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.

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

December 1, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Last night all the boys and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend opening night of Christmas Town at Busch Gardens. We were pretty excited on the tram as we approached the entrance.

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Busch Gardens was nice enough to host a Community Manager Yelp Event on opening night, so Chad and I got VIP passes through Yelp. Have I mentioned enough times yet that you should be Yelping? The perks are pretty sweet.

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Busch Gardens was also nice enough to offer VIP media passes for our whole family, so the boys were psyched to be included in all the VIP’ing going on.

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I’m going to say right now that none of my pictures do Christmas Town justice. The park was breathtakingly beautiful with all the lights.

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Busch Gardens also gave us these cool glasses that turned all of the millions of lights in the park into snowflakes.

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We were seriously digging the glasses. They even turned the moon into a huge snowflake in the sky (sorry, couldn’t get a picture of that).

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The lights were just spectacular.

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As we headed towards the Crown Colony Pub, we passed this living statue which had all of the children amazed.

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This tree was the most beautiful thing in the park with the snowflake glasses and that’s Cheetah Hunt in the back ground:

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The park was also decorated with gorgeous glowing animal statues everywhere, like these Cheetahs:

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Our first destination in the park was the Crown Colony Pub where we met up with our Yelp hosts.

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This is my friend Brett, the Yelp Tampa Bay Community Manager:

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He’s a great guy to have as a friend! Yelp treats its community members amazingly well, and not just the Yelp Elite Squad. This event was also open to non-elite Yelpers. We were given goody bags that included a nice tumbler full of candy canes, as well as a few other goodies.

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We were also given two tickets each to use for food and drinks in the park. Thanks Yelp! I love you!

At the Crown Colony Pub I ran into my friend Kat and we were really excited about these little Christmas trees.

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Next we headed towards Gwazi Pavilion and Jingle Bell Junction.

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We passed the Hallelujah Chorus in action.

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Here Busch Gardens had a room set up with treats for VIP pass holders (not the Yelp passes).

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They had hot cocoa and coffee and cookies!

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They also had apple cobbler and ice cream, although we didn’t have any of that.

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After fueling up on cookies and cocoa (not me…I was good and resisted!), we headed towards Snow World through Christmas Town Village. Again, the lights were fantastic and my pictures just can’t do them justice.

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It was 75 degrees outside, but in Snow World it was snowing!

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They had all sorts of cute little holiday shops set up where you could buy gifts…

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and food. I used one of our Yelp tickets to buy some Elf Munch and a Candy Cane Sprite Delight.

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I haven’t opened the Elf Munch yet, but it looks so delicious with chocolate drizzled popcorn and spiced nuts. I think I may give it to someone as a gift (trying to stay Dedicated in December!). I also only tried a few sips of the Sprite cocktail, but it was tasty.

After running the gauntlet of cute shops and tasty treats, we arrived at Snow World central.

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There were huge snowmen walking around everywhere.

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The first order of business was to get in line for the main attraction in Snow World…playing in the snow! Maybe you can imagine how exciting this is for two little boys who were born and raised in Florida and have only seen snow a handful of times in their lives.

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I ran into my friend Christie O. in Snow World.

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Unlike me, she braved the inner tube.

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Christie, were you texting and sledding?

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As we were waiting for the boys to finish getting frozen and wet, I snapped the only picture I got of Chad and me together all evening:

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On our way back through Christmas Town Village we spotted Mrs. Claus!

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Mack posing in front of Gwazi, our next destination:

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Chad and Cal are not fans of roller coasters, so it was Mack and me all night long and it was awesome.

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I left the good camera with Chad, but did snap a couple of photos with my phone on the platform to show that there were NO LINES whatsoever and we got the front seat on Gwazi.

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Mack and I were loving it.

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Chad and I were married for eight years with no kids and I never had anyone to ride roller coasters with during that time. I had to give birth twice and wait for the second one to get tall enough before I had a coaster partner. It was worth it.

Next up was Cheetah Hunt, one of the fastest roller coasters in the world.

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We rode Cheetah Hunt twice back to back (no waiting at all either time). More awesome.

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Cheetah Hunt is Mack’s favorite coaster ever.

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Next we walked towards Timbuktu and took in more of the holiday gorgeousness.

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This part of the park was totally magical with our special snowflake glasses.

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By the gumdrop tree:

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I’m sure this is how my Orlando friends feel about Disney at Christmastime, but it was so cool to see an amusement park that I have been to many times and know so well totally transformed.

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In Timbuktu the boys rode the Sand Storm once…

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and then Cal rode it four more times while Mack and I rode the Scorpion twice in a row (front seat both times and the first time we were the only ones on it…I am SO spoiled now).

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The next thing that caught our interest was the bumper cars. I’m pretty sure this was Chad’s favorite part of the evening.

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After the bumper cars we headed towards Sesame Street’s A Very Furry Christmas, passing beautiful sights all along the way.

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I thought the brightly colored trees in this area were the prettiest ones in the park.

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The path took us back to Snow World where the boys got to throw snow balls.

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And with that, we had to call it a night. The park was closing at 11 p.m., and we shut it down.

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We did it all, some of it twice, and had a blast. It was great to see so many friends there also and I wish I had gotten photos with them all! Thank you so much Busch Gardens and Yelp Tampa Bay! I hope we make Christmas Town at Busch Gardens a new family holiday tradition.

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday until December 23rd. Check it out! You won’t be disappointed.