Top tourism stories

Editor's note: There was no lacking for big stories in the Williamsburg area this past year. Politics, tourism and electrical power were among some of the mostly hotly debated topics among readers.

The Gazette's staff has put together a series of stories outlining the top stories of 2015. We will then take a look at the stories we expect to see in the upcoming year in the Saturday, Jan. 2 edition.

Perhaps the biggest tourism story in greater Williamsburg in 2015 was the resurgence of visitors after more than three years of slumping summers.

"I think we did more than avoid summer swoon," said Karen Riordan, president of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance. "We had a strong season that started in the spring and picked up momentum through the summer and into fall."

The Historic Triangle's tourism machine was hitting on all cylinders in 2015. Sport Williamsburg generated 40,000 room nights. The first Williamsburg Harvest Celebration was a hit, selling 1,600 tickets for 30 events over 4 days. The 50th Christmas Parade drew a record 12,000 spectators with 4,000 participants in the parade, according to the alliance.

Record crowds were turning out for Christmas Town, bigger than ever with eight million lights and Colonial Williamsburg say that Liberty's Ice Pavilion is drawing larger crowds of ice skaters than they had anticipated, Riordan said.

All of this follows a summer season that was stronger than the last few years.

"We had a lot of strong tourism wins," said Riordan, of 2015.

Colonial Williamsburg on the rebound

According to Colonial Williamsburg president Mitchell Reiss, the foundation had it's best summer since 2008.

"Attendance is up, ticket revenue is up, hotel revenue is up," he said during a mid-December interview. As one of the area's major employers, which generates a huge amount of economic activity in greater Williamsburg, good news for Colonial Williamsburg is generally good news for the area.

Daredevils satisfied

Busch Garden's latest roller coaster, Tempesto launched on time and to nearly universal good reviews in April. Smooth, fast and furious, with little time for riders to catch their breath, the magnetically-launched Tempesto reaches speeds of nearly 65 mph. Busch Gardens Williamsburg president Carl Lum knew it was a hit right away.

"All I need to do is look at the faces of the riders and hear what they say when they get off," he said opening day.

This brew's on the 'burg

Alcohol-based tourism has arrived in the Williamsburg area. That includes the award-winning Alewerks Brewery, DoG Street Pub and Bottle Shop, all three of which continue to receive recognition and are growing in popularity.

Colonial Williamsburg has turned Chowning's Tavern into an alehouse in the evenings. Williamsburg Winery won the Governor's Cup for 2015 for the best wine in the state. The Silver Hand Meadery opened in November. This summer more than 1,000 visitors turned out for a one-day craft beer festival sponsored by DoG Street Pub.

And more adult beverages are on the way.

The Copper Fox Distillery, Williamsburg Distillery and Virginia Brewing Company are all scheduled to open next year.

The general's dog

General George Washington got a companion and Colonial Williamsburg got it's first ever mascot in September with Liberty debuted. Liberty is portrayed by two Briard puppies.

A cute little fur ball when Liberty was introduced, the pup is growing fast. Briards are large dogs, sometimes weighing over 100 pounds. They are also good with children, which was the main consideration. Like several other new initiatives launched this year, Liberty is an effort to make Colonial Williamsburg more "kid friendly."

Copyright © 2019, The Virginia Gazette