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Busch Gardens Williamsburg (BGW BGE) Discussion Thread

P. 443 - A Night at Busch Gardens' Christmas Celebration

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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

Before this thread derails off course into a COVID discussion, I’ll just keep it simple:  everyone should follow their state and local guidelines.  This isn’t something up for debate on TPR. Now

A Night at Busch Gardens' Christmas Celebration Busch Gardens Williamsburg is pushing on with its limited attendance/reservations-only events schedule with an abridged version of their extremely

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Anyone been to the Halloween event yet? I'm trying to make it down there for it this year.

 

I've usually been twice by now, but been too busy. Heading there on the 14th for sure though.

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^Speaking of that . . .

 

Howl-o-Scream: What's New for 2017

 

Yes, it's my favorite time of the year at Busch Gardens. Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of London, vampires terrorize Germany, and demons get down with their bad selves (and their chain saws) in France. Those are the constants of Howl-o-Scream in Williamsburg (at least over the last few years). So, what's different this year?

 

If you were hoping to fight traditional vampires in tuxes, opera capes, and evening gowns, I regret to inform you that the park's oldest maze, Bitten, is no more. Perhaps too much sunlight leaked in during the earlier part of the season, thus reducing the bloodsuckers to dust and bones (or perhaps there was a garlic epidemic). It was about time. The maze was getting a bit long in the tooth (yes, pun intended), and it was time to dump some holy water on it. I will miss the pounding James Bernard/Hammer Films Dracula music that reverberated from the old Drachen Fire station.

 

But there is a new maze to replace it: Frostbite (in the DarKastle building). One thing I like about Howl-o-Scream is that it can't depend on existing IPs for mazes; they have to be "original" concepts. The backstory of Frostbite concerns the death of a dragon that once lived within a cavern and provided heat and light for the people in the castle above it. But now some sort of "frost demon" has taken over and turned the once warm dwelling into an icy palace of doom. BGW used the DarKastle space (and some of its projection equipment) pretty well, and they cranked up the AC to make it appropriately chilly. It's a fun walk-through, but I thought the "ice king" in the pre-show looked a bit silly. It drew a big crowd, but the wait was only about 30 minutes, even with a full queue.

 

The Wendigo Woods Terror-tory is gone, although the Wendigo is still around. Now you have to survive Axe Alley, where you're harassed by the ghosts of the Vikings who invaded New France. It's doesn't have the elaborate back story of the old Terror-tory, but it fits in well with Invadr, and the Vikings are pretty active at banging their axes and chasing unwary guests.

 

So, what else is new at Howl-o-Scream this year? They've decreased the amount of gore in the Ripper Row Terror-tory in England. The random bloody body parts are gone. They reconfigured the Lumberhacks outdoor maze (behind Verbolten). You now enter through what used to be the exit, and I thought it was an improvement--the scares are better hidden now. Cornered, the other outdoor maze, has changed, too--the mirror-maze section has been replaced with rather close rows of corn, making it more claustrophobic. They made some tweaks to Deadline (Escape from Pompeii building. There's a new No Escape room, too: Jack the Ripper has bee replaced with the Case of the Haunted Hotel (this is an upcharge).

 

Let's have a look around.

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Just in case you’re forgotten where we are.

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Nothing creepy here. Nothing at all. Right?

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Ripper Row is a low on gore compared to previous years. Where are all the body parts?

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At least the Headless Hearse Driver is still here--and you don't have to tip him, because he's dead.

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Hmm . . . where to go first? Let’s consult this handy map . . .

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. . . or ask this crazy ghoul woman. I like this gimmick with the maps, and there are a few other video-screen surprises in the park.

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Being as the ghoul woman wasn’t much help, let’s just follow this sign to the new Terror-tory: Axe Alley.

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First, we must cross the Valley of the Spiders. (Not an official Terror-tory, but my pet name for the path from Ireland to France.)

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Just follow the ghosts. They'll never lead you astray . . . if you're looking for Hell, that is.

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Ghouls will try to distract you with booze and ice cream.

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And later this evening, they will succeed with me.

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Do not fall for the tasty deceptions of the Children of the Night (even in broad daylight). Focus on your objective.

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Demons will be out in a out another 15 minutes.

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Welcome to the Terror-tory formerly known as Wendigo Woods.

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Now it’s been taken over by murderous Viking “Invadrs.”

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But the Wendigo is still around.

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Hmm--looks like a good spot to scare people. We’ll find out later.

