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Which brings up the conundrum do you advertise this win and there by admit that you lied last year?
 
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What on EARTH could’ve possibly changed for them to win the award back? The park is arguably LESS beautiful than it was last year and Dollywood is relatively unchanged since they won it last.
I made this point last year but this year's award is actually based on 2021 visits and surveys. BGW was always at a disadvantage for 2021 because if the limits the state put on them for guests capacity hell they couldn't even open the full park one day that year.
 
I made this point last year but this year's award is actually based on 2021 visits and surveys. BGW was always at a disadvantage for 2021 because if the limits the state put on them for guests capacity hell they couldn't even open the full park one day that year.
Yes, capacity limits were in place when the park reopened through the end of the year and that put them at a competitive disadvantage, but they could have opened the park in 2020 before everything shut down. SEAS simply chose not to open BGW as initially scheduled for the opening weekend of Sat 3/14/20 and Sun 3/15/20, probably because they already knew they were going to be shutting down the open parks (SWSD, SWO, SWSA, BGT) at the end of the day Sun 3/15/20.
 
Yes, capacity limits were in place when the park reopened through the end of the year and that put them at a competitive disadvantage, but they could have opened the park in 2020 before everything shut down. SEAS simply chose not to open BGW as initially scheduled for the opening weekend of Sat 3/14/20 and Sun 3/15/20, probably because they already knew they were going to be shutting down the open parks (SWSD, SWO, SWSA, BGT) at the end of the day Sun 3/15/20.
SEAs made the call Thursday afternoon to order all their parks to close by Sunday the 3/15. Up until that order BGW had all plans in place to open. So what did you except them to do open for 2 days one of which was going to be pass members only so basically free?
 
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This award must have taken into consideration the addition of Pantheon and the new paint on Alpie/Griffon as an aesthetic "upgrade" to the park landscape.

This award must have skipped the consideration of the landscaping improvements and overall beauty of the park compared to years when it was worthy of the award.

This award carries less weight to me now, when Dollywood took the crown for one year (rightfully) and BGW has not demonstrated that it deserves to hold that crown again just yet. I have not heard of fewer beautification efforts at Dollywood that would move the needle over to BGW.

Also, the park smells really bad in a certain location, smell should be added as a categorical classification. 🤢
 
Reminder: If you are well-versed in the industry, visit a bunch of parks, and think the Golden Ticket Awards aren't making reasonable calls, you can try to make a difference by applying for a Golden Ticket panel position.

Unlike certain other awards that certain parks like to claim as justification for bold, wide-ranging claims, the Golden Ticket Awards don't offer a 1-to-1, money for votes scheme. Though polling is weighted in favor of industry professionals, rank and file folks CAN make a difference in the Golden Tickets—without dropping $50 per vote.
 
SEAs made the call Thursday afternoon to order all their parks to close by Sunday the 3/15. Up until that order BGW had all plans in place to open. So what did you except them to do open for 2 days one of which was going to be pass members only so basically free?
I didn't expect them to open. Rather my response was in regards to not having the ability to be fully open in 2020, as they could have been fully open at least a couple of days.
 
Hey Parkfans. First-time poster after my first-time visit to BGW (Friday 10/27/2023). Currently on a whirlwind tour of about 10 parks from the mid-Atlantic up to Jersey Shore. Here's my take:

Is Busch Gardens Williamsburg the most beautiful theme park in America? I don't know. I haven't visited them all (yet). But I would guess it must be a top contender after last Friday's trip. Lovely foliage, landscaping, and cool autumn breezes provided a beautiful atmosphere during my stay.

However, BGW is a bit difficult to rate as an amusement park because my expectations didn't quite line up with the experience. Of course I had a good time and will return again someday, but the specter of corporate cost-cutting left a noticeable if-not-yet dealbreaking amount of fingerprints behind (literally in some cases).

First, the rides...

Pantheon, Griffon, and Tempesto are all smooth and new A+ quality coasters. All excellent pants-crappingly terrifying and worth the trip.

