Opening Weekend Photo Update

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Last Saturday, for the first time in months, guests got to walk back through Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s turnstiles to see what the park has spent the winter doing. Between the Banbury Cross renovations (shh, we’ll get there), the replacement of the bridge connecting Heatherdowns and Rhinefeld, two notable shop renovations and a new dining area in San Marco, floor replacement in Das Festhaus, installation of the Bunny Trail between Rhinefeld and Oktoberfest, and more, there are a whole lot of things to talk about. Anyway, instead of writing a huge intro here, I’m going to get right into it because, more than likely, only 3 or 4 of you have read this far anyway- I know everyone is here for the pictures. Enjoy!

Banbury Cross Renovations

Starting a self-described photo update with a section without any pictures is probably awful form, but I’ve heard a lot of doubt coming out about the Banbury Cross renovation project- especially now that the park has opened and guests aren’t seeing any real notable changes. Well, I’m here to set the record straight. The extent of the project has been vastly scaled back but changes are still coming. In fact, you’ll see the start of those changes when you walk into the park this weekend. Change is, very much, still in the air. Don’t take a deep sigh of relief just yet.

Update (3/21/2014)

One of our forum members, ChickenKing, ran down to the park this morning to grab some pictures of Banbury Cross this morning. As leaked above, construction is, indeed, underway. Check out his pictures below and a huge thanks to CK for sending them in!

For anyone who doesn’t know, this will be the site of Banbury Cross’s new Coca-Cola Market- a drink stall bought and paid for by the iconic soda maker themselves. After seeing last year’s Coca-Cola Market in Festa Italia, I can’t say I have much hope for this turning out very great…

Lastly, for old time’s sake, here’s a look at what the area looked like previously:

Le Scoot Refurbishment

Over the last few months the park has been working on stage two of their multi-year Le Scoot refurbishment project (stage one being the lift replacement). Back in November, we shared pictures showing a large area of Le Scoot’s flume missing and leaked that the missing pieces were being taken to an outside facility to undergo a full fiberglass replacement. Anyway, as of this past weekend, Le Scoot appears to be fully intact once again. We’re not sure how much more work they have to do before it opens for the 2014 season, but it appears work is actively progressing. Our pictures from Saturday can be found below. Make sure you read the captions on these (and all the other pictures in this post) to get a better idea of what you’re looking at!

Land of the Dragons Rehab

One of the biggest projects the park has going this year is the revitalization and refurbishment of their classic children’s area, Land of the Dragons. Over the last few years, Land of the Dragons has been looking very, very rough- so bad in fact that many people have called it downright neglected and, to be honest, I wouldn’t disagree with them. Faded paint, not very well kept or clean, broken special effects all throughout the area, etc. gave Land of the Dragons a very unloved and forgotten feel. Fortunately though the park seems to have heard our cries. Over the offseason Land of the Dragons received a full refurbishment- new netting, new paint, and much, much more. Though work still seems to be ongoing (as is a common trend with many of the park’s construction projects this year), the place is already looking rather stellar.

All that said, there’s a bit of an issue. Even as a kid, I never spent any time in Land of the Dragons (hey, there were coasters to ride!) so trying to work out what’s new, what’s fixed, what’s painted, etc. is nearly impossible for me. In light of that, I’ve asked one of our forum members, Joe, to jump in to fill in the gap. Though you won’t see his coverage here, you can expect a full post on the work done in Land of the Dragons thus far in 2014 soon so keep an eye out for that!

Heatherdowns/Rhinefeld Bridge Replacement

Here’s another major project the park has tackled this year. As we leaked would happen before the holidays, Busch Gardens Williamsburg removed the floating bridge between Heatherdowns and Rhinefeld and replaced it with a solid deck-style bridge. As you’ll see if you read post in which we leaked the plans, I was a bit doubtful about whether or not the park could ditch the floating bridge without harming the feel of the area. Well, I’m glad to report that the answer is yes, yes they can. I actually believe they did a marvelous job with the new bridge. After the wood weathers a bit, it’s going to look phenomenal. Anyway, enjoy the pictures!

In addition to the bridge replacement, this project ended up including a little something else that we didn’t exactly expect to see: The park has extended the Rhine River to, once again, occupy the area under Alpengeist’s cobra roll as well as Griffon’s second immelmann. For those of you who don’t know, before Griffon was built, the Rhine used to stretch all the way through this area but a good chunk of it was filled in while Griffon was being built. It’s fantastic to see this area opened back up again. Also, we don’t know whether or not that gravel road will stay (it was likely put in to allow construction of the bridge and, now, the Rhine River Cruise docks) but I’d certainly prefer to see it go before too long.

