Williamsburg, Virginia, serves as an icon of American history. The nearby community of Jamestown was the first permanent settlement when British explorers landed here over four centuries ago. Throughout the 1700s, this slice of the Virginia Peninsula would continue to have a strong European influence as it became the capital of the fledging Virginia Colony.
Anchored by Historic Williamsburg, Yorktown Battlefield, and the Jamestown Settlement, modern day Williamsburg serves as one of the top tourism destinations in the southeast. Millions of visitors crowd the cobblestone streets each year to relieve a piece of our nation’s past. They linger to enjoy the world-class golf and fine dining, or perhaps explore the region’s myriad recreational opportunities. Of course, no visit here would be complete without a stop at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
Like its sister park Busch Gardens Tampa, Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s theme revolves around far off lands. When the park first opened adjacent to the Anheuser-Busch brewery in 1975 it was known as Busch Gardens: The Old Country. With a name like that, it’s obvious guests won’t be greeted by the beat of African drums or the roar of lions you’ll find at the Floridian park. Visitors approaching the front gate might instead be welcomed with the sounds of Scottish bagpipes.
Park engineers wisely built on the area’s strong European heritage when establishing the theme for their second Busch Gardens. Great Britain is represented by three different lands, England, Scotland, and Ireland. Other areas of the park include Italy, France, New France (Canada), and Germany. Visitors can expect each land to feature food, music, shows, and rides all elaborately themed to each country they are based on. In addition, the buildings of each area have been painstakingly designed to be an accurate representation of the architecture each country is best known for.
Situated around a scenic lake known affectionately as the Rhine River, the sprawling park covers 389 acres of hilly, forested terrain. This beautiful setting has earned Busch Gardens the distinction of being the most beautiful theme park in the country, if not the entire world. It also doesn’t hurt that the park has won the Golden Ticket Award for best landscaping year after year.
Visitors passing through the front gates leave America behind and are immediately transported to the bustling streets of London. While there aren’t many attractions to be found in this first land, many visitors linger for a while to marvel at the classic Tudor architecture and perhaps snap a photo with Big Ben. Be sure to visit the land’s gift shop which is loaded with unique British merch. Package pickup is available so don’t worry about lugging it around the park all day. The nearby Squire’s Grill is a good place to grab some fish-n-chips or perhaps a healthy hummus wrap. England’s most prominent attraction is the Globe Theater. If that name sounds familiar, you probably heard it in history class. Famous as the performance home of Sir William Shakespeare, the original Globe Theater was actually far smaller than this giant-sized recreation. Visitors can watch all manner of shows and musical acts throughout the year, from classic British bands to Sesame Street’s Let’s Play Together musical!
Speaking of Sesame Street, just around the corner sits Sesame Street Forest of Fun, a delightful family area where kids can meet all their favorite puppet friends. Sunny Days Celebration is an interactive sing-along show featuring Big Bird, Elmo, and Cookie Monster that is fun for everyone. Several rides designed especially for the little ones are scattered throughout the forest. Oscar’s Whirly Worms spin round and round while rocking back and forth like a classic pirate ship ride. Prince Elmo’s Spire travels to the treetops before bouncing back down to forest floor. Bert and Ernie’s Loch Adventure allows children to join the search for the elusive Loch Ness Monster. Oscar’s Yucky Forest playground and Elmo’s Castle are great places for those kids just bursting with energy to let it all out.
Directly across from England and the Forest of Fun, guests will know they are in Scotland when they see Busch’s iconic Clydesdale horses. They make their home at the Highland Stables with some other famous Scottish animals, including blackface sheep and the ever-present border collies who keep them in check. Throughout the day visitors may catch traditional herding demonstrations where they can watch the collies in action.
Busch Gardens Railway has one of its major stops here in Scotland. Visitors may take the twenty minute ride around the entire park or disembark at either New France or Festa Italia. Of course, don’t be in a hurry to leave just yet. No visit to the park can be considered complete without a stop at the park’s most legendary attraction, the Loch Ness Monster. This mass of twisted yellow steel is one of the most iconic rollercoasters in the world and has given millions of rides since opening in 1978. Designed by Arrow Dynamics (the same manufacturer who built Dollywood’s Tennessee Tornado), it was the first ride in the world to feature a set of interlocking loops. The unique layout has two lift hills, two major drops, and a nine hundred degree helix that takes place in a dark tunnel. Busch Gardens celebrated Loch Ness Monster’s 40th anniversary last year with new trains and some other improvements that made the ride experience even better.
Be sure to join us again next week as we explore the other fun lands throughout Busch Gardens Williamsburg!