Alpengeist, an inverted coaster (holds your torso from the track overhead, legs dangling), is a very tall, very fast older classic from the late 1990's. As such, it is showing its age with some rattles and a disappointing second half return to the station. But still a worthy experience.

Apollo's Chariot is a long there-and-back-again coaster pulling some decent negative-g's, but I found it to be a bit rattly and slow as if riding a sub-par Candymonium (Hersheypark). Probably won't ride it next trip.

Verbolten is a dark coaster remake of an older ride. It looked like one of those friendly family "mine trains"... BUT LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING! Verbolten pulled some SERIOUS g-forces in the back row and delivered a uniquely terrifying surprise which I shall not spoil. Thumbs up.

Loch Ness is one of the world's last (only?) coasters with a loop-within-a-loop. Having been released in 1978, it must have been the most amazing roller coaster in the world... and is still great! Six Flags Shockwave got nothing on this one. Due for an "environmental enhancement" in 2024 (maybe a monster rising out of the water).

Speaking of environmental enhancements, I'm sad to say that the much-hyped DarKoaster indoor dark ride is exactly that. All hype. It's a "worst of both worlds" situation with sub-par theming and a too-tame ride experience, coupled with an astronomically slow cycle time. Verbolten is far superior in every way. Skip this one and let it suck up the crowds from your other rides.

The lone wooden coaster, InvadR, was a good solid if unremarkable ride. Worth doing anyway.

OK - now the gripes...

BEER. The beer situation is embarrassingly poor. Why then, feature a beautiful German-themed dining hall with only three taps consisting of Coors, Michelob, and some forgettable Virginia craft beer company? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Insult to injury: Beer is an astonishing $12 small pour/$15 large. For a Coors! You have got to be kidding me. No Budweiser? No Peroni? No Spaten? No Stella? Actually, you can get those... but only in a bottle... and only if you look inside some of the gift shops. Why make this so hard? Boo.

Oh, I know why. Cost cutting. That's what corporations do. Blackstone bought BGW in 2008 and ended the free beer tastings and other perks. I wonder what will come next? Gotta keep pushing those executive and investor class profits to the moon!

My home park (1980's) was Six Flags Over Texas, the OG. Back then, it was a lovingly curated experience with nightly fireworks, wisteria gardens, excellent groundskeeping, attention to detail up and down the park with unique gifts and desserts (Pink Things!) for sale. But... once Time Warner bought it in the early 1990's, it all changed, all for the worse. I feel like a similar thing is happening here, even after only one visit. You can just feel it.

Another gripe: Trappers Smokehouse. Lauded as the best BBQ in any theme park. Well, I'll be the judge of that. Actually, I won't... because they don't sell BBQ sandwiches anymore. In fact the only way you can even get any brisket at all is by ordering a triple-combo-platter for $26. Boo. I had a beef hot dog for $5 instead.

Another gripe: Unlike the Hersheypark and Dollywood park apps, the BGW app does not tell you if a ride is closed. Could be a long walk to nowhere. Boo.

Another gripe: Wasps! To be expected with so much natural foliage I guess... but the little beasties have a nasty habit of swarming near anything tall, hot, and metallic. Which would be all of your major coasters! Which means routine closings throughout the day. Which means you won't know when this occurs because the app won't tell you. Boo.

Another gripe: Halloween crowds. They really come out after 6pm and just keep coming. I didn't have to wait on most rides all day long until the haunts opened... then it got very busy, very quickly. To be expected during Halloweekend I guess, so let's not count this one against BGW.

A tiny gripe: The overuse of cool white LED bulbs. Carousels and those gorgeous spinning chair rides (Der Wirbelwind) deserve better than cool white LED bulbs up and down the seams. Looks cheap. Looks like a vape shop. Or a health clinic. C'mon folks. Warm white LED's or bust.

Not-a-gripe: Dole Whip! You can actually get pineapple soft serve ice cream here... which is a total win.

TLDR SUMMARY:

Busch Gardens Williamsburg is like a VIP-version of Six Flags with gorgeous scenery and a solid mix of new and older rides. It's a must-do especially on cooler evenings and nights when the park really shines.

