My picture threads consist of images I have taken that focus on the architecture, landscape architecture, planning, design, and theming of the facilities highlighted. They may also contain short descriptions and commentary, but will not focus on construction progress or special events or memorabilia or food selections or my traveling companions. Hopefully these threads are a good introduction for those who have not seen these places yet. All killer, no filler!
Busch Gardens Williamsburg photographed in October 2008:
Known as Busch Gardens Europe at the time of these photos, this theme park is divided into 9 named areas that are themed to European countries with varying degrees of success. It is a beautiful forested and hilly park centered on a river-like lake in a canyon, with the themed areas laid out in a loop path surrounding it. I will describe the park in a counter-clockwise direction.
This cluster of Tudor themed buildings serves as the park entrance with shops and restaurants around a central clock tower. It is also home to the Globe Theater, a large indoor theater that shows 3-D films. It also has one of the three Skyride stations, a ride that soars over the canyon in a triangular route that connects to two other themed areas. (This ride was not in operation when I was there and appears to be closed permanently on the current map.) Since my visit, a new children's ride and play area called Sesame Street Forest of Fun has opened adjacent to England and a 3-D movie featuring those characters is in the Globe Theater, so I imagine that this new area is considered to be a part of England.
The smallest and most minimally themed area features a Busch Clydesdale barn and exhibit, Scotland Train Station for the train that circles the park, and a famous early looping steel rollercoaster called Loch Ness Monster whose route on the hills and lake is one of the most scenic settings for a ride of this type.
This cluster of shops and dining and attractions is probably the most detailed 'village' of the park's areas. It features a large live stage show theater called Abbey Stone Theater, another themed theater called Castle O'Sullivan, and a motion-simulator theater that shows an Irish-themed 3-D animated film called Corkscrew Hill.
Outside the main cluster of buildings is the park's small animal area, including an outdoor animal show theater, eagle exhibit, and this large exhibit for gray wolves.
This themed village is unsuccessful in evoking French architecture, appearing to be a flimsy two-dimensional realization and is overly-dominated by a scenic vertical drop steel rollercoaster called Griffon. The area also has shops and restaurants, a Skyride station, and a large outdoor live stage show area called Royal Palace Theater.
The only area of the park to be themed to a non-European country, New France is a woodsy frontier themed section that focuses on the country's colonial-era exploration of North America. It has shopping, dining, Caribou Station for the train that circles the park, and a log flume ride called Le Scoot.
GERMANY and OKTOBERFEST:
These areas are essentially one and focus primarily on Bavaria. Several clusters of village-like buildings feature shopping and dining, with many attractions spread throughout. Minor attractions include a carousel, bumper cars, 3 spinning rides, and a Skyride station. More notable attractions are highlighted below.
A very scenic suspended rollercoaster in the woods and simulated snowy slopes, this ride has a nicely themed load station as well.
Shopping and Dining:
The centerpiece of Oktoberfest is this large dining hall with a center stage.
Land of the Dragons:
This large children's play and ride area has a charming bright fantasy theme and a beautiful setting set on a rise above the central lake.
Curse of Darkastle:
The park's most creative ride is housed in this foreboding castle. The dark ride inside features 'sleighs' with enhanced motion that travel through castle sets and 3-D projected images that tell the story of the castle's hauntings.
Big Bad Wolf:
This suspended steel rollercoaster has now closed permanently. It traveled a scenic course through the woods and down to the central lake.
Rhine River Cruise:
Tour boats travel on the scenic central lake and travel under high bridges for pedestrians and the train ride.
ITALY and FESTA ITALIA:
These areas are essentially one and focus on Italy, with a village-like cluster of shops and dining, a classically-themed area of spinning rides, and a festival-like area of more spinning rides and games. There are also several major attractions, including a mega-coaster called Apollo's Chariot, a rapids ride called Roman Rapids, and a large flume ride called Escape from Pompeii with nice theming and a central dark ride section in the show building simulating archaelogical ruins that erupt to life.