Category: Virginia

2015, Attractions, Food, Guest Post, Halloween, Haunted Attractions, Reviews, Virginia

Williamsburg, VIrginia Haunted Attractions: Busch Gardens Howl O Scream Blood Banquet 2015 Review

This is a guest post by Donika Haddock!

Friday, September 25th marked the opening night for Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and once again we were able to dine at Howl-O-Scream’s famed Blood Banquet.

The Blood Banquet is a unique event to the park. Buffet style dining experience with a show. Located adjacent to the Oktoberfest area of the park, they have transformed the Wilkommenhaus gift shop to a buffet restaurant, complete with a stage surrounding the statue that is located in front of the building, as well as adding outdoor seating. Yes, it’s also the same location where Santa’s Workshop is during Christmas Town.

2015 may not be the first year for the Blood Banquet, but it IS the first year that they did not use a Vampire as the main character of their dinner show. Gone is Count Vlad and his family of vampires. If you remember Igor’s Fright Feast from 2013 and 2014, that dining experience is missing from 2015 and Igor has actually moved and taken over the Blood Banquet. What does he have to do with a vampire themed hotel dinner and show experience? I don’t really know. Opening weekend was a wet and soggy weekend with off and on rain cancelling the show. I will admit, I went back to the park on Sunday night and caught about two minutes of Igor’s show while passing through the area, and while entertaining, I still failed to understand what Igor has to do with the Blood Banquet, even though he was dancing with a group of vampires. I’ll check the show out on another visit to the park where I can time it to catch the beginning. Since we didn’t get a show, we did get to meet the characters as they came out and visited with the guests. That was a nice touch.

Now, on to the actual food.

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Pork-Loin

Red-Velvet

Carving-Station

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I have dined at the Blood Banquet the previous two years and have enjoyed it immensely. As with most banquets, you get your choice of veggies, meats, breads, and desserts. Popular items on the buffet include their carving station with your choice of Diablo turkey or garlic and rosemary roast beef, their CASKet Club Chili, and baked potatoes complete with your choice of toppings (butter, sour cream, bacon bits, cheese), as well as returning desserts of red velvet cupcakes, chocolate tarts, and blood splattered cake. While going through the line and checking out the offerings this year, I thought something was missing. They have changed out some items that were offered in the past two years (pork skewers, empanadas, and roasted veggies) for some newer items (corn medley, chicken parmesan, knockwurst, and my new favorite, mustard glazed pork loin). Also gone this year is their cherry cobbler. WHYYYYY??? That was my favorite dessert out of all of their desserts!!

How was the actual food this year? Still good. Our only ‘complaint’ was that it wasn’t hot. Most was luke warm, except the potatoes. Those were nice and hot. Perfect comfort food for the rainy weather. Yes, we ate there. In the drizzle of rain. But we were hungry and to the point that we didn’t really care. So, with that said, due to the weather, and small group of people eating at the buffet, AND the fact that our reservations were set for 8:15, you can say we were set up for the ‘don’t expect the absolute best dining experience’. Mind you, the food was STILL GOOD, just not hot. What can you really expect for a dining experience with a low turnaround in crappy weather?

The diablo turkey was still delicious, the chili still had it’s spicy kick, and the desserts were still scrumptious. Would I go back? HECK YES!!! Would I go back at 8:15? Not if I can help it. Unless it’s busy. There’s also the lack of lighting once the sun is down. I like to SEE my food while I’m eating. Black plates and darkness don’t work well together. So if you plan to check the Blood Banquet out, I recommend doing it at least once, but make your reservation for as early as you can. It opens at 4pm. This will give you plenty of time to eat before Howl-O-Scream opens at 6pm. This time is also crucial if you want to go through as many of the haunted mazes as possible during the night.

The Blood Banquet costs $22 for adults and $15 for children. Pass members still get their discounts. Price includes soft drinks and water. Adult beverages available for additional cost. Reservations, while not required, are recommended, and you can book online at the park’s website or in person at Guest Relations.

2015, General, Reviews, Theme Parks, Virginia

Guest Post: Busch Gardens Williamsburg: Tempesto coaster review

Wow! Awesome! Holy cow, that was fun!

These are just a few of the comments from riders coming off of Tempesto, the newest roller coaster opening at Busch Gardens Williamsburg on April 25th.

