Spring Bloom Festival kicked off its third season at Kings Dominion on April 16, transforming International Street & Planet Snoopy into a showcase of colorful flowers and the area underneath the Eiffel Tower into a food fair for international delicacies. I (Joe) went out and experienced the 2016 Spring Bloom Festival, enjoying the sights and sampling the many foods and beverages, and I am excited to share a comprehensive review of the event!
Undoubtedly the main event of Spring Bloom Festival is the food. Kings Dominion’s Executive Chef Paul Maloney has transformed the area under the Eiffel Tower into an “International Food Faire,” where guests can sample gourmet dishes from booths representing Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and new this year, Ireland. All dishes combine fresh, local ingredients to create what Chef Paul describes as a “local spin” on authentic international foods.
The setup of the Food Faire is totally new this year. Guests pay for their food using tickets they purchase at a central “Information Window.” One food ticket, $5, can be exchanged for a dish at any of the four booths, and one drink ticket, $3, is exchangeable for beer or wine. The ticket system, along with all the booths being centrally located under the Eiffel Tower (as opposed to sprawled across International Street last year), made getting food much easier than last year.
To provide a comprehensive review, we loosened our belts and tried at least one dish at each of the four booths:
Apple Sticky Bun Bread Pudding
The only dish we tried at the German booth was this sweet dessert. Made of soft, sugary bread and a gooey cinnamon syrup, this dish tasted like the lovechild of Cinnabon rolls and apple strudel. The sweet goopiness and fresh chunks of apple made this my favorite dessert dish.
This Irish sausage topped with crispy onions and legend porter gravy on a bed of spinach mashed potatoes quickly became the favorite dish of all three members of our party. The meaty sausage paired beautifully with the rich mashed potatoes, which was complemented perfectly with the savory gravy. If there’s one dish you sample at the event, this is what I would recommend.
The orzo salad is a mix of fresh pesto, bocconcini, heirloom tomatoes, artichokes, and mozzarella balls, served with garlic crostini bread. The pesto added an herby kick to this fresh pasta dish. My sole complaint is that, compared to other dishes, the sample here was rather small.
Charcuterie and Cheese
This sampler provides a bite of all sorts of food: cheese, salami, grapes, apples, crostini bread, and to top it all off, orange marmalade. The fruits were fresh, the cheese was sharp, and everything paired wonderfully.
Swiss Mac and Cheese
This is a heap of very creamy macaroni and cheese, mixed with a generous hand of diced bacon. The gouda cheese used in this gooey dish gave it an almost smoky flavor. I found the dish too rich, and consider this one of my least favorite dishes at the event. But it’s by no means a bad dish, and if you like all things gooey and cheesy- go for it.
This dessert waffle, topped with candied strawberries, heavy whipped cream, and chocolate syrup is every bit as indulgent as it sounds. Germany’s apple sticky bun bread pudding was only a marginally superior sweet dish for me.
The dining aspect of Spring Bloom Festival has evolved very much since Chef Paul added food to the event in 2015. I think this year, the International Food Faire was a tremendous success, and the throngs of people enjoying Chef Paul’s food seemed to agree.
It’s not called “Spring Bloom” for nothing. The landscaping side of Kings Dominion is represented with floral displays that adorn the entirety of International Street and some of Planet Snoopy. A picture’s worth a thousand words, so here’s a couple thousand words for you:
Flower displays – pots, beds, buckets, baskets, fountains, you name it – are brimming with color at every corner of International Street. The lush entrance area has certainly become a beautiful place to relax this spring.
This year, the Spring Bloom Stage has moved from a temporary fixture near Cinnabon to the Grand Bandstand. Each weekend, a local band performs live music for several hours on the Bandstand, and can easily be heard by the Food Faire’s patrons. The band rotates from week to week, which is a shame, since the group that performed on April 23 and 24 was excellent.
In Planet Snoopy, dozens of farm animals take up residence in a large tent near the Flying Ace and Peanuts Showplace. Based on the crowds, the petting zoo was a popular attraction for families.
Kings Dominion certainly has a winner on their hands with the 2016 Spring Bloom Festival. With Chef Paul’s delicious foods, the numerous floral displays, and more, guests have plenty to enjoy at the Festival before it ends May 15. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and join the discussion on The ParkFans Forum for the latest updates on the Spring Bloom Festival and more!