My wife and I actually had a free weekend from shows (we review live theatre in the Washington DC region, so pretty much every Friday, Saturday and Sunday is booked for us for the next 6 months) , so we visited my family in Tidewater Virginia. We were lucky and missed a lot of the Friday afternoon traffic on I-95 south, but we did the Route 17 “shortcut” to miss the heavier traffic.
On Sunday we visited Busch Gardens. My parents work at the park, so we got two free day passes. That was a nice savings of $55 each. We did have to pay for parking ($10), lunch ($25 for three slices of pizza, melon, and two drinks), a slurpee drink (~$4), and a lemonade (~$4). Be aware there are water fountains around, but you have to search for them. They are usually near the restrooms.
Our adventures included: several rides: the skyride (got a great view of the Griffon), Curse of DarKastle, the Big Bad Wolf (me), the swings (Laura), the bumper cars, Roman Rapids, Escape from Pompeii, (which broke down while we were in line), the Griffon (me), the train, the log flume, Corkscrew Hill. We also saw the Pirates 4D show (a huge waste of time unless your party has members under 10 years old).
The Griffon rollercoaster was pretty cool. It has a gorgeous view after you go up the hill. You can see for miles. Then at the crest before dropping straight down (a 90 degrees drop!) the coaster stops! There are three rows, with ten people per row. The first row actually hangs straight down. Then a loop, you roll back upright, go up again, down another 90 degree drop, loop again, spin around, go through some water, and you’re done. It takes 90 seconds for the entire ride. Oddly, enough if you take pictures or video from the ride itself, they’ll throw you out of the park.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Busch Gardens. I had my first job there, I spent 4 years working there (1985 through 1988) and have lots of memories of growing up at Busch. My family went to the park very early in the year it opened. I remember there being more trees, and just in general being less commercial. Now it seems like everything there you have to pay for. Want a picture of yourself with a bald eagle? $12. Want to see your expression as you went down the huge hill on the Griffon? $12. Busch Gardens is missing a huge marketing opportunity with these photos. They need to give everyone that comes into the park a coupon for one or two free photos that can be emailed to the address of your choice. Heck, give every photo for free via email. I’m sure they could easily embed the Busch Gardens name and logo and URL into the corner of each photo. Then people will share the photos online, in blogs, etc…. I know I would have posted the photos here so you could see the look of joy/terror on my face on the Griffon (or the flume). Talk about free advertising! Plus they could then ask if people would like to be added to the BG mailing list. Instant ability to gain repeat customers.
The people (cast or team members) were very friendly, not quite outgoing, but friendly and helpful. I had a good time, and will go back, but probably not without a discounted ticket of some sort. Definitely plan to pay about double for food what you’d pay at a fast food place. And allow plenty of time for standing in lines, stay hydrated. If possible, download the park map before hand and have a plan of attack for the park. If you have yungins, don’t be too ambitious with your goals for the day. It is supposed to be fun.