Friday, April 20, 2012

The Dogs Go to Busch Gardens (Again) - An Updated Pet Care Center Review

UPDATE 4/19/13: The Pet Care Center at Busch Gardens Williamsburg (during the off-season) was improved with HVAC, providing heat and air conditioning to the entire facility, as needed. Because of these updates, the daily board fee per pet has increased to $20 ($18 for season pass members). 


This is an update to the review I wrote one year ago about the Pet Care Center (dog kennel) at the Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, VA.

In case you've already read the original review (which is posted in its entirety below), let me first say that our experience this season (last Friday, April 13, to be exact) was just as it has always been: Great!

Even though it was a crowded day at the park (Spring break for many), we had no glitches getting the dogs' kennel passes (still $7 each for pass members/$10 all others), which we purchased upon paying to park, and we drove straight to a row of empty parking spaces directly in front of the Pet Care Center (which also - per last year's review - happens to be right beside the park entrance - woo hoo!).

Now, since Jon Farleigh and Dewi are park veterans (and have Mapquest-like travel memories), as soon as we pulled into the park, they both wiggled and whined to get out of the car, practically dragging us straight to the Pet Care Center's gate. (If that wasn't a sign that they like it there, then I don't know what is.)

I need to get out, okaaayyy?

The ladies working in the kennel were cheerful, professional and obviously cared about the animals. As it turns out, there were a few older dogs (and one blind one) already there when we arrived, so I was asked at check-in whether Jon Farleigh and Dewi like to bark. (Um, yes.) So, understandably, they were placed in an area where their "talking" wouldn't upset the seniors too much.  

They wound up across the way from a happy young lab-mix and it was all good.

I have received a couple questions about the size of the kennel in which JF and Dewi are placed (together). Unfortunately, I can't give an exact measurement, but I will guess that it's at least six feet wide and five feet high. A large bloodhound in the same size kennel was able to stand with plenty of room to spare (on all sides).

I can also tell you that the smaller dogs are kept in smaller (but still roomy) kennels toward the front of the building. 

I took this photo from outside at dusk, but you can see there is plenty of room in that
corner kennel for the Dalmatian. The two adjacent kennels each housed two large labs.

So what did I do in the 3.5 hours that the dogs were hanging out in their breezy kennel under the shade trees?

Yes, it's called Prince Elmo's Spire. Yes, THAT Elmo. The only ride I rode.
Because I am a thrill-seeker! ;)
(However, I will remind you that I am FEARLESS when it comes to shoe-grabbing pavement goblins.)

Time to Go Home

The kennel attendant remembered us when we returned to pick up the boys. She said they'd been just fine and that she (and the other attendant) had been back to visit with them quite a bit. (Honestly, I think JF and Dewi's stubby legs made her a little gaga. ;)

So there you have it. Another glowing review for the 2012 season. (What a relief!)

How fast does this thing go? It's dinner time.

Feel free to ask questions!


Here is my original review, dated April 21, 2011:

Jon Farleigh & Dewi Do Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VA 

Well, at least the Pet Care Center at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, VA, a spectacular theme park only an hour from my home.

Voted "The World's Most Beautiful Theme Park"

My three kids are out of school this week for Spring Break (explaining my limited blog activity, and if you were here, the piles of rubble amongst the pet hair in all corners of my home). [sigh] So yesterday, wanting to enjoy the balmy mid-eighties outside and to have someone else clean up after them for a day, I loaded the dogs, my three kids (plus one friend) into my car and headed due east on I-64. It was well worth the trip.

Now in case you're wondering, Jon Farleigh and Dewi were not treated to pooch-sized thrill rides and funnel cakes; nope, they, instead, hung out in the Pet Care Center nestled amongst clusters of mature hardwood trees and conveniently located near the park's main entrance.

A view from the front

Since the Pet Care Center is located close to the main entrance, parking is choice (no tram commuting from parking lots afar). (A real bonus on days like yesterday with record park attendance.)

Kennel admission fees are paid at the main gate
 - with parking fees, if any.

Pet owners are not required to provide proof of vaccination; however, Jon Farleigh and Dewi are up-to-date (and just to be safe, I brought their most recent shot records with me). (I'd use strong caution boarding an animal with compromised or immature immunity.)

A side view (Jon Farleigh's and Dewi's kennel was midway
 down this side of the building, behind the hedge.)

The kennel building is not air-conditioned; however, because it's nestled in the trees on a breezy hilltop, the indoor temperature is always comfortable (even for a fluffy corgi on a hot summer's day).

"Hi, mom!"
Note: The floor is not dirty; it had recently been sprayed and cleaned.
Busch Gardens is an immaculate theme park, Pet Care Center included.

