As there have been some inquiries lately, I thought I’d share our experiences from our 7/3 and 7/4 visit.
I am not pretending to be an expert - I just want to share.
I wouldn’t categorize this as a “vacation” as much as a short trip. My six kids and I drove from NY to meet up with DH who has been working in SC the last few weeks so we could hang out with him for the holiday weekend. I visited once in the late 80’s or early 90’s with my parents, and DH and I had our quick honeymoon there in 1997 before our main trip to Kenya in 1998.
GROUP: Me (49), DH (51), DS (21), DS (19), DD (17), DD (15), DD (11), DD (8).
PARK DAYS: 7/3 4:30PM to 11PM, 7/4 10AM to 11PM.
HOTEL: Rodeway Inn on Merrimac Trail (not Rodeway Inn Historic). It was easier than camping, but I’ve slept in nicer tents. It was a dump. Clean, but a dump. We booked late and I knew all we’d do was sleep there so I didn’t want to spend money. Location was excellent.
TICKETS: Bought our tickets online a week+ ahead of time. It was $79.99 for a one day ticket and $86.99 for a two day ticket. I spent the extra $7 pp so we could do a partial day on arrival.
RESERVATIONS: After purchasing our tickets, I made reservations for each day online using the codes assigned to each of our park tickets. (More on this in a minute.)
PARKING: You can pre-purchase parking online, but I was tired of pre-purchasing things. Not kidding. Paid in person at booth. $25 for general parking. Premium was $55. We parked in Italy 31 and got directly onto a tram. Signage stated the walk to the park was approximately 9 minutes. I don’t think the tram got us there much faster, but it saved steps. Preferred did get you much closer to entrance.
ENTRANCE: Signage is excellent. Our online tickets said to proceed to Zone D. Zone A was ticket booths, Zone B was kiosks of some kind. Zone C was group sales and will call, I believe.
Had phone ready to scan us in. Asked employee if she needed to see our reservations and she said, “Nah, you’re good.”
PARK MAPS: There are none. SO annoying. They are online. Or you take a picture of the giant ones. Yeah, I know it is better for the environment and their bottom line, but I hate always looking at my phone.
EMPLOYEES: Like everywhere else I have been in the last six months they were clearly understaffed. Everyone had a great attitude, though we soon realized most of the employees knew very little beyond their specific job. Forget asking directions. LOL.
REQUISITE COVID NOTES: Hand sanitizer stations literally every 100 feet or so. They are EVERYWHERE. Just everywhere. That said, on day two when I reached out to one for the first time to use it, it was empty. A few steps away I tried at another one. It was also empty. At that point we started checking them and they were almost always empty. I would say about 1% of guests and 5-10% of employees were wearing masks. The indoor simulator ride was closed. There were a few food queues with plastic barriers and a few check-outs with them as well. Most water fountains were still turned off. Free water available at most restaurants. There were no indoor dining places open that I saw.
QUICK QUEUE. Most of the headliner type rides offered QQ. I saw almost no one using it the first evening, and saw a handful of people the second day. On day two I went immediately to Guest Relations on arrival to purchase a dining plan and an employee came out to announce that Quick Queue was sold out for the day. I wondered what they would mean for our experience as stand-by folks. It was barely detectable. I’m not sure what to make of that.
PARK PUBLIC SPACES: The park is just gorgeous. I don’t know how else to describe it. Everything was in great shape and it is just so pretty. The terrain is not flat. We saw many ECVs and strollers and that couldn’t have been easy. Every time I would think, “I’d like to sit down a minute,” there was always somewhere to sit. And shade was never more than a few steps away. Same with bathrooms. Any time someone in our group need to go, they were easy to find. Sometime the signage in other languages confused my us, though. Herrer and Damen? LOL. The park is beautiful both day and night. DS 21 commented on how thorough the theming was throughout and he pointed out some nuanced decor I was looking past. At night the lights are every bit as beautiful as Avatarland IMO. Spots you walk through during the day without noticing anything special turned into delightfully lit spaces after dark.
RIDES: Simply put, they blew us away. We loved the variety of coasters, though I did miss a few as I wanted to spend some time with my youngers. DD 11 is in between and though DD 8 is tall enough for most of the coasters, she’s not quite there yet nerve wise. She was happy for Sesame Street section. As a mom to all my kids, I sometimes would have to decide which “team” I was hanging with. My DDs 15 and 17 rode all the coasters that were open, and DS 21 and 19 only skipped a few. DD 21 had a headache the first night and was ruined pretty quickly. The hang-time on Apollo’s Chariot was insane, and I recovered very quickly from Alpengeist. I was bummed Griffen was closed, and Pantheon isn’t open yet. I thought it was supposed to have debuted by now…
LINES: they were honestly not bad. Like any park of it’s kind the peak was 2pm - 6pm for waits on Sunday. But I feel like when I visit non-Disney parks that because so few rides are “family style” that lines aren’t that bad. Parks like these have lots of groups where some are on coasters, some are getting kids onto kiddie rides. Some are sitting on benches waiting for other members. Some are eating. There wasn’t anything we wanted to go on that we didn’t ride. We got to do everything we wanted. Well - I didn’t. But that was because I choose to hang with my little ones. The park looked busy, but never felt busy, if that makes any sense.