Just a little background information on the ride. While Busch Gardens Williamsburg is known to theme it’s coasters after mythological creatures (Loch Ness Monster, Griffon, Apollo, Alpengeist), they have ventured off that path in recent years with Verbolten in 2012 and now with Tempesto in 2015. The ride is themed in the tradition of the classic Italian daredevils and the ‘loop the loop’ bicycle stunt. No single man wowed the crowds like Tempesto! And wow the ride does!

Entrance

Coaster

Situated in the middle of Festa Italia, the ‘classic Italian daredevil’ theme looks more like a classic carnival theme instead with the strands of lights draped across the queue lines and around the ride. I have yet to actually see this lit up at nighttime but have heard it fits the theme well. As with most of the coasters in the park, you can easily see this one from afar, however, when you enter the Festa Italia section of the park where it’s located, you almost have to search the area for it.

Unlike Apollo’s Chariot, which sits adjacent to it, Tempesto has a small footprint. A very small footprint. It’s actually tucked in between the back of the Roman Frieze ice cream shop and the arcade. Yes, it’s that small of a ride. But don’t let its size fool you. Tempesto may be small but it packs a punch.

Lights

Drop

Tempesto is unique in several ways. For starters, it’s the only coaster at the park with a single train. Yes, that’s it, a single train. While many guests and fans of the park have stated concern that the wait for the ride would be excessive with only one train, I believe that if done right, the turnaround won’t be too much of an issue.

As with any coaster on a busy day, the worse part will be the wait in line. Second, the ride is fast. As in 63mph and 55 seconds fast. For most guests, they don’t think about the number, but rather they only see the ride going and think that it’s short. I have overheard many people comment that it looks too short for their liking. Heads up folks, it has the same ride length as Griffon.

Another unique aspect of the ride is its launch and inversions. You are launched forward, part way up the hill, into a small twist, then careen backwards, through the station, up into another twist, before launching through the station again, this time completing the circuit by sending you into the first of three inversions.

Yes, there’s only three inversions, but it’s that barrel roll at the top that will get you the most. It’s probably my favorite part of the ride after the launch through the station. Why? Because it’s a slow roll. What do I mean and how do I describe it? Imagine flying through the station at 63mph, only to pause at the top of the twist just before you get into the barrel roll itself. This is where you feel like you’re going to fall out of your shoulder harness at 154 ft in the air. Yes, there’s a bit of airtime in this roll.

Unlike most coasters with barrel rolls or any other type of inversion, you’re not whipped around so fast that you’re jolted back and forth or side to side. It’s hard to explain it, but this has to be my favorite inversion out of any inverted coaster I’ve ever ridden, for the simple reason that it’s comfortable. If you get dizzy easily on inverted coasters, I think you would be fine on this one. It’s that smooth.

Barrel-Roll

Track

I mentioned the shoulder harness. The safety harness of the ride consists of a lap bar AND an over the shoulder restraint. But, unlike the majority of coasters with over the shoulders, these restraints aren’t snug on your body. They’re not really meant to be the main restraint. That’s what the lapbar is for. The shoulder harness is secondary and only meant to make the rider feel ‘more secure’ during the inversions and to assist with the feeling of airtime. Since there are no hills to give you the airtime that coaster enthusiasts enjoy so much, the only way to feel that is through the slow inversions.

Also new to the area is the Tempesto Gift Shop, formerly known as Apollo Gifts. Like the majority of the gift shops throughout the park they have the typical assorted stuffed animal gifts, t-shirts, toys, and what-not. I do like the Tempesto t-shirt, coffee mugs, and shot glasses, but was surprised to find (or not find) the goggles that Tempesto wore during his stunts. Several people I spoke to all agreed that would’ve been a fun souvenir to pick up (*hint* *hint* Busch Gardens) or to even wear on the ride itself.

Glasses

Speaking of wearing goggles on the ride, unlike the other coasters in the park, you cannot wear glasses unless they also have a safety strap attached. And like all other rides, no loose articles are permitted.

The one thing I like about this new but not new policy is that the park hands out nifty orange fanny packs at the queue entrance for you to stash your loose articles. On a slow day, such as a soft opening or media day event, when ridership is low, this is pretty easy to keep tabs on the fanny packs, however, my concern is how this will be handled on the busiest of days. How many fanny packs will walk off when guests forget to were given one, or think they were given one and allowed to keep it? Or how many will not care and will just walk off with them?

