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Jason and Kelly Go to Busch Gardens Christmas Town...

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OK, for those of you "in the know," yes, I decided to go through with my plans to ask my girlfriend, Kelly, to marry me during the first night of Busch Gardens' Christmas Town (the other option was to wait for our WDW vacation in January... but now seemed like a better time). And yes, she said yes!


Now for the bad news: I have been to Busch Gardens Europe/Williamsburg many times, and I've never, ever had a single bad experience at this park that I can remember. Unfortunately, Christmas Town made up for that in spades. I'm not sure how much of it was opening weekend bugs, how much was "We're being sold, so who cares?" and how much was just flat out poor planning (I attribute a lot to the latter), but with the exception of a couple relatively bright spots, we had a pretty miserable time overall.


A prologue: We decided to go to Christmas Town about two months ago, at which time I couldn't find a lot of information on the BGE Web site, so I called guest relations and was told children's admission was full price regardless of what type of ticket the adults had, there was no ticket we could buy that included parking, operating hours were 4-9 p.m., and Quick Queue would not be sold for any attractions whatsoever. We went ahead and booked a one-night hotel room, but no tickets yet.


Five weeks later, when it looked like we might want to add an extra night to partake of all the extra activities that were announced in the weeks leading up to opening weekend (shows, etc.), Kelly called again to confirm. Most of what she was told directly contradicted everything I was told. The hours remained the same, but now there was a "bounce ticket" that included three days' admission to both BGE and Colonial Williamsburg, and it also included a free child's admission and free parking for less than what we were planning to spend on free tickets and parking before. Kelly starting asking questions about what the bounce pass got us into at Colonial Williamsburg and was basically told, "Look, lady, I've told you how much the ticket costs. I haven't got all day to spend on the phone with you."


So finally, we called the Williamsburg Tourism Office, and they told us exactly what the three-day bounce pass was and what it included both at Colonial Williamsburg and at Busch Gardens, but we still had to go through BGE to buy it. How sad that two phone calls to Busch Gardens couldn't get us accurate information on a ticket that they sell, yet an off-site facility had all the correct information right at its fingertips (and seemed genuinely pleased to offer it).


We later discovered that most of the other information BGE guest relations (as well as some that had been posted on the Christmas Town website) was grossly inaccurate, as well. Had we had all the facts we requested up front, we easily could have done this event in a single evening, saving us a lot of time and money in the process. Busch Gardens has my money now... but it likely won't be getting any more for a long time to come.


More rants below... but hey, at least the lights (in the areas they managed to get around to putting them) are pretty!


On the way out, someone made the mistake of asking me to fill out a guest satisfaction survey. I wore the pencil point down to a nub, and I'm sure they weren't very happy with what I had to say. I have a letter ready to go out in tomorrow morning's mail, as well. When we reached our hotel in Virginia Beach that night (we were unable to get a second night in Williamsburg, having booked on two separate dates), there was a family of six in the lobby looking at a Christmas Town brochure and wondering aloud whether to give it a try the next day. I gave them the Reader's Digest version of our experience, and the mother put the brochure back and said, "Oh... maybe we'll find something fun to do here in Virginia Beach instead." Word of mouth can be a killer sometimes.


Good riddance, Christmas Town/BGE. You won't be seeing me again for a really, really, really long time.


But little did I know that Busch Gardens was saving the best for last. A little less than four hours into our second day of Christmas Town, we were beyond ready to leave. But we had promised Lauryn a peppermint fudge hot chocolate to go (and quite honestly, I wanted to try it myself). Pretty much every single kiosk and restaurant at the park had this stuff on its menu. So I walked up to the kiosk closest to the exit and paid for two cups. The employee put a cup under the spigot, turned it on and...




Apparently they were all out, and then it took her a good five minutes to figure out how to give me my money back. We tried a second kiosk. Nope. A third kiosk. Nope. Finally, at the fourth kiosk we tried, I made the pronouncemet (a little too loudly probably) that if they didn't have it, I was going to guest relations and making someone there personally walk me to the nearest kiosk or restaurant that sold this particular drink (that supposedly they all sold) under threat of a lawsuit against Christmas Town, Busch Gardens and the employee personally.


