If you’re like most locals, you probably have an annual pass for either Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, both parks, or even the 11 park Platinum pass. Last week, Busch Gardens announced their brand new MEMBERSHIP program for their 2018 operating season. Yes, that’s right, Membership. The new program has three tiers, Basic, Unlimited, and Premier, with prices starting at $10 per month, per person, or $120/year.
Let me break the new membership levels down for you.
The Basic membership gives you admission to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA, Howl-O-Scream, and Christmas Town, on select days, subject to blockout dates, 50% off general parking, guest ticket discounts, member sneak peeks, and in park discounts
Unlimited and Premier memberships both offer unlimited admission to Busch Gardens, Water Country USA, Howl-O-Scream, and Christmas Town, no blockout dates, free general parking, member sneak peeks, and in park discounts. While the Unlimited pass gets you 2 free guest tickets, the Premier level gets you 3 free guest tickets and free preferred parking.
What are the blockout dates for the Basic Membership? Pretty much spring break, holidays, and most Saturdays. In other words, the busiest days of the theme park season. While at first glance, this may be a huge deal breaker for most people, if you prefer to visit the park during the middle of the week when it’s not super busy, this may be the deal for you. You still have plenty of time to visit the park, even during peak season, and can still get your money’s worth of your membership. For more information regarding the blockout dates, check their website https://buschgardens.com/williamsburg/annual-pass/blockout-dates/
Something I’m curious about with the new memberships, that the park has yet to disclose, is the member ‘sneak peeks’. Will this be something similar to how local museums offer their members private invites to opening night events for new exhibits? Will park members receive private sneak peeks to events like the Food and Wine Festival before it’s open to the general public? Or will these mysterious sneak peeks be something else completely? Only time will tell as the park hasn’t said anything beyond ‘more information will be coming soon’.
Probably my only complaint regarding the memberships and how they’ve been created, is the fact that we don’t get to opt in or out of Water Country USA. I’m torn on this. I’m not typically one for water parks, but I don’t hate them either. But I feel it would’ve been nice to have had one more pass option, not including Water Country USA on it. Not to knock the park, it’s a great park, but for those that absolutely don’t go to water parks, this portion of the membership goes to waste. I would’ve liked to have been given a membership option for one park as well as the two park options, at a slightly cheaper price of course. Maybe Busch Gardens will reevaluate their membership plans down the road and adjust their offerings to suit this need/want. I know those Water Country USA only pass holders would appreciate the option as well.
Now, for those existing pass holders, I’m sure you’re wondering how these new memberships affect your current passes. Well fear not, you have options. You don’t have to switch over to the memberships…..yet. If your current annual pass is paid for in full, you don’t have to switch over until the pass expires. If you’re on the EZPay, you can keep your pass until you’re ready to switch to the membership. If you want to switch to the new memberships now, anything you’ve paid for your current pass will be prorated for the membership. It is currently unclear just how long the park is planning on allowing the annual passes to continue though. It could be through the end of the 2018 season, it could be three years from now. Originally the park had listed a January 2019 date that all passes must be changed over by, but since their announcement, they have removed that original date and are stating you can keep the current pass for now.
This years ChristmasTown at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, as usual, did not disappoint! I will go event by event with my thoughts.
Santa’s Workshop moved this year to the Darkastle location. It is much bigger and just beautiful. You really get the feeling you are walking through Santa’s workshop, with elves along the way to answer questions and even keep the children entertained while waiting in line. You can see our interview with Santa at the bottom of the page.
Gift of Harmony
ChristmasTown’s newest show is an accapella experience, located in the San Marco Theater in Italy. The music was awesome, fun, and I have to give props to their beat boxer, who killed it. All around great cast and vocal experience!
Always a beautiful show with a mix of gospel and and classic Christmas hymnals, with a bit of jazz fusion in the Abbey Stone Theater. Having a live orchestra really makes the show more full. Powerful vocals make for an awe inspiring performance.
Deck the Halls
A traditional show with classic Christmas songs, is fun and great for dinner in the Festhaus. Again, BGW brings in the live band to give it that full sound.
Twas that Night
The third year for this amazing ice show did what it always does, amaze! An awesome cast led by Olympic medalist and world champion figure skater, Elvis Stojko, called for ooohs and ahhhs from the audience throughout the entire performance. A great show and a must to take the kids. You can see our 2016 interview with Elvis below.
