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Busch Gardens, Williamsburg (3 hours away)

Washington DC, DC, USA

Description

Everything you need to know about visiting Busch Gardens with kids, on one page!
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a large, shady theme park with huge roller coasters and plenty of rides for kids. Plan to stay the whole day.
Before coming, buy your tickets and parking online to save money. Preferred parking allows you to skip the tram. Arrive at 9:30am to wait at the parking pay booth, find parking, and be let into the park at 9:45. Some lands open late such as Festa Italia and Italy 10:30,  and Germany 10:45- this doesn't matter since these lands are far away anyway.  The railroad opens late at 10:30 and the skyride at 11:00. 
The first land you enter is England. Behind Squire's Grill is Sesame Street Forest of Fun, a cute land for little kids with four fun rides (must be 36" to ride) and a show called Sunny Day Celebration (at 11am, noon, and 1pm on the day I was there). Enjoy the architecture and shetland ponies as you walk through Scotland. Here you will find Loch Ness Monster (must be 48" to ride), a daring roller coaster that takes you straight down toward the water, curving back upwards at the last minute. There are two loop de loops and a scary cave with flashing lights.
In Ireland is Battle of Eire, a virtual reality ride (must be 42" to ride). This one can make you dizzy, and if you're germphobic you won't like the head piece that goes over your hair and the tip of your nose. It smelled a bit sour though it was wet, so was presumably washed. It kind of grossed me out the rest of the day thinking what was on my hair and face. This ride has low quality graphics and a dull story, but it is fun to try out a virtual reality ride if you've never been on one before. It feels so weird to turn your head to the side and not see the person sitting next to you (a scary experience for little kids).
Check out the wolves in the large enclosure at Wolf Valley and find two animals shows nearby, Howl to Coexist (11:30, 3:30 and 5pm on the day I was there) and Pet Shenanigans (11:30, 1, 3, and 4:30pm on the day I was there). Neither are extremely exciting but it is fun when an owl flies over your head in Howl to Coexist and the pets are cute coming in and out of their doors at Pet Shenanigans. Be warned that Howl to Coexist has no seats so if you were hoping to rest during a show, you're out of luck.
Continue on the pretty, shady walkway to France, where the most daring people can ride the Griffon (54" to ride), an incredibly scary roller coaster with the world's highest drop. Invadr (46" to ride), a wooden roller coaster is here also.
Heading into Canada, it's probably hot enough to get wet now so ride Le Scoot (46" to ride), a short ride where each family has their own log, sitting behind each other, and experiences two drops. Alpengeist (54" to ride), in a sweet little alpine village, is a thrilling roller coaster. In this one your feet dangle below you, it has a corkscrew, loop de loop, and goes really fast. It has an awesome theme to it while you wait in line!
Now you're in Germany. Ride the carousel, climb the net playground, or get wet at the splash pad at Land of the Dragons play area- from here you can watch the Loch Ness Monster roller coaster shoot by. Little kids can also ride some cute rides in here, such as boats, race cars, and little balloons (36" to ride).
Skip the steep walkway (and stairs back up) that lead down to the Rhine River Cruise and boardwalk, unless you want to ride the boat. Instead, head west to Oktoberfest land. Enjoy the huge and magical air-conditioned hall called Das Festhaus. This is your best bet for food in the park- there are some really gross choices elsewhere (Squire's Grill and La Cucina) where there also isn't enough seating. You will have plenty of seating on the zillions of picnic tables inside Das Festhaus. All of the food in the park generally involves lining up for over half an hour (come before typical mealtimes for shorter lines!), having them scoop out the food you choose, which is the safest option (some items are sitting out on plates and you grab the plate hoping they weren't sneezed on by the hoards of people waiting ahead of you in line). The cooked red cabbage with apple is delicious in Das Festhaus.
If you're lucky, you might even catch the show Oktoberzest (at 1pm, 2:30, 4:30 and 6:30 on the day I attended), which takes place on the stage above you as you eat- you can also watch it if you're not eating. It's a great show, with singing and dancing! Outside you might find a live German band playing on the top patio of Das Festhaus. This land also features bumper cars (48" to ride) and the wonderful wave swings (48" to ride)- the funnest part of the day is to be flying! For adrenaline seekers, check out Verbolten (48" to ride), a crazy roller coaster, and Mach Tower (48" to ride), a ridiculously high drop. 
Next you come to Italy, and finally experience some reprieve from the HELLISH music that is all over the rest of the park. Here the music is fairly peaceful and you can also enjoy a small garden with flowers and statues, and some lovely architecture that makes you want to be in Italy! There is a large food area called San Marcos Marketplace, with lots of outdoor seating in the huge pavilion and in little garden areas with umbrellas. This is a pretty spot and a good choice for a meal! After, enjoy the scary carnival rides such as the Battering Ram (a pirate ship ride, 42" to ride) and Da Vinci's Cradle (42" to ride).
Next is Festa Italia, an extremely annoying land with horrid music and not much shade. You can ride Roman Rapids, where you sit in a circular boat and get completely soaked even through to your socks (not recommended). Apollo's Chariot (52" to ride) is a wild roller coaster here. The first drop is amazing, and you feel airborne several times. Tempesto (54" to ride) is even crazier. Turkish Delight (48" to ride) is a teacups ride that goes very fast- choose a cup that isn't on the spinning circles to ride a bit slower.
Lastly, check out Escape from Pompeii (42" to ride), a wet ride with some fire special effects and statues falling on you. It's a short ride with a big, watery drop at the end. You will get very wet if someone shoots you with the spray guns. The shortness of the ride doesn't really warrant the long time it takes to get dry. 
If there's a line, it's not worth it to take the Skyride (3 adults and 1 child max per gondola) to get around the park. It takes you a very short distance. It's more like a ride than a form of transportation, but also not worth it as a ride if there's a long wait. It is quite jerky at times and a little sketchy-feeling, though it's fun to be high up over the park. The train is another way to get around the park, and you don't need to fold up your stroller to get on.
There are two more shows to fit into your day. In Ireland is a fantastic show called Celtic Fyre (2,4,6, and 8pm on the day I was there). The fast Irish dancing is exciting, the lighting and costumes are beautiful, and the show is varied. Come fifteen minutes early because the seats fill up. This show is air-conditioned but the seating is not comfortable.
In England is Britmania (1, 3:30, 5:30 and 8pm on the day I was there), the only show with super comfortable seating and air-conditioning, where you can really get a nice rest! The show is amazing, with singing, dancing, and electric guitar solos, showcasing songs from each of the decades starting with the 50s. The lighting, costumes, set, and choreography are beautiful and the performers very talented! Make sure you don't miss these two shows!
On weekend nights there are often fireworks half an hour before closing.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg has clean restrooms, decent food in a few of the restaurants, plenty of shade on the walkways (wear sunscreen since there are a few walkways that are exposed), shade in the waiting lines, pretty architecture, no mosquitoes, big misting fans to cool you off, and lush landscaping. My main complaints are that the line to get meals is way too long, and the music throughout the park is horrific and impossible to escape. This really makes your day feel like torture and you wonder why you PAID to experience this! Busch Gardens is run by SeaWorld and I remember the music was truly awful and distressing at that park too. I will avoid these parks in future! Universal is also pretty bad in this respect.
While in Williamsburg, spend some time walking around Colonial Williamsburg, Merchants Square, and College of William and Mary, all a short walk from each other.

