We recently made the trip to the Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA with the kids, and honestly it was so much fun! We had never been before, so we were all pretty excited and anxious about the whole experience. I had done some reading about the park and what to expect for the kids beforehand, but it’s hard to know how everything flows till you get there.
We drove up from North Carolina, and it took about 2.5 hours. The parking situation was pretty organized. You pay $20 just like you do at Disney, and they direct you to one of their several parking lots. They do a great job directing people so that the lots fill up evenly, and there’s not a lot of traffic in one spot. They then have shuttles that take you from the parking lot to the park. Now, this was one of my most favorite things of the whole trip….. I DIDN’T have to break down the stroller! Do you hear me?? I DID NOT have to unload the entire stroller, and even take out the kids! That is always the most stressful part, and we got to avoid that entirely. *happy dance!!*
You also want to know another little secret??
People that had strollers have a separate line than everyone else, and there are sections of the shuttle dedicated just to stroller families. We got to the park around 1:00, and there was quite a wait in the normal line for the shuttle, but the line for strollers was completely empty, so we got right on. If I were you, and you have kids… I would for SURE bring a stroller, even just for that part. It was very helpful!
When we got in, we already had two tickets, but we still had to go purchase the kids tickets. They have ticket booths with people in them to accept payment, but they also have automated machines to the left. I found those had no wait time, where the actual ticket booths had a little line. You can also purchase tickets online and most of the time get a discount and avoid this step all together!
After you get your tickets, you head to the security line where they check your bags, which is all pretty standard. But again, they were quick, efficient and organized, and we didn’t have to unload the kids which I really appreciated!
When you get in, immediately you can feel all the fun Halloween vibes. The kids were so excited! As you go in, they have height check stations for kids where they have someone measure you and give you a card with an assigned color on it, and a list of rides that you are eligible to ride because of your color. It’s a super easy way to know quickly what rides your kids can go on, and which ones are a no go.
They have an app you can download too, along with paper maps that help you get around the park. On the app, it also gives other information like wait times, tips, restaurants, show times, things to do for kids, and more! Both the paper map and app show kid friendly areas so you know where to stay if you have kiddos.
Did you know that they also have a super responsive first aid team? We got to experience this first hand!
As we were running from one exhibit to the next, our oldest fell down and scratched his knee. He was obviously super sad about it, and a staff member saw us pretty quickly and asked if she could call over first aid. I didn’t want to be waiting all day for a scraped knee, so I was hesitant to say yes but I did, and they were SO fast. She radioed it in, and someone was there in a matter of a couple minutes. Everyone was so sweet to my boy trying to help him feel comfortable. It was such a sweet thing to see. The EMT even gave us some extra knee band aids, which came in handy when our second son fell down too. We clearly have very coordinated kids.
We played for a bit, and then found ourselves with a massive appetite! We brought in some snacks, but needed actual food! We went to Marco Polo’s Marketplace, which is a fun Italian, Mediterranean and Asian place with tons of seating. They have each genre line for each type of food. Each style has kids meals too, which was nice to have so much for the kids to choose from. They also had fresh fruit and desserts! If you’re going to be there all day long, and like to eat, it might be worth getting their all day meal deal. We spent $60 for our family to get 2 adult meals, 3 kids meals, a dessert and drinks, which was plenty of food for our family of 5 and not terrible pricing for park food.
The quality of food was pretty surprising. In a VERY good way!! I got the orange chicken with noodles, my husband got the half chicken with potatoes, and the kids got mac n cheese. Both my husband and I commented on how good this food was! I didn’t expect that. With theme park food, you go in with pretty low expectations, but these far outweighed it we both thought!
Next on the list… more play time and rides!
Our favorite kids areas were Sesame Street and Land of the Dragons.
Sesame Street had so many cute and fun fall activities for kids including a hay maze and trick or treating, which gave some candy, and some fruit leathers and healthier options. It was a great mix I thought! They also had a craft corner for the kids to create some cute Halloween art! Besides that, they also had several rides for the kids to enjoy!
Land of the Dragons was super cool. They have a super cool Huck Finn sort of treehouse for the kids to climb and explore through the area. There are also several rides, and even a little cushy area for the littles (ie our 17 month old). She loved walking around on it and exploring the different textures and colors!
Both of these areas sadly closed at 5:00 so the staff could prepare for Howl-O-Scream.
So many of the reviews said that it wasn’t suitable for kids to stay past 5:00, and so initially we went thinking that we would have to leave at 5:00 after all the kids rides and areas closed. But when 5:00 hit, none of us was ready to leave. So we just kept walking around, checked out the gift shops and before we knew it we were starting to see fog, and hear creepy sounds (screams, creeky doors, spooky music, etc).
We kept looking to the kids to gauge how they were doing, but they were loving it! We were playing in the fog, and really getting into the suspenseful Halloween spirit. It was fun! We even got to see Jack and take pictures with him!! We didn’t go see Jack is Back (the show) without knowing how it would be with the kids, but it was fun taking pictures with him, and he was really sweet with the kids!
The staff does get into costume and make up to create spooky characters, but they’re not gorey, just spooky. They would go around and scare people as they were walking through the park, but I was actually super impressed because *most* of them were very cautious of the kids. There was one girl that scared my son, I think by accident, but I wanted to run her over with the stroller. I didn’t, but I wanted to. But other than that, everyone else was very curtious of the kids. I would have my kids say “hi” to help them feel like these “creatures” were friendly, and I think that helped the staff know that they needed to be gentle. And they all were. They were giving high fives, and fist bumps. It was very sweet.
Our last item of business was to ride the train back to Scotland where we parked. The line again was super fast to get through and very easy to navigate. Here you do need to break down the stroller, but it wasn’t too bad, especially since it was the end of the day and we were all wearing our jackets anyhow.
All in all it was a very positive experience and we loved taking our kids here! They had a blast and all fell asleep in the car on the way to the hotel, which never happens!! Thank you Busch Gardens for a very fun filled weekend! We will be back!