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Christmas Town “Hard-Hat” Tour

 

It’s hard to believe that Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg starts on November 17 (next Saturday). Sheesh! Didn’t they just finish Howl-o-Scream? Come to think of it, I remember seeing “Christmas trees” during the last night of HOS. They were wrapped in lights, just not illuminated. Such is the change of seasons in the theme-park world.

 

This is the tenth anniversary of Christmas Town. It’s interesting to consider how this event evolved. Much like the first Howl-o-Scream, Christmas Town originally involved a small portion of the park (Italy and Forest of Fun weren’t part of it). All of Busch Gardens is part of Christmas Town now.

 

The park gave us a backstage look at some of the work being done by the their 200+ team of decorators, who perform around 10,000 hours of work transforming the park from a realm of doom and darkness to a land of winter fantasy. It takes a lot of work to put up 10,000,000 lights; 20,000 ornaments; and all the other decor unique to each village in Busch Gardens.

 

So, what’s new for Christmas Town’s tenth anniversary season?

 

Christmas Town Express: Guests can sing-a-long to their favorite carols on this 1.5-mile train trip, which starts at Caribou Station in Fort New France. The ride will feature 2,000,000 Christmas lights and “themed holiday vignettes” ( round trip--no stops.) It’s nice to see the train being used as a “show,” rather than just a transportation system.

 

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Concept photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

 

Wilkommenhaus: Enjoy the “sweet smell of Christmas treats” as you watch a new Christmas spectacle (via projection mapping) in the park’s German village. The show runs every 15 minutes on the clock building near Land of the Dragons and the carousel. I think this will be a nice addition to the O' Tannenbaum Christmas-tree-light show in front of the Festhaus.

 

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Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

 

Elmo’s Christmas Wish: Rosita, Grover, Zoe, and Cookie Monster help Elmo find his Christmas wish in this new show at the Sesame Street Forest of Fun.

 

The park’s other Christmas shows will be back: Gift of Harmony (Italy), 'Twas that Night (ice show in France), Deck the Halls (Festhaus in Germany), Scrooge No More (Globe Theater in England), and Gloria (Abbey Stone Theatre in Ireland). You can still, of course, visit Santa’s Workshop (and dine at Santa’s Fireside Feast) and visit Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his friends. And there’s all the great holiday food and beverages (particularly the adult ones).

 

Looks like the elves are getting excited.

 

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"Oooo! I see people in Santa hats!"

 

Let’s have a look at how Christmas Town is coming along.

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The elves can’t wait for Christmas Town to begin.

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But they hate getting wet while they wait.

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“Sheesh! I feel like I’ve strung more than half those 10,000,000 lights myself, I tell you what!”

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Our first stop was the Festhaus.

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Yep. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” in here.

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They’re rehearsing “Deck the Halls.” This show looks a lot like one of those old-school TV Christmas specials.

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This is where the “O Tannenbaum” show is held (about every half-hour or so). The tree’s lights are synchronized to music. It's a local favorite at Christmas Town.

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I think the elves like this show, too.

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A little hot soup might’ve been good today.

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They opened Santa’s Workshop in NewKastle (formerly DarKastle) last year. It used to be in the building where they house the HOS “No Escape” rooms (that’s where the new projection show is this year).

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Speaking of Howl-o-Scream, maybe they should leave this shop as it is for those who wish you a very METAL Christmas.

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This little Christmas tree was in “stealth mode” during the last weekend of HOS.

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In through Santa’s Magical Quick Queue entrance.

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Matthew, of the park’s entertainment division, dressed appropriately to fill us in on this year’s Christmas Town.

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There’s still some work to be done . . .

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. . . and the elves are busy doing it.

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Hmm--presents? For whom, I wonder.

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“I am the captain of the guard. Welcome to the presence of . . .

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. . . the Claus and his wife!"

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Santa hanging out with his elves, Holly and Jolly. Santa, you rascal!

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Should I get a photo with these characters?

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Why not?

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Look at all these geeks in their silly hats . . . wait, never mind.

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Here are the photo options when you visit Santa.

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It’s the merriest equipment storage area ever!

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Of course, there was hot chocolate.

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Mrs. Claus supervised the making of s’mores.

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A huge scnickerdoodle with chopped graham crackers, marshmallows, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. It was good, but I couldn’t finish it.

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Time to get our presents! Yay!

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Here’s one last look at part of the workshop queue. It winds through other rooms themed to Santa’s home and workshop at the North Pole, too.

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Elves give the big tree some more love.

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Here’s how my picture with Santa turned out.

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Thanks for the present and behind-the-scenes tour, Busch Gardens! See you at Christmas Town.

