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Chuck's Busch Gardens Williamsburg Thread

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... but did the flutist summon other Irish relics? ... like "Book of Kells" artisans to do caricatures, complementary draught Guiness, and Brigadoon (which would have been really magical considering it's part of Scottish lore, FWIR).


The explosions looked like confetti... but coins you say? ... right on!! Did you snag one (or several)? Plastic or metal? Did you get any images or macros of one of them? (Were they Denver or Philly mint? j/k... but were they?)


Thanks for the festive update.

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Oh... just went back and checked out the photos from the earlier (Easter time) visit...


Where did they move Le Catapult? (Katapult in it's original spot was the best (as a darkride)... whuddif they got it back inside somewhere, someday, somehow, for some reason? ...*sigh* nostalgia.)


I could see the cabanas working out... hadn't ever thought of them in an amusement park setting before now, since I've only seen them available at waterparks. (But they remind me of something I've seen before... maybe TV/film... maybe from Game of Thrones or any other movie/show where a heavily-draped portable dwelling became a temporary love den... just something about them *shrug*... maybe it's the picture makes it look like they are tucked away, in some remote spot, off the beaten path, where you might hear parents sternly warning the kids to, "stay away from that fenced in area". Maybe I'm just thinking of GoT and not wanting to wait a year for ssn. 2.)


Oh, and I would have tried the Chipstix, too. Tasty?

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Where did they move Le Catapult? (Katapult in it's original spot was the best (as a darkride)... whuddif they got it back inside somewhere, someday, somehow, for some reason? ...*sigh* nostalgia.)


Where the Canadian Palladium used to be--next to the Smokehouse.

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  • 2 months later...

The Thread Rises from the Dead: Howl-o-Scream 2011


Busch Gardens planned to kickoff Howl-o-Scream 2001 (“The Dark Side of the Gardens”) with a media event on Friday, September 23, but nature had other plans. There was a monsoon in Williamsburg from noon until a little after 5:30 pm that day, so the park closed at 6:00 pm. But even though the weather was a bit threatening that weekend, the big rain was over, and HOS went on as scheduled on Saturday and Sunday.


So, I ambled over there late Sunday afternoon. The weather was a bit sticky, but not rainy, and the crowd was pretty light, meaning that rides were pretty much walk-ons, and waits for haunted houses, once the event got going, were very short. Works for me!


Overall, HOS seems stronger this year, mainly because last year was pretty much a retread (only with bigger scarezones). BGW is offering three new mazes this year, with only two old ones returning. But how do they stack up? Here they are, from best to worst.


Deadline (Escape from Pompeii)—For some reason, Pompeii decided it needed a subway. Too bad that while they were digging, they unleashed a powerful gas that turns people into homicidal zombies! Not the most original concept ever, but this house is a welcome replacement for the old Curse of Pompeii (which had a 12-year run, with some embellishments, and was feeling pretty tired). The sets are the best the park has ever done for HOS, with plenty of surprises. The scareactors were doing a good job that night, too (just ask the women who were behind me).


13: Your Number’s Up (Europe in the Air)—This was the site of the very first HOS house 13 years ago, and it’s a big improvement over the Caverns of Darkness maze that used to be there. Guests are forced to face 13 different phobias, including fear of heights, fear of death, and even fear of going to the dentist or going to bed. It’s a good idea, and the long, narrow “cave” of Europe in the Air’s queue is used very well (which was not the case with Caverns).


Bitten (Drachen Fire station)—This house of Christopher Lee-style bloodsuckers is now the oldest maze at HOS, but that’s OK. It’s always been solid. The house sets are very good, and there are plenty of places for the legions of the undead to hide and attack.


Catacombs (Palace Royale Threatre)—This tour of the plague-infested catacombs of Paris was a bit weak last year, but is much improved. BGW reconfigured the space, and the mouldering, mummified corpses were using it well. This maze is the shortest one, but it’s long on creepy atmosphere.


Fear Fair (Festa Italia)—Evil clowns are back, which kind of rates a yawn from me. This new house was the weakest of the night, but there are good sets and some interesting ideas (such as the “carnival games” section). It could get better as the scareactors settle into their roles.


The park has been playing with their scarezones, too—usually their weak spot. Here’s how they stack up.


