Springtime in RVA means having to answer that age-old question: Busch Gardens or Kings Dominion?
We are fortunate to have two major theme parks within an hour of our great city, but which one do you plan on visiting? As someone who has lived in VA all my life, I grew up going to both. As a kid, either one was a treat!
As a parent, one has to weigh the pros and cons to see which one is the best option for one’s family. Let me break it down for you with a comparison of the major considerations.
Both parks offer season passes or one-day tickets, and both offer different levels of membership.
The basic season pass for each of them is the same price.
And honestly, if you’re planning on going more than one time, it is a much better deal to do a season pass. Busch Gardens offers access to Water Country as well, a huge water park which is right across the street. Different levels of membership offer more or less access, so you get two parks for the price of one. KD is just one park, but they do have a smaller water park inside.
Having had seasons passes to both parks, Busch Gardens/Water Country wins this one for us hands down.
Water Country has way more rides than Splash City at Kings Dominion, and because it is so much larger the crowds and wait times are never as bad, and this is true any day of the week.
WINNER: Busch Gardens gives you more bang for your buck.
Another important factor is drive time, which can always be an issue with littles.
Kings Dominion is much closer, on average 20-30 minutes depending on what part of town you are driving from.
Busch Gardens is a solid hour, so you have to add two hours of travel time to your day.
The benefit of Kings Dominion being close for us is that we don’t have to limit visits to Saturdays, which is usually the case for Busch Gardens. We can go for a couple of hours at the end of a workday during the week. Busch Gardens is a full day commitment.
*PRO TIP: If making the drive to Busch Gardens, pack pj’s and blankets in the car for the return trip. The kids can change before hitting the road and if they fall asleep you don’t have to worry about disturbing them when you get home and *maybe* you can make a successful transfer to their bed.
WINNER: Tie leaning towards Kings Dominion. It depends on your schedule and whether it works better for you to make frequent, quick trips or fewer, longer trips.
FOOD AND ENVIRONMENT
For me, Busch Gardens has tastier food options. I enjoy having different types available in each different “country” around the park.
Kings Dominion has more fast food options available, like Chick-Fil-A or Boardwalk Fries.
I know plenty of families who pack a cooler and have a lunch break at their car, which will obviously save money. Eating at the car is easier at Kings Dominion because you don’t have to take a tram back to the parking lot like you do at Busch Gardens.
As far as environment, Busch Gardens has always seemed to be cleaner. It is also scenic and has a lot of beautiful trees and flowers so is overall, more pleasant.
Kings Dominion has stepped up its game since it was purchased by Paramount several years ago, but it is still a LOT of unshaded asphalt. The views are not nearly as nice as Busch Gardens.
WINNER: Busch Gardens based on food, cleanliness, and shade.
RIDES AND ATTRACTIONS
This is a tough one. Both have plenty of rides for kids of all ages. Both have dedicated kid areas, Busch Gardens with Elmo and Sesame Street characters andKings Dominion with Snoopy and the Peanuts gang.
If there are thrill seekers in the family, both parks have awesome coasters. I would consider this a toss-up, based on personal preferences as to what kind of rides you are looking for.
You need to ask yourself why you are going: will the trip be all about the kids, with no real chance for the adults to ride, because, duh- kids! Or will the family dynamic allow for adults to ride big rides that the kids can’t?
WINNER: Tie, but Kings Dominion has slightly more thrill rides.
My personal preference is Busch Gardens. However, our family is doing Kings Dominion season passes for the second year in a row.
We have, in the past, had passes for both parks at the same time. Ouch.
We chose Kings Dominion because of our work schedules.
It is more feasible to take frequent, quick trips that don’t span an entire day. It makes us feel as though we are really getting our money’s worth because we get to go many times throughout the season.
We won’t need to eat meals, just snacks, so that also saves money. Going later in the day means that the crazy summer heat has relaxed a little bit, which is way more pleasant than being outside for 6-8 hours in the full power of VA summers.
We also choose the pass that includes parking so we don’t get hit with $15 parking fee every time we go.
Whichever you decide on, the kids will have fun.
Weigh the pros and cons as they apply to your family, grab a soft pretzel and ride to your heart’s content!