Welcome to Theme Park Insider! Join the community or log in
Theme Park Insider
Facebook Twitter YouTube Email Newsletter

BGW Howl-O-Scream Opening Weekend Trip Report

Busch Gardens Williamsburg: My trip to Busch Gardens Europe this past weekend with the family to experience Howl-O-Scream opening.

From Jeff M
Posted September 29, 2009 at 7:45 AM
Headed up to Williamsburg, VA this past weekend to do a bit of work, but mostly to treat my kids to a BGW visit since they just tracked out of school on this past Friday.

Weather reports on Friday showed a "stalled" cold front bringing rain to the Williamsburg area for the weekend with a possibility of clearing come Sunday. Had the wife pack the rain gear for the kids and we headed up to the Park.

The 3 hour or so ride was a pleasure this time unlike the others to me. I guess the reason why was lack of usual traffic through the NC and VA highways and the inclement weather? Either way, radar hooked up and speed exceeding in the light drizzle caused us to arrive at hotel Friday afternoon under 3 hours drive time. This is a saving of 30-40 minutes. Needless to say, as my Son said, "Daddy...your speeding!!!, but you are speed, like Lightning McQueen Dad!" Funny how a 4 year old can relate things to you like you wouldn't of thought of yourself? Of course, a big smile was brought to my face and a good laugh for the rest of the family was had. PUBLIC SAFETY NOTE TO ALL READERS: Speeding with kids or others in the car is a BAD thing and should be avoided in all cases. Putting the "pedal to the metal" is just wrong. Lets be safe out there!!! (A shameless DMV plug here!) :) ...and now back to Jeff's trip report.

I had dinner with the family at The Whaling Company, (a must try if in Williamsburg), and then helped the wife put the kids to sleep while I headed to the park. Upon arrival, I met up with some people and we toured the park. The park was a bit different from what I remember from last years Howl-O-Scream. Not any Halloween decorations before the entrance, except the large Grim Reaper near the ticket gates for the military. For those that recall, there used to be a display with a horse drawn Hurst, etc...near the bathrooms right after the initial ticket gates, but not this year. No confirmation, but I was told they wanted to limit decorations to the actual inside of the park? I can see this since you may not want to scare the young ones before you enter? I never thought that decor was scary to begin with, but I'll leave that to your own thoughts.

Let me simplify Friday night like this. I toured all the haunted houses and to me they were OK. I'm not a big fan of them, since I really don't get that scared, but I do enjoy watching others freak out! Maybe because of the people I was with, alway saying, "oh, wait check this out, etc..." I'm very certain you can get much better descriptions and opinions from many of other readers on this site, so I'll just leave the Haunted Houses/Scare Zones to them. Had a last adult beverage before heading out before arrival tomorrow with family.

Saturday arrived early with the young ones eager to get to the park. I did the regular things, like most men, (the 3 S 'es), for those not knowing, we'll just move on... Arrived at the park @ 9am. Parked and entered gate that you'd enter if you ever do the Breakfast w/Elmo and friends. Met people I had to, ate breakfast in the Charecter dining with Elmo which if you have kids and want to try, is not a bad offer. Here is how it works, you enter though a gate near the Abby Stone Theater, get seat assignments and then you enter and enjoy your choice of numerous buffet items ranging from french toast sticks, sausage links, scrambled eggs, hash brn tatos, cereals, fruit, etc...hope you get the point? Two buffet lines are there to accomidate you, so service was excellent. You also have roaming waiters to get you the non-essential breakfast beverages like pepsi products. After a short time to begin eating, the Sesame Street Characters come out and sing a song or two on stage for all. Once finished, you get a chance to have photos taken with Elmo and Big Bird on stage while Cookie Monster, Bert and Earnie, Abby Ka..Ka Dabby???, etc... roam the floor to entertain and do personnal photo opps with you if your table has not been called up to get the Elmo picture on stage. Of course, once you get your stage photo, you can purchase it in various combinations and prices. I'm sorry, but I did not pay for ours, so I did not check price. Like I said...if you want to spoil your kids a bit and yet enjoy a decent breakfast food selection and service, then maybe you might want to give this a try?

The time now is just after 10:30am now and we head out into the park. The crowds seem so light, so I'm guessing that the cooler temps of 60 or so and the occastional light drizzle have held off the crowds. We headed towards to Sesame Street Forest of Fun. On the way there, we begin to think that maybe this might not be the best for the kids?

We arrived at the Sesame area, and the crowds still light. Let the kids ride the rides and caught the Counts Halloween Spooktacular Show. Not bad, but just the Characters singing and counting as if you were watching Sesame Street. My only gripe again for this area of the park is that I think they crammed too much into the space available. There also is not enough seating for kids or especially parents in this area. By the time we were going to leave this area, the crowds picked up a bit and having all those parents, Grandparents, and strollers jamming this area up, made me a bit irritable. Plus the now light rain did not help. We soon decided to end the Saturday at BGW due to weather and the chance that the kids may get sick. You know they have this thing going on around the country call the H1N1 flu??? Oh boy we didn't want anyone to catch that now? Just headed back to the hotel.