Scrooge No More
Easily my favorite show that BGW has ever done, no matter the season! The visuals, the cast, the music and design bring an amazing version of A Christmas Carol to The Globe Theater. There are not enough words in my vocabulary to describe how much I love this show, and if I weren’t able to spend a whole day at ChristmasTown, I would go just for this show.
My sons and I got to visit with some of the characters from the classic Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer claymation. It is a blast to get to see life sized versions of the childhood favorites.
All in all, 2017 ChristmasTown was a great experience that just gets better every year! See you all in the Spring, until then…
GET UNLIMITED ADMISSION – TWO PARKS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE
Take advantage of the best deal of the season as opening day approaches
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (February 27, 2017) – Opening day is only one month away, but there’s still time to take advantage of the best ticket deal of the season at Busch Gardens® Williamsburg.
Through March 31, consumers can get unlimited admission to Water Country USA® for free with an online-only purchase of a Busch Gardens Fun Card. For the price of a Single-Day Ticket to Busch Gardens, guests can buy a 2-Park Fun Card and enjoy unlimited visits to both parks through Sept. 10.
Busch Gardens opens March 25. Water Country USA kicks off its season May 20.
That’s not the only steal of a deal. Busch Gardens is also offering a 2-Park Preschool Pass to make it affordable to take young children to both parks. This limited-time, online-only offer, allows children ages 3 to 5 to enjoy free unlimited admission to the Williamsburg parks through Sept. 10. Parents must register online by May 31.
Bursting at the seams with exciting rides, concerts and events, this upcoming season promises to be one of the most action-packed years at Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.
The season opens with a visit from animal expert Jack Hanna on March 25 – 26 and kicks into high gear with the spring opening of InvadR™, Busch Gardens’ first wooden roller coaster. Hold onto your Viking helmet as you fly over nine air-time hills, including a 74-foot plunge at almost 50 miles per hour. Grab your family and run for the hills aboard InvadR.
Summer kicks off with the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival, which will take place weekends from May 26 – July 2. Tantalizing new food and beverage options abound throughout the festival, including the addition of India as a new kiosk.
In July and August, Busch Gardens becomes a cooler place after dark during Summer Nights, presented by Coca-Cola®. Special entertainment, culinary experiences and a fun nighttime atmosphere will give guests a new reason to visit during summer evenings.
Summer Saturdays will be even more special with the Summer Nights Concerts, featuring popular rock, pop, country and contemporary Christian performers live under the stars in the Royal Palace Theatre. Confirmed acts include 38 Special, Josh Turner, MercyMe, Jeremy Camp and Rend Collective, with additional names to be announced. Concerts are free with park admission.
Two special shows join the entertainment line-up. Britmania™, a new musical revue featuring British hits from the 1960s to today, debuts June 30, and will be performed throughout the day in the Globe Theatre. A new show in Das Festhaus® will make its debut on March 31. OktoberZest will feature traditional German music and dances, with a modern twister, offering diners a fun Oktoberfest experience every day. All For One™ returns for its second season with new action and adventure. The swashbuckling tale of the Three Musketeers runs nightly in the Royal Palace Theatre from June 30 through Sept. 3, except for concert Saturdays.
Guests can spend a hot summer day in a fun and refreshing way at Water Country USA®, Virginia’s largest water park. The park offers fun for the entire family with a retro surf theme, resort-style amenities and more than 40 state-of-the-art water rides and attractions.
For more information or to purchase a Pass Membership, Fun Card and tickets, visit www.buschgardens.com/va or call (757) 229-4386. “Like” Busch Gardens on Facebook, and follow @BuschGardensVA on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.
This year on the hayride was one of change and excitement. We had new management in Jack Chapman, our long time head of make up, and Jason Lingle, former assistant manager of The Village of the Dead. Jack’s wife Sandy is on board as our HR manager. With the help of some veteran actors, Billy Joyner, Paul McHendry, DJ Liles, Travis Chapman, Amanda Winteringham, Eric Sobotta and a few others, construction of Dr. Lazurus’s Woodland Asylum began back in June. A new energy and excitement was running through the hayride, sparking fresh ideas and a desire to create something great.
