Busch Gardens Tampa Presents Christmas Town 2017

Join Busch Gardens in the merriment of the holiday season by visiting Christmas Town going on now through New Years Eve on select nights! Now in its sixth season, Christmas Town is your theme park event for a good ol’ fashioned celebration, complete with multiple live shows, a singalong train, Santa Claus, Rudolph & Friends, and coasters in the dark! From the traditional to the contemporary, there is a way for everyone to celebrate the joyous holiday season at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. One of the elements that sets Busch Gardens apart from its Central Florida counterparts is the number of shows, live entertainment, and special character meet-and-greets during the event. Christmas Town is bursting with holly, jolly, holiday cheer around ever corner and under every present. Even if you find yourself attending as a solo guest (as I did), you will thoroughly enjoy your time and find plenty to do all over the park. Christmas Town is my pick for most “Christmassy” theme park event this holiday season.

With so much to do, you definitely want to download the Busch Gardens app for showtimes and attraction locations. If you don’t want to download the app, grab a map for sure. With all there is going on, you may be wondering if there is a way to get it all in? And with many of the offerings starting early in the afternoon, there is sufficient time to experience all the shows and meet the characters during Christmas Town. If your goal is to ride the coasters AND attend all the seasonal offerings, then you may want to plan on spending two nights at Busch Gardens. The park truly transforms itself in to a veritable winter wonderland (minus the snow). Nicely appointed decorations are adorning nearly every corner of the park. Familiar Christmas carols and holiday hits continually accompany your stroll down the lighted pathways.

My first stop on my merry way through Christmas Town was the show Christmas from the Heart. This show, featuring live vocals and band, is a heartwarming experience that includes many traditional Christmas hymns to provide audiences with an uplifting, inspirational show. From melodic ballads to upbeat gospel tunes, this show will likely have you clapping your hands and singing along. The show is largely unchanged from last year, but there are new costumes and lighting design. The theatre in the round design of the Stanleyville Theatre enables all guests to have an excellent view of the stage during the performance.

After rejoicing with classic Christmas carols, I had about an hour until the next show I wanted to attend, so that gave me sufficient time to book my trip to the North Pole to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus! I absolutely adore visiting the Santa House at Christmas Town because it is warm and cozy on the inside, and Coca-Cola (the sponsor) gives it the most magical decor that practically looks like it leaped right out of a classic Coca-Cola ad from when it essentially invented the Santa that we know today. While you may think that visiting Santa when you’re in the park by yourself would be–let’s face it–kind of weird, I can tell you that the attraction hosts, Mrs. Claus, and elves still provided me with a magical experience. I mean, how often as an adult do you get a private audience with Santa??? Instead of feeling like the odd one out, Santa’s house made me feel right at home and I got to talk with them a little more than a typical guest because I had good ol’ Saint Nick all to myself. It’s no surprise that Santa wished me a merry Christmas, but I can tell that this Santa was extremely genuine in his wishes to me.

Now, as much fun as us adults and theme park fans have with Christmas Town, I imagine that the kids who get to visit the shows, lighting displays, and characters have an even more phenomenal time because to them everything is truly filled with Christmas magic. And to give you the inside scoop on experiencing Santa, Rudolph, and Elmo’s Christmas Wish is a good friend of mine who is the mother of two young children, one of whom is visiting Christmas Town for her very first time. Here is Britt Campbell (Tampa, FL):

