Holly Jolly Guide to Busch Garden's Christmas Town
Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is something I get to look forward to just about every year. I still remember how breathtaking it all was the first time I visited, and not much has changed. Even now, after 4 or so consecutive years, I still get shivers of excitement when I see Pompeii lit up like a giant glacier and watch the rainbow of lights pass below from the Skyride.
But this year's Christmas Town lineup is even more spectacular because Busch Gardens has added a new show and a new winter attraction!
I'll cover everything in detail below with plenty of pictures and (finally) videos!
*Sorry if the video is shaky; I'm working on an upgrade so I can give you guys some higher-quality content!
England's quaint, Dickens-like setting fits perfectly with the holiday theme and makes for a gorgeous park entrance during Christmas Town. Holiday wreaths and bow-trimmed garlands replace the British flags, and classic white lights trim the tiny trees and outline the buildings and clock tower. The finishing touch is the quartet of Victorian-style carolers strolling around to the beat of their acapella Christmas music.
You'll also find some excellent holiday shopping in this area as well, particularly in the Christmas Town Shoppe (usually called the Emporium).
Scrooge No More
The main Christmas Town attraction in England takes place in the Globe Theatre, a fitting home for their musical retelling of the Christmas Carol. Scrooge No More follows the original Dickens novel fairly closely with the addition of some upbeat music and dance routines. The set and special effects are very well done, as well, making it even more magical. I always find Scrooge No More to be a fun holiday show and a great way to take a break from the cold! Be sure to arrive a few minutes early for good seats and plan to be there for a 30-minute show!
Sesame Street Forest of Fun
For those with children--or a continuing love of Elmo--stop by the Sesame Street Forest of Fun for some colorful Christmas lights and the Elmo's Christmas Wish show. Several of the kiddy rides in this section operate through the holiday as well.
The Scotland area is primarily the same, with the addition of some gorgeous lights and holiday-themed photos with the Clydesdale horses. I will say the stables are particularly welcoming this time of year with both festivity and warmth. You can also find more Christmas shopping in the Tweedside Gifts shop.
Ireland gets bedazzled in crisscrossing strings of white lights and garlands for Christmas Town and has a couple of holiday additions to explore while you're here. It's a somewhat simple setup, but lovely all the same. The Emerald Isle Gifts and Pot O'Gold Magic Shop are both open as usual, and the Emerald Isle has added Irish scarves, sweaters, and ornaments to its inventory for the season.
Busch Garden's newest ride, Finnegan's Flyer, is open for Christmas Town! The giant double-swing takes you over 80 feet into the air at up to 45 miles per hour. It's a bit chilly this time of year, but you get some great views of the Christmas lights!
*Finnegan's Flyer, InvadR, Verbolten, and Nacht Tower will be closed on evenings with temperatures below 40°F.
Battle for Eire
If you usually skip the Battle for the Eire due to long lines, Christmas Town is the perfect time to check it out. This indoor 3D ride takes you on a magical adventure through fairyland to save the Heart of Eire from an evil Dark Lord.
Gloria is one of Christmas Town's most classic holiday shows. This retelling of the Christmas story takes place in the Abbey Stone Theatre and is complete with a live orchestra, a choir of angels, and some pretty cool special effects. An extremely talented cast of performers tells the story of Jesus' birth through simplistic acting and a collection of classic songs. The show lasts about 25 minutes and, once again, is a great way to warm up for a bit!
If you've been dying for a peek inside the Castle O'Sullivan, dinner with Santa may be the perfect excuse! This add-on dinner experience is $36 per adult, BUT it includes "carved turkey with gravy, cornbread stuffing, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, roast beef with mushrooms and onions, Trapper’s Smokehouse Chili, green beans with garlic, Chicken Alfredo, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, tossed salad, dinner rolls, assorted desserts, and Coca-Cola® beverages (according to the BG website)." You'll also enjoy a Christmas story from Santa and appearances from the elves and Mrs. Clause while you eat inside the castle, which makes this a pretty appealing offer.
France is always one of my favorite areas any time of year, but Christmas Town makes it even more magical. Even after visiting actual Paris this year, Christmas Town France makes my face light up in happiness. Purple, blue, and white lights cover France in a cool, sugar-plum glow. Numerous Christmas trees in matching lights and ornaments stand proud next to white reindeer while garlands and icicle lights trim the roofs.
La Belle Maison, one of my favorite souvenir shops, has added many French-themed Christmas items to the inventory along with the French boutique items. Also, Coffee and Crepes and Les Frites are perfect stops to grab a hot bite before watching 'Twas that Night on Ice.
'Twas that Night on Ice
Another of Christmas Town's classic shows is the incredible 'Twas That Night on Ice. Starring world champion and Olympic silver medallist Elvis Stojko, this show is both enchanting and thrilling.
The performance retells A Visit from St. Nicholas, complete with classic Christmas music, skating reindeer, a dancing sugarplum, and Santa coming down the chimney. You'll enjoy some silly humor as well as incredible ice skating feats during the show.
