school year cheat sheet

busch gardens with kids and yankee candle candle-making

Aug 2, 2011 // 9 comments // Categories: family life, travel // Tags: , , , .

Day two of our Williamsburg, Virgina whirlwind took us to Busch Gardens–a gorgeous, world-themed amusement park with perfect spots for families with young children.  My husband was waiting anxiously for this particular event in our weekend, while I could take it or leave it–which makes me the totally boring one, I know.  Seriously, though, I was impressed with how diverse the attractions were here; there was so much more than rides, which sold me quite quickly.

And on our way out of town the next day, we stopped by the Yankee Candle Shop–the Yankee Candle flagship store–and it is a must-see for everyone who visits the Historic Triangle. Here’s where I was the one crazy-excited, while my husband reluctantly shuffled his way through the front doors.

In the end, even my husband admitted that it was an excellent way of ending our weekend and that he was more than impressed with how much fun it was (shhhhh, he’d never admit it!).  It was a highlight for Maddy, Owen, and Cora as well.

Here’s the skinny on the second half of our weekend in Williamsburg, VA:

  • Busch Gardens with Kids: It was seriously fun, like most amusement parks are, but what I loved about this park was that immediately upon entering the gates, you can measure your children, slap a bracelet on their wrist color-coded to indicate which rides her or she may ride on.  As a mom who gets freaked out by rides at amusement parks, I liked this.

We loved the easy-to-throw-in-your-pocket lists of rides for each child.

  • Sesame Street Forest of Fun: THE most perfect place to begin this day evah. It was a happy, little safe spot full of familiar furry faces and tons of rides that Maddy, Owen, and Cora could all ride without a hitch.  There’s a splash park type section, which we avoided. But it looked fun. . .
  • Rides we made sure to hit: The Kinder Karousel, the Land of the Dragons Three-Level Treehouse, and the Lil Clydes were favorites of Maddy, Owen, and Cora.  They also loved the mini-roller coaster (thanks to Dad), and we relaxed on a few train rides around the park.  The Riverboat ride was a great one to use as a ‘rest’ as was the ski lift-type ride around the park.
  • Animal Encounters: We learned about owls! We learned about Loopy, the Looping (some kind of bird), Cora held–yes, HELD!–a snake! It was really, really cool.

Busch Gardens Slideshow:

  • Shows that MADE the day: The 1:30 show of Celtic Fyre, a 30-minute fast-moving, completely awesome Irish wedding party-celebration with tons of dancing was one we made sure to add to our ‘plan’.  And incredibly, we were asked to sit at the table adjacent to the stage! So literally dancers were tapping away inches from us–and the kids loved it. We were one of the first families in line, and we had no snackfoods–maybe that’s what the ushers were looking for?
  • Meals: We made lunch our ‘biggie’ meal, eating in Ireland and sitting down for a bit, which we needed. We had a mid-afternoon snack and ate ice-cream sundaes for dinner. We’re on vacation, right?
  • Must-have’s for an amusement park day: Backpack. Water. Snacks–fruit chews, boxes of raisins, Smarties, and DumDum’s–if I can avoid a hunger meltdown, I will. Sunscreen. Sunglasses. Cell phones–for both parents or both adults.  Camera. Extra maps so kids can help navigate. An open mind. Lots of patience.
  • Missed fun: We missed Miranda Cosgrove who was performing at the Royal Palace Theater when we were there. Boo. (But Maddy and I saw her last week at Wolf Trap, so it wasn’t that much of a downer.)  We missed the fireworks.  BOO. (But admittedly, the kids were all exhausted by 7:30, which is late for us anyway. So we’ll catch them next time!)
  • Yankee Candle Flagship Store: Ten o’clock is when the store opens, and ten o’clock is when we were at the doors. We were ready. We weren’t sure what we were ready for, but it was recommended that we stop by on our way out of town, and I’m so glad we did.
  • Wax Hands: Really. You can make wax hands here, and I’m not kidding. You only have to be high enough to stand at the counter and dip your own hand in the wax (which Maddy and Owen were but Cora was not), and you can make one.  Maddy made one; Owen wasn’t game. But it looked so cool, and Maddy loved it–and then she was able to choose the colors she wanted to make it. Awesome.
  • Candle Dipping: In the back of the store, you can choose any sort of candle–tapers, cut-outs, shapes, you name it–and you can dip them in any color wax you’d like. Cora and Owen went totally batty over this, making a huge deal about the shapes they chose and the colors they dipped the candles they made for Grandma and Grandpa and Nanny and Pap.  Though there was someone right there at our sides, helping us along with our candle-dipping, Maddy, Owen, and Cora really felt like they were candle-makers.

