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.

Advertisements

Holiday Magic at SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration and Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town

img_8142Central Florida is definitely not short on places to spend the holidays! From the theme parks to the zoos, aquarium, and large resorts, there is something for everyone. Last weekend, I experienced Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and Christmas Celebration at SeaWorld Orlando. Both events feature Rudolph and his friends as well as Santa and his elves; however, the parks differ in the shows and other offerings. So, even though you can meet Rudolph and Santa at both parks, you will find that both are well worth a visit and will both contribute uniquely to your Christmastime celebrations! Since SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay are only one hour from each other, they both essentially pull on the majority of the same local population. Therefore, as similar as many of the experiences are, the offerings have to be different enough in order to convince locals to visit both. Having experienced them within the same weekend, I’ve been able to analyze the similarities and differences while both are fresh in my mind. If I had to sum up the experience at both Christmas Celebration and Christmas Town respectively, the one word that best encapsulates the overarching theme is nostalgia. From the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer characters to the music, shows, and lights throughout the parks, the individual elements are combined to showcase a more traditional Christmas blend of carols, [Florida] snow, light-covered buildings, nativities, and live shows…For the full article CLICK HERE!

Such a variety! I think that is what I like best about how Busch Gardens and SeaWorld created this year’s Christmas limited engagement events. Whereas Disney’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a pricey hard ticketed event, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and even Universal’s holiday celebrations are included with with either your annual pass or day-ticket. That in and of itself, makes the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens events that much more fun! Why? Because it is quite difficult to fit everything in one night. Although the Christmas Celebration and Christmas Town events ARE included with your annual pass or day admission, the majority of the magic does not begin until the latter part of the afternoon. Unlike during Howl-O-Scream when Busch is opened until 12-1am, it closes at 9-10 during Christmas Town. SeaWorld keeps similar operating hours at Christmas to that of the Spooktacular. With the relatively abbreviated Christmas hours (as compared to Halloween), you may find yourself planning a return trip to the parks respectively or contemplating an annual pass. Since I go to the parks regularly, I have efficient time management down to a science and even I cannot get it all in. Even as I write this, there are some offerings I was unable to experience at both parks this past weekend. So, I am definitely going back! If you are only planning one trip to one or both, get there early and do your best to plan out the order in which you and your friends/family are going to experience everything.

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is an annual event that has been going on since 2012. For the first two years it was a separately (hard) ticketed event but since 2014 has been included with day admission and annual passes. Since the event went from hard ticketed to complementary, there has been a mitigation in specialty offerings; however, the event is still full of holiday cheer and a great assortment of character meet and greets and limited engagement shows. There are so many wonderful photo opportunities throughout the park with beautiful and fun backdrops. The entire park is open with a few exceptions, meaning that you can ride all your favorite rides at night! For those who are familiar with the late Pinky [the dancing flamingo], there is a tribute to her near the front entrance with lots of pink Christmas lights. If you enjoy hearing traditional Christmas hymns, then be sure to stop by Christmas From the Heart in the old Madagascar stage. It’s a classy show with small band, and a moderately sized chorus. Perhaps you prefer traditional and contemporary pop hits! Then, stop by the Christmas Celebration show in the Pantopia Theatre. With a wide range of hits featuring some of your favorite singalong tunes and of course Santa himself, this show is incredibly fun and festive. The cast and crew at the Moroccan Theatre put a Christmas spin on the daily iceskating show that is certainly not to be missed. Don’t forget to stop by the Crown Colony restaurant across from Cheetah Hunt to watch thousands of dancing lights move to the beats of Trans-Siberian and Mannheim Steamroller. Think of it as Osborne Lights lite. An incredible assortment of shows that feature lots of different kinds of music and acts with the central theme of Christmas. I love the variety of shows because they do not feel like something that you can get everyday. Feels truly like a special seasonal event.