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Bitten is now officially “dead,” but the undead still roam Vampire Point in Germany.

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“I sparkle. I also bite and suck!”

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Sheesh! That security guard just let two vampires walk by without as much as a “who goes there.” At least the trash can is safe.

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The Mr. Karver No Escape Room us back, but Jack the Ripper has been replaced by the “Case of the Haunted Hotel.” If I were Jack, I’d be a bit miffed. More to come.

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Time to get frost bitten!

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Mad King Ludwig decided to take the rest of the year off. Welcome to Frostbite--this year’s new maze.

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“Go ahead. Sing ‘Cold as Ice’ one more time. I never get tired of that gag.”

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I haven’t had to walk through the entire DarKastle queue in a long time.

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Ludwig swapped homes with this guy, who looks like a blue version of Groot. It was all done “sight unseen,” and I bet Ludwig got stuck with some ice-fishing house in Wisconsin. Poor dope.

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It gets creepier as the sun goes down.

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Meanwhile, back at Axe Alley, the Vikings have dropped their leather ale mugs and picked up their weapons.

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I don’t want to alarm anybody, but I hear there’s a Bungee Viking around here, somewhere. Possibly where the Bungee Soldier was last year.

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“Blurry vengeance is mine!”

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Axe Alley is a lot creepier after dark.

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Demon Street is party central for HOS.

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“I’m gonna . . . cough! . . . scare the . . . hack . . . oh, crap . . . ugh . . . back off on the fog a bit.”

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Unlike the Flaming Nicholas Page head in the last photo, this dude likes the fog.

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Now that Bitten is gone, Catacombs is the oldest maze at Howl-o-Scream.

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This cabin has been burning for years. You think these demon hell beasts would be more careful.

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What time is it? It's Burn-for-All-Eternity O'clock!

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Time for ice cream as made by a mad scientist.

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This chocolate-almond liqueur concoction was delicious.

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Let’s take another lap around the park, starting in Ireland.

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All hail the Pumpkin-Spice God! He demands another crucifixion sacrifice!

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The ritual is complete! Behold the children of the Pumpkin-Spice God! They will infuse your beer with more tastiness!

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The only way to escape the pumpkin spice is to survive Deadline.

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Oh boy! The circus is back in town!

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Just don’t push the fortune teller’s button. She hates that.

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The maze itself is a bit better this year (they made some good tweaks).

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Many people were shocked by this guy--literally.

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I wandered by two shows: Starfright Orchestra in Italy . . .

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. . . and Night Beats: Revamped in the Festhaus. ("Night fever, night fever! Do you know where’s the beer at?")

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I think the Demon DJ is up there somewhere now.

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Yep--there he is.

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“It’s almost eleven. You best be headin’ home, guvnor.”

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And that’s a wrap from Howl-o-Scream. Thanks for reading.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've haven't written anything here yet on BGW's or KD's haunts mostly on the basis of "if you don't have anything good to say..." but I'm not sure how much is me. I do think both parks have scaled the events back one notch -- they realize the crowds are large enough -- or are spending more on sets and escape rooms, and more issues with staffing. But also haunted houses are very hard to make a big improvement to, while there is a lot of random variation they tend to stay the same on average. Like previous years, KD's actors are slightly better and BG's sets are better, although the difference is getting smaller. I have a theory that the biggest problem with sending too many people through and the actors knowing they're a bit understaffed is it changes what they do, they spread themselves thin. Also I went through Lockdown at KD once by myself, probably 4 times an actor saw me and went around the corner to scare the person behind me, but there wasn't anyone there! I did still really enjoy the parks and the scare zones (although perhaps my favorite of all, Primevil @KD, is gone) but the houses themselves just seemed to pale compared to previous years.

 

I went through BGW's new house Frostbite on the first weekend and really liked the huge sets but the actors were a bit sparse and still learning to work it. Reports on parkfans is that is has gotten much better, but the line this last Sunday was over an hour, and coaster lines were reasonable so I skipped houses this last time.

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^Frostbite has improved since the beginning of Howl-o-Scream, but I agree that they've scaled back the event (shows are still pretty good).

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How are the coaster lines during the events?

 

I have a report on the way, but it varies as the day goes on. For the for few hours of the day basically everything is a short wait and you can easily ride every coaster in a few hours but later in the day the lines get nuts. Alpengeist actually filled it's queue when we were there and it was about a 2 hour wait. Lines are the worst right before the houses open, but stay bad until around 90 minutes before close when everyone magically disappears (seriously, it was insane) and every single ride (and even a lot of houses) are walk-ons.