This show takes place outside in the Royal Palace Theatre and lasts about 30 minutes, so get some hot cocoa and bundle up! Also, I'd recommend arriving at least 15 minutes early for good seats because this event fills up quickly and only happens once per day at 7:30 pm.
5. New France
New France doesn't change very much for Christmas Town, but it doesn't really need to because the rustic, lodge-like buildings already look as if they belonged in a winter wonderland. Simple white lights and tiny trees lit up in red and green complete the charming atmosphere here.
The food in New France is the same as always, but the warm aromas of funnel cakes and barbecue smell especially enticing in the cold winter weather. Plus, the heated eating areas are a blessing to enjoy your food away from the chill.
The park's wooden roller coaster, Invadr, is open during Christmas Town! The ride takes you speeding around the track at 50 mph and over a series of "nine airtime hills" for a thrilling (and chilling!) journey.
*Be aware that Invadr closes once the temperature reaches 40°F.
Christmas Town Express
During Christmas Town, the train becomes a round-trip ride to viewing over two million Christmas lights on the park's 1.5-mile perimeter. The trip takes about 15 minutes (not including loading) and is absolutely packed with beautiful lights, Christmas carols, and gorgeous views.
The train allows you to see many Christmas decorations that you can't view from anywhere else in the park--or not nearly as well--so be sure to take advantage of it!
The Christmas Town Express does a full loop of the park starting behind Invadr and does not stop at its regular stations in Scotland or Holiday Hills (Festa Italia), so plan to disembark back in New France.
6. North Pole (a.k.a. Germany)
Germany gets a particularly festive makeover for Christmas Town, with just about everything looking like it came straight from a storybook. Christmas lights and decor abound, including an incredibly fun gingerbread-house projection on the cuckoo clock above Cookies and Cocoa every 15 minutes.
The shops in this area include Christmas items year-round, but they're particularly fun to peruse this time of year. Browse through their vast selection of ornaments, Christmas decor, German clocks, and other gifts while you're here. And don't miss out on the Cookies and Cocoa shop; it's a little pricey, but they use Ghiradelli chocolate in the cocoa, and you can even buy decorating kits!
Land of the Dragons
Similar to the Sesame Street Forest of Fun, Land of the Dragons is bedazzled in bright lights and fun decor. Obviously, the water attractions are closed this time of year, but kids can still enjoy the lights and the play area.
The classic horse carousel gets a lovely makeover for the holiday with extra lights and Christmas-themed decor. This is really a children's ride, but it can be a fun stop for adults during the holidays, too.
If you're wanting to take pictures with Santa this year, head over to Santa's Workshop in NewKastle for some fun holiday photos and a sneak peek at the gift-making process. Keepsake photos cost extra, but they usually let you take some on your phone as well.
Christmas Town's newest holiday addition is the Traditions Tree Maze, and it is marvelous! Located behind Santa's Workshop, the Traditions Tree Maze features hundreds of little Christmas trees lining the paths to holiday booths from around the world.
Each booth has a fun keepsake or craft representing part of that country's holiday traditions that are free to take with you! Celebrate Hanukah with a dreidle, Día de los Reyes by decorating a crown, Shogatsu with a postcard, Diwali by coloring a rangoli (my favorite!), and Umkhosi Wokweshwama by creating a tribal mask. The keepsakes are for both adults and kids, so don't be shy! Plus, the craft tents are all heated, which makes these fun holiday crafts even more fun to create.
Oktoberfest is another area that gets a particularly festive makeover for Christmas Town. The entrances on either side of Oktoberfest are dazzling with garlands, lights, and music. Once you reach the actual Oktoberfest area, lights and wreaths hang from every peak, hundreds of tiny pines light the pathways, and Das Festhaus's front wall dances with projections of snowflakes. Pretty much everything in this area is decked out in lights and tweaked a bit to fit the Christmas theme.
Many of the rides in this area are still open during Christmas Town, as well, including Der Autobahn, Der Wirbelwind, Verbolten, and the Nacht Tower. As you meander through, be sure to stop by Pretzels and Beer for the park's only handmade soft pretzels (my absolute favorite food item here), or get a full meal at Das Festahus while you enjoy a show and warm up.
The Mistletoe Marketplace shares the carnival game area with booths full of hand-made craft items and snacks. Stroll around to view delicate jewelry, wooden carvings, glass ornaments, and even a wide selection of fancy dog collars. When you're done, play a classic carnival game or two to win a holiday-themed prize like a Christmas Narwhal or a Santa plush from the Rudolph movie.
No trip to Christmas Town is complete without watching O'Tannenbaum light up the night. Every 30 minutes, the 50-foot Christmas tree in front of Das Festhaus puts on a dazzling light display synchronized to foot-tapping Christmas music. The gorgeous performance lasts about 5 minutes, but the experience will stay with you for a while! It's always one of my favorite Christmas Town shows because it's so well done and really encapsulates that feeling of holiday cheer.
