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Busch Gardens Williamsburg (BGW BGE) Discussion Thread

P. 447 - Halloween Harvest Trip Report

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OK, who wants to see penguins flying on Southwest from San Antonio to Norfolk so they can make it to Christmas Town in Williamsburg?

 

 

At least a limo picked them up in Norfolk--that Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel traffic can be a pain.

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Halloween Harvest, or “Howl-o-Scream Lite.” Busch Gardens is sticking with its “reservations only/limited attendance” events with Halloween Harvest during October. This is sort of “Howl-o-Scream

It's so weird seeing the park map like that, but at least a half open park is better than a closed park!

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I always look forward to Christmastown at BG....I hope this season is great for them.

In an unrelated news event, Blackstone looking to sell majority interest in Sea World. This is going to get very interesting for the park chain..

Links:

http://investing.money.msn.com/investments/sec-filings/?symbol=SEAS

 

related article: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/blog/tourism-central/os-blackstone-to-sell-more-seaworld-shares-giving-up-its-majority-20131120,0,6365903.post

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And speaking of Christmas Town . . .

 

Ah, the weekend of November 22-24! Such a magical time of the year. One anticipates the sound of sleigh bells, the smell of roast turkey, and the enchanting buzz of everyday beverages infused with a little something "extra." Yes, who doesn't look forward to this wonderful weekend?

 

Well, Walmart, Target, and other retailers have been looking forward to it since before Halloween, but that's besides the point--for this is the opening weekend of Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and the park invited those of us who "blog" about parks to check out this year's version on opening day.

 

So, what's new with Christmas Town this year? Perhaps the largest aesthetic change took place in France, which was themed to the "Twelve Days of Christmas"--a different Christmas tree for each lyric in the carol. Food offerings are very similar to last year, but the Swedish meatballs and Schnitzelwich from the Food and Wine Festival are now offered at Christmas Town, along with a larger assortment of adult beverages,such as Butterscotch Egg Nog (made with schnapps) and a Cranberry Hot Toddy (I'm definitely going to try this one--well, and probably the egg nog, too). The park keeps upping the ante on Christmas lights each season, too. Six million lights were installed on the park's buildings, paths, and trees, and 85 percent of those are LEDs (that's a lotta lights hooked up to about 25 miles of cable). Many of those lights adorn the park's 1,500 fresh-cut Christmas trees--you can really smell the fresh pine as you walk around.

 

The only coaster operating is Verbolten; the Forest of Fun, DarKastle, and the water rides are closed, but the skyway (as "Flight of Lights") and all the park's flat rides are running. And, yes, the penguins are back, as are the three shows from last year: "Gloria" (Ireland), "Miracles" (Italy), and "Deck the Halls" (Festhaus).

 

The park treated us to a "Collies and Clydesdale" tour, which isn't offered during Christmas Town, followed by Santa's Fireside Feast in Castle O'Sullivan in Ireland. This is the first time I've ever tried the feast, and it's a nice event for families. The buffet is quite good (particularly the roast turkey and stuffing). Mrs. Claus works the room until Santa himself comes out for photos, followed by a story--"A Visit from St. Nicholas," or "Twas the Night Before Christmas," by Clement Clarke Moore. Then Mrs. Claus comes out with cookies, and Santa encourages you to eat them all--now there's something a group of coaster enthusiasts can support.

 

My thanks to the park, and Koy Grant in particular, for inviting me to participate in this event for Theme Park Review. It's a great way to kickoff the holiday season. Well, our bellies are full. Shall we walk off dinner by checking out the rest of Christmas Town?

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Looks like I'm in the right place. That's very important.

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The tree with the big balls is back!

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Happy Christmas, England.

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And now, an old British yuletide tradition: The Official "London Rocks" Tree. I'm pretty sure Charles Dickens popularized this in the 19th century, probably in "A Christmas Carol 2: Gaslight Boogaloo."