Unleashed (path between France and Ireland)—The werewolves and living bushes are back where they belong, and they have some new scenery and barriers to hide behind when stalking guests. Pretty good, if a bit short.


Widowmakers (Fort New France)—It’s chainsaw-wielding lumberjacks vs. spiders here. This is the largest of the scarezones, and it’s OK.


Scavengers (path from the Loch Ness Monster to Ireland)—Scarecrows and giant crows are scrounging for human body parts. Why? I have no idea, but this scarezone does have the best scenery of them all—the actors just need to use it better.


Stitchin’ Time (Oktoberfest bridge near DarKastle)—This was an interesting idea (a mad scientist sends his stitched-together creations to harvest spare parts), but it doesn’t quite come off. The scareactors really didn’t do much.


Grin and Scare It (Festa Italia bridge)—Again, the scareactors weren’t too active here when I went through, and there’s minimal scenery for them to hide behind. I liked it better during the old Festa Dementia days when the whole area from the bridge to the Roman Rapids was a scarezone.


All in all, HOS 2011 is pretty solid. There were some problems (such as Fear Fest and the rather small scarezones), but this event tends to improve as October grinds on.


Join me, won’t you? There’s nothing to be concerned about. Well, at least not from me. But the GRISLY MONTH OF HORROR is upon us—so who knows what will happen?


Does it, now?


“This event may not be suitable for small children—please quit complaining that your small children were too scared on our Facebook page. Thank you.”


“But I love small children—for lunch!”


These signs were all over the park explaining bits of folklore—a nice touch.


Yep—those are ravens. And if they leave, the British Crown will fall! (Well, not if they leave Busch Gardens. We have no “British Crown” here.)


Hmm—should I go this way?


Or this way? It’s too confusing for me! The horror has already begun!


“Then again, there are folks who go both ways—but we may decide to make that illegal in Virginia someday.”


"Shenanigans" = Ripping your guts out!


"Hello, sailah!"


"I ain't hungry, yet--but I might go for a bite of chunky coaster enthusiast later. You look pretty tender."


Not quite "unleashed" yet--come back at 6:00 pm.


"Small children should not gaze upon this symbol of their inevitable mortality. Thank you."


Catacombs has a spiffy new sign--and is a better house this year, too.


Sheesh! First, they have all those problems with Mach Tower. Then Hurricane Irene. Now it's the plague. BGW just can't catch a break.


Aw-w-w-w-w . . . how adorable.


Soon, the air will be full of the buzzing of chainsaws and smell of gasoline. Actually, that sounds like the week after Hurricane Irene.


"Er, little help here? This spider is going to EAT ME, you know! Hello? Hello?"


This statue has been showing her breasts here ever since the park opened--yet people were complaining about the cleavage shown by the nurses in the Fiends show. Go figure.


A charming fall tradition . . .


. . . cutting folks up and sewing them back together again.


Uh oh! Dr. Weirdstein is back making monsters at the Festhaus!


This is kind of clever. Each monster around the may pole represents one of the park's management team--this is Larry "The Troll" Giles, the gent in charge of building new attractions.


"I'm keeping my eye out for small children. They shouldn't be here, you know."


Vampire Minions as Skee Ball prizes! Bleah! Bleah! They have Mummy Minions, too.


I had some time to kill before the houses opened, so I caught the Jack Is Back show in Ireland.


They've redone the show a bit. He starts out above Grogan's, then . . .


. . . poof! He's onstage! (I liked the original, more grotesque version of Jack better.) More to come.

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Now HOS truly begins . . .



Whatever you say, Bela.


Uh oh! Someone's cranked up the fog machine! Must be nearly 6:00 pm.


Hang on to your extremities, folks--there are Scavengers about.


Hey, that is one nasty booger you got hangin' outta your nose. Wanna tissue?


"I'm a crow with a foot--and I know how to use it!"


This was the longest line of the night (about 15 minutes). The maze was new, so everyone went there first.


Hmm--I think these signs may provide a subtle clue about what will happen inside.


Yep--I may be on to something here.


Deadline--the maze that shows us why it's a bad idea to build a subway under an active volcano.


My favorite sign at HOS.


Best laid plans . . .