Deck the Halls
Speaking of foot-tapping music, don't forget to catch a performance of Deck the Halls in Das Festhaus! This show usually fills up fast (especially around mealtimes), so arrive early to get good seats and grab your food before it gets too busy.
Deck the Halls features a talented cast of singers and dancers who will bring some of your favorite Christmas carols to life in this charming sing-along performance. You'll also see some iconic holiday characters like Frosty the Snowman and the tin soldiers.
If you're a fan of this thrilling ride through the Black Forest, you're in luck! Verbolten stays open through Christmas Town, and the lines are usually pretty short! This multi-launch coaster takes you on one of three different experiences each time you ride and has both indoor and outdoor elements. It takes off fast, so be ready for that wind chill factor!
I'm not a huge fan of the Nacht Tower's usual plummeting action, but you'll get a much different experience during Christmas Town! Instead of dropping several stories in a gut-wrenching fall, Nacht Tower becomes a Christmas light viewing point this time of year. The carriage slowly ascends to the tower's peak, rotates a few times to allow you to view over ten million lights glowing all over the park, then calmly descends back to the ground. If you can deal with the heights, don't miss the chance to see the lights from up here!
Across the bridge from Germany, Italy has a relatively calmer atmosphere that correlates wonderfully with the new Believe show. Everything through the Marco Polo Marketplace and Italy Rides is bathed in a warm yellow glow that emanates from every possible surface. White angels hang from light poles, trees are wrapped in lights from root to tip, and the Christmas Tree centerpiece is magnificent between the Roman pillars.
The small rides in Italy (The Battering Ram, The Flying Machine, The Little Balloons, and The Little Gliders) are all open for Christmas Town, so set aside some time to enjoy those as you stroll through. And don't forget to check out Bella Casa for nativity sets and delicate angels, or grab a hand-painted ornament from Artisans of Italy.
The newest holiday show at Christmas Town is Believe, a gorgeous piano and voice concert in Il Teatro Di San Marco Theatre. The talented pianist alternates between piano specials and carols that feature her voice. It's a beautifully-done performance and a very relaxing one as well! The best seats are in the middle front of the theatre, but be sure to sit under the awning if you're cold to catch some warmth from the space heaters above.
The Polar Pathway transforms the Pompeii water ride into a glistening glacier of lights. The color scheme features bright whites, deep blues, and vivid purples throughout, creating a stunning scene. This is possibly my favorite area in the whole park because of how immersive the lights are. Plus, the adorable polar bears scattered around the perimeter really add to the Arctic experience.
9. Holiday Hills (a.k.a. Festa Italia)
The last area in Christmas Town is the transformed Festa Italia. During Christmas Town, this piece of the park becomes Holiday Hills, a fun-filled section dedicated to the classic Christmas movie, Rudolph. Tributes to Rudolph and Santa's workshop abound from the Stocking Stop shop filled with memorabilia to the carnival games with character plush's from the movie.
The Rudolph movie isn't playing on a projector screen this year, but instead, you can take your picture in front of a festive fireplace featuring the Countdown to Christmas.
The classic teacup ride (usually called Turkish Delight) is also open for some dizzying fun! The already festive ride is even more splendid with giant candy canes and garlands sprouting from the pagoda-like roof.
It's the perfect season to finally check out the bobsled ride tucked back in Festa Italia. You'll whip up, down, and around the circuit as if you were actually out bobsledding on this cold December night! The wind chill doesn't hurt that feeling either! Just be sure to put the larger rider on the outside--there will be squishing!
Rudolph's Winter Wonderland
Step inside the meet and greet tent for a picture with Rudolph, Clarice, Bumble, and more! The igloo-like interior feels like a winter wonderland with hanging lights and plenty of Christmas trees that look just like the movie's do!
A few more notes:
Tickets are currently about $35 for a day at Christmas Town, but they start much lower! If you missed pre-ordering your tickets, be sure to grab them early next year because deals start as low as $15 in November.
Christmas Town typically runs from 2 pm to 10 pm, but certain days open as early as 12 pm and close at 9 pm, so be sure to check the online calendar on the day you plan to visit to maximize your time.
Finally, you still have to pay for parking at Christmas Town, but you should be in one of the front two parking lots unless it's unusually busy, which does make paying a little easier. Plus, you don't have to take the tram, which will save you some extra time!
Thanks for reading my Holly Jolly Guide to Christmas Town, and I hope it gives you everything you need to plan the perfect trip for your family or group! If you have questions, post them below, and I'll be happy to answer them as best I can!
If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to give it a like and share it with someone who is--or should be--going to Christmas Town this year!
I'll see you all again after Christmas! Happy holidays and happy travels!
P.S, As you may have noticed, the blog is a day late this week. I'll be posting on Fridays for the next couple of weeks to accommodate all the holiday busyness.
For more fun amusement park guides, check out the Amusement Parks page!