So here we are strolling back to the boys' accommodations after one of several potty/exercise breaks. (Kennel staff are not permitted to remove pets from their kennels for any reason other than emergency; therefore, owners must return periodically to walk their pets and/or provide a snack. Staff members do, however, frequently provide all dogs with clean, cool water to drink.)

Each time we have used the facility, the staff has been most pleasant and professional. Truthfully, Busch Gardens employs many local retirees during the park season, and the Pet Care Center must be a popular gig...but, think about it -- having someone's "grandpa" take care of your dog for the day just has to be a win-win situation.

I didn't get a good photo of the size of this kennel, but,
as you can see, it's large enough to comfortably hold
both dogs, with plenty of room to spare.
(My camera flash makes the space look darker than it really is.)

snacks, extra water, poop bags and leashes 

It's okay if you forget the poop bags; they're provided.

checking pee mail
bird watching
park entrance

So off we go to enjoy the park...

The Griffon

200 feet straight down at over 70 miles per hour

I threw up after this ride and we had to leave. (No, not really. I would never ride this -- darned inner ears -- but my kids do.)

Pint anyone?

I threw up after this attraction and we had to leave. (No, not really. I would never throw up in public after drinking irresponsibly in a fake Irish pub at a theme park.)

More...Pet Shenanigans

I did not throw up after attending this show and we did not leave...until much later. This is, in fact, an adorable show where former shelter animals of all sorts (dogs, cats, rats, parrots, ducks, pigs...and growing) perform amazing tricks for their doting trainers. (Seriously people, these animals and their trainers are amazing. Busch Gardens goes to great lengths to promote shelter adoption and wildlife preservation.)


At the end of the day, Jon Farleigh and Dewi were happy to be sprung from the kennel and slept like puppies all the way home. :)

Should you be traveling near Williamsburg, Virginia with your dog(s) and want to explore Busch Gardens, I would absolutely recommend the Pet Care Center. Please contact me (comment or e-mail) if you have any questions.


  1. I never knew Busch Gardens had a Pet Care Center. How interesting. Makes really good sense when you consider how many people travel with their pets. I love that they don't take the dogs out either (my little runaway would have been my biggest concern).

    Jon Farleigh has some of the best expressions! That happy face was priceless! And, there is no way you would get my on The Griffon. Yikes! Hope you are having a fun week with the kids. :)

  2. So, you didn't throw up this time either? ;) That is seriously a cool place for dogs to stay. And much easier on the stomach than those crazy rides! If I'm ever to be in the area, I'll be sure to contact you about this! Thanks for the comprehensive (and fun) review!

  3. Is the "potty" area fenced in? Do they allow you to bring toys to play with your dogs when you visit for potty breaks? I have two chocolate labs (3 years and 6 months) so I think they would enjoy the extra running if we were able to do so. But I am happy to know that even though the price has gone up, that the facility has an updated HVAC system.

    1. Catherine, toys (and beds, blankets, snacks) are just fine to bring. As for the off-leash running, though, not so much. The outside "break" area is double gated at the entrance, but the fence is open at the back of the property (which is adjacent to a very steep ravine/stream). That said, I would not let my dogs off leash for fear they might get a wild hair and run into the ravine. Plus, there might be other dogs and owners walking in the grass at the same time.

      Sounds like you have your hands full with chocolate cuteness! Thanks for reading!

  4. so we are not sure if we are taking our dogs on our trip or my father is going to take them with him to new york so do i have to make an appointment for my dogs or could i just show up with them

    1. Renee, just show up. They do not take appointments. Thanks for asking.

  5. Took to the family to Busch Gardens this summer and used the kennel service. The housing is a little cramp, but the cages are of good size so the dogs can move around. I thought the ventilation could be a little better, but then again, when you have so many dogs together, it's hard to keep the place smelling fresh. It was a warm day, but there seemed to be proper air conditioning to keep everyone comfortable. Plenty of fresh is made available, but you should remember to feed your dog while you're there. Overall, it felt safe keeping our two dogs in there while we were at the park. I do recommend anyone using the kennel to bring a toy and floor blanket/dog bed with them so the pet is comfortable and occupied. By necessity, the floor of the cages are concrete to facilitate easy cleaning.

    1. Thanks for the update, @Brian! We haven't taken the dogs in a couple years (kids grew up), but I walk past the kennels nonetheless. Still believe they're a safe, clean and comfortable option for well-adjusted dogs. My boys always preferred the concrete floor before AC was installed. But yes, a blanket/pad might be necessary for dogs who need a soft place to sleep. (My senior chihuahua would definitely need that.) Thanks again.


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