Rhine River Cruise Dock Renovations

Permits were filed and approved a few weeks ago to do some work on the park’s Rhine River Cruise docks. We don’t know what the extent of the work will be, but, at least for the time being, it’s keeping the Rhine River Cruise closed and it would appear that they’ve lowered the Rhine River to allow work to take place. Not much seems to have changed as of yet, but hopefully we’ll see some visible progress soon.

New France Restroom Replacement

The restrooms adjacent to Le Catapult and Caribou Station have been demolished and a new restrooms building is going up where they were previously located. Not all that much to say here seeing that it is very unfinished, but I can imagine it will look pretty nice when they complete it. The external fireplace in particular has me quite interested- I can see that being very neat thematic element during Christmas Town.

Bunny Trail

This is a topic I really wasn’t looking forward to writing about. Why? Because, though the Bunny Trail has always been horrifically gaudy and basically just all-around repulsive, this season it seems to have hit a previously unfathomable level of awful. How is this possible? Well, the park’s entertainment department thought it would be a good idea to merge the always depressingly ugly Bunny Trail theme with the downright trashy looking, ghastly atrocities they produced for last year’s failed IllumiNights event. If you’ve ever seen either of those thematic packages independently in person, the mere thought of the two combined has likely sent you scrambling to find a toilet to throw-up in right now. I can’t blame you- just make sure you bring back a trash can to keep by your side while you gawk at the pictures.

Oktoberfest Maypole

As we leaked a few weeks back, the park cut the Oktoberfest Maypole show at the last minute due to budget problems facing the entertainment department’s other ongoing projects right now (read: London Rocks & the Banbury renovation project). Anyway, since the budget wasn’t there for the show, the planter in front of Das Festhaus has been filled with something else. What you ask? IllumiNights props. Yup.

Das Festhaus Floor Replacement

I always hate putting so many negative stories in a row but, alas, they’re all in Oktoberfest and I thought it best to keep them grouped together. Plus, I did organize this post so that we’d end on some high notes so, fear not, better things are coming.

Anyway, the park replaced about 1/6th of Das Festhaus’ floor over the offseason and it would appear that someone is simply incapable of color matching. Why? Well the new sections (which primarily make up the walked-on areas in the front half of the building alone) are a bright red color which contrasts horribly with the light tan color that has always been used inside the building. Personally, I think it looks simply ghastly. In fact, with the artificial greenery and whatnot that makes up Entwined’s set, Das Festhaus now looks like a lake of blood with a small green island in the middle. Basically, it’s just horrible. Change for the sake of change is bad. Learn to match colors Busch Gardens.

San Marco Dining Deck

You see, I told you more good news was coming! Another of the physical construction projects the park tackled this year was the creation of a new dining area in San Marco. Sandwiched between Il Teatro di San Marco and the Rhine River, the new sitting area should provide some much needed additional seating for both Ristorante della Piazza, the hamlet’s large eatery, and the Food & Wine booths that are in the hamlet during the spring.

San Marco Shop Redesigns

Over the last few seasons, the park’s merchandise department has been working tirelessly to clean up the appearance of the interiors of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s shops and other merchandise locations. Previously they tackled Union Jacks and The Emporium in Banbury Cross and La Belle Maison in Aquitaine as well as creating stellar special event shop overlays for both Howl-O-Scream and Christmas Town throughout the park. Over the last few months they’ve continued that trend by extensively renovating and redesigning both of San Marco’s merchandise locations: Bella Casa Gifts & Artisans of Italy.

First up we have Bella Casa. Previously one of Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s less attractive merchandise locations, it’s absolutely fantastic to see it get some love this year. Though not much has changed structurally, the overall appearance and feel of the shop is vastly improved. Check out the pictures below to see what I mean. They really did do an incredible job.

Next we have the renovated Artisans of Italy shop. Like Bella Casa, it has undergone a rather massive overhaul as well. From a new work table in the front to paint, decorations, and many other changes throughout, the merchandise department really is showing just how intent they are on presenting a great, thematically consistent experience to guests.

New Loch Ness Monster Pictures

Lastly I’ll close out this update with a little treat for anyone who made it all the way through. Below you can find some pictures of one of the most iconic coasters ever built, the Loch Ness Monster. Though there are some “standard” shots of old Nessie in here, there are a few angles that, prior to the construction of the new Heatherdowns/Rhinefeld bridge were completely impossible. Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the pictures!

  • Beth

    Hate to say this, since all of you will probably consider me wierd, but I think the Bunny Trail is very cute. I like it.

  • Jen

    Beth, As an adult I think it looks pretty tacky, but my two year old loved it so I think it’s great!

  • Mad Ludwig

    If the changes to Banbury Cross aren’t too extensive, then the park might be fine. they’ve actually made some very nice changes, like the new Rhine River bridge and the Artisans of Italy shop.

  • peter

    whens the next trip report !!!