4/11 Bush Gardens VA - Colonial & Jamestowne & Bridges, Ponies and More Chain Restaurants

Sunday, April 22, 2012 11:52 PM

As always, this will be a little long, so I will start with what you want to know and then you can check out when you want.

Bush Gardens was a park I hadn't been to in over 20 years. We were on a family vacation to DC when some of our plans fell through (thanks to the idiot from my local congress member's office) and we decided to go to Virginia. The plan was a day at Colonial Williamsburg, a day at Jamestowne a day at Bush and a scenic drive home.

The weather for Bush was cloudy, chance of showers and unseasonably cold temps after a few unseasonably warm days. Jackets would be required. The plan was to be at the rope drop which was a generous 9 AM. We didn't get there until 10.

The Mrs. wanted to be close to the gate so (as usual) we ponied up for preferred parking. This led us to a quick walk-way to the main entrance gate but somehow we missed the area to buy tickets and we were on a slow moving line for guest relations. We paid full gate prices and then we were on our way.

Loch Ness Monster.

There was a guy measuring people and Pre-flux got a wristband saying 54.11 inches or something similar so we were good to go on almost everything. (YES!)

The line for the ride was about 25 minutes and that was because I wanted a front row seat. There was a gentleman with a daughter behind us who told me he was in the military and I thanked him for his service. I know it sounds like a cliché but I meant it.

Thankfully I was able to fit in the seat and we were on our way. WOW! This ride is very well cared for. I forgot about the double lift and the mid ride tunnel. It was smooth and quite a blast in the cold air. It was fast - but not intense, fun - but with a little element of scare for my son. We loved it. This is a great "next-step" ride for family coasters. And it has aged well.

When we re-joined with mom, she noticed that pre-flux' hands were freezing, so we went back to England to get him a hat (which the monster removed from his head) and a hooded sweatshirt. This added another 45 minutes away from riding, but when you are with the family - you shut up and take it.

Train Ride - We all took the train from England to Italy, The girl on the speaker tried to talk everything up - but her biggest response came from "Who is cold today?" (Everyone's hand went up.) The train was the only ride Mrs. Flux would go on.

Italy -

Tea Cups (Turkish Something or Other)

Could you believe I chose one of the cups that was not on a disk? (Some enthusiast!) I made sure we re-rode and we were in after missing one cycle. All of the flat rides had very short cycles. Even on our second time around - I couldn't get the cup to spin too much. I seem to have limited control on these things.

Whirlwind - (Music Express) - Short Cycle, no backwards, no backdrop - Great Lighting. I didn't notice music playing from the ride only from the background outside.

Apollo's Chariot - I don't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up now (whether Nitro or Apollo came first) but this ride was impressive looking. Preflux was getting nervous looking at the first hill and he was having second thoughts. I told him he didn't have to ride and that we would leave the ride if he wanted to. He said he was scared but he wanted to ride. Our front-line neighbors said it's not that scary and that it's fun. He decided to give it a shot. (And I applauded his bravery).

Man this ride was fun. It was as smooth as Nitro was when it first opened. It was fast and not shaky at all in the front row. I kept my hand on my son's hat throughout the ride. At the conclusion he said he liked it, but didn't want to do it again until next year. (At least we both got our first credit on this.)

Flying Machine - This looked like a mini Troika. Very unusual. Fun but short cycle.

Battering Ram - Short Cycle - most of the passengers were from a high school group who were screaming far much more than they had to. Even Preflux was looking at me saying, "What's wrong with these people."

By the way - the same entrance platform is used for the battering ram and for the Flying Machine. Great use of space!

Davinci's Cradle - Looked like a flying carpet. For some reason we didn't ride this.

Walked to Germany

Mach Tower - I did this one solo. As I entered a worker told me that I would need to sit in either seat #25 26 or 27. I thanked him. I later asked him if I would have a problem with Alphengeist and Griffin. He told me there were special seats I would be fine. When we got to the loading area there were 4 colors taped off. One section was loaded at a time and I missed my seat numbers, but an op asked someone to change with me and they did.

Going up was pretty cool and then I was getting a bit nervous. For a few cycles a girl asked everyone to count down from ten and then she dropped her load. This time a different girl asked? "How was the view?" and then she dumped us. It was intense…but also breathtaking up there.

Verbolten (Or whatever they are calling it)

This wasn't slated to open for another month or so, but it did look impressive. Nice to see the builders working in public view.

Ate a pretzel that was too salty and too soggy with butter. I threw away half of it.

