Busch Gardens Williamsburg
is a theme park located in James City
County, Virginia about 3
miles (5 km) southeast of Williamsburg. It opened on May 16, 1975, adjacent to the
local Anheuser-Busch brewery and other-related AB developments including
the Kingsmill Resort complex.
park is themed around the history and culture of old-world Europe
. It is owned by SeaWorld Parks &
, a division of The Blackstone Group
.The park was
originally called Busch Gardens: The Old Country
reflecting the European theme. In the early 1990s the park was
renamed Busch Gardens Williamsburg
. In 2006, the
name was changed to Busch Gardens Europe
, to once
again reflect the European theme. Similarly, Busch Gardens Tampa was renamed
to Busch Gardens
Africa at the start of the 2006 season.
late 2008, the park has been gradually returning to the
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Busch Gardens opened on May 5, 1975. The park features a
combination of roller coasters and Broadway style shows.
is laid out as a large circle that crosses the path between Banbury
Cross, England and
turn at this crossroads leads to Italy/San Marco,
while a right turn leads to Killarney, Ireland.
Guests may also follow the path straight into Heatherdowns,
Scotland. Beyond Heatherdowns, the walkway leads down a steep hill
containing thirteen flights of stairs with slanted landings.
base of this hill is the Rhine River Cruise boat ride. The path beyond the
boat ride continues up an equally steep hill and stairs leading to
though the Rhine River Cruise is one of the mildest rides in the
park, its location is not accessible to strollers, wheelchairs or
ECV Mobility Carts. The park's operating season originally ran from
mid-March until the end of October. In the 2009 season, the season
will be extended to the end of December for Christmas
-themed attractions and shows.
The park traditionally receives high accolades in the international
Golden Ticket Award, hosted by Amusement Today. In 2006, the park
placed in Best Food, Best Shows and Cleanest Park. It took the top
place in the category Best Landscaping. Busch Gardens has over
several years received recognition from the International
Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), most
prominently taking the Applause Award for "management, operations
and creative accomplishments that have inspired the industry with
foresight, originality and sound business development" in November
2002. Busch Gardens Williamsburg was voted as the "World's Best
Theme Park" in both the 2006 and 2007 Theme Park Insider Awards.
The ride Curse of DarKastle
won the 2005 Theme Park
Insider Award for "World's Best New Theme Park Attraction."
Wildlife Reserve houses a
variety of wild species including gray
and bald eagles
. Busch Gardens
is partnered with SeaWorld (also owned by Busch Entertainment
Corp.) in the SeaWorld &
Busch Gardens Conservation Fund
, which offers guests the
opportunity to contribute to wildlife conservation. The Rhine River
Cruise's Boats are battery powered to cut back on power generation
and prevent water pollution. In addition Busch Gardens and Water Country
USA both use insects rather than pesticides in the
park's commitment to organic
All brochures, maps, show guides, and all
paper products in the restrooms are made from recycled
Busch Gardens hosts a "Summer Nights" concert series featuring
performances by nationally known rock and country artists such as
artists like Eddie Money
, Peter Frampton
, Grand Funk Railroad
, and The Guess Who
. During Howl-O-Scream
, which begins the
middle of September and runs through the end of October, the park
and many of its attractions are transformed during Halloween
The park also periodically offers special rates or packages for
certain members of the US
. The current program, entitled Here's to the
, was initiated in February 2005 and has been extended
through the 2009 season. Active duty, active reserve, ready
reserve, or National Guard service members, along with up to three
direct dependents, are granted one day's free admission to Busch
Gardens Williamsburg or one of Anheuser-Busch's other parks.
Announced on December 4, 2008, Busch Gardens will be holding a
special Christmas event named "Christmas Town: A Busch Gardens
Celebration" starting on November 27, 2009 and lasting through
December. Events will include special holiday-themed dining
opportunities, unique shopping experiences, evening Santa Claus
visits, children's shows, strolling carolers, tree-lighting
ceremonies and select rides including Griffon (weather dependent),
Corkscrew Hill and Curse of DarKastle.
Entrance to Busch Gardens, featuring
the countries' flags
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is divided into ten organized areas
. The hamlets are
themed after six European countries.
Two attractions provide transportation around the park. The Skyride
transports guests between
the Banbury Cross, Aquitaine and Rhinefeld hamlets; while replica
transport guests between
the Heatherdowns, Festa Italia, and New France hamlets.
Banbury Cross (England)
Cross is fashioned after England, complete
with stereotypical red telephone booths and common English
A variety of shops await guests in this small
hamlet. Guest Services windows are located next to the turnstiles
of the Main gate. Stroller, wheelchair and ECV Mobility Cart
rentals are provided on the right side of Banbury Cross just inside
the entrance. A simulacrum of
the famous St. Stephen's Clock Tower (Big
Ben) is the central element of this area.
