Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA
Just back from a really fun week in Virginia's former capital. We thought it was worth an extended visit for a family with the kids (9 and 11), though it might work even better for a couple or a family with older kids.
We stayed at Powhatan Plantation. This is an older resort in the area, and that has both good and bad points. The resort grounds are lovely, and include an 18th century manor home. The units are all 2BR or larger, and townhouse style. Privacy is great; the units are all offset and the landscaping is set up so that each deck has good privacy. The lower units have private hot tubs, though it was warm enough that we never made much use of them. We had two 2BR units combined into an upper and a lower that we split with another family---friends from our grad school/residency days that we hadn't seen in more than five years. Each 2BR unit has two bathrooms, but the master baths don't have showers, only tubs, which we found odd. The resort is trying to keep up with the maintenance. The units were recently painted, and the decks replaced, but there are some rough edges. For example, it looks like our kitchen cabinets had been flooded, and well overdue for replacement/rebuilding. The location is fair; easy access to 199, so it's pretty easy to make it to any of the attraction areas. I'd stay here again, but only if I got another great deal.
We spent most of the week between BGW, Water Country USA, and Colonial Williamsburg. That was made easy with the Bounce ticket; for about $375, we had full week tickets at all three for the four of us, including parking at the two Busch parks. We thought that was a very good deal.
BGW: I've only been here once before, for a short visit, so this was the first time I really got to explore the nooks and crannies. The park deserves its "most beautiful" moniker, for sure. It also has a reputation for great food, and for an amusement park, it *is* very good, but I wouldn't necessarily call it great. The park would really benefit from a sit-down place or two to break things up; Bistro 205 is there, but it was only serving a late-night buffet for the nightly fireworks, and we never sampled it.
The Illuminights promotion was pretty nifty. Each country has a small little extra "show" just for the evenings of the event. We saw the ones in Ireland, Italy, and France, plus watched the fireworks from Griffon's area just in front of the Bistro 205 patio. It was an okay view, but if I was paying for the buffet I would have been disappointed because the trees cut off the bottom edge of the show.
My last visit predated DarKastle, so there were also several new-to-me attractions. DarKastle and Flight over Europe were both "okay". Not bad, and Flight was an upgrade over Corkscrew Hill, but we only rode each once. My son finally cracked the hyper barrier, and *loved* Apollo's (even in the back where the ride is a little more forceful.) Griffon was my first Dive Coaster---a bit of a one-trick pony, but it was a neat trick. It is absolutely worth waiting for the front row---if the crew is moving, the front row queue only adds about 8-10 minutes to your wait.
The park was relatively quiet until Friday the 2nd (our last day there) when the crowds were noticeably thicker. But, the crews at every coaster were clearly working hard to hit capacity, and this kept the lines pretty bearable. Kudos to the park; clearly the word was out to keep those lines moving. My daughter and I took one last spin on Griffon in the front row around 7:30PM when the crowds were still streaming in for the fireworks show, but even though the first queue house and part of the second were full, we waited only 15-20 minutes total for the front.
The new show in Ireland is *great*. We really enjoyed it, and the park has stepped up its game with this show. Strong production values, just enough of a storyline to keep things moving. Our friends (who are not riders) saw it three different times.
Water Country: this is a nice water park. Not huge, but definitely big enough to keep you busy for a full day if you wanted to. Even though we had some blistering days (104 on Sunday, 102 on Monday) the park has enough capacity to keep things going. Aquazoid seems like the headliner, though Wild Thang is deceptively fun (the best parts are hidden, and it doesn't let up). Hubba Bubba Highway is an attraction I've never seen before, but it is true genius. It's a *fast* "lazy river", but instead of tubes, you ride in life jackets. This was just great, and a *lot* of fun. I'd say it was the sleeper hit for us, and would like to see more of these elsewhere.
Colonial Williamsburg. My kids got more out of this than I expected, but it was still a bit of a challenge to keep them from boredom. The highlight for the kids was probably the colonial-era games they played on the Palace Green: hoops-and-sticks, etc. If you go, it is worth getting there by about 10:30 latest so that you can get to the Revolutionary City section in time for their staged performance cycle that starts at 11---they take you through a dramatic retelling of several events as they might have been experienced by people of the time. But, it makes a lot more sense if you are there from the beginning. We also took a ride on a horse-drawn carriage; the carriage was built in London in 1810, and it's not every day you get to ride on something that is 200 years old, especially in the US. Well worth the $50 plus tip.
Two notable restaurants. Taco Mexicali over by the Great Wolf lodge was very very good. It's an unassuming space in a strip mall, but better Mexican than I can get anywhere at home---I had the Molcajete, a stew/soup dish I've never seen outside of California. It was *excellent*. They also have a happy "hour" from 4-8 every evening, where the house margaritas are $2.50. The waitress assured us that they "aren't that strong." Yeah, right---one was plenty. Berret's Seafood in Market Square was a little more upscale (with a price to go with it), but the food was good, and the shrimp & grits were *great*. I'm not a big grits fan, but when in Rome...Last edited by Brian Noble, Sunday, July 4, 2010 11:09 AM
Brian Noble said:
My last visit predated DarKastle, so there were also several new-to-me attractions. DarKastle and Flight over Europe were both "okay".
Seemed to me like these rides blow away anything pretty much all the regional parks have, but compared to the rides they seem to try to emulate (Spiderman and Soarin' respectively in my mind) they're like poor man's versions with neither being nearly as good as their Orlando comparisions.
I remember riding Wild Thang when it was the Amazon. That ride predates Busch owning the park, and it is a fantastic ride. Im really glad that ride was spared the axe that Atomic Breakers got, for while that ride was always a must for me, it was purely for the nostalgia. Wild Thang may just be my favorite double tube slide anywhere.
Great TR. I have always wanted to hit up Williamsburg; the civil war/revolutionary war dork in me has been unleashed and the combo of hitting a few sites in that region coupled with a BG trip is making me think that might be our next fairly large trip. =) Either that or I'll find an excuse to go to Gettysburg again and make the hour drive to hersheypark. We drove right past it on the way down last time.
I hate people. But I love gatherings. Isn't it ironic?
Next time you're down there, go to Captain George's buffet. Crab legs were amazing as were some other shell items I had. I'm a crab leg junkie so I look forward to Captain George's as much as I do Griffon.
On the Water Country side, we did it. I nearly got decapitated by a life guard who was diving in to save someone else without properly assessing the area he was diving in to (blowing the whistle when I'm under water doesn't help) and the water slide closed for about 15 minutes while the life guard, not the person who was "saved" was tended to for a bloody nose. Nobody could tell us why they couldn't send people down the slides with an extra life guard there.
One thing I noted at Water Country was the EXTREMELY long queue lines. I don't mean that they were packed, it was just an extremely long walk to get to the line. I could understand on rides where the rafts are brought to you, but even then some of those were excruciatingly long. To get to Nitro Racer, where you have to wait to get your ride mat, you then had to walk about a half mile to get to the top. Just put a ramp/stairs along side the ride so you can see others going down. I don't want to be stuck in the woods away from the rides and carrying all the rafts. Other than that, nicely laid out, small and rides very close together.
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