Disclosure: I am an affiliate blogger for Busch Gardens VA through a partnership with Mom Central. My family and I receive complimentary tickets, as well as invitations to special media events. I share an honest review of my experiences during my visits. The opinions and views are my own and do not reflect those of the sponsor.
The year was 1994. I headed to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia for a music competition. I was in band and played the clarinet. I was pretty good, too. In fact, I took first chair in my section. Let's just say that I'm tooting my own horn right now. All pun intended. We started the day with a performance of several selections. It was the year of The Lion King and we rocked out to 'The Circle of Life'. It was awesome. Once the band finished, we were free to explore all the fun that awaited at Busch Gardens Theme Park. I still remember that day like it was yesterday.
Fast forward to this past Friday. Talk about déja vu. My family and I headed back to Williamsburg, VA to Busch Gardens. This time, it was for my oldest son, Kaden. He is a member of the sixth grade choir called the Treble Makers. His school participated in the Music in the Parks festival. They performed three selections at a nearby church. Once their performance was over, everyone headed to Busch Gardens. It was all too familiar.
Ian, Liam and I rode in the car for the field trip. Because we had the baby with us, riding on the bus with several, active tweens did not make sense. We needed the flexibility to stop and go at our own pace. With just under a three hour drive from home, there was no telling how Liam would respond. There were a few traffic jams on this Friday drive. But, for the most part, it's a straight stretch down the highway. Luckily, Liam stayed asleep for majority of the ride down.
We arrived a little after 1 PM. There was no line of cars at the main entry where you pay for parking. We chose preferred parking. This particular day was less crowded because it was a school day and it had rained earlier. This probably kept the crowd down a bit. It worked out perfectly.
I am working with Busch Gardens as an Affliate Blogger thanks to Mom Central, so I received complimentary tickets for myself and Ian. Kaden's ticket was purchased through the school before I was accepted into this program. Bummer! We could have saved a lot of money. We printed our electronic tickets from the computer and had them scanned at the entrance. You can even buy tickets when you arrive at the park. Ticket prices are listed on the Busch Gardens VA website. Decide which option works best for your visit.
I knew that this day would not lend itself to a lot of park time. We were on a tight schedule after a few hiccups on the road. Ian and I headed straight to Sesame Street Forest of Fun. Since Liam is walking now, he is able to get on some of the rides when accompanied by an adult. I was so excited.
Check out Liam and Ian on Bert and Ernie's Loch Adventure:
It was so fun to watch Liam enjoying himself. I think he was a bit overwhelmed by it all. But, I could sense his excitement as well. This was a new adventure for him. He was surprisingly on his best behavior. He did not cry once while we were in the park. He just sat in his stroller and took in all the noises, sights and probably the yummy smells.
A few of the rides in this area were not suitable just yet for Liam. By next year, he should be able to ride them with not problem. He is a bit on the shorter side, so it looked as though he was being swallowed when he got in the seat of a few of the rides. I think he enjoyed just seeing the attractions just as much as he did getting on them.
I did like how cozy the Forest of Fun was. As mentioned before, the park was not as crowded as it probably gets. There was something for all younger aged children to appreciate in the Forest of Fun. Different levels of excitement, if you will, and just enough thrill to keep the parents accompanying a child on the rides excited as well. Had it been a little warmer that day, we probably would have let Liam go on the water playground. Instead, he just watched as a few other children splashed around on Elmo's Castle.
There are also kid-friendly rides throughout the park0 They are called "KIDsiderate Attractions". I liked this. Sometimes when you visit theme and amusement parks, you feel confined to certain areas when you have younger children in tow. We were able to walk to different areas of the park and find something for Liam to ride, all while being in the mix of other adults and older children.
We walked around the park after taking Liam on a few rides. The weather was perfect, so that made it pleasant as we strolled through the neatly groomed park. This is the one thing I remember about Busch Gardens – it's beautiful! Unlike other parks that I have been to, I barely recall excessive pavement attracting my attention there. I noticed colorful plants, lots of trees and shrubbery, water views and a lot of visual simulation. I love how the roller coasters (like Loch Ness Monster, Alpengist and Le Scoot Log Flume) peek through the trees just enough for park-goers to get a pick of the action.
