party Don't Like Roller Coasters?

Don't worry - there's plenty to keep them busy, too! The lines for the roller coasters (especially the Griffon and Mach Tower) tend to be pretty long. They do a good job of keeping the line moving and there's good stuff to look at, so you don't really realize you've been waiting for an hour to get on the ride. While the scare-lovers are waiting in line, the non-scare-lovers can ride bumper cars or check out the live animal exhibits or play fairway games. Or point and laugh at their roller-coaster-riding companions as they scream their heads off.

Why Should I Go to Busch Gardens Instead of the State Fair?

Just kidding, you should do both. While Busch Gardens is much more expensive than the state fair, you won't find roller coasters like those at your state fair. You'll eat better at Busch Gardens (they have salads and vegetables, in addition to some more traditional fair foods), though you will pay more to do so. Also, Busch Gardens is really clean, and it's clear that the people who work there actually enjoy their jobs. That makes a huge difference. The people running the various boutiques took ownership and pride in their shops. One commented on the Hallo-Scream shenanigans, with a gentle complaint about the screaming 13-year-olds "running through my store." She wasn't having it.

Basic Logistics - What to Take, What to Leave

The stroller (obviously). 

If you have a kid in a stroller, you'll be fine, though the stroller can't go on the scary roller coasters.

A drawstring shoulder-bag. 

Bags are allowed, and it's really nice to have one place to stash your stuff. Put your cell phone and wallet in there, so you can leave it with someone or in a locker before a ride where it might go flying.

Food and Drinks? 

I don't think you're allowed to bring your own in. Food and drinks are pricey, especially the beer ($8.50 for a metal bottle of Bud Light). You will get hungry and thirsty, but if you plan ahead a bit, you can make good choices at the dining areas. Also, at the gift shops, if you buy a Busch Gardens water bottle for $8, you can refill it anywhere, all day long. I wish I had done that - I could have been drinking a lot more water!

Cigarettes? 

If you're a smoker, don't fear. There are smoking areas spread throughout the park. I mean, it's run by the same guys who make Budweiser. They won't keep you from having a smoke-break... But they also won't let you smoke right by the kiddie rides.

Pay for VIP Parking? 

I wouldn't. For starters, if you're worried about walking too much, Busch Gardens is not the place for you. You will do a lot of walking, all day long. What's a little further to your car? Secondly, when the VIP parking is full, they don't stop taking your money. So, you could end up paying for VIP parking, and still park in the next town over. If you end up parking far away, there'll be a tram to take you to your parking area, so it's not like you'd have to walk for miles. Speaking of your parking area, take a picture of the sign with your country and number with your cell phone, so you don't have to remember it all day.

Pay For a Quick Pass? 

The quick pass lets you hop to the front of the line for rides. There's a one-time option, and an all-day option. They're really expensive, even the one-time option. We didn't get them and I don't feel like we missed out. Besides, like I said, the lines are entertaining, and they keep moving.

The Rides! Oh, the Rides!

There's lots out there on the rides. Some of them are really pretty terrifying. I loved it, but that Mach Tower was a religious experience. Seriously, I'm not sure I've ever prayed so fervently in my life. I cried at the end. It's an eternity of free-fall from 240 feet high. The Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the tallest in the U.S. is only (only! Ha!) 193 feet tall.
Yup. We're in free-fall.

That's the relieved grin of someone with a new lease on life.
These are people too smart to go on the Mach Tower

 Photo Ops!

There are lots of cool places to take photos.

Very appropriate choices of placement



Busch Gardens Does Hallo-Scream in October

It's pretty normal during the day - some Halloween decorations, and I think the haunted houses were running, though that's not our shtick, so we didn't go. You can get some pretty amazing body art, too,

At night, it gets really dark. The lights are dimmed, there's fog everywhere, and people dress up in costumes and scare park-goers. There are warnings during the day that Hallo-Scream may not be appropriate for small children. No, really. I'd recommend this only for kids 10 and older, maybe a brave 8-year-old. It's really dark, with a lot of flashing lights, and a ton of noise (mostly in the form of dub-step). People jump out at you screaming and waving things. It's kind of overwhelming and disorienting, even for the grownups. It would be a pretty cool date for high-school or college students, though. They all seemed to really be enjoying it.

To the park's credit, some idiot was dragging their terrified first-grader through the park, and a guy with a fake chain-saw jumped out and scared the kid half to death. So, the chain-saw-guy stopped and showed the kid that it was just a toy - no blade - and that he was just a normal guy, and the family got a photo with the still-terrified kid, mom, and chain-saw-guy. Not sure if that was park-provided training, or just really good common sense on the part of chain-saw guy, but good for him.