Busch Gardens Williamsburg (formerly known as Busch Gardens Europe and Busch Gardens: The Old Country) is a theme park located in James City County. The park was developed by Anheuser-Busch (A-B) opened on May 16, 1975, adjacent to Anheuser-Busch's brewery and near its other developments including the Kingsmill Resort complex.
In addition to its landscaping and European theme (the park contains several areas that depict different European villages), Busch Gardens is widely known for its roller coasters, including Griffon, Alpengeist, and Apollo's Chariot, which won No. 4 best steel coaster in 2012 from the Golden Ticket Awards.
The park features a combination of roller coasters and Broadway-style shows. The park is broken into "countries", each having its unique style of food and music. The rides in the sections of the park are also themed to the country that they are located in.
The park is separated into 10 different hamlets, themed to European villages from England, France, Germany, Italy, Scotland and Ireland.
Two attractions provide transportation around the park. The Aeronaut Skyride gondola lift transports guests between the Sesame Street Forest of Fun, Aquitaine and Rhinefeld hamlets; while replica steam trains transport guests between the Heatherdowns, Festa Italia and New France hamlets. The train serves as a convenient way for families with small children to travel around the park together as well as providing an "Old Country" themed method of transportation fitting the park's overall theme.
Within the park itself, three steam locomotive powered trains operate on the narrow gauge Busch Gardens Railway, a 1.5 mi 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 themed areas.
Banbury Cross is fashioned after England, with stereotypical red telephone booths and common English architecture. A replica of the famous Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) is the central element of this area. Banbury Cross also includes The Squire's Grill, 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. In 2014, the theatre was renovated for the purpose of once again holding live performances, including the show "London Rocks" and its 3 season run at the park, featuring puppets, animation and live performances of music from classic British bands, including Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles. It currently features a Sesame Street Live show as well, with performers in costume as popular characters.
Heatherdowns is a Scottish hamlet situated at the top of the hill on the path leading from Banbury Cross (the park's English hamlet). Tweedside Train Station offers a 20-minute ride through the park with additional stops in Festa Italia and at Caribou Station, in New France. Heatherdowns is also home to the Highland Stables featuring Scottish Blackface sheep, Border Collies, and Clydesdales. Guests can interact with the animals and see them in action as they demonstrate their skills during daily demonstrations.
Opened on April 3, 2009, Sesame Street Forest of Fun features children and family rides and attractions themed to Sesame Street, including a Zierer junior roller coaster named Grover's Alpine Express, Bert and Ernie's Loch Adventure flume ride, Oscar's Whirly Worms rock-n-tug-type ride, Prince Elmo's Spire shot-n-drop ride a small drop tower and wet and dry play areas. The area also features a stage for the main show "Sunny Days Celebration".
This area features Celtic Fyre, at the Abbey Stone Theatre, a celebration of Irish dance. Shows such as Kaleidoscope, Hats Off to Hollywood, Journey into Music, Stage Struck and Rockin the Boat are the names of popular productions at the Abbey Stone Theatre. Grogan's Grill offers Irish cuisine in this area. Other attractions in this area:
San Marco is based upon Renaissance-era Italy. 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. Also in the area is Ristorante della Piazza, featuring Italian cuisine and allowing guests to watch "Mix It Up."
Some of the other attractions are: * Da Vinci's Cradle: A standard magic carpet amusement ride that swings back and forth, gaining in height until it rotates over the top. It does not invert riders. * Escape from Pompeii – A shoot-the-chutes boat ride featuring an extensive indoor portion within the city of Pompeii, featuring fire and water effects as well as falling statues to simulate the destruction of the city. * Little Gliders & Little Balloons – Family-sized carnival rides themed to Da Vinci's inventions. * The Battering Ram – A high-capacity, high-thrill swinging ship. This does not go upside down.
Festa Italia is themed around a fair celebrating Marco Polo's return to Italy from his famous visit to China. It contains many of the park's games, all with a festival theme. Its attractions are themed around Roman mythology. Some of the featured attractions are:
* Apollo's Chariot – A Bolliger & Mabillard Hyper Coaster featuring dives towards and around ponds and hills. Apollo's Chariot also features a deep purple and gold color scheme which is easily visible from the park entrance and surrounding parking lots. * Roman Rapids – A circular-raft rapids ride among Roman ruins, which is deliberately designed to drench guests. * Tradewinds – A permanent-placement music express ride. * Tempesto – A Premier Rides steel roller coaster featuring three launches and a heartline roll.
It is largely themed to a runaway ski resort in the German Alps. Also in Rhinefeld is Land of the Dragons, a large children's play area featuring a playground, five rides, and seasonal shows.
* Alpengeist – A Bolliger & Mabillard inverted roller coaster, Alpengeist is themed to a ski-lift taken over by a local legend, the Alpengeist (Ghost of the Alps). In addition to its green and white Alpine color scheme, the station of Alpengeist features ski gear and other decorations to simulate a ski lodge in the Alps. It also has six loops and two corkscrews. * Kinder Karussel – The park's antique Herschell Carousel.
Land of the Dragons was the main children's area at Busch Gardens. It is home to Dumpherey the Dragon, the area's mascot. Other major attractions include its dragon-themed 3-story treehouse, a wet play area with waterfalls, squirting geysers, a serpent inhabiting the area and a dragon-egg Ferris wheel.
Oktoberfest features many of the park's flat rides and is also home to a large assortment of carnival-style games. Oktoberfest is a large festival in the fall in Bavarian Germany.
The area also hosts a large part of the annual BierFest festival, featuring a number of beers from around the world, with at least 22 different beers on tap throughout the whole area. German-themed food and non-alcoholic beverages are also sold during the festival.
Aquitaine, based on a French village, is home to many boutiques and one of the park's skyride stations. The Royal Palace Theatre in France hosts numerous shows throughout the season.
New France is based on French Canada and consists of a hub of Canadian-themed shops with a colonial tone throughout the area. Rides in New France include the Le Scoot Log Flume, featuring a 50 ft plunge through a sawmill. A predominant feature in this area is the Trappers Smokehouse, offers grilled and smoked items such as chicken, turkey legs, ribs, and beef brisket.
Along with various birds that inhabit Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve, attractions here include 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.
Busch Gardens' Highland Stables features Scottish Blackface sheep, Border collies, black Clydesdales and a European barn owl. Guests can interact with the animals during daily demonstrations.
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