I spent all of the time I could muster in the woods, helping where I could with my limited carpenter skills and my expert ability to pick up trash and branches. I was dumbfounded every time I arrived in the hayride with the amount of work that was being done. Jack, Jason, Billy and Sandy spent more hours out there than anyone, by far, creating an awesome playground for our actors.
With change comes new obstacles, and we experienced some resistance from mother nature. We had a pretty bad rainstorm that dropped a tree in our graveyard area, but miraculously, it caused no damage. The flooding was our biggest issue, but with help from some pumps we got it mostly dry. That was soon followed by Hurricane Matthew, which was way worse than we ever expected. We had several trees down, one that split but didn’t fall, that we were able to have cut down before it could cause serious damage. The flooding washed away most of the graveyard, and left standing water everywhere. We remained determined, and were still able to put on a hell of a show.
Our cast this season had a lot of new faces, my family included. My oldest son, Talyn, started his second season with more a full time volunteer status, missing only one night this season. My wife, Amanda, and my younger sons, Jake and Hunter, joined us a few nights this season, catching the scare bug.
I know I cannot remember every name of every actor/volunteer we had this season, but I will try!
First Stage: Guard shack
Guests hear how the asylum is in chaos as the patients are uprising after finding out Dr. Lazurus has been using the inmates for his own twisted experiments. Actors: Gaylord Brown, Billy Joyner, Nate McGuiness, Patrick Wiley, Tom Dvorak, myself, Eric Baker
The asylums patients who have been buried here are rising from the grave. Actors: Liz Rodenfels, Avery , Takoda Carter, Jakob Donaldson, Hunter Donaldson, Taylor Vogel, Nick Vogel, Paul McHendry, Amanda Donaldson, Bryce Hawkins, Mariah Cunningham, Robert Phillips, Jason Lingle
Stage 2: Mortician and Lucky
The guests are being warned of the presence of the smallest and most vicious of our inmates, LUCKY! Actors: Brandon Pierce, Tom Dvorak, Patrick Wiley, Nick Balovich, Justin Lee, Trey Pardue , myself
Stage 3: Pharmacy
The pharmacists offers relief to the passing guests. Actors: Eric Sobotta, Tiffani
Stage 4: TV Room and Psychiatrist
The old man watches static on his TV as the patient and psychiatrist argue. Actors: Stacy Turlington, Francine Miller, Drake Holland, myself, Amin, Tyler Owens, Eric Sobotta, Robert Phillips
Stage 5: Solitary Confinement
Dr. Stanley explains the purpose of the confinement, and how some our disturbed patients may have escaped.
Stage 6: Cafeteria
Hungry? Try some feetloaf! Actors: Amanda Winteringham, Alan Swack
The inmates are rioting, causing chaos and dismay for the doctors and guards. Actors: Noah, Talyn Donaldson, Rachel Matthews, Tiffani, Takoda Carter, Trey Pardue, DJ Liles, Gaylord Brown, Skylar
Tunnel: The Lab
The story of how Dr. Lazurus is using the patients to find a cure for his own dark demons. Actors: Richard Bergstresser, John Dikun, Gaylord Brown, Takoda Carter, Nate McGuinness, John Aldridge, Talyn Donaldson
Finale: The Failures
Earlier in the season, the doctor told you that this was your end. Later, the doctor is dead and the inmates are in charge now. Beware the experiment! Actors: John Aldridge, Nate Reep, myself, Tom Dvorak, Rachel Matthews, Francine Miller, Drake Holland, Justin Lee, Takoda Carter, Ashley Dennis, Avery, Brandon Lee, Eric Baker, Ken Gerlach, Kevin Lupton, Mariah Cunningham, Robert Phillips, Sandy Chapman, Jack Chapman
My Character this season was named gniK (pronounced “Nick”). gnik is a maximum security patient that could be seen throughout the asylum, and on different stages throughout the season. I chronicled our season through his eyes on Facebook. We were given a lot of freedom with our characters and the use of cutthroughs that allowed us to attack the wagon in multiple places. I think this freedom made it easier to put ourselves in to the characters. I was able to adapt gniK to the psychiatrist stage, the guard shack, the mortician stage and the finale. Our story line made it very easy to change around characters and it gave returning guests a different show weekly. I found a companion in “Clementine”, a pick ax handle that gave me something to “threaten” guests with. On the first stage, gniK explained how there was an uprising, and he and Clementine took out the guard. On the mortician stage, I got to introduce “Lucky”, our resident leprechaun played by Brandon Pierce. This little dude is impressive, and he is one hell of a guy! In the psychiatrists office, I played opposite a skeleton I named Dr. Spaceman (30 Rock reference), and I actually went crazy one night when I was “forced” to listen to “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” over and over for four hours. In the finale, I explained how I had killed Dr. Lazurus and we have taken over the asylum.
