Virginia politics, policy and entertainment from the Greater Richmond-Washington Metro Area perspective.

Revive “Disney’s America” in Virginia!

In 1994, plans for “Disney’s America,” the proposed American history-based theme park that was set for Haymarket, Virginia in Prince William Co., were withdrawn — a little more than a year after they were first put forth publicly. Opposition based on the proximity of the park to the historic Manassas battlefields and concern over increased traffic on I-66 and in the surrounding area ultimately killed this project in PWC.

Just a few years ago, Disney was considering a plan to purchase the Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park in California not far from Disneyland and convert it into Disney’s America.  In the end, this did not work out because the Knott family refused to sell to Disney.  Obviously, the prospects for this project happening are not completely dead and reportedly many at Disney still believe this project’s “time will come.”  It would seem that the right circumstances would have to exist, though.

Fast forward to 2008.  Anheuser-Busch has been purchased by Belgian brewer InBev, which is looking to shed the company’s non-core assets, possibly including Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va.  Here you have a location that is already zoned for a theme park, has proven to be very successful in that capacity and the necessary infrastructure is largely already in place.  Furthermore, local businesses and residents support a theme park in this location.

An added bonus that this location has that neither Haymarket nor Southern California offered — the proximity of Colonial Williamsburg.  The synergy between these two sites would help both of them and would surely attract additional visitors to Colonial Williamsburg, something that they have been trying to do for quite some time via their various marketing campaigns.  Colonial Williamsburg offers Disney’s America historical cachet (which is what they were looking for in PWC with its proximity to Washington, DC) while Disney’s America, far from pulling visitors away from the current historical attraction, would bring in additional tourism that would be likely to visit it as well as nearby Jamestown and Yorktown.  (One need only look at what a bust the 400th anniversary celebration of Jamestown was compared to what had been hoped for to see that such a boost as Disney would provide is necessary.)

I’ll leave the logistics of transforming Busch Gardens Europe into Disney’s America in the hands of Disney’s “Imagineers,” but just look at some of the concept drawings that they came up with for the original plans and see how existing attractions at Busch Gardens could be adapted.

Overview of “Disney’s America”

Aerial Map of “Disney’s America”

Very similar to the current entrance to Ireland at Busch Gardens which used to be Hastings, England until 2002, so this wouldn’t be its first transformation.

Change out the style of boats and the items on display along the waterway and the Roman Rapids are now the River Rapids

Curse of DarKastle could become the Coaster Through the Industrial Revolution

Victory Field – A Tribute To The War Years

According to Wikipedia and other sources, plans for Disney’s America called for eight distinctly themed areas:

Native American Village- An accurate Native American village reflecting the tribes that were known in this part of the country. And also enjoy interactive experiences, exhibits and arts and crafts, as well as an exciting white water river raft ride that would have gone all around the area, based on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Civil War- A Civil War Fort would have plunged guests into a more turbulent time of American history, and adjacent to it, a big battlefield, where Civil War re-enactments and water battles between the Monitor and the Merrimac would have once again be fought.

Ellis Island- Moving in the 20th century, a replica of Ellis Island building where many immigrants came through, guests would have live the “immigrant experience” through music, ethnic foods and a great live show presentation.

State Fair- Area that was going to show how even during the big Depression of the ’30s, Americans knew how to entertain themselves. With folk art exhibits and a live show on baseball, guests could have enjoy, too, classic wooden thrill rides in memory of Coney Island.

Family Farm- A Recreation of an authentic farm where guests could have the opportunity to see different types of farm industries related to food production in addition to some hands-on experiences like milking cows and learning what homemade ice cream tastes like.

President’s Square- A celebration of the birth of democracy and those who fought to preserve it. The Hall of Presidents of Walt Disney World would have moved to Disney’s America.

Enterprise- Enterprise, a factory town, would have highlighted American ingenuity and guests could have ridden a major roller coaster attraction called the “Industrial Revolution”, traveling through a 19th century landscape with heavy industry and blast furnaces. And, on either side of the coaster, exhibits of famous American technology that have defined the American industry in the past, and new developments that will define industries in the future.

Victory Field- On Victory Field guests would have experienced what America’s soldiers faced in the defense of freedom during the world wars. It would have looked like an airport area with a series of hangars containing attractions based on America’s military fight using virtual reality technology. The airport would have served also as an exhibit area of planes from different periods, as well as a place for major flying exhibitions.

Think about it. The Hall of Presidents moved from Walt Disney World to Virginia, the Mother of Presidents.  Very fitting indeed.

For more on the original plans and concepts, check out this site.

So, I say the time is upon us.  The circumstances are aligning.

Revive “Disney’s America” and bring it to Virginia!

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18 Responses to “Revive “Disney’s America” in Virginia!”

  1. jenw

    I would love to see Disney here. Busch Gardens is so clean and attractive, even if you aren’t into the rides. I know that Disney would maintain the same standards.

    And the tourism it would bring! Oy vey! Colonial Williamsburg and the rest of the “historic triangle” of Virginia would be better off rourism wise and even on the southside of Hampton Roads, especially Norfolk and VA Beach would see an increase in tourism.

    The theme of Disney’s America would fit in so well with the history here. This is where it all began.

  2. Riley

    I couldn’t agree more. As far as I am concerned, Disney is the only company that could potentially maintain the high standard that Busch Gardens has set.

  3. Jeff

    Are you kidding me? This is a terrible idea. Busch Gardens is fine just the way it is. Why in the world would you wan to go to a theme park where you can literally walk (ok . . . a long hike) to the actual places depicted by the “themes”?!? How much business do you think Busch Gardens Williamsburg would get if you picked it up and plunked it down in the middle of Switzerland?

  4. Riley

    Jeff, I do greatly enjoy Busch Gardens as is. But if, as many people expect, Inbev sells B-G, only Disney can keep it up to par and the most likely way to lure Disney to VA is for them to realize their long-standing plans for Disney’s America.

    Besides, Disney’s America would complement Colonial Williamsburg, not supplant it in anyway. If anything, it would draw additional tourism to the Colonial Williamsburg – Yorktown – Jamestown area.

  5. Jacob

    That would be freakin’ awesome!!!!!!!! BUT they need to keep the roller coasters, but just rename them.

  6. Greg

    Rumor has it that this project is back on. I work for plumbers local 5 in DC and I hear this park is back on the front burner.

    • Riley

      That is probably just the Disney Hotel at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, MD outside of DC that you’re hearing about.

  7. David

    I think it’s a terrible idea. Busch Gardens has won the most beautiful theme park award for the last 18 years…leave the masterpiece as it is. Now if you could convince Disney to buy land in James city or York county near Busch…I’d love to see Disney AND Busch Gardens. Talk about a tourist destination!! Orlando doesn’t pave over its older parks…it adds more…that’s what should happen here.

    • Riley

      David, that’s the new plan we’re pushing. Plenty of open land in those areas along I-64. Busch Gardens was bought last year by a large company that also owns Universal Orlando, so Disney is out of the picture. I’ve been talking to people close to Gov. McDonnell and LG Bolling and trying to get them to buy into the idea of reviving this.

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