I will comment that I could only guess that the eary weather may have added to the daily spook effect? I also heard Sunday that the attendance for that day was low. Later in the day the weather let up a bit from rain, but the chill was still in the air. Decided to take the kids to Go-Carts Plus. First time there for me and the family. Not a bad diversion, but not much to speak of. Crowds light, so no wait to drive some carts and the kids were able to ride with us on a couple of tracks. A few kiddie rides, and arcade with small eatery inside. I'd rate this place a 6 of 10. Mainly due to the chance to experience something diffent from BGW and keeping your kids busy for a few hours instead of hanging in a hotel room. For those of us who have kids, you may understand. Even with a indoor pool, not much for kids to do in a hotel at a young age. Like I said....nice to be able to take the kids elseware and relieve your ears from the Daddy????, Mommy???? rants and waves!!!

OK...now it's Sunday. Again the regular morning at the hotel. Weather still a bit dreary @ 9am so we wait a bit. Kids getting more restless by the minute. "Daddy, when are we going back to Busch Gardens??? "Daddy, looks like there is no rain!" "Daddy, can we please go back now??? 9:45am we decide to chance it again. We arrive and just enter the front gate. Sun starts to break out of the clouds. Could this be a sign that things are picking up? You bet!!! Especially when Jack, yes Jack is back, and is right there in the front of the park by the fountain for photo opps. The kids quickly jump toward him and get his attention. Flash, flash, flash, the cameras go off! Both our camera and the parks for their photo purchase program. Then off once again to the Sesame Forest of Fun Land. Sun shining brighter and brighter as time goes by... a hour or so in that area and then off to Germany for some lunch and a show.

Hopped on the train in Festa Italia after a quick ride on the Chariot. Not much to say about the Chariot you haven't heard already. Weather getting ever better, no line, and a quick two rides one after the other and well if you have rode it, you get the point. Smiling as we board the train and head for Caribou Station in New France.

Arrive and head towards the Festhaus in Octoberfest. On the way we cross the bridge towards Germany and there's that darn Snow Beast bringing terror to those ski lift riders! Well, I just had to step in and tame this beast! I gave him/her 4 chances in a row to show me who's boss! The first ride goes in favor to the Geist! After the second I knew it was begining to break! By the ended forth ride, I think I tamed the beast, but it surely challenged me back for another fight! All kidding aside, for me this B&M is rocks for the style of coaster it is. Sure, the end of the year is coming, and the coaster feels a bit rougher than it does in the begining of the year, but the sensations applied just still wow me today as they did once it was built!

OK, headed to Festhaus now and picked up lunch. FYI - 35 dollars for 3 drinks, a Das Alpine sandwich, a chicken/or turkey wrap, small pizza, and 2 deserts. Really not bad once you see the size of portions. I thought they would have decreased the size by years end, but still on par and as delicious as ever.

Show about to start, FrankenRock. The Festhaus is set up to look like a rock concert stage. You have the standard center round stage with two protruding stages heading out on the left and right sides of center as you enter the building. Stage equipment, lighting, stage monitors, as well as some extra hung main speakers abound. Electric drums, 2 electric guitars, electric bass, keyboards and then the vocal mikes all around and on the stage areas. I haven't seen the show, but before it began I was greated by one of the shows creators/assistants and I got to sit with the shows mix section. Show begins, and I was first thinking, wow they really made this better than past Festhaus shows while combining the other rock show from the past. I soon was a bit dissappointed by the sound set up, and the mic levels. The show was better than past shows and with a bit more tweaking, I think it could become a hit. There were at least two singers that stood out, and I'd say that the guy and girl have some talent! Sorry Frankenstein, your vocals were just too deep and out of key with the songs you sang! Wait, did I just bash Frank??? ooops....sorry Frank, I forgot you were put together with various body parts, so I'll forgive the crazy doctor for choosing the wrong vocal chords for you!

On we went to the Land of the Dragons. Gave the kids some time to have fun! (Mom and Dad lingo...let them wear themselfs out a bit so mommy and daddy can have their special time alone later :) )

Headed back towards the former Big Bad Wolf area of Germany to hit the other rides still open for use. FYI - for those who wonder, the signage for the Wolf is gone and the whole queue and exit areas are now tastefully gated up with some tall lattice and wood fencing. One last thing, this area is pumping with music the whole time, so from time to time I saw people dancing, singing, and just having a good time whether riding the rides or just walking the paths. Even my young ones felt the need to "bust a move" or two when they heard something they liked.