“Busch Gardens Christmas Town once again created an incredible holiday experience this year. As a mother of a three-and-a-half-year-old and an eleven-month-old, I got to experience this year’s attractions with a fresh sense of wonder. Early in the evening, Elmo’s Christmas Wish brought joy to my entire family as we sang and clapped along to the fifteen-minute show full of holiday cheer for all ages. At Santa’s House, a pager (like you’d receive at a restaurant) allowed us to wander around and enjoy Santa’s Village until we were called to a very short line. Santa’s House was magnificent, filled with glowing decor and happy elves. Mrs. Claus entertained us as we waited our turn. Then the most picturesque and perfect Santa Claus I’ve ever met patiently listened to my son’s wishes and took pictures with all of us, but not without sending us on our merry way with cookies in hand. The second annual Rudolph experience also includes pagers this year, making the wait much more pleasant. It allowed my kids to go on rides in Pantopia until we were asked to join the line. Sam the Snowman replaced Yukon this year and was joined by Bumble, Rudolph and Clarice. My family and I enjoyed meeting and taking pictures with each character, and we even got to see Rudolph and Clarice dancing together and bringing the Christmas spirit to life. Although we didn’t see everything there was to see on opening night, we will absolutely be back to experience the rest of the magic of Christmas Town [later on this season]!” Thanks for the contribution Britt, Merry Christmas!

After my visit with Santa, I made my way over to Pantopia to the Dragon Fire Grill to watch Christmas Celebration. This is an incredibly fun show filled with comical characters, heartwarming duets, and the jazzy Christmas songs that you can’t help but dance to. Santa makes several appearances and even makes special time with the kids in the audience. I especially enjoyed the Santa Baby number, and the singers costume was killer! Gracing the stage is a beautiful set design that creates the most festive atmosphere. I always have so much fun at this show! And I am sure you will too, so make time to watch Christmas Celebration!

Following Christmas Celebration, I had to dash across the North Pole and back to the front of the park for my absolute favorite show at Christmas Town. You do not want to miss Christmas On Ice playing at the Moroccan Palace Theatre (home to the former Turn It Up ice show). Nothing says Christmas like a beautifully choreographed mesmerizing figure skating show. Having met the cast during the run of Turn It Up, I can say for a fact that they absolutely love putting on a magical show for audiences at Busch Gardens and the full complement of cast and technical crew look forward to every single show, especially the limited time holiday spectacular! Although the song numbers are largely the same as last year, the set is greatly enhanced by the LED video wall that was installed for Turn It Up. It provides the perfect backdrop for every number that the cast performs during the show. Experience Christmas magic, memories, and more at Christmas On Ice “the COOLEST show on ice.”

An attraction that I love to experience at every Christmas Town is the Singalong Train! It’s so much fun to board the decked out holiday train with hundreds of other park guests and sing familiar Christmas carols while riding through the Serengeti Safari. I grew up Christmas caroling with my family, so this is the perfect opportunity to wax nostalgic and allow the holiday cheer to completely fill me as I spread holiday goodness around the park with the other guests. Not having been to every theme park holiday celebration in the U.S., I cannot say whether or not this is unique to Busch Gardens or not, but if it isn’t the only one, it certainly is one of few parks that offers a railway caroling experience! From Jingle Bells to Walking in a Winter Wonderland, you’ll get to sing many of your favorites.

In addition to the live shows, there are two choreographed lights shows that you will want to see. One is a giant Christmas tree in Jungala and the other is the Crown Colony House, home to the Serengeti Overlook restaurant. Both attractions dance throughout the evening so you can easily catch the brief shows. You’ll find clips from these and the other shows in our video!

If you are planing a trip to the theme parks of Central Florida, you definitely want to make time to spend a day at Busch Gardens for Christmas Town. Of all the parks in the area, it certainly has the most events and limited time engagements going on. Nearly every area of the park is busting with lights Whether you’re young or simply young at heart, there is something for everyone.

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“It Comes at Night” movie review