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Halloween Harvest, or “Howl-o-Scream Lite.” Busch Gardens is sticking with its “reservations only/limited attendance” events with Halloween Harvest during October. This is sort of “Howl-o-Scream

It's so weird seeing the park map like that, but at least a half open park is better than a closed park!

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I loved Busch Gardens Williamsburg during the normal season when I visited years ago... I'd love to experience their Christmas Town event at some point, knowing how beautiful the park is on a regular day, that it's natural beauty lends to such a great decor-filled event.

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My favorite Christmas Town spots are both in Italy: the Polar Pathway (Escape from Pompeii) . . .

 

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and Holiday Hills (Festa Italia).

 

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The latter reminds me of the decorations they used in my hometown when I was a kid.

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Hey, I just bought Christmas Town tickets for Sunday the 23rd. I saw a picture last year that showed traffic backed up to kingdom come. Can't remember what day that pic was taken on. Last year, were Sundays a very crowded day? If so, should I just get there when it opens, instead of waiting until about 4pm? Thanks.

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^I expect the park will be insanely busy that close to Christmas (many people have Christmas Eve off work, too). They've been known to reach capacity during Christmas Town, so I'd get there early.

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^I expect the park will be insanely busy that close to Christmas (many people have Christmas Eve off work, too). They've been known to reach capacity during Christmas Town, so I'd get there early.

 

What I had figured. Will get there at 145.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A Night at Christmas Town

 

So, you've seen the "hard-hat" version of Christmas Town. How about a look at the actual event?

 

I went there to celebrate a friend's birthday last Sunday night (December 2) and decided to bite the bullet and switch from my old platinum pass to the new platinum membership. I'm glad I waited, as it took me only a minute at the ticket booth make the change. Two of my friends (one was the birthday girl), who had bought the "$9.99/month" membership, weren't quite as lucky. Busch has added some blackout dates to Christmas Town, and it took them a bit longer to upgrade their passes at the ticket window. (The other option was over the phone, as it couldn't be done online.) But we all got squared away and ready to ring in the holiday season at Christmas Town.

 

You can read my report from the hard-hat tour to see what's new for this year--the tenth anniversary of Christmas Town. The shows from last year are back, and the decorations are pretty much the same as in past years.

 

That being said, there's more to be seen from the Christmas Town Express train ride, which makes an entire circuit starting at Caribou Station in Fort New France. It was nice. Riders could singalong to classic Christmas carols while enjoying the light displays along the way. My only comment is that I'd rethink the somewhat cheesey "family" narration, and just stick to the music. Occasionally, the narration led to some unexpected comedy. After crossing the Rhine River Trestle, a little boy exclaimed, "Look at the lights!" We rounded to bend and found . . . darkness. The lights the little tyke was so excited about weren't working.

 

Oops! The show must go on.

 

The new projection show in Germany (on the Cookies and Cocoa building) worked very well, though. They effectively used projections in this spot for Howl-o-Scream in October, and the Christmas Town show was even better. Well done.

 

Enough of my yammering. This way to Christmas Town!

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Welcome to the tenth year of Christmas Town. Just read the sign for important historical background.

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Big dude on the right looks a little shady--like he might want to go “thumpity-thump-thump” upside your head and take your wallet.

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The best Christmas trees have really big balls. (OK, I make a joke like this each year. Sue me.)

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England: Consider your "halls" to be thoroughly "decked."

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"I'll hae a Blue Christmas withit ye." (You see, we're in Scotland.)

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Scotland likes balls full of stars.

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It’s hard to tell from this photo but this map features animated snow.

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My partners in holly jolly crime for the evening. The birthday girl, Brenda, is the redhead in the middle.

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A caroling wolf: “Rark the Rearld Rangels Sing!”

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Even the fall color looks a bit Christmas-like.

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The Irish like green lights on their green trees. Yes, they really like green. Don't judge.

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“Help! Snow Miser imprisoned me here against my will! He promised me cookies--but he LIED!”

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France has a nice color scheme . . .

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. . . and some intriguing desserts. (I hope to try that beignet sundae.)

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I may be mistaken, but this appears to be Canada. Perhaps the moose gave it away.

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Nice place to get a tree, eh?

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Would Santa like this stocking--or be frightened by it?

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Yep--definitely Canada.

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Ah, Germany. There’s beer somewhere!

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Hmm--Santa probably has an amazing beer cave. More to come.

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Dashing through the snow . . . OK, figure of speech. No snow that night.

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Then again, there’s always the Brau Haus in the Festhaus . . .

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. . . unless you get there right before a show starts. D’oh! (The "Deck the Halls" show is pretty popular, so you might want to get there a bit early for it.)