Miracle of all miracles, they had it, and the woman staffing the kiosk gave me a 10 percent discount for our troubles. The woman behind me said that was the third kiosk she had tried for it. I heard from some other people a few minutes later that they had tried to order it the evening before and were told that every location in the park had run out. That pretty much put the icing on the "ridiculous" cake we had been eating all weekend.


These things are freaky. Yes, they are.


Alas, I don't learn my lessons easily because at the very next shop we stopped at, they had small tubs of Christmas pudding, which I've long wanted to try (they had large tubs of it at the candy store; I didn't want to try it enough to pay $16). So while Kelly is shopping for a Christmas ornament, I take my small tub of pudding to the register, where the cashier rings it up, holds it up to her nose and SMELLS it! I'm standing there in disbelief... and then she does it again! Finally, she says, "What is this stuff? I can't smell what it is."


Pardon me for a second...




I put it back and got another one. I might not eat it right away. It doesn't expire until June 2012, which is kind of scary in itself.


I found another employee and bought some candy cane fudge instead. And had I ever seen candy cane fudge at any store near where I live, you can bet I would have gone there for it instead of giving BGE another cent.


The candy shop in England had some really nice looking Christmas candies! Too bad its employees' demeanor didn't match. I asked to buy something that was listed on the price sign and was told the shop didn't carry it. I protested and told the woman that not only was it on the sign, but I could see it on the counter directly behind her. She yelled at me that they didn't carry it, they never had carried it, and she didn't know what I expected her to do about it.


"Welcome to Christmas Town! Now bend over!"


Oh well. At least Lauryn enjoyed being eaten by the giant tree. And miracle of all miracles, it wasn't even an upcharge (someone's going to get fired for missing that one). We had promised her one last ride of the trip, which we thought would be Cork Screw Hill (which we were Cork Screwed out of riding), so we gave her another spin on the Li'l Clydes instead.


I had mentioned before that it was a shame that we didn't ride Cork Screw Hill our first night at the park. Why? Because by our second night, it wasn't running anymore. The attendant we talked to said they had been working on it all day, but probably wouldn't have it up that night. OK, so Busch Gardens decided to open only 12 rides out of the whole park for Christmas Town, and they couldn't even keep all 12 running at the same time after the first DAY? Give me a break.


And the fact that they apparently had been/would be working on it for a long time leads me to believe this wasn't just a minor issue. You know, BGE, yeah, stuff happens, but maybe next time you're spending untold hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising a huge new event, you should take a few thou out of that budget and put it in... oh, I don't know... maybe maintenance so all DOZEN of your freaking rides freaking work all freaking opening weekend!


I got the barbecue slider sampler. I really wanted the brisket platter, which is what I got during my last visit three years ago, but apparently that's no longer available (or at least wasn't that day). The brisket slider was good; the pulled chicken not so much. The fried pickles were excellent. Kelly got a sampler platter that included a quarter chicken, which she really liked, and some ribs, which were pretty nasty.


And that green velvet cake? It was stale, and 28 hours later my poop is still coming out that color.


That done, we made our way to my second favorite restaurant at Busch Gardens, Trapper's Smokehouse, where we once again dropped a cool $43 on dinner for two adults and a child.


She named it "Potty."


This time, exhausted and completely frustrated with the whole Christmas Town experience, we gave in.


Directly outside the exhibit, of course, they set up a makeshift penguin "duck pond" game. Lauryn had seen this the night before and cried for a good 20 minutes because we wouldn't let her play it.


"You made me stand in line for 15 minutes for this?"


...all both of them. In their three-foot-by-five-foot fish tank.


Now, something you have to understand is, this penguin exhibit? This was supposed to be Chrsitmas Town's HUGE signature attraction. This was vehemently stressed during both our calls to guest relations ("We have no idea how much tickets cost. But be sure to see our live penguins! Bounce pass? Never heard of it. But we're going to have live penguins! Did we mention the penguins? Lady, I don't have time to waste talking to you, just come see the live penguins, OK?"), and it was heavily promoted throughout the park. So this is going to be something big, right? The cheesy Christmas trees and streamers and almost-static displays, they're just to build anticipation, right?