Backtracked once again towards Dragonland, but rode the carousel before hopping on the skyride towards Scotland. Arrived and decided to have the kids sit for one of those character portraits. You know, the big head, expanded feature drawings they do. We never got one yet of our kids and since we just recently had real portraits taken, we figured, why not add this to the mix. Besides, I was told that the artist working at this time was pretty good. I do NOT want to say anymore to upstage him from the others, but hey if I'm told from someone who knows their good, I'm willing to take that chance! Decided to make the wife walk away and meet her at the Clydes stable area so the portrait could be a surprise gift for later. Here's something I'll add here...another post asks about theme park employees you remember, etc??? Well I'll toss the artists name Bobby into that thread! He was calming for the kids, made them smile when needed, and just all around did what he needed to get the best facial expressions to create a nice portrait! Thanks to him, and I know my wife will love it when she sees it!

On towards the stables with the kids now and wife not to be found? What, there she goes again hooking up with other men I thought!??? :) Damn, she just can't let her past modeling career go! Yes honey, your still beautiful...but even more so when I see you helping the stable mates shoveling horse manure! ha ha,,, no actually she was with personnel being shown a horse named Ladd back to his stall. Yes family photo opp taken also. I never get tired of the pure grandure and beauty of these horses. I was also told that they do not intend for them to go away, and they are in the process of building a larger facility for them for future continued commitment to the preservation of the breed.

Proceeded to the Sesame Street 4-D film for a viewing. Nothing new to add, except that I believe that they have maintained the effects better than they have in the past. All effects seem to be in better working order than experienced in the past. We usually sit in the same seats or near them, so I can only speek of myself feeling more seat vibrations, and water effects. Kids enjoyed as always.

Now on to Ireland, and a pint or two? What I'm in Ireland and there is NO Guiness? How un-sacred can you get? Honestly, for me if they could just get a bit served, the whole experience would improve, but that's a whole 'nother ocean and a whole 'nother world. Caught the Jack is Back show. Nothing new from last year as I can tell, but still an enjoyable experience especially for the younger ones! FYI-parents that have had a few pints of adult beverage join in the fun with your kids, this really pumps the show up! Nobody is that "cool". I also want to tell any of you ladies out there that if Jack asks you to get in the circle and shake it, don't be afraid! Jack is just trying to have some fun, so don't be scared!!!

Lastly the day was getting a bit late for my young one's, yet we still kept on. We were going to hit the show Monster Stomp Revamped, but by the time we headed for the line right after the Jack is Back show, it stretched all the way into the Eagles Ridge area just before the Pet Shenanigan show. Having 2 semi-tired kids, a wait in that line did not seem appropiate, so we caught the last of the Pet show. I did not see any changes in it from the past, but at least all the "actors" were on key, and the show went without faults.

Kids then wanted to hit the Lorikeet's cage. We saw a few animals in that area, and were able to handle a few parrots, a hedgehog, and a snake before we entered the Lorikeet Glen. My wife did not enter, but took photos from the outside. The kids got a kick out of it since I had one of the animal handlers put food upon my shouldlers and I placed the rest upon my arms and hands. You want to live out a scene from a Alfred Hitchcock movie, namely "The Birds", give this a try. Horror at it's best! Lorikeets and some others swarming down on you without hesitation. Others with food cups wondering, "why are they not coming to me?", my kids laughing out of control. Others shying away wondering, "is this guy going to be OK?" Finally one other father yelling out, holy S*@t! It's just like that horror movie with birds. Those things landed on me, ate, and then proceed to nibble on my ears, fingers, etc... I have to admit, I knew what I was instore for, so I expected nothing less, but I did get a kick out of seeing my kids laugh and others with pure shock on their faces! I don't have any other kind of pet's in our home except for a couple of African Grey parrots, and one Hyacynth Macaw, so these smaller size parrots didn't scare me as much. OK, enough of my contibution to the BGW fright fest.

On to France and one ride on the Griffon. Still smooth, still new enough to be interesting. What more can I say???

Backtrack to shyride and off to Gremany. Hit a couple more rides in Dragonland for the kids, but for some reason, I was hearing something taunting me once again? Oh, I soon realized...that Geist wanted just one more chance at terrorizing me? I left wife with kids to do the job at hand I was called to. I told them...I love you guys in case I don't make it back! they understood, and just went on playing in their own way.

I got back and just before I entered the queue, I here it growling at me as the train starts the decent from the lift hill. OK, it's on now...I get to the boarding gate in near no time at all. I'm strapped in, (and yes...the straps are shortened to connect to restraints this year). I begin to accend up the ski lift and then there it is, the Geist swipping at the train just as dusk settles on this German town. It gave me it's all, but in the end ran running back into the snowbound hills of it's home knowing that maybe not until next year it'll have another chance of haunting me.

