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Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (BGT Discussion Thread)

p. 375: Phoenix Rising family inverted coaster announced for 2024!

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I will be going in the next few weeks. I can't wait because I've been wanting this since I've seen the pictures from BGW. I have friends who have been working on it for the past few months, and they are very excited for it to be open and love how good it turned out.

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On Friday I had the chance to visit the brand new Christmas Town extra ticket event at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Inspired by the success of its Busch Gardens Williamsburg counterpart, Christmas Town takes the already stellar park experience and gives it a holiday twist while retaining some of the favorite attractions available normally in the park.


Let me just say that this event, like rival extra ticket events found in Central Florida will require proper time management and possibly even additional visits to see and experience it all (I know I want to go back to catch what I missed during this visit). There is simply so much to do at Christmas Town that for the price of $35-$40 (depending on advance ticket prices and annual passholder rates) is easily justified, if not proven a steal of a deal for the total value.


The event offers several special entertainment offerings that are exclusive to Christmas Town. Of those offered, I was able to see three, but will definitely go back to revisit those and to see the ones I missed. Rather than list out my thoughts here, I'm going to include them in the captions for the related photos... But seriously, if you were on the fence about Christmas Town or were interested in this event, take a look because this is one of my new favorite holiday experiences for Florida! There's really so much to love, so let's begin!




Welcome to Christmas Town!


From the second you enter the park you are greeted with some incredible Christmas lighting.


One of the first entertainment offerings is the the Christmas Carolers at the front. Be sure to watch the video above for glimpse at their humorous holiday tunes!


There's really so much to do at Christmas Town!


Here's a look at the event's park map. I was truly surprised at just how much of the park is actually utilized for Christmas Town!


You can get a photo with a Christmas Angel.


Iconic portions of the park look even better during the Christmas Town hours of operation!


Cheetah Hunt is one of the four coasters open during the event, and as always, it runs amazingly! Even better, the entire Edge of Africa section of the ride is totally unlit, so it is a totally new experience to be had!


I call it, Space Cheetah!


The Crossroads (Cheetah Hunt's realm) received several awesome Christmas additions including this huge tree!


In addition to being open for quick service dinner during the event, the Crown Colony House serves as the second entertainment offering exclusive to Christmas Town in the form of the Carol of the Bells. Covered in stunning dancing lights (akin to the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights), the entire face of the building plays host to a two-song performance that replays every fifteen minutes for guests to enjoy.


Like other extra ticket events, the park's capacity is more limited, allowing wait times for the rides to decrease significantly.


In other words Cheetah Hunt was a walk on!


Jingle Bell Junction, located around the entrance of Gwazi, is home to some of the more kid-friendly options in the event.


Gwazi is open for business during Christmas Town, which means another chance to ride those awesome Millenium Flyers that Busch Gardens added last year!


The Jingle Bell Express is a trackless children's train ride found in Jingle Bell Junction.


The sheer amount of Christmas lights added to the park is amazing!


Ever seen a Christmas tree made of poinsettias? Poinsettia Parkway has that covered and more!


Enchanted Flamingo Valley is covered in pink lights in tribute to Florida's most well known birds.


And there has to be flamingo lights in a place called Enchanted Flamingo Valley...


Moving towards the back of the park we find Sesame Street: A Very Furry Christmas, a holiday update of the Sesame Street Safari of Fun also open during the event.


Like the rest of the park sections involved in Christmas Town the Safari of Fun portion is well lit.


What is the main attraction of this area during Christmas Town, you ask?


It's to get a photo op with Bird Bird and Cookie Monster!


Next on the agenda was Angels of Peace: A Christmas Journey on Ice.


As with all of the ice skating shows Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has hosted over the years at the Moroccan Palace, this one truly impresses!


I've never seen an ice skating show with aerial acrobatics, so this was neat to watch!


The show is very modern in its approach with the perfect run time and is not overly religious, making it accessible to the entire audience (myself included).


There's immense talent to be found on this stage, and this show is something of spectacle just to see the movements performed.


I strongly recommend taking the time to see one of the two shows of Angels of Peace during your visit to Christmas Town!


How could I resist walking back onto Cheetah Hunt for another awesome night ride?


They have specialty Dippin' Dots flavors!


Cheetah Hunt looks amazing as always!


Busch Gardens recently added a digital sign beneath the Cheetah Hunt windcatcher tower...


Which allowed us to see this...


And more excitingly this!




Candy Cane Lane is the path way guests can take to head towards Santa's House and Timbuktu.


The Serengeti Express takes on the holiday persona of the Christmas Town Sing Along Train. Sadly we didn't have time to try this one...


Much like the one at Busch Gardens Williamburg, Christmas Town features some penguins, except these ones are African Penguins!


I had no idea that African Penguins even existed!


Not quite what I imagined the North Pole would look like...


The path to Santa's House is one of the most heavily lit sections of the park during the event.


As expected, Santa Claus is a very popular man in Christmas Town.


