Busch Gardens Tampa held their first ever Christmas Town event this past weekend and all was merry and bright! This special event runs select nights (Friday, Saturday & Sunday) through December 23. The entire park is decked out with some amazing light displays that would make even the grumpiest Scrooge smile. The Holiday entertainment is also impressive. Here is what you can expect to find during your visit, both during the evening event and during the day.
The pop up displays are quite clever
Guests are given prism glasses, which really added an extra “oomph!” to the lights. This is how they looked through the glasses:
On the nights of Christmas Town, the park closes at 5:00pm and security does a sweep to make sure all daytime guests are out of the park. Then they re-open at 6:00pm for Christmas Town and the event runs until 11:00pm.
The Moroccan Palace Theatre area is home to Ice Wonder Way, a beautiful mix of blue and white lights. There’s also a living angel statue entertaining (and freaking out) guests. Just don’t blink (a little Doctor Who reference there)!
Inside the Moroccan Palace Theatre is a special ice show you can only see during Christmas Town, “Angels of Peace: A Christmas Journey on Ice”. For daytime guests, the “Holidays On Ice” show is performed.
Christmas Celebrations Show
The façade of the Crown Colony restaurant is the “stage” for a light show featuring “Carol of the Bells”. The show runs every 15 minutes. It was a nice little show. Next year hopefully they’ll add a couple more songs to offer some variety.
The Nairobi area of the park is transformed into Candy Cane Lane. Some of the decorations look good enough to eat!
Candy Cane Lane is also home to Penguin Point, where you can view some African penguins (this is where the otter habitat normally is… the otters are on “vacation” while the penguins are visiting). Also in this area is Santa’s House. Lines for this attraction were long all night.
One last attraction here is the Christmas Town Sing Along Train. This is the normal train ride, but during Christmas Town, guests are encouraged to sing a variety of Christmas and holiday songs as they ride around the park.
In the Gwazi Park area is the Christmas Town Village, where you’ll find a variety of stands selling all sorts of gifts and souvenirs such as wood carvings, Christmas Town merchandise… they even had an Egyptian glass blower!
Christmas Town Village also offers some food and drink options you won’t find anywhere else in the park. One stand sells fresh made Belgian waffles you can customize with a variety of toppings. Another stand was selling cranberry orange glazed turkey legs and ham and swiss sandwiches on warm pretzel bread. Both come with homemade potato chips. I tried the ham and swiss on pretzel bread and it was really good. Also available is the Candy Cane Sprite Delight beverage that consists of Sprite mixed with mint syrup and a candy cane garnish.
There also several snowman walk around characters in the area waiting to greet guests and pose for photos. They were a lot of fun to play with.
Gwazi Park is also home to Snow World, where guests can pay in REAL snow! There’s an area where you can throw snowballs at targets (bring gloves/mittens… that stuff is COLD!) and another area where you can ride an inflatable tube down a snow slide. Lines for these areas were long most of the night, so be sure to hit this area early if you want to have some Winter Wonderland fun.
Gwazi Plaza (not to be confused with Gwazi Park) is home to Jingle Bell Junction. There is a train ride for the youngsters, the Jingle Bell Express, which is similar to train rides you see at some of the bigger shopping malls these days.
Another light display in the park is Enchanted Flamingo Valley, which is decked out in pink lights and some cool lighted flamingo statues.
The Sesame Street area is open during Christmas Town and is home to Sesame Street Furry Christmas. Big Bird, Cookie Monster and all the gang are decked out in their holiday finest to greet guests and pose for photos. There is also a special Sesame Street Christmas show for the little ones.
At the Stanleyville Theatre is Jimmy Osmond’s Holiday Jukebox, featuring Jimmy and members of his family singing a variety of Christmas and holiday songs.
Also in Stanleyville is Club Elf, a show featuring some of Santa’s elves doing some pretty awesome dancing.
Some of the shows at Christmas Town are more Christian in theme, such as “The Three Kings: The Gifts of Christmas” and the ice show. At the Marrakesh Theater, local Florida choirs perform in a show called “Hallelujah” featuring a mix of traditional and contemporary holiday songs. And rounding out each night at 10:00pm, Grammy-award winning contemporary Christian band, Jars of Clay, perform a concert at the Gwazi Park stage.
Several rides are available for guests to enjoy during Christmas Town. For the thrill seekers, the Gwazi, Sheikra and Cheetah Hunt coasters are open. The rides in the Timbuktu area are also open, including the Scorpion and Sand Serpent coasters, the carousel and some rides for the younger set as well. If you’re lucky, you might run across a group of Christmas carolers singing to guests as they pass by.
Christmas Town is worth checking out. Please note that it is a separate nighttime ticket event (daytime admission is not valid for Christmas Town). For more information and to purchase tickets, you can visit the Christmas Town website:
BUSCH GARDENS UPDATE
For daytime guests, there are lots of decorations and special holiday shows to check out. At the main entrance, you might see some of Santa’s elves greeting guests and posing for photos. They’re a lot of fun and very energetic.
Desert Grill hosts the show “Christmas Celebrations”. This is a cute show that is a good mix of traditional and contemporary holiday tunes. You’ll hear everything from “White Christmas”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Frosty the Snowman” to “Santa Baby”, “The Peppermint Twist” and a rockin’ rendition of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” to “O Holy Night” and “Go Tell It On the Mountain”.
Over at Sesame Street Safari of Fun, you’ll always find your favorite Sesame Street characters out and about greeting guests of all ages. Who can pass up a photo with such furry cuteness?
The day I visited, the park was pretty quiet and ride wait times reflect that. How often to you see a zero minute wait for just about everything? This is truly one of the best times to hit any of the theme parks in central Florida (before the Christmas crowds start showing up). Weekends will usually be busier as that’s when the locals come out, but if you can go on a weekday, take advantage!
And that should do it for Busch Gardens Tampa this week. We enthusiastically recommend the Christmas Town event and feel that it offers a lot of entertainment at a good value. But, even if you choose not to opt for the evening event, the park is festive and lots of fun during the day as well. Get to Busch Gardens Tampa for a wonderful Holiday outing.