Photo Gallery


Tempesto roller coaster!

Shetland pony, in Scotland.

Bridge that leads to Ireland.

Abbey Stone Theater in Ireland.

Skyride gondola.

Scotland train station.

Loch Ness Monster roller coaster entrance.

Rats crawl past to boys in the Howl to Exist show.

Wolf walking on a branch in the Howl to Exist show.

Owl on the left and wolves on the right, in the Howl to Exist show.

Owl, in the Howl to Exist show.

Tower in England.

Britmania show!

Watery drop at the end of Escape from Pompeii.

Pretty scenery at the end of Escape from Pompeii.

A boat ride past at the end of Escape from Pompeii.

Tempesto roller coaster.

Roman forum in Italy.

The Little Balloons ride for young kids, in Italy.

Small formal garden area in Italy.

Cute street in Italy.

Relaxing place to sit in Italy.

San Marcos Marketplace in Italy.

River cruise.

Water and Loch Ness Monster roller coaster in the distance.

Germany.

Walking into Das Festhaus.

Oktoberzest show in Das Festhaus.

Cute decorations inside Das Festhaus.

Wall mural in Das Festhaus.

Sitting at the abundant tables in Das Festhaus.

Das Festhaus from the outside.

Cute tower.

Walking into Italy.

Griffon ride.

Le Scoot drop.

Cabin in Canada.

Alpen Laden.

Land of the Dragons play area.

Sea monster splash pad in Land of the Dragons play area.

Sliding out of a rainbow at Land of the Dragons.

Rope net play area at Land of the Dragons.

Loch Ness Monster roller coaster whooshes by Land of the Dragons.

You can see the huge drop of Loch Ness Monster roller coaster from a corner of Land of the Dragons.

Cute dragon in Land of the Dragons.

Carousel near Land of the Dragons.

Walking the boardwalk where Loch Ness Monster roller coaster is ahead of you.

Celtic Fyre show!
   

Directions

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Busch Gardens is located in Williamsburg VA, three hours south of Washington DC. The address is 1 Busch Gardens Blvd, Williamsburg, VA 23185. Tickets are about $70 a day and parking is $18 a day or $26 a day for preferred parking (skip the tram), if purchased online. Sometimes you can get bargains of about $5 each on tripadvisor. Food is about $15 for a meal with one side.
Hours vary. The park generally opens at 10am but some Fridays and Saturdays during the off-season it opens at noon and two Thursdays in October it opens at 5pm. The park closes between 6pm and midnight, depending on the date. 
The park is open every day during school vacations but limited days (usually just the weekend) the rest of the year. Check their website for hours and days open.
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