And then we turned the corner, and there were the live penguins...


...and slightly animated, department store window display-quality caricatures of themselves.


...walkways that for some reason are covered with pastel-colored streamers...


...cheesy plastic icicles...


While in line, we learned about penguins. Apparently they like white Christmas trees...


...penguins! After having walked to the entrance from the evening before, we had to walk all the way back around to the other side of the theater to go inside. The original entrance was by then reserved for Quick Queue holders only.


Time to go back to New France for...


I wasn't thrilled that Kelly actually succumbed to this, but she wanted a photo of Lauryn with Santa to give her mother for Christmas, and she figured this was just as good a place to do that as any. In all fairness, the Santa was very good.


Of course, no kid gets to see Santa without a "helpful" elf giving the hard-sell to parents for photos. These are your 2009 Christmas Town "Give Us More Money!" Photo With Santa prices.


"Enough of these random photos; it's time to see Santa!"


"Wow, look at all those people down there enjoying Christmas Town! It's too bad they didn't invite me to participate...."


We see you, Nessie!


The next day we arrived right at 3 p.m. and made plans to go directly to Santa Claus, as we had promised Lauryn. Unfortunately, they blocked off entry to Germany/the North Pole until 3:30. That gave me some while we were waiting to get some nice, unobstructed photos of the Loch Ness Monster's theming.


As we left the theater, they had Victorian carolers to sing us farewell! I thought this was one of the coolest things about Christmas Town, certainly one of the few high points. We saw them several times the next evening, as well.


This was a cute little show about Abby Cadabby's having never heard of Christmas and the rest of the Sesame Street gang trying to teach her about it (Cookie Monster was particularly entertaining, chiming in "christmas cookies" at every appropriate opportunity).


It had some fairly major plot holes--one long segment has them all pining for snow and Abby even casting a spell for it, even though on stage, there's already about a foot of snow on every building and even a snowman! And I couldn't figure out why Big Bird was wearing a tie unless it's to cover some sort of zipper. But that didn't take away from the part of the show that really impressed me--the costumes. The characters were all able to sing and dance with both arms and legs AND move their mouths in time to the script at the same time! Even most of the Disney park characters can't do that!


By the time "Rejoice" was over, the only thing left operating in the park was the final performance of "A Sesame Street Christmas," which was about to begin.


Though "Rejoice" featured a group of men dressed as monks (along with two female vocalists and an impressive live orchestra), the closest they ever got to actually mentioning "God" or "Jesus" by name was singing "Silent Night." They also, for some reason, incorporated John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Happy Christmas (War is Over)," which Kelly and I both thought was really, really odd given the quasi-religious undertones of the rest of the show. Regardless, the singing was good, and the choreography was great (there was one part with a series of mirrors that was especially impressive).


..."Rejoice," which I thought was the second best show at Christmas Town. Kelly liked it better than "Deck the Halls," but that's only because "Rejoice" featured more of the traditional Christmas songs she grew up with in the Catholic church.


Our original intent was to catch a ride on Cork Screw Hill (which, as it turned out, we really should have done). Instead, these outdoor enteratiners caught our attention, and we made our way into...




A short walk through Scotland and we found ourselves in...


Instead, we caught some more quality entertainment in New France (in all fairness, these guys were pretty good) and then took the train back to Scotland... where all 100 of us debarking at the same time were directed to exit through the gift shop, and due to the construction of the gift shop, we had to do it single-file! Fortunately, this was something they fixed by the next night, directing everyone to exit on the other side of the station directly into the park itself.


...that unless we had Quick Queue, we were pretty much screwed if we wanted to see the "Ice Palace: A Penguin Paradise" display that night. This is a shot of that night's entrance (which changed the next day) lit up as we walked away, not wishing to spend our final 45 minutes at the park in the standby line.


...and into France, where we were told...


...back through New France...


After Oktoberfest it was back through Germany...


The Mistletoe Marketplace was supposed to recreate a German holiday market, which it did, I guess... if German holiday markets resemble a row of county fair-style vendors in pop-up tents. My favorite was the booth that had "Alaska Jelly"... which was a combination of pineapple and coconut. Both of which, of course, are key exports of Alaska.