Headlining Christmas Town (and Christmas Celebration) this year is Rudolph and his friends from the Rankin-Bass holiday classic. Even before meeting the characters, the queue is filled with little vignettes from the movie–great for photo opportunities. You get to meet Yukon Cornelius, Bumble, Clarice, and Rudolph! There are also some wonderful plushies (I bought one) and ornaments to choose from in the gift shoppe. A staple at Christmas Town is Santa’a House sponsored by Coca-Cola. Appropriate because the whole idea of the red jolly Santa we all know and love comes from a Coca-Cola ad campaign. Even before meeting the big man himself, you get to spend time with elves and Mrs. Claus. One elf in particular–Curley–she was incredibly friendly and created a warm inviting atmosphere from the time she opened the door! It’s more than a meet and greet, there is an entire show element to the Santa experience. Lastly, no review of Christmas Town would be complete without mentioning the Singalong Train! Boarding at the North Pole station outside of Santa’s house, park guests can ride the train (normally used for the safari) and ride around signing Christmas carols and songs with one another. Takes the idea Christmas caroling to the next level! The singalong train is always my favorite activity at Christmas Town.

Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Busch Gardens is SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. At Christmas Celebration you’ll find Rudolph and his friends as well as Santa Claus but there is so much more that is truly different from Christmas Town. SeaWorld transforms their seasonay operating Ports of Call into a Christmas Village! From a miniature train sets to live acts, the Christmas Village is incredibly festive and fun! Be sure to get some hot cocoa. So many wonderful places to take selfies and group photos. I love all the lights! Speaking of lights, you will definitely be able to watch the Sea of Trees light up and dance to some of your favorite Christmas songs. You can either catch the show shoreside or take a stroll along the boardwalk across the lagoon. Over one million lights! Much like Busch Gardens, SeaWorld also has some stunning seasonal show offerings to delight everyone young and old. Although not part of daily operations, SeaWorld also has an iceskating show at Christmastime. Winder Wonderland on Ice is a terrific show featuring talented figure skaters moving to many different carols and songs. Preceding the show is SeaWorld’s answer to Straight No Chaser. The male quarter entertains the audience for about 20mins with excellent harmony and jokes. If you’re lucky, you’ll time it just right to watch the Sea of Trees while you are waiting on the ice show to begin. Although I miss The Polar Express overlay on the Arctic Adventure, there are still many other rides available when you want a break from shows and character meet and greets.

Both the Clyde & Seamore and Shamu shows receive holiday overlays during Christmas Celebration. Since I did not experience the Christmas Miracle show at Shamu Stadium, I am unable to comment on that, but the Clyde and Seamore show’s Countdown to Christmas was fantastic! Even on a regular park ops day, it is one of my favorite shows at SeaWorld. Clyde and Seamore are back and funnier than ever in this holly jolly holiday show. Countdown to Christmas is about Clyde and Seamore’s goal to meet several requirements so Santa can visit! The most popular Christmas show a SeaWorld is not Clyde & Seamore nor Shamu, but O Wonderous Night located in the Nautilus Theatre. Not your typical nativity story, O Wonderous Night centers around the animals located in the stable where Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus more than two thousands years ago. We get to here the nativity story from the perspective of the animals who each played a special part in that wonderous night. If you plan to watch that show, you need to know that it is important to queue up at least an hour before showtime. It consistently fills up prior to curtain. Although Busch Gardens also has a Christmas Village in Gwazi Field, the village at SeaWorld seems to have more to offer.

Well, there ya have it! Two phenomenal ways to spend the holidays with your friends and family. Or, be like me and experience it Han style–solo. Although you might think that it isn’t as much fun on your own, you can still have a blast celebrating Christmas at SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment this holiday season. Lots of opportunities to sing, dance, and even meet some favorite characters along the way. Especially for those who enjoy a more traditional Christmas, these parks are the place to be. I guarantee that it will feel Christmassy from the time that you enter the park. It is so important that the parks make seasonal events feel special and unlike what you can typically get as part of daily/regular operations, and Busch Gardens and SeaWorld know how to create that holiday magic to warm your heart.