Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa 2013

December 7, 2013 at 3:25 pm

(Disclosure: My friend Caroline and I were able to attend Christmas Town free of charge thanks to Yelp Tampa Bay and our kids were able attend free of charge thanks to Busch Gardens and my association with the Tampa Bay Bloggers. All opinions are my own.)

Yesterday afternoon we picked up our friends, the other Caroline and her daughters Erin and Kelly, and headed to Busch Gardens Tampa for their annual Christmas Town event. We hit terrible traffic before we even got onto the Howard Frankland Bridge in St. Pete, and it took us over an hour and a half to make the usually 45 minute drive. But finally we arrived and boarded the tram from the parking lot.

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Once we arrived at the front entrance we found the Yelp table and the media relations table and got VIP passes, which the kids thought were pretty cool.

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The light displays at Busch Gardens during Christmas Town are just amazing. None of my pictures do any of them justice.

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I refrained from using flash for most of the night to try to capture the magic of the light display. Which do you want to see…the kids or the lights?

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Beautifully staged photo ops abound all throughout the park. They are hard to resist.

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Mack has been overly excited all week at the chance to ride his favorite coaster in the world, Cheetah Hunt, again. That was our first destination.

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We did make a slight detour into Penguin Point because Erin loves penguins!

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Our “older” kids enjoyed playing dress up with the penguin stands.

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We meant to come back to Penguin Point later to actually see the penguins, but we got sidetracked and didn’t make it back. Sorry Erin! Next year!

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We have been to Busch Gardens many times and it is really fun to see it transformed into a different park during Christmas Town.

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Finally we made it to Cheetah Hunt!

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However, we made Mack wait just a little longer because everyone was starving. We made a pit stop at the Crown Colony Café for food first.

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I knew there wouldn’t be many options at the park for me to eat, so I ate something beforehand. I took the opportunity while everyone else was eating to take selfies in the bathroom.

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I chose my outfit for maximum offspring embarrassment. I would have worn jeans but it was HOT last night. Even the long sleeves were pushing it.

Finally, after everyone ate, Mack and I headed to Cheetah Hunt.

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We had front-of-the-line passes for Cheetah Hunt, Gwazi, and Shiekra but didn’t need them. There was no line on any of the three open coasters.

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It is such a great coaster. The best part is that you accelerate on the ascensions, which is crazy. It also seems like a really long roller coaster to me.

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After that I hung out with the other kids…

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while Mack and the other Caroline rode Cheetah Hunt.

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We watched the Carol of the Bells at the Crown Colony House while we waited.

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My favorite part is the lights!

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After Mack got his Cheetah Hunt hit we walked back around towards Snow World a/k/a Coca-Cola world.

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Snow World was packed with people.

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We stood in line to get a pager to enter the “Snow Play” area (versus the “Snow Throwing” area or the “Snow Sliding” area…they each had different queues). Once we got our pager they told us it would be 30-40 minutes, and since Snow World is right next to Gwazi…

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Mack and I ran over there to get one ride in. No line!

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I have to say that Gwazi is not my favorite. It is so rattley and loud. It scares me to death. Mack loved it, of course. We didn’t stay to look at our picture (I’m sure my eyes were closed) because the other Caroline texted me that the pager had just buzzed. So we went back to Snow World, stood in another queue for a few minutes, then we were in the Snow Play area!

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They should call it, “The Florida Kid with Snow Photo Op Area.”

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It was a little crazy in there, but the kids were having fun.

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Mostly they liked sliding around everywhere.

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After our allotted snow play time was up we walked over to Christmas Town Village.

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It was so pretty.

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They have little shopping kiosks lining the walkways and a train ride for little kids at Jingle Bell Junction.

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Next we went through Poinsettia Parkway…

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where I failed to get a photo of the beautiful poinsettia Christmas trees. We meant to come back that way later, but never got the chance. Too much to see!

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We were hurrying on our way to Stanleyville to see a show, so we didn’t have time to linger. But we passed through one of my favorite areas of Christmas Town, Sesame Street’s A Very Furry Christmas.

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I love it because the trees are lit up in such amazing colors.

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We finally made it to the Stanleyville Theater to see Madagascar Live, Operation: Christmas Vacation.

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It was nice to sit down and enjoy some air conditioning.

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They even made it snow in there!

Next we decided to get on the Skyride so that we could see all of the park decorations, including the areas we had not gotten to like Timbuktu and the Holiday Hills. We had to wait in line for a short while, but the kids seemed entertained.

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On the Skyride:

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We only got to see half of the park from the sky since the Skyride has two sections and you can only do half at one time. We were dropped back off right next to Cheetah Hunt, so of course Mack had to go again. I was still rattled from Gwazi, so the other Caroline went with him.

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We ended our night with hot cocoa for the boys, and cotton candy for the girls.

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Thanks for a fun night Busch Gardens and Yelp Tampa Bay!

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Christmas Town will be at Busch Gardens for 18 select nights from November 29th through December 23rd. Advance tickets for children ages 3 to 9 are available for $10, and the event is a separate-ticketed night event. We didn’t get to do everything that Christmas Town has to offer, so click here for more information about all things Christmas Town Busch Gardens Tampa 2013.

We loved Christmas Town 2012, and now that we’ve gone twice it is a tradition!

Cya.

Boys & bikes on the Courtney Campbell

November 5, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Sunday afternoon the boys and I loaded the bikes into the back of my car (not an easy task, we really need a bike rack)…

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and headed out past the St. Pete/Clearwater airport…

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to the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

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A new pedestrian trail (actually mixed-use) running parallel to the Courtney Campbell opened on the Hillsborough side of Old Tampa Bay on August 30th and we had been waiting for the perfect day to check it out. We started out at the center and decided to head west over the hump first.

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We really couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. It was in the mid-70s and not a cloud in the sky.

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The $14 million dollar project is supposed to be completed on the Pinellas County side next year and then it will be a 9 mile scenic path all the way across the bay.

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The hump across the boat underpass is no joke on a bike!

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From the apex you can see downtown Tampa, downtown St. Pete, and downtown Clearwater.

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Of course, the best part is riding down the overpass.

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There were lots of people out on the trail but it was not crowded at all. There was plenty of room for cyclists to safely pass pedestrians. It was great not having to worry about cars.

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The view the entire ride was stunning. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful location.

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We stopped near the Tampa side for a water break.

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Of course the boys wanted to climb on the rocks but I warned them ten times to be careful. Those rocks looked very jagged!

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Finally we got back on our bikes to head back to the hump.

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We couldn’t resist taking in the views at the apex one more time.

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And then we got to zoom downhill again.

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We went a short ways in the eastward direction…

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before turning around to head back to the car.

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I didn’t take my GPS with me, but I’d say we probably biked 4 or 5 miles. It was a great way to spend what was possibly the most beautiful afternoon of the year. We’ll be back!

Cya.