This weekend we had the pleasure of going to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. While I was initially troubled by the cost, I did some shopping around and was able to skim some off the ticket price by buying the adult tickets online before getting to the park. (Also, yesterday I found that Publix has them for even cheaper, but I try not to dwell on that). Anyway, I decided we should go because it’s the first year Busch Gardens is attempting to capture the Christmas spirit so completely, and I want to see how they grow over the years.

We got there right when they opened, and I was immediately impressed by the setup of lights at the entrance. We made our decision and wandered toward Gwazi and Jingle Bell Junction because I knew The Younger would want to ride the train there, and I was pretty sure The Older could be convinced to ride it as well. The line wasn’t long so we waited, and both The Younger and The Older rode it. It was cute- a miniature steam train that made a few loops around decorated trees. Very do-able for kids and adults ;-)

From there we wandered through  the Christmas Town Village. That was really cute- booths of specialized things like blown glass and wood crafts lined the walkway, and there were food areas as well. The Daddy and I had eggnog (and yes, we did splurge on a shot of brandy!), and the kids had a special drink that included Sprite, a shot of mint, and a candy cane. Very cute!

We ended up at Snow World, which was both amazing and disappointing at the same time.

We came up to the line for the snowball toss first, and the kids were so excited! We decided to wait there and let them throw at the targets, then move on to Snow World itself where they could then sled and roll around in the snow. We heard they let in 50-75 people at a time for 10 minutes, and it sounded great! We waited for about 20  minutes to throw the snowballs, and it was fun listening to the excited kids around us and watch the adults and kids both throwing the snow.

The kids were amazed and thrilled with this. The Younger kept running over and demanding we “feel how cold” her hands were, and The Older had a ball trying to make the snowballs and hit the targets.

After that, we went right over to snow town. Oh my goodness, what a line! After waiting to see how long it would really take to get 2 batches of people through, we decided that it would have been over a 2 hour wait, and given what time it was, we would miss out on everything else there was to see. So, with promises of hot chocolate and cookies amidst the tears, we left the line. (We were not the only ones leaving; it was pretty sad to see all those little guys crying because of the length of the line). I was sad too- I grew up with the snow, but this was the first chance my kids were going to get seeing/playing in it. That was very disappointing.

We went right over to Poinsettia Parkway which was beautiful. I love poinsettias anyway, so this was a real treat for me to see all the plants making up the walkway and designed into big tree shapes. This lead right into Enchanted Flamingo Valley, and that was amazing! Both sides were lit up with displays like this, and across the pond a lit flamingo actually “flew” it’s way to a landing. Very well done, and the kids got a big kick out of it all.

We bypassed Sesame Street completely due to time constraints, but we did walk by and heard a lot of laughter. All the rides were open too, so I’m sure everyone was having a great time ;-)

Right past that, we came across my FAVORITE display. They had candlelit lanterns hanging from the bird atrium and lining the pathways around it. The covered bridge at the top of the path was filled with them as well, and the whole effect was absolutely magical! It literally took my breath away, and even The Daddy agreed that it was absolutely amazing. Really, it was breathtaking.

The rest of the park was beautiful as well. Busch Gardens did a great job, and I’m impressed with the layout. It isn’t overwhelming, but there’s enough to see that you don’t feel “cheated” out of paying extra to see it.

I would change a few things about this event though, and the biggest complaint I have is regarding Snow Town. That was obviously the biggest draw, and it was a huge disappointment to have to chose either playing in the snow or seeing the rest of the park. I hope they take into consideration how much interest there was in the snow itself and make the display bigger and able to accommodate more people. My other thought is that the shows need to be constructed the way the houses are done during Hallowscream- continuous play! The Christmas event is from 6pm-11pm, and you really can’t see everything in that amount of time. We bypassed Snow World, all the shows, the sing-along train ride, and visiting Santa, and we didn’t even leave until 10:20pm! I can’t imagine that you could see everything there was to offer if you waited for the shows, and isn’t that one of the things Busch Gardens is known for?

Was it worth it? YES! Could it have been arranged better? Of course, but that’s because nothing is perfect. Will I go again next year? YOU BET, and I’m hoping they make some adjustments so we can enjoy everything there for Christmas 2013.

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