The holiday season in Tampa Bay may look a little different this year as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, but the magic of the holidays is still here. One of our favorite events for families is Christmas Town at Busch Gardens and this year, we’re appreciating the added bonus of this event being outdoors.
The park is also operating at a reduced capacity to allow you and your family plenty of room to keep your distance from others and the have a face mask mandate. These rules, which may seem stringent for some, are in place to keep everyone safe from your family to Busch Gardens employees.
The park worked closely with the health experts at the state and local level to help develop a plan to keep you safe during your visit, but also ensure you can still have a great day/night with the kids!
First things first
Make sure you not only have your ticket or annual pass, but also a reservation for the day you want to attend. As we just mentioned, this is helping Busch Gardens keep capacity at a minimum so you can easily practice the two words that have become a part of our 2020 vocabulary…social distancing.
If you haven’t been back since they re-opened, keep in mind that face masks are required for everyone ages 2 and older. You’ll also have your temperature taken when you arrive, but it’s totally non-invasive–you simply walk through a tent and a camera checks your body temperature.
If you have little ones with you, we recommend you go early so you can experience more of what’s going on at Sesame Street Safari of Fun and ensure the kiddos get back home in time for bedtime.
The Meet and Greets
If your kiddos are big fans of Sesame Street, they’ll love the meet and greets with their favorite characters dressed in their holiday best at Sunny Day Theatre. This opportunity at Christmas Town is at various times earlier in the day, so around lunchtime. The day we attended it was 11:30am and 12:30 pm.
There is also an adorable holiday themed live show, ‘Elmo’s Christmas Wish’ that will have everyone up on their feet dancing to the tunes at the outdoor Sunny Day Theater. This is a good time to check out the rides in Safari of Fun just for the little ones.
Santa is also ready to chat with the kids at the Coca-Cola outdoor pavilion near the Bird Gardens. Santa has his face mask on and so do his elves–they’ve got a big night ahead of them and need to stay healthy! Your kids will still get one on one time with Santa and chat with the jolly old elf about what’s on their holiday wish list. Santa’s Merry Meet and Greets start at 3:00 pm daily. We made this a first stop just in case lines got long later in the night.
Rudolph and Clarice from the holiday classic, ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ are also back for photos from a safe distance in a covered outdoor area in Pantopia. It’s super cute and while it’s not the same as years before, Busch Gardens really did a phenomenal job with finding ways to keep the holiday magic alive. Rudolph and Clarice start taking pics at 3:00 pm daily, too!
The holiday princesses are also back this year! You’ll notice the Ice Princess, Poinsettia Princess and Sugar Plum Princess wearing super fancy coordinating masks to stay safe. They’re available through out the evening for photos beginning at 5:00 pm throughout the park. We also spotted the Jolly Snowmen near Zagora Cafe. It’s a super cute photo opportunity.
What’s NEW at Christmas Town in 2020
If you stick around a bit later, put those eyes to the sky on select nights to enjoy the NEW “Spark the Night” Fireworks show at Festival Field. This area will give you plenty of space to space out from others.
For the first time ever…the ‘Christmas on Ice’ ice-skating performance is moving outdoors! The ice/stage is at Festival stage. They’ll be performing Fridays through Sundays and additional nights as we get closer to the holidays.
If the kids love scavenger hunts, they’ll love the NEW Christmas Town Scavenger Hunt–you can purchase a sticker map at stores like the Emporium or Marrakesh Market. Look for the stockings near the animal habitats around the park and then bring your completed map back to the Emporium for a special prize!
More Family Fun at Christmas Town at Busch Gardens
The Holly Jolly Express is a must experience for families. You can board the open air train for a ride around the park as you sing along to favorite Christmas tunes. It’s being operated at reduced capacity so you have space to socially distance from others.
Over at Dragon Fire Grill, you can see the musical tale of the Three Kings Journey as it brings the journey to Bethlehem to the stage.
The Sweets and Treats
Make your way over the Christmas Town Village to sip and taste your way through holiday treats! The kids loved the Chicken and Waffles from Winter Waffles & Bites. The Bison Beef Slider was delicious too! We then headed for dessert at Claus’ Baked Goods where the kids got the Festive Mini Donuts and Brownie S’mores. Finally, we stopped at Cookies & Cocoa to get hot cocoa as I promised the kids and mama got herself a chocolate chip Fresh Baked Deep Dish Cookie.
If you’ve designated a driver, the non-driving adults will love some of themed cocktails in Christmas Town Village like a spiked hot cocoa with Kahula, Peppermint Schnapps or Bailey’s Irish cream. There a several other specialty cocktails, wines and brews too!
The best and most cost effective way to taste your way through Christmas Town is with a Christmas Town Sampler Lanyard which starts at $34.99 for a 5 punch card. If you’re a pass member, you can pick up a 12-punch lanyard for the price of a 12-punch.
The Lights! So Many Lights!
One of our favorite things about Christmas Town is the millions of lights that light up the park! They usually begin the install process in the summertime, but the pandemic changed that so it was super fast mode as installation began a couple months ago.
Christmas Town Village is beautifully lit up and we LOVE the colors and rainbow of trees in Sesame Street Safari of Fun!
The kids loved running through the light tunnel that connects Congo to Stanleyville. It’s so cool to stand in the middle as the lights dance along to the music. It’s a great selfie spot too!
Upgrade your experience
You can make it even more memorable with by upgrading your day if you go early and book Animal Encounters we’ve come to love over the years like the Aldabra Tortoise Insider Tour which is great for kids ages 5 and older.
You can also pick up a Priority Access ticket to skip the line for Santa’s Merry Meet and Greet and Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland. That ticket is $29.99 for up to six guests to skip the line. If you want an up close view of Christmas on Ice and Fireworks viewing, you can upgrade to VIP seating.
That’s a wrap!
Despite the modifications in 2020, Christmas Town is still a great experience for the entire family. The shops even have an awesome selection of holiday themed gear, so don’t sweat it if you don’t have anything handy at home! You just might find the perfect holiday gift too.