While Orlando is the theme park capital of the world, we actually have a great theme park in Tampa! Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is located about an hour and a half from Orlando and an hour and a half from Sarasota. We decided to get annual passes for Busch Gardens so we could check out some of the special events that they do, like Christmas Town!
Christmas Town is an event that started in 2012. The park is decorated with millions of lights and there are special areas set up like Christmas Town Village, Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland, and Santa’s House. There are also special shows, and of course some great roller coasters!
As you know, we are big fans of Disney World, especially around Christmastime, so we weren’t sure how Busch Gardens would compare. We were actually really pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. The decorations were really beautiful and there were SO MANY LIGHTS! It was amazing to walk around and see all the lights. Since Busch Gardens is also an accredited zoo, we also saw some animals like a giraffe, hippo, porcupine and bald eagle. During the day there are more animals out and there is a safari ride you can go on.
We went to see Christmas Town on a Saturday evening, and the weather was really nice so it was very crowded. Because we have annual passes now for the upcoming year we didn’t feel the need to wait in line to go on any of the rides. The lines were very long. If you are going and like roller coasters, it might be worth purchasing their “Quick Queue” pass to skip the lines. There were also LONG waits to meet Santa and Rudolph. We really enjoyed just wandering around and looking at the decorations.
There are also special performances you can see. There is a Christmas On Ice show, Christmas From The Heart, which features live Christian gospel music, Three Kings Journey, and Carol of the Bells. The Carol of the Bells is a continuous “dancing lights” show on the outside of the Serengeti Overlook Restaurant. Definitely a must see! It gave us a small taste of the Osborne Lights from Disney’s Hollywood Studios (which we miss very much). There is also Elmo’s Christmas Wish show for the kiddos, and the Christmas Town Band plays jazzy Christmas music. Also, check out the sing-a-long train ride! We didn’t go on this, but we saw the train pass by and everyone was singing Christmas carols. So fun!
While Santa and Rudolph are the very important people here, there are plenty of other photo opportunities throughout the park if you don’t want to wait in line. There are snowmen, elves on stilts, princesses, and fun photo ops like a sleigh being pulled by a tiger. (Not a real tiger.) There are also lots of fun holiday treats like hot cocoa, cookies, and specialty sandwiches and snacks. There are also quite a few places to grab an adult beverage. Of course there is great Christmas themed merchandise as well.
Christmas Town is open until January 6th. One thing to pay attention to is Busch Gardens advertises Christmas Town as being open every night. While the lights are lit up every night, the Christmas Town Village and Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland are only open on nights with a 10PM closing. Definitely double check that you are going on a night the park is open until 10PM if you are interested in seeing those areas.
Have you been to Busch Gardens Christmas Town? Did you enjoy it? Let us know in the comments!
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