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Busch Gardens Williamsburg (formerly known as Busch Gardens Europe and Busch Gardens: The Old Country) is a 422-acre (1.71 km2) amusement park located in James City County, Virginia, United States. Located about sixty miles (100 km) northwest of Virginia Beach, the park was developed by Anheuser-Busch (A-B) and is owned by SeaWorld Entertainment. It opened on May 16, 1975, adjacent to Anheuser-Busch's brewery and near its other developments including the Kingsmill Resort complex.

The park is themed around various European countries and as such was originally called Busch Gardens: The Old Country. In 1993, the park was renamed Busch Gardens Williamsburg before briefly being named Busch Gardens Europe in 2006 until it returned to the Williamsburg name in 2008. In 2015, the estimated attendance of 2.78 million makes it the twentieth most-visited park in the US.

In addition to its landscaping and European theme, Busch Gardens is widely known for its roller coasters, including Griffon, Loch Ness Monster, Alpengeist, and Apollo's Chariot, which won No. 4 best steel coaster in 2012 from the Golden Ticket Awards.


History

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Overview of Features

Conservation

Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve houses a variety of wild species including gray wolves and bald eagles. Busch Gardens is partnered with SeaWorld (also owned by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment) in the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, which offers guests the opportunity to contribute to wildlife conservation. The Rhine River Cruise's boats are battery powered to cut back on power generation and prevent water pollution. In addition, Busch Gardens and Water Country USA both use insects rather than pesticides in the parks' commitment to organic gardening. All brochures, maps, show guides and all paper products in the restrooms are made from recycled material.


Howl-O-Scream

Howl-O-Scream, the park's signature Halloween event, began in 1999 and offers more than a dozen attractions featuring vampires, zombies, clowns, witches, and skeletons.



Christmas Town

Christmas Town is the park's Christmas event that began during the 2009 season. Several Christmas and winter holiday themed attractions and shows are showcased, including a 50-foot (15 m) Christmas tree called "O Tannenbaum" that lights up in sync to Christmas music in the Oktoberfest hamlet of the park. Each of the show venues from the summer season have a holiday themed show during Christmas Town, ranging from reinterpretations of classic Christmas stories (Scrooge No More), to ice skating (Twas That Night On Ice), to a cappella performances (Gift of Harmony). Many of the flat rides are in operation as well as the park's train, skyride, Mach Tower (reimagined without the free fall drop as Nacht Tower), and (weather permitting) one or two roller coasters, which have traditionally been Verbolten and InvadR since their 2012 and 2017 opening seasons, respectively, though previous Christmas town seasons saw Tempesto, Griffon, and Alpengeist also operate. During the celebration, the park is decorated with millions of lights and dozens of real Christmas trees across the entire park. Shopping and dining are also a prominent part of Christmas Town, with many of the park's restaurants offering food and drinks catered to the season and colder weather. The event usually starts the weekend before Thanksgiving and continues every weekend until the week before Christmas, where it stays open for the rest of December, excluding Christmas Day, until a few days after New Year's Day.



Hamlets

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Roller Coasters

Existing (listed first by year)

  • Loch Ness Monster (1978–present)
  • Alpengeist (1997–present)
  • Apollo's Chariot (1999–present)
  • Griffon (2007–present)
  • Grover's Alpine Express (2009–present)
  • Verbolten (2012–present)
  • Tempesto (2015–present)
  • InvadR (2017–present)



Future (listed by opening year)

  • Pantheon (2021)-Opening delayed due to COVID-19 impacts on the park


Defunct (listed by closing year)

  • Die Wildkatze (1976–1983)
    • Replaced by Big Bad Wolf
  • Das Kätzchen (1976–1984)
  • Glissade (1975–1985)
    • Replaced by Wild Maus
  • Drachen Fire (1992–1998)
  • Wilde Maus (1996–2003)
    • Moved to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay as Sand Serpent
    • Replaced by Curse of DarKastle
    • Opened as the Wild Izzy as a tie into the Izzy, mascot of the 1996 Olympic Games, for which Budweiser was a sponsor.
  • Big Bad Wolf (1984–2009)
    • Replaced by Verbolten
  • Curse of DarKastle (2005-2017)



Defunct Flat Rides

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Animal Attractions

Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve

Along with various birds that inhabit Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve, attractions here include bald eagles and wolves. Eagle Ridge is a 3,000+ foot area set aside for housing and rehabilitating bald eagles and providing education to visitors. Wolf Haven is a viewing area where guests may observe one of Busch Garden's pairs of wolves. One pair is on exhibition at a time. Busch Gardens also provides Wolf Valley for those wolves not on display. Over 8,000 feet (2,400 m) of natural habitat is intended to ensure the animals' health and well-being. In recent years, animal attractions at the park have been extensively removed, though the staple attractions remain.


Highland Stables

Busch Gardens' Highland Stables features Scottish Blackface sheep, Border collies, black Clydesdales and a European barn owl. Guests can interact with the animals during daily demonstrations.



Parking and Transportation

At the park, special parking areas are provided for persons with special needs or disabilities, recreational vehicles and groups arriving by buses and motorcoaches. Trams provide shuttle service to and from entrance gates from outlying parking areas.

Within the park itself, three steam locomotive powered trains operate on the 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge Busch Gardens Railway, a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) loop of track, providing transportation between the Heatherdowns, Festa Italia and New France themed areas. Additionally, a skyride provides transportation between the Banbury Cross, Aquitaine and Rhinefeld themed areas.


Awards and Recognition

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Attendance

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