Banbury Cross also includes The Squire's Galley, serving breakfast
and lunch, as well as a funnel cake
shop, ice cream shop, and candy store. The Globe Theatre, a double-sized replica of William Shakespeare's performance home,
is the most prominent attraction in the area, currently featuring
Sesame Street presents Lights, Camera, Imagination!, a
The theater previously
featured the films "Pirates
", starring Eric Idle
, R. L. Stine's Haunted
, and Haunts of the Old Country
. Prior to
the 4-D films, the theater hosted a variety of live shows. Banbury
Cross also contains the skyride station nearest to the Main Gate.
The Aeronaut (first leg) of the skyride departs to Aquitaine,
France, while the Zeppelin (third leg) skyride arrives from
Heatherdowns is a quaint Scottish hamlet situated at the top of the
hill on the path leading from Banbury Cross, England. It is the
second of Busch Gardens' European hamlets. The central
attraction in this area is the Loch Ness
When this coaster premiered in 1978, it was
the tallest and longest looping coaster in the world. It is the only roller
coaster with interlocking loops currently in operation (until it
was removed in 2003, Orient Express at Worlds of Fun also had interlocking loops).
Train Station offers a 20 minute ride through the park with
additional stops in Festa Italia and at the central train station,
Caribou, in New France. The Label Stable gift shop is located
adjacent to the train station and offers a variety of
Anheuser-Busch gift items. Heatherdowns is also home to Clydesdale horses
, identified with the
Anheuser-Busch brand since 1933. Other points of interest include
Pigs in a Kilt, a counter service walk-up.
Sesame Street Forest of Fun
Opened on April 3, 2009, Sesame Street Forest of Fun at Busch
features four new family-friendly rides, including a
junior roller coaster named Grover's Alpine Express
, a log
flume, a rock-n-tug type ride, a shot-n-drop ride, and wet and dry
play areas all themed to Sesame Street
and Sesame Street characters.
Formerly known as Hastings, England, this section of the park was
re-themed in 2001 as Ireland, the newest country in over 20 years.
The most prominent attraction in this section of the park is the
4-D simulator Corkscrew Hill
which riders travel in miniature through old magical Ireland. This
area also prominently features Emerald Beat,
celebration of Irish dance, showcasing world class performers.
Grogan's Grill offers Irish cuisine in this area. Outside the
gateway next to Dining with Elmo, the walkway makes a sharp left
turn and begins a long, moderately steep climb toward Aquitaine,
France. Several animal sanctuaries and an animal performance
theater are situated along this path.
San Marco (Italy)
When Italy/San Marco was opened, it completed the outer circle
walkway around Busch Gardens. Part of the park's expansion included
a high pedestrian bridge across the Rhine River into Oktoberfest,
Germany. The bridge currently houses a salute to the various
branches of the US
. San Marco is based upon Renaissance era Italy.
Escape from Pompeii
guests to a 1920s dig of the ruins of Pompeii. The ride features
prominent fire effects and a fifty-foot plunge. A prominent feature
within San Marco is Da Vinci's Garden of Inventions. This garden
features Italian statues and flowers set amid rides based on
sketches by Leonardo da Vinci
including The Flying Machine, a circular ride, Da Vinci's Cradle, a
magic carpet-type ride, and The Battering Ram, a swinging Viking
ship. The Little Balloons and the Little Gliders are children's
attractions based in Da Vinci's Garden. Also in the area is
Ristorante della Piazza, featuring Italian cuisine and allowing
guests to watch "Festivale Italiano." During the summer, sounds of
the Starlight Orchestra can be heard while dining.
Festa Italia (Italy)
Italia is themed around a fair celebrating Marco Polo's return to Italy from his famous
visit to China.
most prominently featured ride in this section is Apollo's Chariot
, a Bolliger and Mabillard Hypercoaster
with a drop. Also in the area is
Roman Rapids, a river rapids raft ride which uses ancient Roman
architecture and sculpture to drench riders. Coin-operated squirt
guns are mounted on the rails alongside the viewing area of Roman
Rapids so that nonriders can make a wet ride even wetter. Also
included in this section are Turkish Delight, a spinning teacup
ride, Tradewinds, a circular speed ride known as a himalaya
, and Elephant Run, a children's
ride. Train passengers from Tweedside and Caribou stations can load
and unload here. Festa Italia also features numerous food vendors
and carnival games.
Rhinefeld (Rhineland Germany)
section is based upon Germany.
