When Busch Gardens Tampa debuted Christmas Town last year, guests were impressed by the decorations and entertainment that filled the huge theme park. Now in its second year, Christmas Town adds even more festive fun while improving upon what was already an excellent event.
More than one million lights trim the trees and deck the halls of Busch Gardens Tampa during the separately ticketed, after-hours event that runs for five hours on select nights now through Dec. 23. Throughout the park, there is more to see than can possibly fit into that short timespan leaving no one with a lack of something to do.
Among the most highly anticipated additions for 2013 is Holiday Hills, turning the park’s Timbuktu area into a nostalgic town. Though the desert theme of the area doesn’t completely dissolve during the event, there are enough retro style decorations to evoke the feeling of decades gone by. Classic Coca-Cola advertisements are the most prominent, particularly giant billboards and an even more giant inflatable Santa Claus over the Desert Grill. Energy-friendly LED bulbs are fitted in plastic housing to resemble classic C9 incandescent lights from Christmas past and there’s even one giant tree lined with hundreds of shimmering bubble lights. Faux General Store windows offer a further sense of being in a small town. The area never fully transports guests into another era, but it comes close.
Those looking for the newest spectacle will want to head to the Jungala area for a new tree light show in Christmas Time Terrace. A 40-foot-tall Christmas tree features dancing lights every fifteen minutes, with each individual light impressively programmed to create dazzling effects. It would be even better if the trees and surrounding area featured effects as well, but this one giant tree is certainly impressive.
Video: Christmas Time Tree Show with dancing lights
A new beautiful garden walkway called Mistletoe Memories features topiaries, flowers and white twinkle lights filling the trees overhead while snow flurries appear, all perfectly setting the scene for a bit of romance. It’s easy to spot more than a few guests seizing the opportunity to smooch with a loved one – or, just for laughs, a friend or two.
A Very Furry Christmas introduces fun and unusual vibrant trees that indeed look like furry Sesame Street characters, befitting of the area.
Elmo, Cookie Monster, Zoe and other Sesame Street friends star in a new stage show called Elmo’s Christmas Wish. It’s a fairly simple song-and-dance show that will appeal to the youngest guests but may leave adults a little bored. Though it is fun to meet-and-greet with classic characters like Ernie and Bert in holiday attire.
Likewise, Madagascar Live! Operation: Christmas Vacation features more characters singing and dancing in the park, the best part of which are the eye-catching and unique holographic green ornaments filling the trees overhead on the plaza pathway leading to this show.
The most notable improvements over last year’s debut of Christmas Town are at Santa’s house and SnowWorld.
Santa’s house returns with a new pager system that enables guests to essentially cut out all wait time to meet the big jolly man. Last year guests found themselves standing in an awfully slow moving queue with wait times easily exceeding an hour. But a simple restaurant-style pager is offered for free this year enabling guests to wander the park at their leisure and return when the time is right. From there, guests are led into Santa’s living room, followed by delicious chocolate chip cookies prepared by Mrs. Claus, and ultimately a large number of elves surprise guests around the corner to lead them to meet Santa himself for a photo.
SnowWorld was hugely popular last year, bringing a bit of cold to the hot and humid Florida weather. This year it’s even bigger with eight new side-by-side slides, a snow play area allowing guests to get a sense of what it’s like to frolic in the icy weather, and a third separate area offering a chance to make and throw snow balls. It’s as close to snowy weather as anyone can get in the Sunshine State. And the Snow Play area also features the same useful pager system. Unfortunately the slides do not, leaving extremely long lines for that experience.
The rest of the park not only features other excellent shows and many colorful pathways illuminated by thousands upon thousands of Christmas lights, but also Busch Gardens’ best rides are open for enjoyment – even the Skyride! It’s more than enough holiday fun to easily fill a night in the park.
Ticketing information and more details can be found at ChristmasTown.com.
More photo from Christmas Town 2013 at Busch Gardens Tampa:
(Photos by Ricky Brigante and Michael Gavin)