Busch Gardens (Williamsburg, VA)

Step into cultures where Halloween first sprang to ghoulish life
Busch Gardens (Williamsburg, VA)
Celebrate Halloween with the scarecrows at Busch Gardens' Howl-O-Scream. (courtesy, Busch Entertainment Corp.)

Busch Gardens Williamsburg, a pastiche of faux European villages with thousands of flowers and beautiful landscaping, frequently wins the "Most Beautiful Theme Park" title. Big kids get their thrills on such gut-wrenching roller coasters as Apollo's Chariot, which hurls riders down nine drops totaling nearly 1,000 feet at speeds up to 73 mph. Alpengeist, one of the world's tallest, most twisted steel coasters, flips the fearless six times and drops them a sheer 170 feet. On Curse of DarKastle, the brave endure a sleigh trip gone wrong, encountering scary visual projections as they hurtle through the dark, ice-bound corridors of a deserted Bavarian castle.

Little kids especially like the child-friendly Land of the Dragons play area and the kid-sized rides. Meanwhile, shows like "Pet Shenanigans" provide welcome respite for tired little feet. At Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve, view gray wolves and hand-feed the tiny lorikeets. Don't forget to visit the Clydesdales and board the Rhine River boat for a scenic ten-minute cruise.

The park's frightfully fun during Howl-O-Scream, when good witches, ghouls, and goblins add to the renamed, pumped up attractions. Busch Gardens rates its scare zones by showing one (for everyone) to five (only ages 17 and older admitted) pumpkins; however, this frightfest might not be the best choice for young children. For Halloween, werewolves jump out at you on the Werewolf Reserve, aka Jack Hanna's Wild Reserve, a three-pumpkin scare; pranks and a street party enliven Germany, rated two pumpkins; jack-o'-lanterns magnify the scares at Jack's Nightmare Express, at three pumpkins; and the dig beneath Escape from Pompeii morphs into a maze with carnivorous plants and creepy bugs, rated four pumpkins. Older teens brave the five-pumpkin terror at Wicked Woods, a haunted maze, and Sleepless Hollow Manor, a haunted house frequented by the headless horseman.

(1-800-4-adventure; www.buschgardens.com)

Away.com's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from Amazon.com.

Published: 5 Oct 2006 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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