We rounded out our ride time in Oktoberfest with Der Katapult.


She settled for the Werbelwindchen instead (also not listed on the map as being open).


Lauryn wanted to ride Der Werbelwind, but she was half an inch too short.


...and Der Roto Baron (which wasn't listed on the map as being open).


After dinner, we took Lauryn to ride Der Autobahn Jr....


The finale was pretty amazing. Lauryn said this was her favorite part of Christmas Town.


This bit was stolen nearly step-for-step from the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, but it was well executed, nonetheless.


What I got to see of "Deck the Halls" was really, really good. Unfortunately, we ended up sitting behind a woman who was saving seats for her entire family (seat saving and people lingering after their meals to see the next show (which we were guilty of) were both real problems here). I spent the first part of the show staring at her backside as she spent thre of the inaugural four songs standing up, frantically waving to her family from behind the stage in a crowd of 1,000 in close to pitch darkness. She and I had a minor altercation when I finally lost it and angrily told her, "Lady, they can't see you! Please sit down so we can watch the show!" She got mad and left. The people behind and beside me agreed that we all got the better end of the deal.


After getting yelled at by two old ladies at different tables, who were apparently saving the whole table (Das Festhaus employs communal bench seating) and then some for their 47 family members in line, we finally found three seats near the back.


...and even Christmas beer!


...red and green velvet cake (more on these below)...


Other offerings included Christmas cupcakes (or "pupcakes," as Lauryn calls them)...


Kelly got the sausage sampler, as well, and Lauryn got soup in a bread bowl. In all, it cost us just under $43. This was the point where I started comparing Christmas Town to that evil North Pole theme park Jack Frost opens in "The Santa Clause 3."


After nearly an hour in line, this is what I ended up with (the three-layer cake was Kelly and Lauryn's). The sausage sampler was spectacular as always, and the egg nog cheesecake was pretty good, too.


...because this was what greeted us as soon as we stepped inside! See, what Busch Gardens did was, they put their hands-down most popular show of Christmas Town, "Deck the Halls," and put it in their hands-down most popular restaurant... and didn't require anyone to purchase food to sit at the tables and watch the show. So the line was just under an hour long, and then once you finally got your food, there was no guarantee you were going to have a place to sit.


Das Festhaus is my favorite restaurant in the park, which is unfortunate...


As I was taking this photo, some creepy guy came up and started videotaping us! I gave him a funny look and started to say something, and he said, "It's OK; I work for the park." That's fine, but maybe identify yourself as such before sticking a video camera in my 5-year-old stepdaughter-to-be's face. Or at least wear and ID badge or something. Come to think of it, why wasn't he wearing an ID badge? I believed him at the time because he had a professional camera, but was there a pedophile in the park that night masquerading as a Busch Gardens employee? (Probably not... but still.)


At certain intervals during the evening, it light up in different colors, syncronized to Christmas music as part of a show called "O Tannenbaum." It wasn't bad, but if you've seen one of these types of shows, you've seen them all.


Reverse view.


Outside, a 45-foot Christmas tree stood in front of Das Festhaus.


This was easily our favorite ride of the weekend (I'd ridden it before, but neither Kelly nor Lauryn had). Our first night it was a walk-on all night. The second night there were... issues.


There was a moderate line, which is fine; the park was more crowded that night. Unfortunately, the line apparently consisted of a lot of idiots because during the five minutes or so we were in the pre-show room, ride ops had to get on the P.A. system four times to tell people not to sit on the railing, not to open the "Employees Only" doors, etc. And then someone got on the P.A. system and started making loud howling and growling noises, which scared the bejesus out of all the not-so-sure-in-the-first-place kids standing in line.


I fully intended to ask the op at the front of the line whose idea it was to do that when they knew the park was full of young kids for Christmas Town, but a woman several guests in front of us beat me to it and was told that "some kids" had gotten hold of the microphone. OK, how does that happen at all, in any theme park anywhere, ever, and on the off chance it does, why did it take a good two minutes for anyone to notice and/or care enough to do something about it? Where are they keeping this microphone that cast members are that far away?