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First stop: Highland Stables to check out some animals.

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"I wanna herd the hell outta them sheep so bad right now."

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"Ya got food? Huh? Do ya! DO YA?"

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Dakota is one big horse.

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This will give you an idea how big.

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Yes, even the Clydesdales, border collies, and highland sheep like to decorate for Christmas.

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Hmm--not quite feast time yet.

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I think I'll head for France via Ireland.

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Hmm--interesting. I bumped into Larry Giles, the park's head of operations, and asked him about this. He professed "ignorance."

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I like the candles on the Abbeystone Theatre--nice touch.

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Each country has its own Christmas Town color scheme. Ireland's is green. Go figure. ;)

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It's a surprisingly short walk from Ireland to France. I thought you had to take a ferry, or something.

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Hmm--quite a change from Demon Street at Howl-o-Scream. At least they finally got those "hell fires" put out.

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Yes, this spot was infested with demons and dragons a month ago.

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But now, the "Twelve Days of Christmas" rule France.

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Here you have your "ten lords a'leaping" . . .

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. . . and your "six geese a'laying."

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Bonjour, leaping lord and lady.

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Here's a bad joke I can't fit in anywhere else: "I'm at my wit's end," shouted the king as he delivered a kick to his prone jester's backside.

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Time for fireside feasting.

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Here's the fireside . . .

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. . . and here's the feast.

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It was a nice spread, but the roast turkey was particularly good.

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Thank you, Mrs. Claus. You cook a mean turkey.

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"Ho, ho, ho! Go fetch Santa one of those Cranberry Toddies, would you? Then I'll really show you what 'Jolly' is all about."

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"So, you want to hear Santa recite something? How about Molly Bloom's soliloquy from James Joyce's "Ulysses"? We are in Ireland, after all. No? How about some Yeats, then?"

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"Away to the window, I flew like a flash, tripped on the carpet and busted by . . . oh, ho, ho, ho! Santa's not supposed to tell that version." (All kidding aside, the park has an excellent Santa.)

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Cookie time--yay!

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Even Christmas trees get blue sometimes.

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At night, while you sleep, the Demon of the Blue Tree will come for you!

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Like last year, the Flight of Lights is offering only one-way trips. I liked it better when you could take a full circuit. More to come.

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Still more Christmas Town--let's head to to 1940s America via Italy.

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The Polar Pathway is probably the park's single biggest light display.

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Oh, how very droll. They sell donuts with dipping sauces here during Christmas Town.

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"All will kneel before Claus!"

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The park has managed to make an empty water ride look great.

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"Silver and gold/Silver and gold . . ." This photo would drive Yukon Cornelius crazy.

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Shall we step back to a time when boys wanted a "Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock" for Christmas?

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My Mom like flocked Christmas trees. My Dad disliked paying for them.

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Apollo's Chariot and the Roman Rapids are closed, but Festa Italia's flats have been given holiday overlays. This is the "Peppermint Twist" tea-cup ride.

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"Kneel! Grovel! Doubt not my power!"

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Another Christmas Town dining opportunity--I like the sign when it's lit up.

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The brass band is a nice touch.

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Be sure to score some Coke while in Holiday Hills.

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"Behold as the tree behind me bursts into flames! Bow down, mortal fool!"

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The displays in Italy are a bit more "reverent."

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"Hi there! I'm Jesus. Enjoy 'ME'mas Town."

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Let's head to Oktoberfest.

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It is pretty peaceful on the Rhine tonight.

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Nice work, Gunther! If you can't get that car to run, you may as well use it as a decoration.

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The Feshaus is looking more festive than usual.

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Personally, I like the prime rib sandwich on the lower right--but you really can't eat it like a "sandwich."

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Even the Minions are festive today.

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No DarKastle--but you can buy some of Ludwig's Cursed Crafts!

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This joint was crawling with vampires a month ago--and they served tasty tri tip to their victims.

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Now it has a goofy elf infestation.