The Doore of Red Death. A24’s highly anticipated horror film It Comes at Night by writer-director Trey Edward Shults looks beautiful and beckons for attention, but fails to live up to the storytelling and payoff of A24’s The Green Room. Another A24 film in the vein of It Comes at Night is 2016’s The Witch, which was ultimately a failed attempt to capture the magic of a horror/mystery film and leave audiences with too many unanswered questions. The only “terrifying ambiguity” (to quote The Huffington Post), in this film, is just how terrifying it is to realize you just dropped money on a film that works better for Netflix, and the ambiguity comes from the plethora of underdeveloped plot elements. Essentially, It Comes at Night reminds me of a bad M. Night Shyamalan film (before he made his outstanding comeback with The Visit and Split) and after the successes of The Sixth Sense and Lady in the Water. Like the aforementioned era of ehh Shyamalan films, the wind up is excellent but the delivery lacks any emotional impact and you’re left with realizing that you never truly cared about any one of the characters. Character development is lacking, and the third act is incredibly weak. However, there is something in particular that I find very interesting; and after reading other reviews, it seems to be something that has escaped most (if not all) the critics at this point. That is the striking similarities between this film and the timeless classic short story The Masque of Red Death by the brilliant Edgar Allan Poe. From the painting on the walls of the house depicting the bubonic plague to the ominous red door, there are quite a few parallels between It Comes at Night and The Masque of Red Death.

Nestled deep in the woods is a secluded boarded up house belonging to a family of three seeking refuge from an unknown threat. Whatever has caused this family to live off the grid and fend for their very survival is tasteless and odorless. Forced to wear gas masks whenever venturing out into the woods and even around their own home, the family is forced to take drastic measures to ensure there ability to avoid coming into direct contact with the disease. With only now way in or out of the house guarded by a red door, the family has stopped at nothing to protect themselves. One night, the family’s house is broken into and they must decide what to do with the man and his family. Having dispensed with courteousness and generosity in order to guard against any and all possible threats, the family must decide whether to listen to the man or kill him right then and there. Their decision will spark a fire that spreads into their deepest fears.

*spoiler alert* But, the analysis is fascinating.

Okay, now I know that the preceding paragraph describes what should be a brilliant horror film, but the problem lies in the greatly flawed poor storytelling, development, and realization. Lack of connection to any one of the characters is also partly responsible for the lackluster experience of watching this horror-thriller with a hint of mystery and dystopia. The only saving grace the film has is the connection to elements of Poe’s Masque of Red Death. For starters, the camera draws the audience’s (and diegetic POV) attention to a painting of a depiction of the bubonic plague (or black death). At first, I was puzzled as to why this painting. Then as I go through the movie, I realize why. Between the constant reference to and runtime spent on talking about and showing the red door, it hit me that this film reimagined Poe’s short story and set it in a dystopian or post-apocalyptic time and place. If you are unfamiliar with The Masque of Red Death, then I encourage you to read it or watch it on YouTube. It is allegory on the inevitability of death no matter how  hard you protect yourself, how much money you have, or how powerful you are. It also contains allusions to the seven deadly sins and the fate of those who party in the wake of mass death among a lower class of people. Although I find the short short to be a stronger narrative than Shults’ variation on this reimagination of the classic tale.

Both the short story and this film contain people hiding out in a fortress. Whereas The Masque of Red Death‘s Prince Prospero is held up ins abbey with his wealthy and noble friends while the red death is killing off the rest of the kingdom, A24’s It Comes at Night features a typical American family living off the land and secured in their rather tutor-looking mountain lodge. Like in Red Death, the family in It Comes receives an uninvited guest one night. Here’s where we see some difference. In Poe’s story, the guest is dressed to attend the masquerade ball and in this film, the guest attempts to break into the home. Although both stories take different approaches to the second act, once thing is in common. And that is the taking in of an outsider. All through the second act, there are hints at something not being right–a constant uneasiness. That apprehension and anxiety regarding the unknown works in the respective stories favors. The emotional impact and psychological payoff differs between the short story and film. Yes, the endings are very similar but feel incredibly different. You’ll just have to read The Masque of Red Death and watch It Comes at Night to know for yourself.

If you’re searching for a thriller to watch this weekend, as it is rain in many parts of the country, then perhaps you should watch Universal Pictures’ The Mummy instead. However, if you are curious about how well It Comes at Night parallels Poe’s short story, this definitely check it out. Not entirely sure why it’s rated R, but in case that’s important to you. To quote Dr. Ian Malcolm, “well, there it is.”