First stop in Oktoberfest: Curse of DarKastle!


Time to cross another bridge into the Oktoberfest section of the park. The lights here reminded me of old photos I've seen of Tivoli Gardens.




...as was this nearby photo op.


We calmed her down with a ride on the Kinder Carousel instead. The red and green lights and Christmas music were a nice touch...


As it was, the line for Santa was so ungodly long that we told Lauryn we were going to have to wait until the next night to see him. Hell hath no fury like a 5-year-old denied the privilege of seeing Santa Claus NOW!


This was when we discovered that, unlike what we were told when we purchased our tickets, they did sell Quick Queue, specifically for Santa Claus and Christmas Town's illustrious penguin display (more on that below). Had we done that, coupled with the earlier opening and later closing times than advertised, we could have easily finished Christmas Town in one night, avoiding the need for a multi-day ticket and extra night's hotel stay. I strongly considered telling Santa I wanted my wasted time and money back for Christmas.


"I used to be able to see Sears from up here!"


Saw forward (pause, pause, pause), saw backward (pause, pause, pause)....


Come on. Wal-Mart sells better crap than that.


OK, let's talk about the North Pole for a second. Yeah, Busch Gardens spent how many thousands of dollars putting Christmas Town together, yet the decorations for the centerpiece of it all, the North Pole, consist largely of a handful of animated (and I use the term loosely) elves that look strikingly similar to the ones that used to reside at Christmastime in the fountain of my local mall. At least they did from the early '70s until a few years ago when they caught fire and burned the place down....


Hey, where did the naked statue go?


The castle marked the entrance to the section of Germany that was set up as the North Pole.


"You are enjoying Christmas Town, das? Enjoy it or I WILL EAT YOU!!!"


Anyway, as I was saying, on to Germany, where Alpengeist was closed, but this photo op lived on!


My camera doesn't do well with moving objects in low-light conditions, so please accept these as my best Griffon photos of the weekend.


I experienced a lot I didn't like at Christmas Town, but fair is fair: at least they had a coaster open.


...oh, wait. First, let's pause for some Griffon... through the trees!


But enough of that let's walk the bridge across to...


Oh, how I love the traditional holiday accordion!


Welcome to New France (or as we in the U.S. like to call it, Canada)!


There didn't seem to be any special effort to light up the areas around the track unless they could be seen from the footpaths, as well, which led to a number of fairly dark spots. But who needs lights when the train gives you a view like this?


The train was *kind of* decorated with lights. They did some kind of funny thing where they would light up one strand at a time for awhile, and then by the time we reached the next station, they'd all come on at once. It was a bit underwhelming... but the onboard Christmas music was nice.


Next up: a train ride to the other side of the park (or as Lauryn put it, "I think that's the train that takes us to Hogwarts!").


And ride them, too!


OK, screw the map; let's go look at the clydesdales!


Let's check the map...


Now, let's sally forth into England for our first big Christmas Town experience!


Oooh... sparkly! (Kelly's 5-year-old daughter, Lauryn, cried for a long time after this picture; she's been not-so-secretly hoping I'll accidentally fall asleep on some railroad tracks or something so she can go back to having Mommy all to herself--some candy usually helps things along, and I was well prepared!).


First on the agenda: "Will you marry me?"


Eh, it's no Spaceship Earth, but I guess it's as good a theme park event icon as any.


Oh well, mistakes happen... I guess. Let's try to keep our attitudes positive and go inside.


Wait, Christmas Town is open until 10 p.m.? When we bought our tickets, they told us it was only open until 9 p.m. Bonus! Oh, wait... it actually opened at 3 p.m. instead of 4 p.m., AKA the time our pre-purchased tickets say to arrive? Yeah, Busch Gardens... that kind of sucks.


Christmas trees at Busch Gardens? Something must be going on!

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well congrats on the engagement.


That penguin exhibit is a joke. We have a much better exhibit at the Richmond Zoo

I had no desire to go before and now I know I would not go even if it was free.

BGE just sees this as a cheap way to sucker people. There does not even look like there is anything to do except try to plow through the crowds of people.