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Achievement unlocked.

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Here’s the Festhaus between performances of “Deck the Halls.”

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The darker it gets, the prettier the lights look.

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A peek at the “O’Tannenbaum” show. (This is a classic synchronized lights-and-music show that has been part of Christmas Town since the beginning.)

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The new projection show in Germany is nice, too.

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It’s not Christmas in Germany without Creepy the Elf sawing on that candy cane, plotting his horrible vengeance.

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On the Christmas Town Express, you can sing carols, see pretty lights, . . .

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. . . and finish your beer.

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It’s hard to get good photos of the light displays . . .

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. . . when the train makes the jump . . .

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. . . to HYPERSPACE!

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A semi-artsy shot from the bridge between Germany and Italy.

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I think this is the single prettiest tree at Christmas Town.

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But the Polar Pathway is my favorite spot.

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“It’s mine, too, because everyone walking by looks so tasty.”

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Nice way to use a closed-for-the-season water ride.

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It was in the 60s that night, so no one was hanging out by the fire.

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Time to go.

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Merry Christmas to all . . .

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. . . and to all a good night.

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Yes the beer looks great, and Happy Belated Birthday to the Birthday Girl!

 

But really - you definitely had me at Josephine's.

 

Great shots of the park Chuck, especially those night ones!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Looking for opinions here. I'm going on Sunday, and we are just interested in the Christmas train. They have quick queue tickets for $15 a piece. There are 3 of us. My question is, how long is the average wait? Also, how long is the ride? Do you think that it is worth it?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Coasting For Kids to benefit Give Kids The World is coming to Busch Gardens on March 23rd.

 

 

 

More details (ERT, schedules, etc.) to come.

 

 

 

"Give Kids The World Village is an 84-acre, nonprofit resort in Central Florida that provides weeklong, cost-free vacations to children with critical illnesses and their families. The Village and its community partners provide children and their families accommodations in fully-furnished villas, transportation, tickets to theme parks, meals, daily entertainment and much more. Each year 27,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with a critical illness. Half of all children eligible for a wish through a partnering wish-granting organization choose to visit Central Florida and its collection of theme parks and other attractions. Our goal, quite simply, is to provide everything these deserving families need to make their trip the vacation of a lifetime. Since 1986, more than 165,000 children and families have had their dreams fulfilled in a whimsical Village unlike any other place on earth."

 

 

 

I have had the pleasure of fundraising for and volunteering at The Village in the past. This is a world-class charity with a world-class mission.

 

 

 

To support my personal mission of sending a family to The Village:

 

http://support.gktw.org/site/TR/Events/General?px=1398432&pg=personal&fr_id=1872

 

 

 

To sign-up to participate in the event: http://support.gktw.org/site/TR?fr_id=1872&pg=entry

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  • 3 weeks later...

One of the largest pieces of Finnegan's Flyer has arrived at Busch Gardens Williamsburg!

 

 

SPECIAL DELIVERY‼️ The very top piece of Finnegan's Flyer, which will support the two lower legs and swings, has arrived! By itself, it weighs about 14,900 lbs! Pretty soon this behemoth of a ride will be soaring over the Celtic cliffs of Killarney.

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I'm planning on visiting Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the first time sometime this year. Right now I'm thinking about going sometime during the week before Memorial Day (May 20-24). How busy does the park usually get on those days? I see the park is open 10am-6pm those days, is that enough time to ride everything/experience the whole park in one day?

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I've never had a major issue with queues at Busch Gardens evem on busier days. Their major coasters are capacity monsters. The three that get the longest waits are InvadR, Tempesto, and Verbolten. Usually I either hit them first thing or at the end of the day.

 

If the park happens to be busy, there is Quick Queue. But I have never needed it.

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I've never had a major issue with queues at Busch Gardens evem on busier days. Their major coasters are capacity monsters. The three that get the longest waits are InvadR, Tempesto, and Verbolten. Usually I either hit them first thing or at the end of the day.

 

If the park happens to be busy, there is Quick Queue. But I have never needed it.

 

Yeah, I think that the park is designed to have a lot to do and look at for non-coaster lovers, so this takes care of the crowds pretty well. BGT on the other hand does get some monster crowds, unless you go on a Monday-Thursday outside of the holidays or school breaks.

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^ Even Tampa isn't too much of an issue from a crowd perspective. Cheetah Hunt is the only ride with a consistently long line there. Sand Serpent, Cobra's Curse, Falcon's Fury, Scorpion, and SheiKra can all get up to a half hour, but that's not really bad for a park like Busch Gardens.

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