I have to tell a story here. One of our new volunteers, Bryce, was placed in the graveyard. I was on first stage that night, and as I came around the corner I saw him laying on the ground. I was curious as to why an actor would just be laying on his back, I stood and watched this…
I was so impressed I called him on it after the night was over.
Nate Reep, our veteran chainsaw runner and my forever brother, found a new apprentice in John Aldridge. Mad respect to John who made his first year a huge success. X gonna give it to ’em!
Alan, the kitchen cannibal, joined our lunch lady, Amanda, to create a disturbing scene in the cafeteria. I loved seeing what they did next.
Ashley came in last year as a make up apprentice who got thrown in to acting. She was very teachable and I have a lot of respect for her courage when the show started.
Billy has been an actor for a long time in Virginia Beach’s Nightmare Mansion as well as HCF. His character, Patient 14, was super creepy and the addition of his puppet, Truman, caused guests to fear flu shots. A true method actor.
Our “Jumpers”, Caveman Paul, DJ (Patient 09) and Travis (The Muffin Man), defied gravity nightly. They constantly put their bodies on the line, and I cannot respect that more.
The “little ones”, Avery, Tiffani and Liz, caused a lot of surprise in their ability to climb wagons. It was a joy to watch nightly.
Eric and Mariah brought the creep and energy every night!
Eric Sobotta, AKA Pinocchio, and Tyler Owens really stepped it up this year! I am so proud, brothers!
Rachel, your cheery disposition kept a smile on my face ALL season long!
Francine, Richard and Drake are another family that brings the scare. Richard being gassed every night was a highlight in the tunnel, while Drake playing the psychiatrist to Francine’s patient was a stroke of genius.
Gaylord…What can I say? A good friend and constant form of comedy. I love working with you!
John Dikun, the young doctor, had a good first season. The tunnel is a hard place to work, and your first year was a success.
Justin is a walking ball of sarcasm, which I can relate to. It was great working the finale with you.
Ken, for the time you were with us, you showed bravery in the face of adversity.
Kevin, dude, I am proud of you. ‘Nuff said!
Nate McGuinness never quit. When the mask came on, he was in character…wagon or not!
Doc, one of my best friends in the world! I am so glad you were able to come out and play. I am super proud of your first scare experience!
Patrick and Tom, you are always ready wherever they put you. You are crazy in and out of character and I always have a blast working with you two. I put you together because, as a trio, we have a chemistry in comedy.
Robert, you brought it dude. Great athleticism and shear will to scare!
Stacy, you are one of the sweetest girls and a disturbing psychiatry patient…sooo good!
Shut up, Trey
Takoda, you were everywhere and always energetic. It was fun watching you work!
TT, well done this year, little dude!
And lastly, my family. Thank you for being out there and understanding when I wasn’t home when you weren’t. Amanda, I am so proud and I loved watching your character come to life! Jake, You just wanted to be scary and you achieved it! Hunter, I haven’t seen a kid have more fun out there! Talyn, you seriously earned your place this year, you really made a lot of people proud!
Alright, let’s get star…SQUIRREL!
We found a new mascot! Henry is a young squirrel that seemed to have no fear of people
Our awesome makeup team helped so much, especially with the fact that we had so many first year actors. Jack Chapman, Ashley Dennis and Travis Chapman, thank you!
There would be no hayride without the “speed demons” driving the tractors. Mary Mary,Tyler “Deere Slayer”, Robert “Deere Whisperer”, Nate “Bearded Rusty Wallace”, Evan “Tractor Pull”, Josh “Mario Andretti”. You guys did an amazing job this year!