I don't think this will ever get old: Remember standing on the bridge to get wet as the boat made it's way down the hill? Well, we did this...sort of. Liam was in his stroller, so we just pushed him behind the clear wall that is built on the bridge. He liked seeing the water splash up from the ride Escape from Pompeii.
You can't help but notice the aroma that floats throughout the park. Your senses are tickled the entire time you are visiting. I cannot tell you how many times I said, "That smells so good!" With so many dining options at Busch Gardens, you will have no problem with satisfying your appetite. Eventually, Ian and I gave in and stopped at Trapper's Smokehouse (located in New France) to take a bite out of their delicious spare ribs. We also ran into another parent on the trip who has a huge funnel cake topped with ice cream and other deliciousness. I resisted the urge to get one and settled on a frozen drink. Ian went the adult route and grabbed his favorite beer, Heineken.
Kaden was with his assigned group during our trip. We hooked up a few times with him and listened to their excitement about the rides they had been on. Kaden is not really into roller coasters. He used to be, at an early age, but he has since slowed down. He did mention that he rode Verbolten and described how you're inside a dark room when all of a sudden you drop. That sounded like fun. Ian and I hung out around with Kaden as other members of his group took on Griffon. Whoa! I also keep telling myself that I'm going to give the Mach Tower a-go on our next visit. We'll see.
The real reason we chose this particular day to visit Busch Gardens was to attend Music in the Parks, supporting my son and his school. Earlier in the day, both the chorus and orchestra participated in a competition against other schools. We were scheduled to attend the awards ceremony at Royal Palace Theatre. This is where concerts and other performances take place at Busch Gardens. It was the perfect setting for our group of students. And the icing on the cake was when the 6th grade choir, the Treble Makers, took home the 1st Place trophy for their group. Even better, the entire school won the Espirit des Corp trophy. This "is awarded to the school that the staff on site feels best exemplifies positive attributes...Audience etiquette, visitor's appreciation of facilities and environments...and taking care of people's property."
There are a lot of upcoming events that you do not want to miss at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This Friday, May 23, there is the Grand Opening of London Rocks, the start of the Food and Wine Festival and over at Water Country USA, the grand opening of Colossal Curl. And this is just in May! When we entered the park, flags filled the sky's view just in front of the new show, London Rocks. One of the workers standing in front stopped us and explained in great detail about this new feature of the park. She gave us background information and suggested we catch a show. A few of my local blogger friends headed to the park that same day to preview London Rocks. I'll have to catch up on my next visit.
Even if you are not into roller coasters with high trills, there is still plenty to do with the family. Take a relaxing train ride on the Busch Gardens Railway. Go for a scenic ride from one end of the park to another on the Aeronaut Skyride. You can schedule one of many tours offered at the park – animal, park, roller coasters, or VIP Elite. Why not check out a show? Bring your skills and try your luck at a game. Who knows – you may win a banana Ian did. Ha! Don't forget to stop by one of the souvenir/gift shops. Bring home something to remember your day. In all, there is something for everyone to do. Busch Gardens is the ultimate family theme park!
Next time around, I'm hoping that Ian and I can get on more rides with Kaden and as a family. We'll probably hit up Water Country USA as the weather warms up. I also want to check out events such as Howl-O-Scream and Christmas Town. There is just so much to do. It's almost a no-brainer that you should purchase an Annual Pass.
My simple advice for a visit:
Plan ahead. Arrive early. Dress comfortably. Use a map. Take some risks. Eat. Drink. Enjoy yourself. Make memories. Repeat.
Watch for updates on your social networks. Follow Busch Gardens here:
Don't miss a post! Have Mommy 2K updates delivered to your mailbox. Sign up here.
I am an affiliate blogger for Busch Gardens VA through a partnership with Mom Central. My family and I receive complimentary tickets, as well as invitations to special media events. I share an honest review of my experiences during my visits. The opinions and views are my own and do not reflect those of the sponsor.