Met family, no great response that I was still alive. Told only that, "Honey, the kids and....Daddy were hungry!". We walked towards Italy and had some dinner at Teatro Di San Marco. Enjoyed another meal for the whole family for about another 35 or so dollars while we watched old black and white horror movies from the past. Bella Lagosie, etc... the kind that are silent with just music soundtrack backing the action. Kids never scared one bit, but actually more interested than I would have expected.

After dinner, did a few rides in DaVinci's Garden. By now darkness, lots of fog and scary lighting abounds. Kids getting a bit scared, because of being tired and because they aren't used to seeing the park this way. Especially since they visit this park 2-3 times in the year before Howl-O-Scream time. We headed for the exit since it was @ 8:30pm to end our day.

In all, the weather shaped up beautifully and we could have not asked for a better day weather wise. The crowds were light, but picked up later and having the haunted houses, and extra attractions to see gave room for the crowds to expand. Like I stated earlier, I sure you may get better info from other TPI reader/members on the things you might want to know about. I just thought I'd post something I don't see much in the way of posts telling of their experiences with younger kids. I hope this post may have gave some info, humor and/or a sense of well reading.

In closing...pending on what your looking for, I feel BGW is still fulfilling the experience. Whether rides, attractions, customer service, food, etc... you can't beat it for a good time especially if you aren't Olando bound.

Happy Travels......


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Ben Sutton
Posted September 29, 2009 at 9:34 AM
wow, are you trying to write a novel? From what I did read, sounds like your family had a great time.

From Jeff M
Posted September 29, 2009 at 11:06 AM
Ben, I was thinking before I posted that I should keep it short. Then I said to myself...why not shoot for the lengthy post simular to the novel War and Peace! I guess I accomplished that by your comments, so thanks!

From steve lee
Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:30 PM
I apologize if this was covered in your write-up (I skimmed it, but didn't see it), but is there an extra charge for HOS at BGW? I went to their website and when I clicked "get tickets" it just gave me the standard issue passes/annual passes. There was no mention there of HOS tickets.

From Jeff M
Posted October 6, 2009 at 2:39 PM
Steve, there is no additional charge. Your regular admission price gets you all the Howl-O-Scream events, attractions, scare zones, etc....

I believe that BGW is trying to promote season pass sales and thats where you may see things like, pay only this amount and get next year free, etc....

No extra charge though. Hope this helps?

From steve lee
Posted October 6, 2009 at 3:26 PM
That's really surprising, what with BGT's HOS being a hard ticket event.

We might just be plotting a trip.

From Tyler S.
Posted October 7, 2009 at 11:52 AM
BGT is a much scarier and intense Halloween event. BGE Howl-o-Scream is not very scary to me, but it's still my favorite time of year. It's just more like a bonus than just the regular Busch Gardens.

From Jason Jackson
Posted October 7, 2009 at 12:48 PM
Yep, BGT is a more scarier intense event, but it also is a separate ticketed event so one would expect it to be. BGW's event is included, but still ranks up there. They have done an outstanding event.

From Jeff M
Posted October 7, 2009 at 9:03 PM
I agree with the other posts, but keep in mind that BGT hours of operation differ from BGW. This is why there is a price increase added to BGT. I have not been to BGT for halloween events, but can say that BGW events are pretty good! Especially when you do not have to pay extra to experience the spooky fun!

FYI... Since the buy out has taken place now with Blackstone, I hope to do a year end evaluation for BGW. I hope to visit the park @ the last 2 weekends of this year! I promise to report a better visit if possible with pics and details as allowed. Not a novel as previously sent, but just a straight forward evaluation, etc...

May I just add... they are still accomidating the Clydes horses, but under a separate business agreement. For those who know BGW well, may I just say that I have heard that the previous areas used for the Clydes are now being looked at for newer things. Especially if you are familier with the train ride and the areas viewed just after the train departs from the Festa Italia station on way to France. I really can't say more, but just look and think about it.....you may be able to come to some of your own conclusions?? Maybe not???

From Adam Nodjomian
Posted October 10, 2009 at 6:52 AM
I'm going to BGE today and will hopefully be able to stay for some HOS fun. Probably going to do either the Catacombs or Curse of Pompeii.

It's suppossed to have on and off showers. Anyone know if HOS closes for rain? Hopefully the rain will drive some potenial guests away.

Definetly going to head for Griffon and Apollo as well.

This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.

Planning a trip to Orlando?

Walt Disney World

Insider's Pick: Get all the best advice from ThemeParkInsider.com in one convenient book! Theme Park Insider Orlando 2014 offers you the insight, background, and how-to skills that will help you enjoy Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando like, well, a theme park insider. Save yourself time and money by learning how to visit the Orlando-area theme parks the insiders' way.

Get it! In paperback | For Kindle | For iBooks