However, the specter of corporate cost-cutting looms in the background... beer, shows, app notifications, attention to detail, employee satisfaction... it's noticeable. The theming of the new Pantheon ride in particular is embarrassingly cheap. Guests are already peeling the vinyl graphics off the plastic roman shields. Funny how you always get that "nobody at the steering wheel" feeling with corporate takeovers; the gradual enshittification (Wal-Martification) of the whole planet. I left with an image of a gift shop window covered with fingerprints. Seems like they had been there a while.

Regardless, it's a great park, if only just. Perhaps a bit overrated. Would rank it below Dollywood and Hersheypark, but above some of the lesser Six Flags parks. I do hope someday local conservationists and beer enthusiasts will buy a controlling share from Blackrock and take back control of the park... one can dream, eh? It needs the love. You can tell it's running on autopilot... which no amount of eye candy or A+ coasters can hide.

And thus... it can't be the most beautiful park. Not now. But perhaps someday. After all, if SFOT can succeed in clawing back some of the original magic from Time Warner's shoddy oversight, so too could it happen here.

I just hope it will. Won't renew my Unlimited pass until it does.
 
Another gripe: Unlike the Hersheypark and Dollywood park apps, the BGW app does not tell you if a ride is closed. Could be a long walk to nowhere. Boo.
OT but in season Hersheys app is really temperamental with closures and wait times.
 
Huge thanks for the summary of your experience @Nico! It's not often we get a comprehensive report like that from a first time visitor—really helps to hear what stands out as weak points to someone who both hasn't experienced the downfall of the park in realtime and someone who only knows the park from its reputation—a reputation that, sadly, is often vastly our of step from the current state of the place.

I do wish you had been able to experience the place even just, say, five or six years ago, but alas, things have changed dramatically each and every year since the AB-InBev sale—and seemingly never for the better. 🙁


BEER. The beer situation is embarrassingly poor. Why then, feature a beautiful German-themed dining hall with only three taps consisting of Coors, Michelob, and some forgettable Virginia craft beer company? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

Believe it or not, Das Festhaus has an incredible and super popular craft beer room with 40 craft beers and ciders (foreign, domestic, and local) on tap. Despite its popularity when it does open its doors, it rarely operates these days. Presumably it's far more profitable to sell $15 pours of Coors than it is to sell $15 pours of something people actually want to drink. Tremendously unfortunately that, despite having an incredible facility custom built for the thing you were looking for, BGW sees more value in keeping it shuttered. 🙁

Another gripe: Trappers Smokehouse. Lauded as the best BBQ in any theme park. Well, I'll be the judge of that. Actually, I won't... because they don't sell BBQ sandwiches anymore. In fact the only way you can even get any brisket at all is by ordering a triple-combo-platter for $26. Boo. I had a beef hot dog for $5 instead.

You didn't miss anything with modern Trapper's. A not insignificant number of people who read this forum used to happily go to the park specifically for its main season food. Dinner trips out to the park for locals were a thing people legitimately did because the food was great and it was served in a clean, friendly, pleasant environment. I don't think you'll find anyone who still makes those dinner trips to BGW. The food quality has absolutely collapsed over the last couple of years and the general reputation of BGW culinary simply hasn't caught up to the actual modern offerings. Pair that with often filthy dining areas, slow, poor service, and continuously skyrocketing prices and a lot of the locals I know simply won't eat at the park at this point (myself included).

A tiny gripe: The overuse of cool white LED bulbs. Carousels and those gorgeous spinning chair rides (Der Wirbelwind) deserve better than cool white LED bulbs up and down the seams. Looks cheap. Looks like a vape shop. Or a health clinic. C'mon folks. Warm white LED's or bust.

This is a VERY recent change—this year I believe. Back when BGW converted the carousel and waveswinger to LEDs, they made a huge deal about finding and investing in LEDs that would mimic the look and feel of the classic incandescent lights—something that was always a core contributor to the nighttime feel of the park's German hamlets. I believe it was just earlier this year when the park switched over to the much cheaper looking (and probably much cheaper costing) super bright white LEDs you saw in use now. It's a tiny gripe, but BGW is suffering a death by a thousand cuts. You wouldn't believe all the small wounds and scars you'd notice if you had more of a history with the park.