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All is peaceful and beautiful in Germany . . .

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. . . until you bump into Chucky from the "Child's Play" movies.

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Alepngiest is closed--but it's trying.

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Canada. We're all about moose, eh?

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The penguin exhibit is exactly the same as last year.

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"I had to fly on Southwest from San Antonio to Norfolk to get here."

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And the penguins weren't particularly active while I was there.

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Time to head home.

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What? Well played, Busch Gardens. Well played. ;)

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The carolers in England serenade you as you enter and exit.

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One last look at England.

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And here's the tree with the big balls all lit up. Happy Holidays! Thanks for reading.

Edited by cfc
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Isn't the Corkscrew Hill sign physically attached to the post, and all the other signs they've put there have just been over top of it? Would it be too much to ask that CH returns next year? Unfortunately I'm thinking yes...

 

Anyway, here's a few pictures I took last night. I was rushed towards the end so I don't have too many, but I'll be back soon enough.

 

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Isn't the Corkscrew Hill sign physically attached to the post, and all the other signs they've put there have just been over top of it?

 

 

That was my thought, too. It was just funny that it was left uncovered for a big part of the day.

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Park is supposed to be dead tomorrow with the temps dipping below freezing. Pretty much this entire weekend was a ghost town.

 

- Park looks great decked out in llights. It's pretty much the same as last year with a few new Christmas trees here and there though.

- On my Festa walkthrough, I noticed half the lights were burnt out or turned off. It was strange. Oh and Busch, if you're reading this PLEASE put more effort into decorating Festa during HOS. It's a shame that the area looks amazing during CT but horrible during HOS.

- Oktoberfest's tree seems a bit smaller than last year. They added a few small ones at the base, but I preferred the one giant tree.

- Thay should bring back Catacombs for CT. Three penguin tanks doesn't really cut it for me.

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^Friday was very warm, and business was slow then, too. Even so, there was still a line to see the penguins. I think it's bit early for people to get into Christmas this weekend; I imagine it'll pick up after Thanksgiving.

 

Funny moment: When I was Holiday Hills, I noticed that the head of an "animatronic" snow man had been twisted backwards, so it looked like he had a broken neck. I passed Larry Giles on my way out. He was there taking notes. When I passed the snow man again, the head had been turned back the right way. So, I imagine the lighting problems in Holiday Hills will be fixed.

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I really need to go back to Christmas Town, it looks like they've done so much since their first year (my first and only trip to CT). Maybe I'll catch a break next month and have time to go.

 

BTW Verbolten looks amazing during CT.

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I never noticed the Christmas lights on the remote-control trucks--good catch, Zach.

 

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Stopped by the park today to take some more pictures...here are a few if anyone is interested:

 

(more can be found here)

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The "big ball tree" as Chuck calls it.

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This way to the rest of the park...

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This polar bear is looking rather thin, perhaps as a result of global warming? Not sure, it was awful cold tonight.

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This is probably the most theming Festa Italia has ever seen.

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Americana flamingos? Why not.

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I walked into Oktoberfest and could hardly believe that Mach Tower was running. Had to have been 3 months since I saw it with people on it. I set up my tripod for this picture and watched. The car went up about 30 feet, paused, then came back down. I knew it was too good to be true. Moments later, the ride and queue were evacuated and the ride remained closed for the rest of the night. This was easily the most entertaining thing I've seen all week. (I realize the ride was most likely running earlier, I just found my timing to be extremely hilarious)

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I then walked over to Verbolten and took an unhealthy amount of photos of the car. I believe I took 14, but only 3 made it online.

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Alpengeist, is that you?

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And with that I was gone. Thanks for lookin.

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Man....I wish I had some time to go to Christmas Town. I have a season pass and haven't been to the park since May (was planning to go more, but didn't work out). It would be nice to have a good visit to the park this year (first time got rained out, and lost my cell phone on Alpengeist the second).

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