Hmm--that might be Italian for "zombie," unless it's some kind of pasta.


There's even a bit of a "pre-show."


Darkness falls.


When there's no more room in Hell . . .


. . . Bozo will walk the Earth!


"D'uh, dy-er, me scary clown! Kill you good!"


Their evil has even spread to the buffet!


That is one blue ghoul (the "Lady of the Gardens").


This is the entrance to Bitten. I'm reasonably sure it's cursed--but not as cursed as Drachen Fire (which inspired a lot of cursing from me).


Hey, just in time--may as well drink a brew and watch Fiends.


Who could possibly be annoyed by this wholesome family entertainment.


Yes, even the Jello Shooter girls are very wholesome.


Is that a chainsaw, or are you happy to see the nurses?


Things were a bit slow in the gift shop, so the Monster was out looking for victims, er, guests to get their picture taken with him. (This was pretty funny. He'd point at random people, and, by god, they'd buy a picture.)


The Monster chose the glasses for me, by the way. That's all--thanks for reading!

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Eh. I'm driving down from NH in a few weeks. Kind of bummed that Celtic Fyre, This is Octoberfest, Pompeii, and Europe in the Air (havent seen yet), will not be available. Also, I'm reading bad things about the condition of Darkastle. Oh well, it's a nice break from Screeemfest at Canobie Lake, which is all I have up here (and is pretty awesome, thats not a dig). A weekend of cocktails and coaster is it then. Anyone one local have any ideas of where to go late night in the Williansburg area for some sloppy, local, drinking entertainment?

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^Escape from Pompeii was running during the day last Sunday (they use the lower floor of the building as a house). As for "sloppy, local, drinking entertainment," you'll be in Williamsburg--good luck with that. (The Corner Pocket in New Town might be a good bet--drinks and pool.)

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  • 2 months later...

Merry Christmas Town, Everybody!


Hello, thread. I know that it's been a while. But I finally sorted through my Christmas Town pics, and this will probably be the last update of 2011. So, off we go!


This year's visit to Christmas Town has a bit of a twist. My friend Carola and I have been hitting this event ever since it began, but this year she brought an extra guest: Sebastian, the two-and-half-year-old son of a friend of hers who was attending a conference in D.C. So, off we went on a somewhat more "kid-centered" evening at Christmas Town than in years past.


It's been fun watching this event develop. The park tweaks it each year, and it really is starting to become a tradition in Williamsburg. We went on the first Sunday of December, which is also the night of the annual Grand Illumination in Colonial Williamsburg. CW is always mobbed on that night, so the crowd at BGW was manageable. This was a good thing, as this meant no wait to see the annual penguin exhibit, and Sebatian loved those freakin' birds! We had to check them out twice.


Here's a look at Christmas Town--along with some bonus pics from last Sunday (when it was quite crowded).


As the sun sets over the England parking lot . . .


. . . Carola struggles to get Sebastian strapped in.


My god! Those snowflakes are huge! They could kill someone!


Just making sure we're in the right place.


Hmm--looks like Sebastian is a bit embarrassed to be seen in public with us.


England is all dolled up.


My chins and I wish you all a joyous holiday season.


I wonder if Lou is about? About 4,000 miles away, that is.


It's a Blue, Elvis-style Christmas in Scotland.


First stop, the Flight of Lights. A good thing we hit this when we did--even on a slow night, the line for this ride can be ridiculous later in the evening.


Ireland from the air--not to be confused with "Europe in the Air," which is running during Christmas Town.


Soarin' over France, which you can't do at Epcot.


Descending into Germany.


The "traditional" English roast beef dinner at the Squires Kitchen was pretty good--as was the egg nog cheesecake (but I think I prefer the ginerbread).


It wasn't too cold that night, so we didn't freeze to death on the train.


They play Christmas carols, and these lights change color during the trip.


This is what the Polar Pathway looks like in hyperspace.


On to Ireland in search of Antarctic water fowl.


These folks must be Irish. Their sweaters and his jaunty cap betray them.


We continue on our quest for penguins.


Getting warm . . .


OK, those freakin' birds are around France somewhere . . .


To reach the penguins, you must first vanquish the dreaded French snow man (or "bonhomme de neige").


At last, our quest is at an end!