HEY! WHAT'S THAT MUSIC???? It's the Easter Bunny!!!!! What a great idea, taking a cute but non copyrighted character and playing it up. Great move and quite a money maker. Even though Easter was last Sunday, Mr. Long-Ears was having his photo taken with lots of young ones!

France -
We ended up back on the train and went to France. We rode the catapult
(Scrambler) which was (again) a short ride, but fun. 3 cycle wait. Somehow or other the Mrs. was getting colder and we headed out. They weren't going to wait for me to do Alpengeist and Griffin.

Theme & Music - The park had nice themed music from one area to the next, but Mom wanted to see more characters walking around. She would have like live bands walking around and real Germans in Germany, Authentic Italians in Italy, etc. She expected the theming to be more like Epcot.

Bathrooms - Very clean and heavily used. They were nicely spread out throughout the park.

Park Cleanliness - Very clean. No garbage or disgusting gum trees.

Clientele - A lot of families enjoying spring break. A few teen groups but nobody doing anything idiotic.

Security - I didn't see many guards at all - but I didn't see a need from them either.

Food - Aside from the one pretzel we didn't eat in the park.

Big Surprise - even though it was very cold, the water rides were up and running. Escape from Pompeii had a few riders and no line. I would expect this to be a huge draw during the hot summer.

Overall - The people who run this park do a nice job. I wish we could have stayed longer.

Now on to the rest of the story...

Colonial Williamsburg - This is a fascinating place, but it does bring in a lot of money to the area. The only thing I can suggest about this place is that not everything happens on the same day and if you want to see or do the night activities, you have to pay extra. We got to see Martha Washington visit the capitol to pay a wounded soldier his pension, see a reenactment of African Americans who felt that the revolution didn't include their own freedom, and Washington's farewell speech. The jail was interesting as well as some of the shops, but not everything was open.

I found it interesting that there are private residences (quite a few) on the property that are simply closed to tourists.

If you do this with children, and it can be a nice experience, make sure they are of the age where they can understand what is happening and what it is all about. (Ideally, I wouldn't go with any child who didn't reach fourth grade UNLESS he or she is an astute history buff.)

There are busses that stop at various places on the perimeter of the village, and one that takes you back to the visitor's center. It's included with your ticket.

Again, look on the website for information about planning your visit. (A pass can include Jamestowne, Yorktown and the village.)

Jamestowne

I teach archeology to my classes, and I thought that Jamestown was very fascinating. On Colonial Parkway, you pass through inlets, islands and beautiful scenic areas. We saw a hawk carry a branch that I didn't think I could lift in order to build its nest. There was also a deer on the side of the road. (We don't see a lot of this on Long Island.) There were also a few parks to stop and picnic or launch a small kayak. Beautiful.

The visitor's center offers a 10 minute media presentation that is important to see if you have children. It sets the tone of the site. Remnants from the old church and the fort have been uncovered and there is even a program where you can interact with the archeologists who are conducting the research. (We got to hold a cannon ball that was several hundred years old.)

There is a statue of Pocahontas and John Smith and a marsh with numerous baitfish and turtles.

Along the way to Jamestowne on Colonial Parkway there is a working glass-making operation. There is also a marina but we didn't stop. I forgot to mention the Jamestowne museum.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel System

I think it's safe to say that most of us on this web site appreciate engineering. If you are a bridge fan and also into fishing, this bridge is a must-see. Granted the winds were blowing hard on the day we went home, but we did stop on the tourism center / restaurant / fishing pier / gift shop area of the bridge. VERY IMPRESSIVE! There were only about 3 people fishing and out in the water we saw a huge submarine heading out to sea. The restaurant and snack bar and gift shop is pricey, but the views are INCREDIBLE.

The road up eastern Virginia (Route 13) is lackluster and somewhat full of dilapidated buildings, but there are quite a few prominent communities on the eastern shore.

The plan was to stop off at Chincoteague where there is a decent wildlife center run by the National Parks Area and an area dedicated to wild ponies. We paid the 8 bucks for the day and saw a visitor's center and a huge amount of bird life. (We also passed by a large NASA Complex). We slowly moved up the road and saw cars pulled to the side of the road. Son a gun we saw them. There must have been about a dozen ponies off in the distance. Very nice! UP the road was a beach area with a second visitor's station. Back at the first one, the ranger told me that the ponies weren't really wild, but allowed to graze through a deal between the fire department (who rounds them up and auctions some of them off) a few times a year. It was a way for the fire department to raise money and to hide some of their taxable herds from the feds in the 1940s. It was a very clever arrangement! At the center I was amazed that eagles nest there during the winter and I was fascinated how the area tried to save itself from last summer's hurricane.

