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This weekend marks the grand opening of Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town, complete with fresh sparkles and treats



This weekend marks the grand opening of Busch Gardens' Christmas Town, complete with fresh sparkles and treats

Encompassing a daily spectacle of lights, music, and delectable treats, the festive showcase features a fireworks display, a sing-along train, and an impressive new 40-foot pixelated tree.

Busch Gardens, now celebrating its 11th year of illuminating the Tampa theme park with lights, festive treats, exquisitely adorned trees, and a holiday fireworks presentation for Christmas Town, is the first theme park to unveil its special holiday offerings.

Starting nightly on Saturday, Nov. 11, and continuing through Jan. 7, this park-wide transformation is seamlessly integrated into the regular admission, providing visitors with seasonal entertainment, unique animal encounters, and a festive touch even to its roller coasters, including the newly introduced Serengeti Flyer and Iron Gwazi, bedecked in Christmas lights.

All new this year is a light display in the Jungala area that extends all the way though Pantopia featuring a light-up walk-through dragon.Located in the Bird Gardens area of the park, “guests are sure to step into wonder through a marvelous light tunnel … composed of thousands of glimmering LED lights seamlessly synchronized to a symphony of holiday tunes,” a news release said.

Cheetah Plaza now features a striking new 40-foot pixelated tree, adding to the festive ambiance. Additionally, there are enticing new menu items, such as the Holiday Poutine, complete with gravy, cheese curds, and cranberry relish, and the Mistletoe Margarita.

Among the returning favorites are:

  1. – Character meet-and-greets, featuring Santa and his elves daily starting at 3 p.m., along with Storytime With Mrs. Claus. Rudolph, Clarice, and Bumble can be found at Patagonia from 5 p.m. onward for Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland.

– For young Sesame Street enthusiasts, their beloved characters don holiday attire at Sunny Day Theatre. This photo opportunity is available at various times earlier in the day, typically around lunchtime.

– The holiday-themed live show, “Elmo’s Christmas Wish,” makes a comeback, featuring Cookie Monster, Rosita, Grover, and Zoe assisting Elmo in the outdoor Sunny Day Theatre.

– While lacking the Disney princess allure, Busch Gardens’ holiday princesses possess their own captivating charm and boast a dedicated fan base that eagerly queues up for photos. The lineup includes the enchanting Ice Princess, Poinsettia Princess, and Sugar Plum Princess. Meanwhile, in the whimsical Land of Sweets, the Sugar Plum Ballerina on stilts and her cavalier soldier are ready for photo sessions starting at 5 p.m. and continue throughout the evening.

– For a joyful family experience, the Holly Jolly Express offers an open-air train ride around the park, inviting everyone to sing along to beloved Christmas tunes.

– At Dragon Fire Grill, the “Three Kings Journey” show takes the stage, recounting the journey to Bethlehem. This captivating performance will run on select nights from Nov. 11 to Jan. 7, so be sure to consult the park’s calendar for the schedule.

– One of the enduring favorites at Christmas Town is the beloved ice-skating spectacle, “Christmas on Ice,” hosted at the Moroccan Palace Theater. This perennial show is renowned as one of the longest-running holiday performances during Christmas Town.

Within the radiant park adorned with lights, be sure not to overlook the captivating light tunnel linking Congo to Stanleyville. Standing in the midst of this spectacle, where lights synchronize with the music, is a delightful experience. Numerous themed Christmas trees are scattered throughout the park, offering fantastic photo opportunities. From a tree crafted entirely from poinsettias to others adorned with decorations featuring tiger stripes and cheetah spots on their globes and ribbons, the park provides a festive backdrop for memorable moments.

The pinnacle of the evening is the spectacular “Holiday in the Sky, a Nighttime Spectacular,” presented by Bad Boy Mowers. This dazzling presentation features a vibrant showcase of festive fireworks intricately choreographed to a soundtrack of timeless holiday tunes. The fireworks extravaganza unfolds on the Festival Field during select event nights, typically over the weekends.

In the realm of dining and imbibing, the expanded menu features new culinary delights, alongside the Holiday Poutine. These offerings include chicken coq au vin accompanied by red bliss mashed potatoes, smoked turkey with stuffing, cranberry relish, gravy, and Texas toast, as well as seared scallops paired with ruby red couscous and goat cheese crumbles.

The themed cocktails introduce a touch of holiday spirit, featuring a hot cocoa infused with Kahlúa, peppermint schnapps, or Baileys Irish Cream. Additionally, specialty cocktails include the South for the Winter (Jack Daniel’s, Jack Daniel’s Honey, Monin cranberry, ginger, and lime), the innovative Jack Frost (coconut rum, blue curacao, mint, and a splash of lime), and a refreshing Ginger Snap Mule (spiced rum, amaretto, ginger, and a splash of lime).

For a cost-effective approach, consider the sampler lanyard, starting at $44 for a five-punch card. Pass members have the added benefit of acquiring a 12-punch lanyard for the price of a 10-punch lanyard.

If you plan to attend:

  • Christmas Town operates from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and extends to 10 p.m. on weekends.
  • Admission is included in the regular ticket price of $89.99, with free entry for children aged 3 and below.
  • A Fun Card, offering unlimited admission, is available for $134.99.
  • Parking rates are $30, with a preferred lot option at $35.

Location: 10165 N. McKinley Drive, Tampa. Contact: 813-884-4386.

For more details and ticket purchases, visit


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