I’m terribly sorry that it took me this long to get this post up. After Pass Member Preview, I simply didn’t have enough photo content to justify a post- at least not one I would have been happy with. With that said, last weekend was technically the first full weekend the park was open to the public so I’ll pretend the title is still relevant. Anyway, enjoy the update!
Ticketing & Entrance Area
In case you didn’t know, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has put a ton of work into updating their aging entry and ticketing area this year. This includes everything from replacing the massive sign over the toll booths (not pictured below, see here) to ripping out one of the ticket booths and replacing it with a fantastic new entry archway and beautiful pond. There has been a very vocal outcry criticizing the changes on the park’s Facebook page but personally, I think the changes are quite nice.
This is one of the three shops that have been completely renovated for 2013. Though the outside of the building is more-or-less unchanged (except for a new door), the interior has been completely replaced. I honestly have no complaints about what they’ve done here. Everything looks fantastic and they’ve managed to stick to the “Olde Country” theme the park has always been known for.
Admittedly, I was extremely skeptical about the park’s ability to pull this store off in a tasteful way. Lately they’ve been doing a great job of ruining the park’s tranquil atmosphere through hamlet modernization but, amazingly, they managed to do a fairly impressive job with Union Jack’s. It has a strong theme all its own on inside while not negatively affecting the hamlet’s theme as a whole. Now if the shop’s stereotypical modern British style spreads beyond the shops doors, that’s another story entirely.
Eagle Ridge Rework
Eagle Ridge was another area where the park has done a fairly large amount of work over the off-season. Unfortunately, at least in my opinion, the changes are a fairly major downgrade from what the area was previously. Now, this may sound like a criticism, but, the park did have good reason for the changes they made. Last season there were multiple instances of eagles escaping from the enclosure and while the consequences of these escapes aren’t entirely clear we do know that there was at least one instance of an eagle making it to Newport News Park and another which resulted in an eagle making its way into the wolf enclosure. So, with that in mind, though the new enclosure isn’t very aesthetically pleasing, it was a needed change. Hopefully as the foliage grows in things will start to look a little better.
It’s also worth noting that there’s only one bald eagle at the park right now. Apparently all the others were owned by a 3rd party who decided to remove them from the park after the occurrences mentioned above. The good news is that we’ve been told that more will be introduces over the coming weeks and months.
Though it didn’t receive much attention over the off-season, the Wild Reserve side of Aquitaine has received quite a large amount of work over the off season. Some of the changes (particularly the doors and banners on the exterior of La Belle Maison) have been particularly controversial.
La Belle Maison Overhaul
To complement the changes entertainment made in the park’s French hamlet, the merchandise department went to work on the inside of La Belle Maison, Aquitaine’s main gift shop. I must say, I’m thoroughly impressed with what the park has done in here. Previously La Belle Maison housed heavily branded surf gear and clothing- items that were horrifically out of place in the hamlet of Aquitaine. Fortunately, similar to what was done with the Emporium in Banbury Cross, La Belle has been completely renovated to provide an experience and atmosphere that reflects its hamlet perfectly. In addition to the park-branded merchandise in the main part of the shop the park also added a brilliantly themed wine tasting and sales area.
As we reported around Christmas Town, the park put a good deal of money towards updating Le Scoot, one of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s oldest rides, this year. Over the off-season Le Scoot received an entirely new lift structure and though it wasn’t ready to open with the park, as of Saturday they appeared to be doing employee training so I wouldn’t expect it to be much longer till it’s ready for the public.
Mach Tower is Down (Again)
Shocker! Mach Tower is down again! We’re not sure exactly what’s going on but it has yet to open so far this year and the ride ops stationed outside the attraction are, once again, being told to tell guests that it will reopen soon. For anyone who followed along in 2011, this should sound oddly familiar. Anyway, though I have yet to see it myself, people are reporting some sparse testing during park hours and while that may sound promising, it doesn’t seem that everything is running so smoothly. Natoma, one of our forum members, posted the following on Tuesday:
[blockquote author=”Natoma”]I was standing outside the pretzel shop today while they were doing some testing. Every time it dropped, there was this very loud grinding/rattling noise that would start when the brakes would usually kick in. They did this 10+ times. Needless to say, it sounded bad for the ride. Hopefully no damage was done.[/blockquote]
That can’t be a good sign.
UPDATE: Just moments after this post went live netdvn, another forum member, posted the following:
[blockquote author=”netdvn”]Saw a few people riding Mach today. I talked to someone standing underneath the ride and she told me maintenance and a few higher ups were riding. That’s definitely a good sign that the ride should be opening soon.[/blockquote]
Maybe things are looking up?
Ristorante della Piazza’s New Stage
Like Das Festhaus, Ristorante della Piazza also got a new stage for 2013; however, unlike Das Festhaus, we’ve been told that Ristorante della Piazza’s stage wasn’t replaced to give it a new look but instead to prevent the old one from rotting under the cast’s feet. Fortunately, at least in my opinion, the new stage is a major improvement over the previous one. Quite honestly, I’ve never been a huge fan of Mix it Up’s stage- I always felt that it looked rushed and, to be frank, trashy. The new stage brings back a much more traditional Ristorante della Piazza aesthetic with more muted colors and a look and feel that is much more inline with the rest of the venue.
As reported earlier this year, Busch Gardens Williamsburg opened a Gelato shop this year! Additionally, having had some myself, I’m happy to report that it’s very good. Not pretzel shop pretzel level, but close. With that said, I will say that I was a bit disappointed in the shop itself. It looks extremely rushed with boring signage and sloppy paint. The holes from the previous menu board are even visible if you look closely. Basically it’s an excellent product but, in contrast to what we saw from the Emporium and La Belle Maison, the actual structure itself is extremely lackluster.
The Coca-Cola Market was announced during Pass Member Preview day this year and, at least so far, very little work has been done. With that said, though I’m trying to reserve judgement till I see the final product, I don’t have high hopes. Anyway, I tried to get my camera over the construction wall so excuse the mediocre shots.
Pompeii Bridge Replacement
Following right along with this year’s trend of updates and refreshes, the park also replaced the bridge connecting the Pompeii area to the larger San Marco hamlet.
Other Minor Changes & Updates
This is where I’m dumping everything that didn’t justify more than a single picture or two. Make sure you read the captions so you know what you’re looking at.
I hope you enjoyed the post! As always you can follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to stay up to date on what’s happening on the site and, if you haven’t already, feel free to join the conversation about any of the things you’ve seen above on the ParkFans Forum, here.