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You were gonna sue the park and an employee because they were out of a product It happens...


No, in reality, I wasn't going to sue anybody. But the fact that they were out of this heavily advertised product at three (and apparently many more) places barely halfway through their second day of operation was, for me, the final layer on top of a series of increasingly bad experiences that snowballed throughout my two evenings at the park. By that point I could completely see where Clark Griswold was coming from at the end of "National Lampoon's Vacation."

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Very good report, and congrats on your engagement!


I was there on opening night, and while I saw a few minor flaws, I think we pretty much had a different experience.


From my point of view, I saw the event as being pretty well planned and executed. All of the employees I came into contact with were nice and helpful. I didn't notice any ride downtime, and it looked like they were actually operating more rides then expected, with Battering Ram and Flying Machine being open. I only saw one show, Rejoice, but I thought it was pretty good. Griffon was walk on for most of the night. And best of all, everybody seemed into the christmas spirit.


I certainly did experience some problems though. The biggest flaw that I noticed, and which you pointed out, was holding Deck the Halls and O Tannenbaum in the Festhaus, which made for a massive continuous crowd. We had planned on eating dinner there, but after seeing the line for food, left and ate elsewhere. I also had a somewhat undesirable experience with the food I purchased at Grogan's Grill in Ireland, one of the bread bowls with soup. The bread was stale and they gave me very little soup, less than half a cup. Not what I had expected from previous food experiences at Busch Gardens.


One of the souvenir cups that came with the peppermint hot chocolate for an extra $2-3 looked like a decent deal. But after one of the cups leaked inside my mom's handbag (with the lid firmly closed and secure), damaging our camera and her phone, it sure seemed like they went cheap on them. And I'm not suprised they ran out of that hot chocolate-it was selling like crazy, and they looked like they were understocked.


I sure am glad I didn't wait for the Ice Palace thing- it looks pretty bad and not even close to Busch standards


Although I was very impressed with Christmas Town overall, I was only there for one night and didn't experience everything. So from reading your report, it looks like I came out lucky, and there are some things that need tweaking.

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Look, I'm not gonna bash you Printerdevil78 for your ranting on a bad experience and what not, heck we all have our own opinions on parks, events the whole 9 yards. A few things I would like to bring forth though if I may.


1.All parks that set these events up can make mistakes.They plan these things for months at a time. You may have just caught it on a bad day.


SFGADV had far worse of a time with the "winterfest" they offered years ago. .No rides open, half a foot of snow on the ground..NO "please watch your step, its icy" signs...all they did was have 3 buildings open selling beany babys and SIX FLAGS items ONLY full price $5 for a hot chocolate and a tiny cookie...a fake skating indoor stage, an out door flat ice rink that was no bigger than a 10x10ft room.


It could have been worse.


The experience in my opinion is not about the rides though.


2. Curse of DarKastle is NOT meant for little kids in the first place. The Pre show alone on my visits during its opening year and any time after had kids running out of the room screaming. I find the howling and what not, even if it was a kid or the attendant to be something I like to call "Ambiance" It added to the experience for many people. Face it there's wolf statues out in the que for a reason.



3. Don't try to kill Chuck Norris over this event.


I will say nice photos though.

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Thanks for the report. Lots of cheesy stuff they could improve. Is only their 2nd year. They will get the hang of it. Just like BGT with HOS....They got the hang of it now.

Anyways, I feel like perhaps BGE's may not be well trained, so I hope you at least contacted someone about this unfortunate situation and how this could be avoided. I hope they take that into consideration.


To BGE's defense.

Do you really expect to have a lot of rides working properly in cold weather?

Stuff happens, and I assure you that the rides are well taken care of. From my experience, I noticed that there are those random once in a blue moon day, where all the rides decide to go down for whatever reason, and it is a B!tch. 1) People are all complaining, 2) The mechanics are hustling to get things fixed as soon as possible and as efficient as possible.

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^^^There's another thing. Now I'm finding out that there were rides and even a whole land (Italy) that opened up, but that we missed because they weren't on the map or in the literature the park gave us with the tickets (and if it was on a board or anything like that at the entrance, then I missed that, too). Most of what we did that wasn't listed on the map were things we accidentally ran into, like those two kiddie rides. It just seems like this conversation took place sometime on Monday or Tuesday of last week:


BGE Exec No. 1: "Oh crap. Marketing has really been pushing this thing, this... what's it called? Christmas Land?"


