Last Saturday my younger son and I took a trip to Williamsburg, VA to go to the special event “Coasters and Crafts” at Busch Gardens. During the pandemic, they are testing their services and offering a limited opening. It works out for us because we are already passholders and the only expense is gas to get there and food to eat. Due to the pandemic, this report might be a little longer than normal as I want to give some background decisions and considerations along with the trip report itself. I hope you can use this experience to help make a decision for your next vacation.
Three weeks prior to our trip, I receive an email from Busch Gardens announcing the special limited event. It was an exciting prospect because we had just come from our Williamsburg Summer Vacation and knew that the crowds were small but there were many things were open and available for us to enjoy. Tatana wanted nothing to do with going to a theme park no matter how convincing the email was in discussing the preparations and changes to their normal operating procedures to make our time there safe. It was late and I decided not to reserve the tickets. Much to my concern, that next afternoon, I checked out the Busch Gardens Williamsburg Connoisseurs Facebook Group and saw that many of the days were already sold out. I immediately logged in and reserved our tickets for the weekend after my birthday. Several dates that weekend were already gone as well, so I was lucky. The only one who wanted to go was Jonah, I can count on him for being game for just about anything I want to do that I think seems fun.
Here is where the discussions with the family took a turn. They were convinced that we were fools to go to a theme park during the pandemic. I understood their concerns and wanted to make them feel as comfortable as possible. We agreed that we would quarantine ourselves in my son’s room the home and wear masks the entire time we are inside, except when we are in his bedroom. We agreed to wipe things down when we walk around the house, use hand sanitizer and wash hands often, and even purchased our own medical kit (bandages, thermometer, antibiotic ointment, cough drops, and immune defense powder). I left it in my wife’s hands as late as the night before if she felt uncomfortable, we would cancel. She allowed us to go, so go we did.
We had tickets for the 11am-3pm event time. Knowing we had a two and a half hour drive, we woke up at 6:30am and left by 7:30am. We made it there quickly and had enough time to fill the gas tank and get coffee before getting in line at the parking entrance gate. Please have both your event ticket reservation AND your parking pass reservation ready for scanning at the gate, it really does speed things up. We made it in, about the fiftieth car into the lot, and decided to park in the shade on the far right of the England lot.
We walked through the lot to the bus terminal shelter where we were routed through temperature scanning and bag check, again, not big deal here. The security/heath employee was attempting to process two people at a time with the scanning thermometer, it was fun to watch. People were laughing, so I assume we were smiling, but we all had our masks on so I really do not know. Once we got through there, we were directed to the park entrance. Once they scanned our event ticket, we were inside the park. Taking a few steps into England, after the gate, and the park was so empty it was a shock.
The spacing of the guests while in lines was very evident with large circles, paper plates, or other colorful tape. Either way, it felt comfortable and not forced, everyone seemed to be there for the fun and did not want to ruin any one else’s experience, I was happily impressed. We headed straight to Loch Ness Monster and rode that, it was just about walk on time, I think two trains went before we got on. I noticed a large bottle of hand sanitizer about every other turn in the lines as well as along the walkways in the park (not next to trash cans, but spread out in logical areas scattered around the trails and paths). It was so long since I had ridden a roller coaster, I was so excited to do it again. I was saddened to find that the ride photo is taking pictures but not offering the photo. I wonder however, if the photos are still being sent to PhotoKey, I should have checked, but I doubt it.
We walked into Ireland and we stopped for water at the snack store. The line for Finnegan’s Flyer was very long, so we skipped it. We noticed some people were eating inside at Grogan’s Irish Pub and some sitting outside. The gift store in Ireland was open, but the tree our kids played in was closed, bordered shut actually. We checked out the animals along our walk as they were out in the open, but by the time I got to France, I needed to stop in health services to get the sun screen I forgot to bring. Next to the train tracks in France, after heath services, is a relaxation station. Here is where you can take off your mask and relax, you can even sit down if you can find an available bench. You are required to keep a safe distance while in the relaxation area. We did not stay in there too long since we wanted to ride InvadR.
The gift store in France was open, but I needed water again already since I was hot, so we stopped at the Three Rivers Snacks to get water. I forgot to mention, you can bring your refillable cups but you have to fill the water or soda into the normally provided paper cup and then you can pour it into your refillable mug if you want. The smell of Trapper’s Smokehouse was just absolutely wonderful, and if I had not planned on eating lunch at Captain George’s, we would have eaten there. The line for Griffon was long, but we realized that it was only due to the cleaning of the trains. I could not recognize the patterns, but they are doing an awesome job cleaning. I was too scared to get on the Griffon, so we kept walking towards InvadR.
InvadR was amazing, I had not ridden it yet and I love every bit about it. It is a wooden coaster and all of the lifts and turns are amazingly comfortable. After InvadR, we decided to wonder over to Le Catapult, which had no line until we got there, but we were in front. Every bucket seat was used, there were not roped off or reserved to be empty. Either way, it felt safe and sanitized.
We sat in the relaxation area near the end of New France right past Trader Dave’s gift store, which was open for business. Kids can even use the water area for the mining for gems bags they purchase at Trader Dave’s. By this time it is now 2pm and we realize we should probably start to leave. We stopped at Three Rivers Snacks again for an ICEE; Jonah gave me none, by the way. So he sat there and finished most of his drink and offered a little of it to me
The line for Griffon was almost gone so we waited in line for about 10 minutes, but we got on before many of the people in front of us, I think they wanted to ride in the front row. We had a lot of fun on the ride, it scared the mess out of me because I really am afraid of heights and falling, but I try to ignore it while I am riding. The hesitation at the top and then the turns and dips were excellent. If you can’t tell, this was also my first time riding Griffon. I loved it.
With that, we left France and walked the path back to Scotland to see about getting back on Loch Ness Monster. We got on back to back, the first time in row three and the second time in row one. At this point it was nearing 3pm and we wanted to get out of the park before we had to fight for the exit or end up waiting for 15 minutes to just get out of the parking lot. When we got to the parking lot was as if half of the people had already left.
Sadly, there were no caramel apples which was one of the things I had my heart set on. In all, I had one of the best times in a long time at a theme park. We were not rushed at all and were able to get on multiple rides that we wanted to get on. We felt safe from the virus due to the mandatory mask wearing and the hand sanitizer stations. I noticed many people using them as they walked past them, including children. The staff was friendly as always, and I truly look forward to coming back soon.
This event ends on August 30th, so you have to head over to Busch Gardens’ website and reserve your tickets. Please read the Reservation FAQ if you have any questions about the reservation and event. Comment below with your experience from the Coasters and Crafts event or any other question you may have. Thank you.