2013, Attractions, Reviews, Theme Parks, Virginia

2013 Busch Gardens Williamsburg Virginia Food and Wine Festival review Pt. 1

Full disclosure: We were invited guests of Busch Gardens Williamsburg for a Social Media event.

But let’s just get this right out of the way the Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival was so good that I’m coming back on June 22nd on my own. (NOTE: I’m also opening it up to all of you guys if you’d like to come. Why? Because Harknell doesn’t ride rides and I need some people to ride with!)

Basically the Food and Wine Festival, Howl O Scream, and Christmas Town are a few of the major highlights of our year. I’ve watched each year as the Busch family of parks get better and better. These parks have the little touches that many others do not have – beautiful plants, animals, background music, and employees who seem to really care about if you are having fun. This is very important to us because Harknell does not ride coasters. He comes with me to the parks because I love them, but Busch is one of the few parks that he can actually enjoy a lot as well.

For example, Ally who was working in the horse stable just approached us to talk about the horses and to see if we were having an awesome time. I was not marked in any way for her to know that I was a blogger or anyone other than a regular guest.

What is the Food and Wine Festival like?

The Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival runs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from May 31st to June 23rd, 2013. In this timeframe they have set up kiosks throughout the park that features sampling dishes that are from both the existing countries represented in the park and countries that do not normally have a representation in the park. You can see the menu here.

The kiosks are not just plain structures. They are detailed permanent structures within which they installed actual kitchen setups. For example, the Canada sign here was made of apples and onions:

They clearly went all out on this. A large number of the offerings are made from scratch in the Busch Gardens kitchen.

We got to hear a presentation from Chef Justin Watson (center) who explained to us that this was a huge undertaking in which they had to buy a lot of the equipment for the first time. He was very excited that from this point they can continue to iterate and bring even more of a fine dining experience as time goes on. Given that Harknell and I run our own event we totally understand the challenges faced when deploying something of this scale. Chef Durell (I hope I got his name right!) and Interactive Marketing Manager Bruce Wilson also spoke on the process.

We both felt that the Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival was very well done and a Can’t Miss event. They are listening to guest feedback right now to make sure they do their best job. One of our suggestions was to shrink the size of the alcoholic drinks offered. The drinks about about $8-$9, but they are like 20 oz. This made it difficult to try many of them. We felt that a 4-6oz offering would be a better choice to facilitate sampling around the world.

They are also working out some of the bugs with the wristband system and one of the kiosks we went to was unsure how to put sauce on the side to accommodate Harknell’s berry allergy. We informed the management on this and I am willing to bet that has been rectified quickly because this is the first-ever opening weekend. I can’t wait to see how the event evolves during this first year when I return on their last weekend.

We felt this was worth the 7.5 hour drive it took us to get here. It gets a total recommendation from us. Not only can riders have fun but non-riders can enjoy trying the foods and checking off which countries they visited and what foods they tried in the free guidebook that they have up front.

If you are up for it, the special events they offer seem to be really amazing. We got to try out the Wine on the Rhine cruise and loved it. This is not something we would have normally tried because Harknell is terrified of boats and water, but we did it and even Harknell had a blast. (The boat is big). It’s worth checking out their special up charge experiences here. I’ll explain more on this in my next posts.

Next posts in this series:

2013 Busch Gardens Williamsburg Virginia Food and Wine Festival review Pt. 2: What we did; what we ate

2013 Busch Gardens Williamsburg Virginia Food and Wine Festival Wine on the Rhine Cruise review Pt. 3