Busch Gardens Williamsburg Goes to Year-Round Operation

January 5, 2021, 12:53 PM · Virginia's Busch Gardens Williamsburg has announced its 2021 schedule, which features a year-long round-up of themed festivals.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has been operating limited-capacity, hard-ticket events to remain open under the state of Virginia's pandemic rules. So to keep at least some income flowing, the park is ditching its off season and continuing with a series of special events. The Christmas Celebration continues through January 10, followed by Winter Weekends on January 15-24.

Mardi Gras takes over on weekends January 29 through February 28, with St. Patrick's Day Celebration running on select dates from March 5-28. After that, it's Sesame Street Kids' Weekends and the Food & Wine Festival on weekends in the spring, followed by Summer Nights, leading into Bier Fest in the late summer and fall.

Howl-O-Scream is on the schedule to return in fall on selected nights, accompanied by The Count's Spooktacular for the kids on weekends. And that will bring us back to Christmas Town after that.

And, oh, by the way, somewhere in there, the new Pantheon coaster will debut, as well.

Tickets and reservations are currently available on the Busch Gardens website for the Christmas Celebration and Winter Weekends, with tickets and reservations coming soon for Mardi Gras. The park's calendar posts daily operation for Spring Break from March 26 through April 11, with daily operation for the summer season beginning May 28.

But any specific theme park hours for 2021 are a bit of a guess at this point, as the pandemic continues and many states reevaluate their rules for business operations. However, the same rules that restrict theme park operations also create new opportunities. After all, seasonal parks closed for the "off season" because they could attract only a limited number of guests. But if Virginia parks now can open only for that limited number of guests, why close those parks for an off season?

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Replies (2)

January 5, 2021 at 1:31 PM

This makes sense based on the limited numbers that the park has been permitted to allow on property at a given time over the past 6 months. It also allows BGW the ability to rotate the areas of the park that are open so that routine maintenance can be performed over the course of the year instead of compressing that work into a 2-3 month timeframe. Additionally, by rotating the areas of the park that are open, they no longer need to winterize buildings and attractions knowing that they can toggle those areas/rides open after just a month or two during the next festival. Frankly, it makes a lot of logistical sense, and spreads out the work and labor costs more evenly throughout the year.

But let's be honest here, BGW is making this change for $$$. By only allowing @1,000 guests in at a time, they probably have a lot of frustrated pass members and season pass holders that keep getting shut out because they're too slow to make reservations before dates "sell out". Adding year-round operation allows them to continue to charge members monthly and keep those customers from cancelling their memberships by leveraging these new operating days. I always thought BGW would eventually move to a year-round operational calendar anyway when they started shifting season passes over to the new membership system a couple of years ago, because what is stopping a member from cancelling after Christmastown and renewing in mid-March? The prices were not fluctuating, aside from the initial sale they did for the first month memberships were available that was only @5% savings. I don't doubt that there's demand for guests to visit BGW during the winter months, but I think it's a bit inflated right now given the attendance caps the park is under. If there weren't attendance caps (and a forced reservation system), would BGW be able to spread crowds evenly from January-March? I don't know, but it will be interesting if they will require reservations next winter when (if??) the park is no longer forced cap their attendance.

January 5, 2021 at 2:55 PM

I am really glad so many parks are extending their seasons or going year round, these parks get unbearably hot in the summer and now there are more options for cooler times of the year.

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