Well, I say that, but, honestly, maybe you would. I think a lot of us very much feel that we're going through precisely what you experienced with Six Flags Over Texas. BGW probably had further to fall than just about any other regional theme park that has ever existed, but we're well down that road at this point—plummeting past the likes of Dollywood—a park I very much thought was inferior to BGW even just 10 years ago.


Anyway, all those dark stormclouds aside, even though our beloved BGW is functioning as just a shell of its former self, I am glad that it still provided a worthwhile experience—even if it didnt live up to the reputation it was once worthy of. Hopefully one day things will get a little brighter and you'll have a chance to see a bit more of the magical spark many of us so fondly remember!
 
Europa Park, without a doubt, is the world’s best theme park. It’s highly themed. There are roller coasters, flat rides, dark rides, transportation rides. There’s absolutely something for everyone to do there all day long.

Dollywood however, is not the most beautiful theme park. They have chopped down so many trees, parts of it are barren. The trees around the roller coasters have been chopped down and left laying on the ground. Wildwood Grove is absolutely barren and it was once tree covered. Remember, when thunderhead was the wildest ride in the woods? There are no woods left around it now. I don’t feel the Dollywood goes overboard on landscaping either.

Overall, as much as it’s declined, BTW, is still a more beautiful park than Dollywood.

If Kings Dominion ever got any love to fix its flaws, it would be in contention, especially if it had its original lake and the mountain. Kings dominion’s international street is definitely the most beautiful park entrance in the world.
 
A great summary for sure! Hard to imagine I haven't been to BG since December 2019. I will need a sedative in order to deal with the memory of Trapper's and other venues no longer being good to taste, the Vape shop lighting, the peeling details, and lack of care from the GP who mostly go to parks to post on TikTok and leave at the end of the day unaware of what they've just experienced. Hopefully they will realize that what they are paying for is unacceptable in many respects.

The GP & BGW/SEAS management appear to be one in the same these days...unconcerned and/or unaware. ☹️
 
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A great summary for sure! Hard to imagine I haven't been to BG since December 2019. I will need a sedative in order to deal with the memory of Trapper's and other venues no longer being good to taste, the Vape shop lighting, the peeling details, and lack of care from the GP who mostly go to parks to post on TikTok and leave at the end of the day unaware of what they've just experienced. Hopefully they will realize that what they are paying for is unacceptable in many respects.

The GP & BGW/SEAS management appear to be one in the same these days...unconcerned and/or unaware. ☹️
We haven't been to BGW since HoS 2019, and my fears are the same as yours. Reading the posts here has discouraged us from making the 6+ hour drive only to be disappointed by a park both my husband and I have been visiting since the 70's.

We are going to see a show in Hampton in early December and have decided to bite the bullet and see for ourselves just how different the park is. I've already reserved spots for Burgermeister's and am now debating whether to attend BGW for two days or visit Colonial Williamsburg attractions on one of those days. Normally, when we were regular visitors, we'd make at least three trips to VA per season and spend three consecutive days at the park, from rope drop til close. A visit to Hershey last weekend has reminded me just how much I love coasters (I've had some health issues and was afraid my old bones couldn't handle the G-forces, thankfully I was wrong!) Hoping that the weather cooperates and that we can experience Pantheon.

We've never attended ChristmasTown, so at least it should be pretty at night.
 
I've already reserved spots for Burgermeister's
That about one of the few things they’ve managed to get right in recent years. I
That is absolutely worth it. There should be a Christmas Town themed selection of drinks, too.

Anyways, back to the topic, this park really is falling, and it’s falling HARD. My family was one that would go to dinner just for trappers smokehouse. And if it was open, Josephine’s. Made for a GREAT combo. It sucks that neither are all that amazing anymore. There’s still a few things they do right in regard to the landscaping, but not much. Mostly in the wild reserve/wolf valley area.
 
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