Even though some economists are saying we are seeing an upswing on the struggling economy, many parks are hedging their bets and doing all they can to draw in some big crowds. Perhaps it’s the fears that more people will stay away from the parks, or maybe it’s the fears of the crowds that a certain boy wizard is drawing, but parks seem to not be taking any chances. Over the weekend we had the chance to visit two VA parks, and neither one had the amount of visitors that we had seen just a year ago. Mind you we are not a gauge of the attendance levels, but with every single ride a walk on when the same time last year had extremely long wait times, it seems that for some reason people are staying out of these two particular parks. Busch Gardens Williamsburg hopes that Illimunights can change that.
In our first trip to the park since October of last year, we did have a few things to check out. The biggest of course being the transition of Corkscrew Hill to Europe in The Air. There is also the new show Celtic Fyre, but due to time constraints (and the fact we didn’t enter the park until almost 4 p.m.) we didn’t have a chance to see it. Europe in the Air, however, was a bit of a disappointment. The fun loving and appropriately themed Corkscrew Hill was a 3D adventure that mixed in perfectly with the Ireland area. It was due for an update or replacement, but what they replaced it with not only does not fit the overall theme of the area, but it’s just missing something. It’s not a bad ride altogether, it just seems to be lacking. At times the HD film is lost in the fuzzy jumble of things, and the “smells of Europe” that was described in previews of the ride were simply missing. The themeing of the queue line itself is also lacking, and in a lot of places they just slapped posters and new lights. Again, not a terrible ride, jut not a fitting theme to the area and there were several issues that I had with the film itself. It felt almost as if it could have benefited from 3D.
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Elsewhere in the park, the area by Big Bad Wolf remains largely unchanged from Christmastown. The coaster is completely gone, and the queue line still remains. A gut feeling says that the rumored drop tower that has a permit approved for 260 feet will go in the pad area to the left of the station. It’s sad to think that a standard off the shelf drop tower will go where one of the most loved coasters in the park once stood. Also if you notice the once magnificent waterfall is more magnificent than it was, rumor we’ve heard that during demolition of wolf, part of the waterfall was damaged and subsequently rebuilt larger.
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All over the park were subtle changes, from the green pathway in Ireland (was once gray) to all of the new stands littered along the pathways, including the new stroller stand in the front of the park, and the now walled up Beer Canoe in France. Some really cool things being done for Illuminights include Griffon being lit up a nice shade of blue, and different parts of the villages lit up. We were in the employee area speaking to Scott Gaspritch when we spotted a crane. While this could be for a new project, chances are it’s for the maintenance they’ve done to Apollo’s Chariot and now Alpengeist. Word has it that they replaced the lift hill motors for both. Speaking of rumors, Scott teased a few rumors to us saying that Howl O Scream will have no safe zone and that they are going scarier than ever. Also speaking of Christmastown they will have an edition to the festivities in Italy, but the only clue we got was “White and gold”. Okay. In other rumors we’ve heard in the park(not confirmed by anyone just things overheard), the biggest one was that Water Country USA is getting a new attraction for 2011. In fact money is being split between all three Sea World Entertainment water parks (Water Country USA, Aquatica and Adventure Island) for new attractions and renovations. While it’s agreed that two of the three parks need work, Aquatica just got Omaka Rocka this year, and it’s unlikely they will see anything new, though that could be wrong. The money is desperately needed at Adventure Island.
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The Highland Stables were a nice touch and worked more than they did at BGT and SWO. It fits perfectly into the theme of the area, and the coolest part is when the blackface sheep go on their daily walk. It was a treat to see two sheep defect from the flock and head back to the stables.
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After 5 Illuminights kicks off with all news shows in every village every hour on the hour .The fun starts in England with Big Ben fully decked out in LED lights. At the end of the night you are bid a found farewell by all the characters you meet in the park. We’re not going to break down every single area with a review, but we will run through them all real quick.
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In Italy over the Davinci Gardens you there is a small acrobatic show that features very flexible ladies in very unique outfits.
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Das Festhaus is home to the worlds largest living Cuckoo Clock. The entire Festhaus has been transformed and every hour a larger than life cuckoo clock comes to life in a very funny demonstration. I wonder if it will actually make the book of World Records?
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Okay you fanboys of the park. If you’ve been wondering what’s happened to the Le Mans Raceway cars one makes an appearance in the France Parade, the first ever in the park. It’s very short, but very to the point, and entertaining.
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Ireland takes a queue from “Jack’s Back” and uses the rooftops to tell the tale of a Leprechaun who is a little too tall and too broke and must use his magical whistle to get the love of the Fairy Princess back. It’s a live action show mixed with puppets and music and a little pop culture humor.
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Every single village has fireworks that shoots off from the buildings. You can never hope to see all of them in one night, and you’ll have to come back to see everything. We opted for the big show and watched from one of the least populated areas in the park, the floating dock down by the Rhine River Cruise. You get a perfect angle for the big show and you can even see where they shoot them from. The next best seat in the park is from the new cruise that is offered. You are taken out underneath the fireworks in one of the boats. The tour is an additional fee, but from what we’ve heard worth it.
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