There are also places to bathe on the beach (summers only) and to fish, boat, etc. It's a very nice park and Chincoteague is a year-round community with lots to do for families. The local ice cream shop was very good!

Hotels

There are a decent amount of chain hotels in the area (Including a Great Wolf Lodge) and they are clustered not too far apart. We opted for a Hampton and we got what we expected. Nice room and a lot of families.

More About Chain Restaurants and The Local Places

Last year, I began a discussion about chain places as part of my report to
Kennywood. Here are a few more "New to us" places we tried.

Cracker Barrel

I have never been to one and it didn't leave a great impression. The food was…ok, but we had to wait around for a table. The wait is most likely to get you to purchase old style candy and tchotchkes from the general store. Being a country fan - I browsed their collection and found that most of their catalog was from people who no longer are having hits, or re-recordings of greatest hits packages. I love older country music more than the current stuff - but if it's not the authentic recording, I couldn't care less. It's like the artist is selling out for re-doing it and the restaurant is selling out for selling it. No thanks! I did sit in a comfortable rocking chair though (that was on sale for $150.00. The waitress was nice, but the food was lackluster.

Golden Corral

I have seen this place advertised on CMT and the other country station but have never been to one. This place was as entertaining as the colonial village.

First of all it's called the Corral because the people in the place waddle around like cattle looking for their spot in the trough. There was a line for the veggies, the soup, the salad bar (which had the shortest line) the steak guy, the kid friendly entrees and the chicken and seafood. Every time you attempted to make a move, you would inadvertently bump into someone and hear a muddled "excuse me," or "pardon me" or "I'm sorry." I later learned that you didn't have to say anything. It was understood and part of the experience. A gentleman came to our table and told us his name (I forgot it) and that he would be there to take away the plates and bring us refills on the drinks. (Forget it pal, it took me 15 minutes to get everything on this plate and you ain't getting near it.) The combinations on people's plates were staggering (tuna with chili, sliced fruit and macaroni and cheese) nothing made sense and then for some reason it just didn't matter. I heard two instances of broken dishes and a fight in the kitchen. The weird part…was that we all ate different things and we all liked what we had. You just had to work for it. I never made it to the steaks and I'm not really a desert person….but the desert line had the Holy Grail…a fountain of liquid chocolate that you could pour on anything…cookies, fruit, your fingers, cake. It was like the centerpiece of the buffet world and it always had a line. The cost for dinner for the 3 of us was about 30 bucks with drinks. I would go back…but I would be better prepared…with shoulder pads.

Local Fare

We saw a coupon in the local hotel that had a 10% off deal at Capitol Pancake House. (The book showcased several similar places) It was good food and we liked what we ordered.

Unfortunately, we also saw a coupon for Sal's Italian Restaurant. It was perhaps the worst Italian restaurant I have ever been to. We should have known because there were so few patrons. The waitress tried, but you can't defend bad food. Sal needs a few pointers.

Other Thoughts - Virginia has fantastic welcome centers that are well stocked with brochures and information. The bathrooms were clean and comfortable.

The bathrooms on the New Jersey Turnpike were filthy and uninviting. If you have to pee…try to hold it until you hit Virginia.

Our little Nissan Sentra made it from Long Island to Virginia on a tank and a half of gas. My pickup truck would need 4 stops. It was hard to pass Great Adventure, Six Flags DC and Kings Dominion without stopping - as well as a big Bass Pro Shop.

There was a ton of traffic on the NJ Turnpike at night and they closed two lanes down. This caused a 45 minute backup in two different areas. (Think about that if you are going to Great Adventure from Philly). What bummed me out was that when we finally got to the construction site, all we saw were two guys holding a large piece of paper….

"Duh….should we put the road over here…?"

"No….uh…let's put it over there…"

You highway tax dollars hard at work!

Thank you for reading this.

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Monday, April 23, 2012 12:04 AM

Nice report, it's a shame to hear the flat ride cycles are so short.

I have been to Cracker Barrel twice and didn't like it much, they are always so crowded so I was expecting it to be great but haven't been back to one in almost 3 years.

The NJ Turnpike always seems to be backed up from Exit 6 to 8. There are times it is backed up for miles and then the traffic starts moving again and it appears there was no reason for it to be stopped. I'm just glad I'm only on the road for 9 miles when I go to Great Adventure.

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Friday, April 27, 2012 3:40 PM

I know that Golden Corral. It's kinda hidden, and easy to miss if you don't know it's there. I hit that for breakfast last time I went to BGE in '10. Decent, but not as good as others. Better than Albany, though...

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