Starting this year, Busch Gardens is trying something new – Christmastown. In a complete transformation from the normal park or even Howl-o-Scream, which ended just four weeks earlier, Christmastown takes you to a European Christmas wonderland.
Walking into the park, Christmas songs played on speakers throughout the entrance – humming my way in, I got my ticket (only $20) and walked into a Christmas light fantasy. Everywhere you looked in England (the first country) lights lined the windows and buildings. In the center of the square, under the mini-Big Ben clock, carolers dressed in Charles Dickens-era clothes sang songs for anyone to stop and listen. It was a nice touch to walk in on.
We turned and headed towards Ireland (the mother land). Everywhere you walk, Christmas songs played, usually a different song every 100 yards or so. Fake trees with green lights surrounded the area walking to it, a tacky look actually. Behind the castle walls we could hear bagpipes playing more carols. Not much was different inside Ireland’s castle walls, so we decided to see the show playing in the theater in England called Rejoice – which is described as:
Be a part of an emotional Christmas concert told through moving imagery, choral harmonies, and a full live orchestra in the Abbey Stone Theatre.
The show had a live band with strings, french horns, guitars, and drums playing Christmas songs while about 10 creepy monks sang. The monks wore giant purple robes seemingly covered in glitter. Joined by two female singers, they sang songs like “Silent Night” and a non-political version of John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas.” The show had a couple good points, but overall it wasn’t the best rendition of Christmas songs. I would have rather seen 19th Century carolers to a live orchestra.
Next we headed down the path to France, where traditional French Christmas songs were played on the speakers here, also a nice touch. We decided to ride Griffon, the newest roller-coaster to Busch Gardens – and one of the best coasters I’ve been on. The line was so short, which I believe is because so many families were in the park with little children who couldn’t ride it – good news for us.
There we are in the 2nd row on the right. A 90 degree drop that seems like it will never end as your stomach is completely lost. I always love riding Griffon and it never disappoints. We decided to skip the penguin exhibit, hearing that there were only 2 penguins in little cages. You can find out more about that display here.
We strolled through New France afterwards, walking through it knowing that nothing ever happens there. We were onto better things. Germany.
Growing up in Germany, I loved Christmas time, it was and still is my favorite time of year. And in Germany, it meant that the Christmas markets would open up. In almost every town across Germany, local shopkeeps would set up their stands and sell their Christmas goods to all – along with delicious sausages and glühwein (mulled wine). One of the “countries” located inside Busch Gardens is Germany, with a section called Oktoberfest. When we entered this area, it was stunning to see how much it really looked and felt like Germany. We walked the markets (local businesses from Virginia and even Maryland). The normal tacky Busch Gardens stores were also transformed into selling only German Christmas gifts (ornaments, nutcrackers, clocks). In the middle of the square, right in front of the Festhaus was a giant 40 foot tree adorned with every kind of light. It was in Oktoberfest, Germany that it really felt like Christmas.
We got some mulled wine and hot chocolate and headed back towards the exit of the park. On our way back however, the 40 foot Christmas tree had something planned for us. A light spectacle done to dramatic Christmas songs, much like that one house a while back that everyone has copied. It was actually mesmerizing. You be the judge!
In full Christmas spirit we walked back, along the way stopping at the North Pole and waving hi to Santa in his workshop! It was the coziest Santa picture spot I have ever seen – waving hello to the world as we look in. As we turned to leave, it seriously looked just like it was snowing. Fake snow seemingly fell from the sky (it was soapy bubbles) – but it looked and felt real.
We stopped in at Grogan’s pub in Ireland for a pint of beer then headed home. In Busch Gardens Christmas had arrived, in my life it could not come soon enough. See you soon Santa.
Pros: Griffon open, went all out for a completely different feel than any other time in Busch, Christmas markets, free shows, Christmas feel overwhelms you, delicious mulled wine and hot cocoa, unique vendors
Cons: Tacky lights at certain parts of park, only one coaster open, long line for Festhaus
Overall Kibitzers Rating: 8.5 out of 10
The Rundown: Busch Gardens ChristmasTown
November 27-December 24
Price: $20 for one day; $30 for a weekend pass