DINING: On Saturday, we arrived around 4:30PM, did some rides and went to Marco Polo Marketplace for dinner. We were very pleased with the variety of food. It’s like a smaller scale Sunshine Seasons. Kids meals are definitely lacking across the park. More on that in a minute.
ALL DAY DINING: For day two, our plan was to get the All-Day-Dining plan. We did that at Sea World and Busch Gardens Tampa in 2014 and had good experiences. Like any dining plan you can justify it or talk yourself out of it depending on your mood. I’m the same lady who for 2019 Disney trip made breakfast in our rental and packed lunches so we could buy snacks and have QS/TS/or character meals once a day without guilt. For this trip buying the meal plan ($45 adult/$25 kid) was a must. It provided a happy-food-vibe for my older kids, and DH enjoys permission to eat on vacation, as well. We also didn’t know how bad lines would be and dining could have become all we were able to do. We loved the plan. Every 90 minutes you could get an entree, a drink, and either a snack or dessert. It was very nice to be able to grab a bottle of water and a huge container of strawberries or melon, or something between meals. Ninety minutes flew by, too. DS 19 ate a crazy amount, as did DH. We tried a lot of desserts. It just was fun and never took much time. THE MAIN NEGATIVE for us was the kids meals. They are basically nuggets and waffle friends everywhere, and then a few places had mac and cheese or fish sticks. It was not cool on the surface. Truth-be-told the adult entrees are enormous, and it was easy to just give them some of ours. I should have taken more food photos.
ENTERTAINMENT: There is quite a bit of it, but we didn’t bother with most. I would have like to see Celtic Fyre dancers, but I never timed it right. I did see the Oom-Pah Band in Oktoberfest, but was hoping it would be more authentic and less campy. We did catch some singers here and there and I always enjoy live music.
SUMMER NIGHTS: Each land hosted a “Block Party” after 5PM. DJs and dancers, etc. My girls and I love that kind of thing. My DH and boys were sort of take-it-or-leave it. It really was a fun atmosphere to me. Outside the Oktoberfest restaurant we say a man in his late 20’s or early 30’s dancing alone. I don’t know if I am saying this poorly - I don’t mean to be - but he appeared to have autism or something similar. He had a huge smile on his face and was carrying out a dance routine. I was on my way in to the bathroom. On my way back out, there were now a group of dancers arriving. They knew him by name and started to dance and he was doing their routine. It was awesome. I don’t know if maybe he had a season pass, or was just there a lot, but they clearly had a rapport with him. At the end of the night both nights these dancers were by the exit to the park saying good-byes and giving high-fives.
FIREWORKS: They were pretty good. The music piped through the parks had nothing to do with the fireworks. That’s a missed opportunity. But fireworks are my all-time-favorite thing and it felt good to see them again.
SPARK! LASER LIGHT SHOW: As I was watching it I was thinking it was mind-blowing awesome. Then I see DH looking at his phone. LOL. If you love it, you love it; if you don’t, at least you get to sit a while? It was incredible. I haven’t seen one in decades. It was too long, IMO. It started at 9PM and at 9:15PM the fireworks started on the other side of the park. I then turned my attention to the fireworks (as I said, I love them) an I wished the light show would stop. I think the laser show was about 20 minutes. My kids thought it was fabulous, if not too long. One son thought the music was annoying and jarring.
ALL DAY LOCKERS: are amazing. What other parks have these? $9 and all day long you can just move your stuff from locker to locker. They were outside every big ride we wanted and they were never all used up. Stupid awesome concept.
Am I leaving anything other than photos out?
I didn’t take many.
I am now eager to try other amusement parks like this. As a kid my dad was a huge amusement park buff and I went to tons of them as a teen (8 of the top 10 on that USA list were with my dad and mom). I usually hesitate to take trips that I don’t pretty much have a guarantee of great weather (cruises and FL are my go to). Now I want to try to get to Dollywood before the end of the year,.
Hope this post pops up for future Busch Gardens Williamsburg travelers if they are searching. Other visitors, please add tips and thoughts!!