Our monitors have the task of making sure the guests know the rules, follow the rules and “put away your *%*&^$ cell phones”. Witchy Poo Anne, Kate (The inmate that was allowed to come and go), Teresa (Queen of lemony goodness), Ricky “Sparkles”, Trish (Created an atmosphere of comfort and ease, *snort*), Elisa (the evil gas lady). I love having people to interact with while on stage, and you guys really helped drive the show.
Of course, Jason, Jack and Sandy. Thank you again for providing a place that allowed creative flow in a playground that we couldn’t have imagined! Jack, you are a mentor to me. I appreciate everything you have taught me and trusted me with. Jason, this was our first year working together, and though we sometimes disagreed, we found common ground and I have a ton of respect for your skills in building, design and creativity. Sandy, our momma, you set us straight when we needed it, got our backs when we had conflicts, and you were a shoulder when we needed one, I cannot thank you enough.
Every night, before the show, we would meet in the tunnel and get hyped, here was the final nights session:
I honestly believe this was our best season ever! I love my hayride family! BooRa!
Pics by Gary Horton:
Pics by Attraction Chasers
Be sure to watch this year’s video and BE EXCELLENT TO EACH OTHER!
Play all Spring and Summer with a Free 2-Park Preschool Pass
WILLIAMSBURG (February 2, 2015) – Taking young children to Busch Gardens® and Water Country USA® is more affordable than ever with a free 2-Park Preschool Pass. This limited-time, online-only offer, lets kids ages 3 to 5 enjoy free unlimited admission to the Williamsburg theme parks through Sept. 7. Busch Gardens offers more than 50 KIDsiderate® attractions, including Sesame Street® Forest of Fun™ and Land of the Dragons®. Kid-sized roller coasters like Grover’s Alpine Express at Busch Gardens and Water Country USA’s Kritter Korral™ are among the can’t miss attractions waiting for little ones to enjoy. And for a limited time, the Williamsburg parks are offering a great deal on a 2015 2-Park Fun Card. For just $75, a savings of 25 percent off the regular price of a 2-Park Fun Card, guests receive unlimited admission to both Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA through Sept. 7. For more information and to register for the free, 2-Park Preschool Pass, visit www.buschgardens.com/bgwpreschoolpass before May 31. Proof of the child’s age is required at the time the Preschool Pass is redeemed and must be redeemed at either park by May 31, 2015. Examples of valid identification are an original certified birth certificate or travel passport. Children ages 2 and younger receive complimentary admission and do not need to register.
2-Park Preschool Pass FAQ
What is the Free Preschool Pass?
Busch Gardens and Water Country USA are offering kids ages 3 – 5 a free 2-Park Preschool Pass for the sixth consecutive year. The pass grants kids complimentary admission to Busch Gardens® and Water Country USA® through September 7, 2015.
Who is eligible?
The free 2-Park Preschool Pass is available for kids who are between the ages of 3 – 5.
When do I need to redeem the pass?
To take advantage of this special limited-time offer the pass must be redeemed at Busch Gardens or Water Country USA by May 31, 2015.
My child is 5 this year, turning 6. Am I still eligible?
As long as your child is 5 years of age on the date you register for the pass, you are eligible.
Do I have to be a Virginia Resident?
No, there is no residency restriction for the Preschool Pass.
How long is the Free 2 Park Preschool Pass valid for?
The pass is valid through September 7, 2015 and is only valid at Busch Gardens and Water Country USA in Williamsburg.
Is it available at other SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment parks, such as SeaWorld?
Some of our sister parks offer preschool passes, but they only allow free admission at those specific parks.
How do I register?
Visit http://www.buschgardens.com/bgwpreschoolpass. Fill out the form and submit. Print the e-ticket and bring it to the front gate along with a valid form of identification that proves the child’s date of birth. Examples of valid identification are an original certified birth certificate or travel passport.
Where do I receive the Preschool Pass?
The offer is NOT available at the Busch Gardens front gate. You must register online before you get to the park. You will receive the Preschool Pass at the front gate once proper identification is shown proving your child’s date of birth. Examples of valid identification are an original certified birth certificate or travel passport.
What kind of identification do I need to provide?
Valid identification includes an original certified birth certificate or a travel passport. Please note that school IDs or children security IDs will not be accepted.
Does the Preschool Pass include free parking?
No. The Preschool Pass does not include free parking.