BGE Exec. No. 2: "Christmas Town."


Exec. No. 1: "Yeah, this Christmas Town. I even saw it on a billboad today."


Exec. No. 2: "What are we gonna do?"


Exec. No. 1: "Quick! Get some money out of petty cash. I'll get the intern up here, then we can send him to Wal-Mart for some Christmas lights."


Exec. No. 2: "Then what?"


Exec. No. 1: "Then who cares? We'll make it up as we go along. I'm leaving for Thanksgiving. See you Friday."


Maybe my problem wasn't that it was a "bad" event, per se; maybe it just wasn't what I was expecting to come from a place with standards as high as Busch Gardens has seemed to have had in the past.

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I can understand your "beef" with the event, however, I think your report is a little harsh.


Keep in mind, this is the first year and you were there the first day, mistakes are guaranteed. Crowds were far beyond what were predicted and Italy opened to help relieve some of the congestion. Italy acts as the back-up plan for large crowds.


Yes, putting "Deck the Halls" in Festhaus may not have been the brightest idea, but I guarantee you that management is already thinking for next year. BGW management doesn't kid around, trust me.


And, the conversion for Christmas Town actually began over the summer but was not evident in the park until maybe the end of Howl-O-Scream.


Also, as I'm sure with many parks, only major and mid-sized attractions are listed or shown on park maps.


Sorry for the problems you experienced, If you'd like to call Guest Relations, their number is 757-253-3220.

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I can understand your "beef" with the event, however, I think your report is a little harsh.


Keep in mind, this is the first year and you were there the first day, mistakes are guaranteed. Crowds were far beyond what were predicted and Italy opened to help relieve some of the congestion. Italy acts as the back-up plan for large crowds.


Yes, putting "Deck the Halls" in Festhaus may not have been the brightest idea, but I guarantee you that management is already thinking for next year. BGW management doesn't kid around, trust me.


And, the conversion for Christmas Town actually began over the summer but was not evident in the park until maybe the end of Howl-O-Scream.


Also, as I'm sure with many parks, only major and mid-sized attractions are listed or shown on park maps.


Sorry for the problems you experienced, If you'd like to call Guest Relations, their number is 757-253-3220.


Agreed. I also think he went through one bad experience and mostly focus on all the negative things

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Sorry for the problems you experienced, If you'd like to call Guest Relations, their number is 757-253-3220.


Was this necessary? Seriously, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that Jason is fully capable of handling the situation the correct way. If it warranted a call to guest relations, he surely would have made it.


Instead, he posts a well written trip report, documenting the event and his subsequent frustrations with it, and is then bombarded with BGE fanboys defending their park.




Jason, for the record, I felt your frustration coming through that report, and I can agree with how you felt. Judging by the report, it certainly didn't seem up to Busch standards. I don't care whether it's opening night or not, it just didn't. Two penguins in a fish tank? Really, Busch?


And for the kids in here, there's another point of view that you'd probably never consider. When a guy plans a marriage proposal, it's human nature to want everything to go flawless. Personally, if it had been me on that evening, I would have hoped for better as well.


I obviously can't speak for Jason, but you hope for a perfect evening, and when it doesn't happen, sometimes minor points of disappointment can add up to larger aggrevations.


I'm always willing to give a park some room for improvement, but what's wrong with an honest trip report where the author is disappointed?



By the way, Congratulations to you both!

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Hey congrats on the engagement!


As for Christmas Town, wow. Indeed a rough time, but here's wishes for happier times during the holidays.


For a mild dose of humor here, while we were at the Memphis Zoo for Zoo Lights (Christmas Event) this weekend, there were two little girls near the front plaza under the snow machines. One girl was pretty well covered in it. She looked at her sleeves and said, "Ahhh! What IS this STUFF?!?!" Her friend looked at her deadpan and said "It's snow." The first girl had never seen snow before. Ever.