 

You can get Quick Queue but they bundle it with houses (unless you want the crappy single use punch card that's not good on any of the coasters you want it to be good on). Howl-O-Scream Quick Queue Unlimited Plus is the only way to skip lines on Loch Ness Monster, Tempesto, InvadR and Mach Tower (wtf?) but it's single use only for those 4 and it starts at $100 a person. It also includes early access to Frostbite, but if you don't care about the houses then that's hardly a perk.

 

You may be able to buy a one-time use Quick Queue for a specific ride (you can for houses, and we did) but I don't know and those generally aren't available on the website.

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Yeah, their dispatch times were pretty miserable.

 

According to the screen they had in the station they were averaging like 150 seconds. I'm not dorky enough to pay attention normally, but the screen is in full view of everyone and turns red every time they miss their target so it's hard to miss.

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Yeah, their dispatch times were pretty miserable.

 

According to the screen they had in the station they were averaging like 150 seconds. I'm not dorky enough to pay attention normally, but the screen is in full view of everyone and turns red every time they miss their target so it's hard to miss.

 

150 second average dispatch times for a B&M invert? That's pretty sad. I haven't been to BGW in close to 20 years but I'm under the impression that they typically have pretty good operations there. Was that an anomaly or are they always bad?

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Yeah, their dispatch times were pretty miserable.

 

According to the screen they had in the station they were averaging like 150 seconds. I'm not dorky enough to pay attention normally, but the screen is in full view of everyone and turns red every time they miss their target so it's hard to miss.

 

150 second average dispatch times for a B&M invert? That's pretty sad. I haven't been to BGW in close to 20 years but I'm under the impression that they typically have pretty good operations there. Was that an anomaly or are they always bad?

When I went a few seasons ago the operations on Alpengeist were really slow, but the ops on all the other rides were great.

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I'm sorry if it's already been discussed, but can anyone tell me what the heck is going on with Verbotlen this season? The first 2 near miss fly-throughs are gone, so the two lights that lit up the red firey eyes are still there, the sound fx are missing in some places and sound god awful.

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So there's rumors that Curse of Darkastle may be on the chopping block (not sure if sharing the article I read is appropriate so I won't post the link).

 

That's a shame that ride is really cool and really enriches Busch Gardens lineup of attractions.

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^ This rumor is awful if true, but right now all I've seen is a Screamscape post so i'm pretty skeptical. Frostbite was a pretty obvious budget cut (though admittedly a great maze) and I'm sure it's appealing for a chain that's hurting like this one is to close a ride that's as expensive to run as DarKastle is but it would be an awful loss as it's a really great attraction.

 

I'm sorry if it's already been discussed, but can anyone tell me what the heck is going on with Verbotlen this season? The first 2 near miss fly-throughs are gone, so the two lights that lit up the red firey eyes are still there, the sound fx are missing in some places and sound god awful.

 

When I rode a few weeks ago everything seemed fine. It was as awesome as ever.

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I honestly, with all the budget cuts, never see DarKastle running again. Just a thought but what if they moved 5-6 of the cars into one of the large scenes and turned it into a motion simulator like Minion Mayhem where the cars stay stationary. That'd definitely lower maintenance costs, and then they'd have a really nice, attached space to do dining and other rentable space needing events

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^ IMO this would never happen, Are the costs to turn this into a worse ride/motion simulator worth it? I think it's smarter of them to pull an Alton Towers "Hex" and update some stuff slightly, letting people know it's down for refurbishments for a season.

It made me want to go check out Hex again after the new sound/scenery, even though it was clearly a cost-saving measure.

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I really hope the rumors are false as Curse is my favorite non-coaster ride at Busch Gardens. It really is a great achievement for a park that's not named Disney or Universal to have such a high quality ride. It's also not that old really but I do get that operating costs must be high for it. Hopefully they keep it open or at worst down for a year to refurbish it and then reopen it the following season. With the new Simulator opening in Ireland it wouldn't be missed as much but would still be a loss for the park.

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Hate this dumb rumor and hope its not true. I didn't know anything about this ride until Bill and Britt dragged me on last year and I absolutely loved it. Was hoping to ride it again next year with my shiny new BGW pass.

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I really hope they simply shut it down for maintenance for a season instead of just axing and turning into "event space." But given SEAS financial problems these days I have very little reason for optimism in this situation.

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