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Media Day: Forest of Fun at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg


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Busch Gardens officially opened the new Sesame Street Forest of Fun at a ceremony on Friday, April 3--just in time for spring break and Easter. This new section, part of the park's "KIDsiderate" attractions, presents those popular Sesame Street characters, such as Elmo, Bert, and Ernie, in their first-ever "European adventure," said John Reilly, the park's general manager and executive vice president.

 

"Sesame Street Forest of Fun is a perfect fit for our park," he said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. "We hope parents enjoy this area as much as their children do, because everything in here was designed for them to do together."

 

John got a little help during his speech from Elmo himself, who just popped up from behind the podium. The little shaggy red guy volunteered to help out in almost any way possible, from running the Pet Shenanigans show to running the rides to impersonating a bald eagle. But he did draw the line at sweeping up the floor.

 

"Elmo wouldn't like to do that," he said.

 

John said that Elmo could help out best by bringing the rest of his friends to the Forest of Fun--via BGE's Alpen Express. Which he did--Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster, and other members of Sesame Street trotted up the red carpet, where two local shoolkids helped them cut the ribbon.

 

And with that, the Forest of Fun was officially open--and the kids there went nuts!

 

Here are the attractions of the Forest of Fun:

 

Elmo's Castle--performance stage and wet playground.

Prince Elmo's Spire--shot-n-drop ride for the whole family.

Grover's Alpine Express--family-friendly roller coaster.

Bert and Ernie's Loch Adventure--flume ride for parents and kids.

Oscar's Whirly Worms--family-friendly rock-n-tug ride.

Oscar's Yucky Forest--playground.

1-2-3 Smile with Me--character and guest photography studio.

Abby Cadabby's Treasure Trove--gift shop.

Sunny Days Celebrations--musical performance by Sesame Street characters.

 

Sesame Street has also taken over England's Globe Theatre (looks like Captain Lucky's luck has run out) with their own movie "brought to you by the number 4 and the letter D": Sesame Street Presents Lights, Camera, Imagination! The movie is cute and fun and immerses guests in "visual effects and sensory surprises" (in other words, be prepared for lots of water).

 

You can also Dine with Elmo and Friends over in Ireland at Castle O'Sullivan. In addition to lots of interaction with the characters (they do a really good job working the room), you can belly up to the all-you-can-eat buffet, which has food for kids (such as hot dogs, mac-and-cheese, and chicken tenders) and adults (such as beef fajitas and marinated pork loin--very good, by the way). You can have breakfast with Elmo, too.

 

Here's a look at the Forest of Fun's opening day. The picture quality varies a bit (the day started out rainy, but ended up sunny--just like the Sesame Street theme song).

 

Two other points:

1. The Forest of Fun is located behind the England skyride station (where the petting zoo used to be).

2. Yes, Land of the Dragons is still there. (A few park guests were asking about this.)

 

EDIT: "Topiary Elmo" is actually "Topiary Grover."

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Up next--what most of you are here to see.

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Forest of Fun is now open for everybody!

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OK, the gang's all here.

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Wow--Elmo grew!

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And Big Bird was there to greet it.

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OK, kids--here comes the Sesame Street Express!

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"I know! I can do my impression of a bald eagle! Just pretend I'm bald, and I can flap my arms . . ."

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Elmo gave a lot of thought to what he could do to help out at Busch Gardens.

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. . . Elmo!

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Maybe for John Reilly? Well, John's a nice guy, but I think they were really waiting for . . .

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But who are all these media-type people waiting for?

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. . . as was topiary Oscar the Grouch.

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Topiary Grover was waiting for me . . .

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After bumbling around and entering via the wrong gate, I finally made my way to the Forest of Fun.

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Here are more kiddie-coaster photos than any sane person would tolerate.

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Phew! Need a cookie after that! But what else does the Forest of Fun have to offer?

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Now it's my turn to brave Grover's helixes of death! (Thanks for the picture, John.)

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. . . and approaching the station.

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Hang in there Grover! You're out of the helix . . .

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"Hang on to your prosthetic limbs, folks!"

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"Phew! Grover almost gray out that time! Aghh! Another helix!"

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"Intense . . . helix . . . must . . . not . . . black . . . out . . ."

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Wh-e-e-e-e-e! Smile for the onride camera!

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Grover's adventure begins!

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Hey, you guys aren't bolted to the seat! Best hang on! (On the right is John, aka "obxcoasterman." He was an Alpengeist ride-op a few years back, and he's with Coastercrew.com, as well.)

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Good thing he's bolted to the seat.

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Hmm--looks like Grover may have had a few Budweisers, or something.

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The themeing and landscaping are nice, too.

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I like how BG has gone with a winding path as opposed to a bunch of switchbacks here.

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But please note the rules before queuing up. Have you secured those prosthetic limbs? Good!

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Time to tour the mighty Alps with Grover.

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Let's amble around the rest of the Forest of Fun, shall we?

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"How're those pancakes sittin' now?" Next up--lunch!

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"Heh, heh, heh!"

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"Hope guys enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning, 'cause I'm about to give you another look at it!"

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"OK, kids--if ya don't follow MY rules, you can't ride my worms!"

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That's one impressive spire you have there, Elmo.

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Bouncy, bouncy!

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Up I go!

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It's a pretty good "frog hopper."

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. . . ride Elmo's spire!"

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"Loyal subjects! You may now . . .

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Oscar's Yucky Woods was a little "yuckier" than they liked--the paint was still tacky in the morning, but they let kids play there in the afternoon.

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Good thing the sun came out in time for the "Sunny Day Celebration."

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Abby Cadabby will have to content herself with this gift shop.

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. . . and little Loch Ness Monsters!

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They even have their own Scottish sheep . . .