The main attraction of Rhinefeld is a
Bolliger and Mabillard
inverted coaster, known as Alpengeist
Alpengeist is themed to a runaway ski lift in the German Alps
controlled by the Alpengeist, and features six inversions. The
third leg of Busch Gardens' skyride arrives and departs from this
section. Also in Rhinefeld is Land
of the Dragons
, a large children's play area featuring a
playground, five rides, and seasonal shows.
Oktoberfest (Bavarian Germany)
Like Rhinefeld, this section is based on Germany. Oktoberfest celebrates the German festival of the same
The main attraction in Oktoberfest is the Curse of
DarKastle. This dark ride is themed to a castle frozen in time by
mad Ludwig himself. Oktoberfest also features a variety of flat
rides including bumper cars, the katapult (a scrambler flat ride)
and the waveswinger, along with other kiddie rides. Oktoberfest is
also home to a large assortment of carnival-style games. Das
Festhaus is a large, air conditioned eating facility where guests
can purchase authentic German food or American classics. While
eating in Das Festhaus, guests can experience This is
, an upbeat show featuring German singing and
dancing, or listen to a brass quartet, playing a variety of well
known tunes and German folk songs. This section of the park
formerly hosted The Big
, one of the first successful suspended roller
coasters. The Big Bad Wolf was closed on September 7, 2009.
around the quaint French village of Aquitaine, this section is
based upon France.
is home to many French boutiques and one of the park's skyride
stations, where the first leg of the skyride arrives from England
and the second leg departs for Rhinefeld, Germany. The Royale
Palace Theatre in France hosts numerous shows throughout the season
with a main feature during the summer months, Kinetix,
summer concert series in the late summer, and themed show for
Howl O' Scream
in September and October. The Le Mans
Raceway family car ride, an original park attraction, was removed
to make room for the Bolliger and Mabillard roller coaster Griffon
, which has a tall 90° drop.
Griffon was set to open on May 25, 2007, but opened May 18.
is the tallest drop coaster in the country, and only outshines its
sister coaster Sheikra, at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, by a mere .
New France (French Canada)
This is the only non-European themed region. It is based on French
consists of a hub of Canadian-themed shops with a colonial tone
throughout the area. Rides in New France include the Busch Gardens
Railway departing from Caribou Station and Le Scoot Log Flume,
featuring a plunge through a saw mill. New France also houses the
Canadian Palladium Theater, which features the new show Goin'
. A predominant feature in this area is the Trappers
Smokehouse which has a outdoor grill centrally located. Trappers
Smokehouse offers grilled and smoked items such as chicken, ribs,
and beef brisket.
Existing (listed by first year)
Defunct (listed by closing year)
- Die Wildkatze (1976 — 1983)
- Das Kätzchen (1976 — 1984)
- Glissade (1975 — 1985)
- Drachen Fire (1992 —
- Wild Maus (1996 — 2003)
- Big Bad Wolf (1984
- Park officials are reviewing several expansion concepts to
replace the Big Bad Wolf which are widely rumored to include a new
country with a flying coaster, however nothing is official and
there is no planned announcement at this time.
Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve
Along with various birds that inhabit Jack
's Wild Reserve, major attractions here are the bald
eagles and wolves. Eagle Ridge
is a 3,000+ foot area set
aside for housing and rehabilitating bald eagles and providing
education to visitors. Wolf Haven
is a viewing area where
guests may observe one of Busch Garden's pairs of wolves. One pair
is on exhibition at a time. Busch Gardens also provides Wolf
for those wolves not on display. Over of natural
habitat is intended to ensure the animals' health and
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is home to several of the world famous
can see these beautiful horses at their stables in
Heatherdowns/Scotland, across from the Tweedside Station. You can
also see the Clydesdales grazing in two pastures while riding on
the train. Also, just recently the donkey
named Zipper, who lead the Clydesdale horses when they walked, was
retired by his owner. In his place, another Clydesdale was brought
in. Silver and Raz, two dalmatians
can be seen in the field at the stable.
--As of October 2009 the Clydesdales will no longer be at Busch
Gardens because of the sale of the park to the Blackstone Group in
October of 2009.
Parking and transportation
At the park
At the park, special parking areas are provided for persons with
special needs or disabilities, recreational vehicles
, and groups
arriving by buses and motorcoaches. Trams provide shuttle service
to and from entrance gates from outlying parking areas.
Within the park itself, three steam
powered trains operate on a loop of track, providing
transportation between the Heatherdowns, Festa Italia, and New
France themed areas. Additionally, a skyride provides
transportation between the Banbury Cross, Aquitaine, and Rhinefeld