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It's the thought that counts. It's funny how the cashier smelled your pudding though. At least Griffon was open. Though I couldn't stand seeing coasters closed like that. I also don't see why Alpengiest wasn't open since it already has the winter theme going.


Agreed, definitely not up to health dept. standards I'm sure!!!! What I've been wondering since seeing 2 of these PTR's so far is why is Griffon the only coaster open. Is it a maintenance, end of season rehab type issue or does the weather have something to do with it. I remember hearing where Hershey couldn't run some of theirs during STITP because of the cold, but I have seen PTR's of Japan on here where Robb and Elissa were shoveling snow from the que to get to the rides??


I went to the first year of KP's fright Nights and seems like they had the same kind of issues, not many rides and a little hit and miss type stuff that seems to have worked itself out over the years. Hopefully BGE can do the same with this and make a go of it, just another reason to get parks in these parts of the country open more than just summer!!!

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Was this necessary? Seriously, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess that Jason is fully capable of handling the situation the correct way. If it warranted a call to guest relations, he surely would have made it.


Thanks, Scott. For the record, I didn't call guest relations over the issues we experienced (see my original post for our past experiences with that office), but I did drop a letter in the mail today stating not so much, "I hated your event, and I want my money back," but "Thanks for putting on this event. Here are some things you might want to take into consideration for next year."


I understand the argument that it was a first-year event--that would account for things like the Festhaus crowds, which I'm sure will be handled differently in future years. But basic things like the times changing after our ticket purchase, which was just 10 days before the event; guest relations having no clue about how to answer questions about the different tiers of tickets; and the handful of unfortunate encounters we had with employees are what cause me to raise questions about how organized this event really was to begin with.


What I don't buy is the argument that we should have cut them any slack just because it was a first-year event. Between admission, food, hotels, gas, etc., this was a $372 weekend. Let's say instead of going to Christmas Town, we spent that money on a skateboard (granted, a really expensive skateboard), and as soon as we got it home, one of the wheels fell off. If I call the factory and they say, "Well, that was the first skateboard we ever made, but they'll get better as we go along," my response isn't going to be, "Well, it was your first one and it does still have three wheels... so I guess that's OK." It's going to be, "What are you going to do to fix or replace my dang skateboard?"


But I'm repeating myself. And I'll take my lumps from the fanboys. Heck, after having faced the wrath of Cedar Point and Knotts fans in the past five months, I'm up to the challenge! Besides, before this past weekend's experience, I would have been right up there defending BGE with them.

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It sounds like a combination of poor planning and inter-departmental communication on Busch's part. Add to that being the first year and it looks like they have a lot of work to do to improve this event.


Anyways, it is okay to say negative things about a park, guys. It is one thing to come on here and just say..."I went to so and so park today and it sucked so you have to listen to me rant!". He presented a well constructed story which proved there was some validity to his complaints. I have to agree here, two penguins in a fricking tank?!?


Oh, and congrats on the engagement!

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Wow...after reading your report and seeing the exhibits in pictures, I can certainly understand your frustrations. I would also have expected (a lot) more from a Busch park, especially considering their steep admission prices.


BTW...did you ask them "Who the eff is Donder?"


Congrats on your engagement...I am confident that you and your family will have many more theme park visits that turn out better than this one!

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I just find it rediculus how every trip report has to be ALWAYS positive or people start criticizing and bashing the poster because they think a park or event is the best thing ever. Aren't the point of trip reports to point of the negatives and positives of parks? You have every right to say whatever about the park and let me say congrats, and from the ads for Christmastown it looked like it would be a quality X-Mas event, but I guess it wasn't. Who seriously puts penguins in a small aquarium for fish? That doesn't sound like Busch Gardens for some reason.


About the Christmas Pudding...

Sounds like the gift that you can keep on giving! lol I wouldn't lock it in a closet though.

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Jason, I have to say that your hypothetical conversation between BG Execs was hilarious . Congrats on your engagement, and thanks for the thorough report as usual. As much as I'd love to get down to the park to check everything out and form my own opinions, they just don't seem to have anything unique or entertaining to me, so I'll just wait and see if they ramp it up and add some more attractions next year.

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