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Who knew?

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What? Bert and Ernie are Scottish lairds?

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See? Wetness!

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No--just much wetness. Allow me to demonstrate.

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A moat? With alligators?

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I finished up the Forest of Fun Media Day with lunch. BG has done a good job with the character dining--and with using the old Castle O'Sullivan theatre. (The pork loin is very good, and the Sesame Street cupcakes rule.)

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I took one last look at the Forest of Fun before returning to work--sigh! Thanks for reading.

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This photo comes with your meal. They call up tables by number to keep the stage from being mobbed, and they bring the prints to your table a few minutes later.

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Ernie gets down and gets funky. Guests were encouraged to dance with the characters.

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"We'll distract him with this snickerdoodle! Run for it!"

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Hmm--let's see . . . cupcake . . . apple cobbler . . . aha!

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"He's not bluffin', folks! He's jonesin' for cookies today!"

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"BGEscape! Coaster-net! I've come for your cookies!"

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"You got cookies"?

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And here they come!

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Another clever touch--they kept the old "splitting hearth" bit from the Castle O'Sullivan showand used it as an entrance for the characters.

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Here's a sampling. My favorite was the pork loin (very tasty), but it was all pretty good.

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But what about the food?

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. . . the stage.

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They used this space really well. They kept the various levels of the old theatre and put in tables and partitions where the bleachers used to be--this gives everybody a good view of . . .

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Here's where you check in.

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Oddly enough, none of the food pictured here is served inside--but the buffet is pretty good, nonetheless.

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Looks like Elmo bought Castle O'Sullivan. So much for Clancy the leprechaun.

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. . . the Sesame Street Film Festival--and to get pretty damp while watching it.

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I had a 12:30 reservation to "Dine with Elmo and Friends." This gave me just enough time to check out . . .

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BGE did a great job with the new section of the park, it adds a lot for the kids to do in addition to superb themeing! I think the oscar bush inside the trash can is awesome, and hilarious. But on the one picture where you titled it "smile for the onride video" or something like that, the kid in the second row is doing anything but that. He looks terrified!

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The new area looks nice and well-themed, in typical Busch Gardens fashion. It reminds me a lot of SWSD's Bay of Play, except it has more rides and forest theming. Other than that it's pretty similar.

 

Great TR, I enjoyed it. Loved the pictures!

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Great report Chuck! The area looks really nice, and I'm really impressed by the Character Meal. Seems like they learned from Disney and even maybe improved on it!

 

Quick question regarding height restriction on rides...Was the coaster the only ride with a 'true' height restriction (I saw some others that had a restriction, but not if you rode with a parent). Also, on the Loch Ness mini-flume, were parents allowed to ride with kids, or was it only for kids?

 

Thanks!

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Nice report, Chuck. BGE is one park I really want to visit sometime.

 

But I have to wonder---does the Williamsburg area have a high number of double leg amputees? This is the first time I've seen such a warning on a sign.

 

Eric

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Oh if only I were a kid again .. great pics, thanks for posting! It looks great; I'm really looking forward to my Busch Gardens trip this year.

 

The whole Castle 'O Sullivan thing is confusing theming though...putting a Sesame Street attraction in a castle?

 

Oh well. It'll still be fun to check out.

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Great report Chuck! The area looks really nice, and I'm really impressed by the Character Meal. Seems like they learned from Disney and even maybe improved on it!

 

Quick question regarding height restriction on rides...Was the coaster the only ride with a 'true' height restriction (I saw some others that had a restriction, but not if you rode with a parent). Also, on the Loch Ness mini-flume, were parents allowed to ride with kids, or was it only for kids?

 

Thanks!

 

Yes--if you're shorter than 38 inches, you can't ride Grover's Alpine Express. A parent can ride the mini flume with a small child. I saw one mother doing just that--her little boy was crying like crazy under the water jets, and it was all she could do to keep him from climbing out of the boat!

 

^^^As for using Castle O'Sullivan, I was surprised, too, when BG announced that as the location for the character meals. But there really wasn't any room for a dining hall in the Forest of Fun, and the old Castle O'Sullivan show had "run its course."

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Great to see this, I hopefully will be there in my North East America Trip 2010..

 

Quick Question: Looks like Elmo is favorite character in the USA, is that true? If it is, that would be funny to see, 'cause in Holland Elmo is just an extra..

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Elmo had played the role of extra for a really long time before becoming big here in the US. Big Bird was the "in" character when I was a kid in the early 90's, and from what I've read, was just as big in the 80's. Only in the mid-90's did Elmo gain what is probably most popular Sesame Street Muppet status in the US.

 

Damn that Tickle Me Elmo...

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^^ That's really fun to hear, here in Holland the main muppets are Bert and Ernie.. And some Dutch figures like Mr. Aart, Frank, Rik, Pino (aka Big Bird) Tommie, Ieniemienie en Purk (Fun little pig, to teach children how to handle a baby brother or sister)..

 

After them there are the 'American' muppets like Grover, Oscar, Elmo and all those other ones.. Zoë wasn't even on Dutch television till 2 or 3 years ago..

 

btw your signature in dutch is great ..

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^^ I could not agree more!

 

Two things I learned from this trip report:

 

#1 I should not read Chuck's trip reports while sitting at my very public desk at work because captions such as "Hold on to your prosthetic limbs, folks!" cause me to laugh out loud.

 

#2 I am REALLY missing the Sesame Street days. Now it's all Selena Gomez and the Jonas Brothers and Zac Efron at my house. I think I liked it better when Elmo was considered a hottie.

 

Elissa...can I borrow Kristen for a few days, please???

 

Thanks for sharing, Chuck... I enjoyed BG when I visited it back in the 80's and have always wanted to get back there some day.

 

Shari

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