The Busch Gardens Connection of a Brewery with a Theme Park is Still Alive in Williamsburg, Virginia

Busch Gardens were known for years as essentially theme parks built adjacent to several Anheuser-Busch breweries. Although the first “Busch Gardens” were the public gardens at Adolphus Busch’s house in Pasadena in the early 1900’s, the original “theme park at a brewery” concept was Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. This park opened on March 31, 1959 on the site of the company’s Tampa brewery, although it would be several years/expansions later before it would resemble a modern theme park.

The Busch Gardens were a marketing effort by Anheuser-Busch that started off as more of hospitality zones that eventually added rides and entertainment which became what is now known as Seaworld Parks & Entertainment in 1959. However, over time, it seemed that in some cases the brewery location would be shuttered (Tampa in 1995) or the theme park would be closed (Busch Gardens Houston in 1973). There were rumors for years of a Busch Gardens park at the Cartersville brewery location, however, in 2009 Inbev (the new owners of Anheuser-Busch) sold off the company’s amusement park holdings and the possibility of another Busch Gardens adjacent to an operational brewery appears to have ended. However, one pair in Williamsburg, Virginia remains!

So the last remnant of this connection is in Williamsburg, VA. The Williamsburg Anheuser-Busch brewery opened in 1972 and the adjecent Busch Gardens opened on May 16, 1975. It was formerly known as Busch Gardens Europe and Busch Gardens: The Old Country. The park is split into several European country themed lands including France, the UK, Italy and Germany along with Sesame Street and the Land of Dragons. In some ways Busch Gardens was EPCOT before EPCOT (at least the World Showcase part).

As a visitor today you might be hard pressed to know there’s a big brewery next door unless you know the history, catch a glimpse from the top of a roller coaster hill or see a sign directing brewery truck traffic on the way to the park. Rather than its brewery connection it’s more known as “The World’s Most Beautiful Park” and the home of the great new rides like Pantheon, the first B&M hyper in Apollo’s Chariot and ACE landmark, the Loch Ness Monster Coaster. We’ll probably never see a company open theme parks again just to promote another product, but there’s some great history at these parks and I’m personally thankful to Anheuser-Busch for creating some of the awesome theme parks I enjoy today.

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