This is as close as we were able to get to Santa on this evening in order to make sure that we had time to visit Snow World, but we heard nothing but good things about the meet and greet experience.


I never imagined the holidays in Timbuktu to look like this.


The Desert Grill looks great!


I didn't realize this until we arrived, but Scorpion is open for Christmas Town and runs incredibly as always. This Schwarzkopf looper is still very forceful, smooth and insanely fun!


Club Elf can be found in Stanleyville on the way to Sheikra.


Stanleyville looks even better at night thanks to these added decorations!


Miracle Way is the pathway between Stanleyville and the Sesame Street Safari of Fun, and its entrance features this iconic scene.


The covered pathway has been in the park forever, but the added lighting really makes it look even better!


We've saved the best for last (it was actually the last thing we experienced at Christmas Town) by going to Snow World.


That's right folks! This is real snow, not soap or foam, but really powder in Florida! Found in one of the covered pavilions typically used for Howl-O-Scream houses, this decent-sized venue holds my favorite aspect of Christmas Town.


There's even a snow tubing course in Snow World! Check out the video above for a POV of the slide!


The Floridian in me really loved being able to hold real snow in Florida!


And the best news? Snow World is presented by Coca-Cola!


Seriously guys, I can't rave enough about Christmas Town! There's so much to enjoy, whether this is your first time at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or your thousandth! What an incredible event this is!

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Wow, looks like another great offering from SeaWorld parks. I've been very very impressed with their seasonal events over the past years, everyone I've ever been to (Christmas at Seaworld, Hallowscreeams, Summer Nights, Bands Brew and BBQ, Sppoktacular) have all been REALLY good and this looks no different. Kinda cool that it's a separate ticketed event, the Cheetah Hunt and Kumba walk ons make this event worth the admission price alone.

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The snow-play area is in particular a nice touch. I'd like to see Williamsburg do this, as well--and, hey, how about a big ice house with an ice slide and an ice bar, while they're at it?


The Busch parks are doing a great job with Christmas events.

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That's awesome. I'm glad Busch Gardens looks so amazing during the holiday season. I love it when parks dish out the extra bucks to fancy up a park during the holiday season. The more lights the better in my opinion. And so Snow World...Freaking Amazing! I love that idea and I bet some Florida peeps are going to love it.


Great update!


Jimmy "We had snow in Tucson in 2007" Bo

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  • 2 weeks later...

Has anyone ever done NYE at BGT? I will be in the area with family this year and was wondering how nuts it could be crowdwise, and whether the park makes any serious efforts beyond the late hours.


I was a little dismayed that Christmas Town apparently ends before Christmas instead of pushing through Jan 1 like the Disney holiday offerings, or we'd definitely make a point of visiting around those dates.

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Has anyone ever done NYE at BGT? I will be in the area with family this year and was wondering how nuts it could be crowdwise, and whether the park makes any serious efforts beyond the late hours.


I was a little dismayed that Christmas Town apparently ends before Christmas instead of pushing through Jan 1 like the Disney holiday offerings, or we'd definitely make a point of visiting around those dates.


I've done NYE at BGT. It can be nuts depending on what time you get there; especially parking. Last year we went and we had to park in Adventure Island's parking lot and we arrived around 5pm. If you go earlier in the day however it's not as bad, though that would depend on how long you wanted to stay in the park. The ride waits were a bit long, but nothing horrible other than Cheetah Hunt which had a 2 hour wait time at one point. They will still have the decorations up and some of the Christmas shows should still be performed as well. You can check the park's website for show information closer to that day (the show schedule isn't posted yet).


I think they do a good job, but Seaworld Orlando's NYE is much better and that's where we are going. They are very busy as well, but with all the shows it helps. BGT however is usually pretty slow on New Year's Day (the past 3 years I've gone) if you are looking to go on a not so busy day.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just noticed that Shiekra will be closed for little more than a month for some fresh paint.

SheiKra is one of the most popular rides at Busch Gardens. The “floorless” cars give riders a breathtaking view of their journey 200 feet up, then 90 degrees straight down. Starting January 7, SheiKra will be closed to get a fresh coat of paint.


Fear not, coaster lovers. In the meantime, there are four other coasters that will be running throughout the month. Cheetah Hunt, Montu, Kumba and Gwazi offer world-class thrills and wild rides.


Thank you for your patience while the coaster is undergoing this makeover. SheiKra reopens on February 16, and will look brighter and better than ever!



How faded has the paint gotten? I know that Red Paint doesn't age well. Glad to see that BGT is investing the Time/Money to keep this ride looking good.

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I fail to see how I was complaining... simply answering DougMJr's question in saying I didn't think it looked all that bad and sharing a recent picture so that he could see for himself. Of course, a fresh coat of paint never hurt anyone.

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I guess I've been out of the loop for awhile, but is one side of Gwazi really closed for good? That's crazy considering they JUST upgraded to Millennium Flyers. Busch really has not been pleased with that ride has it?

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