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Daniel Etcheberry
Writer

Busch Gardens Williamsburg offers beautiful, and challenging, terrain for visitors

Published: March 3, 2013 at 8:22 PM

Virginia's Busch Gardens Williamsburg is considered to be the most beautiful theme park in the United States, and having been to most of America’s theme parks (certainly to the most popular ones), I agree.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

But BGW can also be the most challenging one for wheelchair users. If you happen to be in a manual wheelchair, the first thrill ride you will experience will be when entering the park; between the parking lot and the main entrance to the park, you will find a very sharp slope.

Walking into the park
It's down the hill and into the park

This slope is also long, so I don’t recommend going in a straight line. My strategy is to go down in zigzag. It makes it much easier, and you won’t end up in a runaway wheelchair. On your way out, well, the zigzag strategy will not help, and the only option is to take a break every time you need it.

Once inside the theme park, you will encounter some small hills that are nevertheless very tiring to wheel over them. The hilliest part throughout the park is between Ireland and France; if you want to avoid that section, you can plan visiting the park clockwise (Italy first), then take the train (which is wheelchair accessible) at the New France station, and get out at the Scotland station. Then go back to Ireland. Another option is to do Ireland first and then follow the plan just mentioned. It will all depend on the Celtic Fyre show’s schedule at Ireland that is a must see. Plan accordingly.

BGW is worth all that effort. It may not be as convenient as the Florida’s theme parks, but the beautiful location will reward you for your effort.

As a side note, when riding Europe in the Air, ask for a three-point harness that they provide so you stay sitting in a straight position without worrying about losing your balance. I have tried the ride with the harness and without it -- without it made me nervous, but using it let me enjoy the film because I knew I was going nowhere.

Have you visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg in a wheelchair, or with someone who was using one? Please share your observations and advice, in the comments.

Replies (3)

Mike Gallagher

Published: March 4, 2013 at 7:26 AM

This post brought to mind my second visit to BGE. My mom was not disabled, but she was a heavy woman and didn't get around well on the rare occasions we went to parks together. We rented her an electric vehicle. The rudimentary lesson in operating it didn't take. She hit that first down slope and couldn't slow down. People were literally jumping out of the way as my nephew and I ran after her. I still don't know to this day two things:

A..how she managed to stop it.

B..how she managed NOT to end up in the water.

Thanks for the memories, Daniel.

Anon Mouse

Published: March 4, 2013 at 10:44 AM

You should try the San Diego Zoo. The slopes are completely unnavigable. It is a chore for able bodied people to walk through.
Mark Kausch

Published: March 5, 2013 at 4:13 AM

I have tried the San Diego Zoo when my wife was in a wheelchair. Also the San Diego Wild Animal Zoo Safari Park when my dad was in a wheelchair. Neither was much of a picnic. Although the latter doesn't have any hills that even come close to the zoo's, they have some sneaky slopes that you may not notice till you let go and turn your back, and hear your loved one screaming from a bit farther away then they're supposed to be...

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