God be praised!


I'm playing the "does this bug you?" game with a penguin.


Penguins doing what they do best--other than smell. Still more Christmas Town to come.

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled broadcast for a very special "How the Grinch Seduced and Abandoned Christmas." Or just some more Christmas Town at BGW.


Rudolph was tired of being both ridiculed and exploited for his red nose, so he decided to get back to nature at Fort New France.


Hmm--looks like a "light" snow is falling.


Welcome to Christmas in Germany. All will make merry. These are orders!


Bet you didn't know Germany was so close to the North Pole. You are now stronger, thanks to this knowledge.


Sebastian thought this was the greatest ride ever. Really, I've never seen a kid smile so much on a carousel before.


On to Oktoberfest.


"Ho, ho, ho! You misfit toys can bite me!"


The Festhaus looks great each year.


And now, Illuminations: Reflections of the Festhaus.


Sebastian is going to stomp that giant snowflake into submission!


The Festhaus has balls--big, illuminated balls.


We did catch a little bit of "Deck the Halls" while we were there. This is their "Andy Williams Christmas Special" type show.


"What? You again, kid? It's almost closing time!"


I do believe Sebastian is wiped out.


I went back another night to check out some stuff I'd missed before.


Such as a nice, invigorating session of "Freeze Out" . . .


. . . on Alpengeist.


I caught some of "Miracles," the show in Italy, too.




All this fabulous merchandise can be yours, if the price is right!


"Gloria" is the park's new show for 2011.


The piper is back for 2011.


Off to Italy and the . . .


. . . Polar Pathway by Escape from Pompeii.


The park did a nice job decorating this section.


It's a big improvement over last year, which was just some purple trees and not much else.


Everybody seemed really taken with the spot--lots of pictures were took.


Be careful--purple polar bears are the most dangerous of all!


Look very closely . . . nope, sorry. It's too dark to see Verbolten. Merry Christmas, everybody!

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I said this last year when you posted this, but I will say it again: I really think the Flight of Lights is a great idea! Also, really like how they decorated Return from Pompeii. Great trip report as always, Chuck!


They've even upgraded the Flight of Lights a bit. Instead of the more "standard" Christmas lights on each gondola like last year, they used some sort of LED strip that changes colors during the trip around.

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  • 3 months later...

The Thread Awakens in Time for Passholder Preview Day


I missed BGW's last two Passholder Preview Days (2010 and 2011) because I was out of town when they took place, so I was particularly looking forward to this year's. Yes, the park's progress on Verbolten is what interested me most (read more about it in the BGW Discussion Thread), but the park has made other changes, both large and small, since last year. The weather was absolutely perfect, with temps in the high 70s, so the park was packed. I could see from the top of Apollo's Chariot that afternoon that all the park's main parking lots were full, and they were using the overflow Scotland lot across from the brewery, as well!


Even so, waits for the coasters were quite manageable (no more than 15 or 20 minutes), thanks to three-train operations on all but Nessie. The food-service locations were a bit slammed, though, and it took a while to snag lunch at the Festhaus, which was mobbed that afternoon.


Speaking of the Festhaus, that's the "large" change I was talking about. The old This Is Oktoberfest show, which has run in that venue with a change or two since the park opened in the mid-1970s, is now out--that is, my understanding is that the oompah band and dancers are going to be performing outside the Festhaus this season. Instead, a new musical show based on the stories of the Brothers Grimm, Entwined, will be making its debut next weekend. For Preview Day, the park decided to hold "dress rehearsals" of the show in the Festhaus in front of guests, rather than leaving the stage "dark." I saw them go through the show's opening number, then through some more specific rehersal with individual cast members, with numbers starting and stopping as necessary. It was kind of cool to see the "creative process" at work, and Entwined looks like a fairly big show. The old Feshaus stage has been redone, and the cast's elaborate costumes were all designed and sewn together in house.


Another interesting change happened in Curse of DarKastle. The park is, once again, running the ride's preshow as a preshow. This hasn't happned since the ride first opened. Instead, the park installed stanchions and chains in the preshow room duing ride's second season, and guests wandered past the preshow as it played in a continuous loop. It was good to see the old lighting effects and the chamber's "secret door" working again.