On the plus side, there’s no special labeling for the packs. On the downside, there’s no special labeling for the packs. They’re orange. If you don’t want to use a fanny pack or you don’t have a non-rider in your group to watch your belongings, you can also rent one of their new lockers located just to the left of the queue entrance. Unlike the older lockers throughout the park, the new ones can be rented via a kiosk using either cash or a credit card. You simply create your own person pin number, pay for the locker, and the computer automatically assigns you a locker. You put your belongings in them, type in your code, press enter, and you’ve got two hours for $1. You can open and close the lockers as many times as you want during the two hours and you can easily renew your rental time as well. These lockers are great and I’m hoping the park will replace the older lockers with this new system eventually.

Lockers

With all this said, I highly recommend riding Tempesto. Are you daredevil enough?


This post is a guest post by Donika Haddock.

2014, Attractions, Guest Post, Theme Parks, Virginia

GUEST POST: Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia 2014 Food and Wine Festival Lackey Report!!!

It’s a beautiful day in Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the 2014 Food and Wine Festival!

No rides for us today though; we’re on an important mission!

Arrr we be here to eat your noms!!!

First stop, Canada for some delicious pear cider and Mac and cheese and bacon. High marks all around!

Next we traveled to the American south west for chicken and chocolate sauce, a fish taco, and a chocolate lava cake.  The main courses were good but the lava cake was a big hit!

Next we go to Belgium and taste the different beers! Hoegaarden was my favorite of the four.

Pier is not a big beer drinker however…

Now off to France! We tried the ratatouille, the sparkling raspberry drink, the steak au poivre, and the lemon tartlette.  The tartlette stole the show!

Next at the coffee and crepes stand we tried the asparagus crepe. The cheese was the best part.

Let’s take a break and see a show while we digest!

Now it’s time for a frozen dirty Shirley and some Swedish meatballs.  Yum!

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Now Scotland is calling with ginger beer, a Scottish egg, and shepherd’s pie!

One last stop in Italy for the caprese salad and the cheese plate!

Delicious! What’s the final tally?

Scotland
Scottish egg – 4
Shepherd’s pie – 5
Crabbie’s ginger beer – 2.5

Scandinavia
Köttbullar – 4
Frozen dirty Shirley – 2.5

Coffee and Crêpes
Asperes et fromage de chėvre crêpe – 3

Belgium
Beer Flight – 5

France
Steak au poivre – 3.25
Tomates farcies à la ratatouille – 2.5
Tartlette au citron – 5
Sparkling raspberry – 3.5

Canada
Macaroni and cheese with peameal bacon – 4
Wyder’s dry pear cider – 5

American southwest
Chicken adobo with sauce mole – 3.5
Fish taco – 3
Chocolate lava cake – 4

Italy
Caprese salad – 2
Italian cheese sampling – 3

2014, Attractions, General, Oni's Life, Theme Parks, Virginia

Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia: Animals Up Close Tour Review

I had the opportunity to attend the Animals Up Close Tour at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Virginia this past March 15th. Thanks to Shannon, Katie, Jennah, and the rest of the team. (If I missed you please contact me with your names!) Harknell and I were joined by our friend Donika who also took many of these photos in this post.

This tour costs $27.00 (plus admission); $24.30 for Pass Members. I think we were in there for about an hour.

It starts off where you meet your tour guides and they explain a little bit about Busch Garden’s conservation efforts. They’ve rescued and rehabilitated a large number of animals in the wild (I believe over 20,000 over the past several years) and even repopulated many at-risk animal species. They have programs to encourage kids to get involved with conservation and mentioned their new Generation Nature program featuring Bindi Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter’s daughter.

The animals that you’ll meet on this tour vary depending on many factors. If the animal is tired, they will not bring it out. You start by sitting down on a bench while the handlers bring out different animals. They will instruct you what to do. you may be able to pet some, others you may not be able to.

We got to meet a variety of birds! These were super cute and cuddly with each other:

Here is the possum! It was very soft!

We got to fly this bird from each other’s hands:

He was kind of derpy. :) It took a few tries to get it to fly. It was very cute. His name is Nacho.

We did get to pet the sloth! She was also very soft.

At the end we got to hold birds:

Us and buddies:

Donika and feathered friend:

I was surprised at how many animals Busch Gardens has that you would never even know about if you did not take these tours. I highly recommend the Animals Up Close tour. It’s fun and bargain-priced at under $30 per person. I think that this was probably the most fun thing we’ve done in the parks. It definitely is as far as my husband is concerned since he can’t ride rides.

Thanks to Donika for taking us with her on this tour and for allowing me to use her photos in this blog post! Thanks to Busch Gardens for inviting me to go to the park for free as one of their Ambassador Bloggers!