Yankee Candle Slideshow:

  • Candle Making: It’s not candle-making like you think–it’s choosing the scents you’d like to make your own, customized Yankee candle–and then actually grabbing a glass and filing it yourself. With three kids filling one for their awesome aunt who was at home watching Brady for us, each kiddo could choose and fill five or six times. So fun. Then we placed the candle in the warmer, waited, let it cool, and we had a custom-made candle for Aunt Katie!
  • Santa’s Workshop: It literally ‘snows’ every four minutes here. The sky is lit with stars, and the snow falls from the sky, and just when we thought it couldn’t get any cooler, we saw Santa. In a Hawaiian shirt. In his workshop, ready to chat with kids. He knew exactly how old Maddy, Owen, and Cora were (of course he did!), he had their names in his big Naughty & Nice Book, he knew what grades they were in and that they were all very kind and helpful towards each other and towards mom and dad.  Incredible!
  • Popcorn: The world’s best popcorn, Popcornopolis, is sold in the store, and it was a perfect mid-morning snack. Seriously, gluten-free, sweet, salty, chocolatey, cinnamony, total yum.

And that’s about it. It was a real treat for us to take this weekend away, and we enjoyed every hot second of it. We’re looking forward to returning next year!

fyi: Again, many thanks to my friends at The Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance, The City of Williamsburg, and DCI for making this trip possible for my family. We received tickets to Bush Gardens, hotel accommodations, snack vouchers, and some serious southern hospitality, and for that we are extremely grateful.  We thoroughly enjoyed our three-night stay at the Holiday Inn–Historic Gateway, and it was an excellent choice for a family with young children and a blogger mom (thanks to the pool and free wifi). 

We absolutely adored our weekend trip to the Historic Triangle in Virginia, and though I am not able to give away a weekend here, I felt it was worth sharing so others can make the trip; with some planning and research, you can find coupons online to make the weekend more cost-effective. All of the opinions here are solely my own, influenced only by my three little travelers and my numero uno travel partner, my husband.


Week #6 of our Smart Summer Challenge is underway, and it’s our last week of the challenge!

You can still link up your Week 5 Smart Summer Challenge ideas. You have ALL week–until late Thursday, August 4, 2011, to link up your ideas to win last week’s prize. SO worth it–so take a second and share your ideas for a chance to win $200 from Guidecraft!

We’re now only a few days away from our HUGE giveaways which I cannot wait to share.  Please check out the skinny on our Smart Summer Challenge, the 6-week fun summer learning campaign I’m running with Candace and MaryLea, where we’re challenging all parents to do what they can to throw in a little bit of fun learning every day (or as often as they can!). And seriously–summer reading counts!! So link up your ideas through the whole week and win prizes.  That’s how much we love our readers and value summertime learning!

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Comment (9) | Leave a comment

  1. omg! we went there last september and bridget STILL talks about how awesome the yankee candle store is! the fake snow is the BEST! and we loved the pet show at busch gardens! the day we went it was drizzling and there were no lines–the ride attendants let us go around as many times as we wanted. AWESOME!!!

    • Dana–
      AWESOME–we’re not the only ones who fell in love with a candle shop and the animal shows–I swear sometimes we’re living parallel lives!

  2. I love Busch Gardens, VA. I use to go there every Summer when I was a kid. I’m hoping to go to VA next Summer & bring my daughter for the 1st time to BG. My hubby has never been to VA.

    • Oh, it’s so worth it–I hope you guys can make it and look forward to hearing about it!!

  3. We only experienced Busch Gardens without children and it was amazing. So amazing that as soon as we got out we payed a little extra to get season passes. If we get back there, we will have my little one with us, so I am glad to hear the little ones also have fun. I wonder if I can still ride Apollo’s Chariot when my daughter will be old enough to ride it.

    • ha! I bet you’ll be able to ride it–it takes visitors of all ages! You’ll have to send a picture!

  4. i went there and now i am planning my daughters party there does anyone know how much the awesome wax hands cost and the candy jugs????
    -thanks, charlotte

    • Charlotte!
      Sorry friend–I don’t know. . . but the website is pretty awesome, and I”m sure the people there could help you!


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