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Changes to 2018 Annual Pass Program

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.

For more information on the new memberships, visit the parks website.  You can compare the benefits of the three tiers and decide which one works best for you.  . https://buschgardens.com/williamsburg/annual-pass/benefits/

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