Here's a look at Passholder Preview Day 2012.


I got there about fifteen minutes before opening, and the parking-lot lines were already backed up.


Hmm--this is either a bus from a local jail, or a particularly "Klassy" RV conversion.


The park never gets tired of touting this.


Look! New signage for new "zones" on the bridge from the England parking lot! I can tell that you're all aquiver with excitement!


Yep--it's St. Patrick's Day.


First long line of the day--the height-check station.


They were running a "sweepstakes" of sorts that day. Every time you had your pass scanned while buying food or souvenirs, you had a chance to win gift cards you could spend at the park. No word on whether I won anything.


They've replaced the old "archaelogist's camp" in front of Pompeii with a sundial. Why? I've no idea. A big Santa statue was here the last time I wandered this way.


It was bit cool that morning, but one hardy soul braved the Escape from Pompeii.


Another little change: The park has installed these signs everywhere (all on different topics depending on where you are). They just care so much . . .


This is for you Robb: The park's turtle parade! It lasts a long time.


OK, just two more pictures of Verbolten that I didn't use in the BGW Discussion Thread.


This station is verboten, er, Verbolten.


I bumped into some of my neighbors. The first thing they wanted to ride was the Battering Ram (go figure), but it was broken--so we hit Mach Tower instead.


Not only was DarKastle's preshow back to its original self, but the mist/smoke effect was working in the library scene again.


My god, that mutant rabbit is back again.


I decided against tracking him to his lair.


EGGS . . . IN . . TREES!


The park held three "dress rehershals" that day. We were at the first one.


Behold the "new" Festhaus!


Yep--a lot of people were into the sausage that day.


The turkey was decent with the raspberry vinegarette. But this still cost me $18.50.


New for 2012: cupcakes with gumdrops. Not bad, but there's a better cupcake bakery in Williamsburg.


Here's some "Grimm" theming.


More new Festhaus decor.


The park's director of entertainment sets up the dress rehearsal. They're still tweaking the lighting design, and there are more props, as well as new trapdoors in the stage, that weren't going to be used during this session.


The good fairy, or fairy godmother, or something.


The witch wants to know, "Who just farted?"


"I'll cast an odor-eater spell over this audience! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!"


Who says the Big Bad Wolf is gone? And isn't his lederhosen adorable?


I have no idea with this guy is doing, but it involves blowing.


"Ich bin papa Bär."


"Heavens to Murgatroyd! No one told me there would be bears!"


Hansel and Gretel. Gretel's costume incorporates a compass into its design because she's always getting lost.


"You want a piece of the witch, wolfie? Come get some!"


That's our look at the Entwined dress rehersal. It'll be interesting to see it with all the props and final lighting package. Next up, a walk around the park.

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So, let's venture forth from the Festhaus, shall we?


Yes, I finally got some coaster riding in. Alpengeist was running pretty well.


Because they care.


People getting their "Griff on." Sorry. Couldn't think of anything else other than "whee."


Wait for it . . .


Oh, cr-a-a-a-a-a-ap!


BGW wants you to know that this is the "world's most beautiful theme park." Thank you.


Wolves that don't wear blue lederhosen are hard to spot in the wild.


"Wolf? Where? Well, we can just fly away . . . oh, wait."


DJ + Ireland = frightening line dancing.


"Aye, that's right. I'm a leprechaun, and just like those movies, I'm a bloodthirsty fiend who feasts on human flesh."


Well, being as it's St. Patrick's Day, I guess I'll pop over to Grogan's for a pint.


Or not.


I opted for the Loch Ness Monster, instead--faster line.


Nessie keeps on chuggin' along.


They've added a fence and some new signs down by the "river."


My, how times have changed.


Hmm--what have we here?


Run! It's the real monster! ("Angus McNasty: The Ride" would be a great addition to BGW.)


Two-thirds of a hat trick.


Apollo's Chariot was running particularly well that day.


They think they're safe.


They aren't.


There's always time for the train.


The train is moving at "ramming speed."


OK, some more Verbolten--what the hell.


Yep--still some dirt left to move.


It's good to see the left side of the map filled up again.


Hmm--a little proofreading is in order.


The park seems to be going through an "ugly shirt" phase at the moment.


You're welcome. That's all for now.

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