Saturday, May 07, 2011

Busch Gardens, Van Nuys

Before there was a Busch Gardens in Virginia and Florida, there was only one park in glorious Van Nuys California. I always point out that I regularly drive past the site where the park was, now completely taken over by brewery facilities. And I cry uncontrollably. And then I go get a Tommy's chili-cheeseburger at the very dicey hamburger stand nearby.

Busch Gardens had a water flume ride, and some very slow boat rides, and a monorail that went through the factory (think "Willy Wonka" only with beer). You didn't go there for thrills; rather, you would go to enjoy the beautiful ponds, plants, tropical birds, and metal buckets of beer (no kidding).

See? Parrots. Can you feel the excitement yet?

I came for the ponds, but stayed for the fountains. And man-eating swans.

Delicious flamingos and crunchy mallards...

Brown pelicans and a lovely waterfall. I know, it really doesn't look that amazing, but it was a unique place for families in SoCal to spend a few hours. I miss it!


TokyoMagic! said...

I miss it too! We only went 2 or 3 times, but I remember it pretty well. It's been a very long time since I've driven past the Brewery, but I seem to remember some remnants of the monorail track still existing outside the buildings years after the park was bulldozed. Anything like that still around today, Major?

The Viewliner Limited said...

These are very nice pics. You are right Major. It was a very unique and enjoyable place. And I actually do miss it also. Brings back a lot of great memories. And the free beer was pretty good too!

Nancy said...

the photographer was apparently a bird lover as am i....very nice!

love the pavillion roofs there in the lagoon, which remind me of a space ship convention!

been to Busch Gardens in VA a few times in the last 6 years and i love it there, lots of trees, beautiful themeing and great restaurants.

thanks for these nice pictures :)

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Great pics, just needs smell-o-vision for that neato hops aroma...

Spent many summer days here, as I recall my dad was a frequent visitor because of the FREE BEER!

Its that Tommy's or Tommie's burgers - LOL - either way its grease on a bun - gotta love it!

TM: I don't think there's any trace's left. There are a few spots that look like the old tracks, but I think its just pipes to move the brew around.

Major Pepperidge said...

Tokyo, I agree with VDT; pretty sure there are no remnants of the monorail, unfortunately.

Viewliner, yes I forgot to mention that the beer was free! Wonder if that ever caused any problems with drunk dads??

Nancy, it's sort of like Disneyland; you saw lots of birds, and if you were going to take photos at all, it was going to be of birds!

VDT, I often smell the hops before I can see the actual factory. And it's an original Tommy's (with the red roof), not that ripoff "Tommie's"! I actually stopped going to the Rosco Tommy's a few years ago after a gang fight broke out there when I was eating with a friend.

Rich T. said...

My family and I visited once and had a very good time, though the layout was odd; you had to take a long footbridge across non-park land to get from one side to the other.

The log flume was unique. The "logs" were shaped like two beer barrels tied together, and the first drop landed you (through a pair of rubber flap doors) right in the middle of a large aviary, where you cruised peacefully among flamingos and penguins (okay, not penguins. Maybe not flamingos. I actually can't remember what species they had in there.) Final drop was not bad at all, and shot you directly back into the loading station with barely time to catch your breath.

I'm glad I got to visit it before its demise. It was very peaceful, relaxing and uncrowded...which was probably exactly what Busch didn't want to see.

TokyoMagic! said...

Rich T., I forgot about the flume attraction going through the aviary! I have a couple photos that I took of the flume ride and the scenic boat ride in 1976. I've been wanting to do a Busch Gardens post, but the pics are kind of dark....I should probably just post them anyway.

Oh, and that long footbridge. Didn't it go over the railroad tracks? I remember you could take the "Sky Trolley" over to that part of the park as well.

Major Pepperidge said...

Rich T., I didn't remember that you went through the aviary... thought you just went around a bend and back to the load area. I have a picture of myself in one of the keg boats:

That's me in the middle behind my sister!

TM, you should definitely post your photos. Can you lighten them in Photoshop, or would they just get grainy and weird?

TokyoMagic! said...

Oh my gosh...that's such a great photo, Major!

I scanned my pics and tried working with them some time ago. I think they got a little grainy as I worked with them. I also have a huge map that was handed out at the front gate, but it's too big to scan. I've taken pics of it, but those didn't turn out all that great either. I have a couple ViewMaster packs that I need to scan...but I'm never really happy with my scans of ViewMaster reels. All of that has kept me from doing a B.G. post because it would just be a bunch of poor quality images. Ah, heck...I'll post it all anyway!

Bryce said...

I moved to California in 1978, near the end of the park. There were no rides (and no admission tickets/price), just the park, the lakes, birds, a bird show and free beer. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Major Pepperidge said...

TM, I think I have at least two souvenir flyers from Busch Gardens; it's been so long since I've looked at them that I can't remember if they have maps or not. I should dig them out and if they do, maybe I'll try to scan them in pieces and stitch them together.

Bryce, yes, that sounds like pretty much a perfect day!

JG said...

We went here once, my parents did not approve of beer, but the rides etc. won out for the single visit.

I had a great time and took a lot of pictures. I very much enjoy all of your memories, which brought back a few to me.

Re: too much free beer. We did have a brief run-in with a poor woman who was anxious to convince us that she really didn't drink too much. It was a sad experience for me, in about fifth grade, to see an adult so out-of-control. But, it didn't prevent me from enjoying my beer responsibly when I was older.

Thank you Major! Looking forward to TM's pics. I have none of my own any longer.


Matt said...

Grew up a block away and went there all the time (towards the end in 1979 when I was 12, I'd ride my bike there and just ride the monorail over and over). If you go to and search Van Nuys, you can see satellite photos of the park in various years. I miss this park all the time.

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, good to hear from you!

Matt, thank you very much for the interesting link!

Dan said...

I am from Australia and never knew of these Gardens but I recently noticed the very distinctive polygonal structures by the lake in some episodes of late 70s SF shows. One is the Logan's run ep The Collectors and the other is The Fantastic Journey ep Beyond The Mountain.

I had only seen it in one story and assumed it was a set. Then I saw it in the second and only then guessed it was a location. Now I discover this fantastic setting existed but is long gone. Thanks nonetheless for educating me on its identity.