The holiday season is all about traditions. Putting milk and cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Driving through the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights. Picking out a tree and decorating it with ornaments. For us frogs, we hop to all of the Orlando theme parks! However, we've recently starting heading over to Tampa Bay for Busch Gardens' Christmas Town. We always have a merry time here and we're hoppy to share all of the details!
Christmas Town has a lot to offer — sparkling lights, seasonal shows, special character greetings (including Santa himself!), festive food and more. On select nights, there's even a special fireworks show to light up the night! Overall, it's best to make a plan if you wish to accomplish as much as possible — something we learned on the fly the first time around. If you have the extra time to hop over to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay during this holiday season, here’s what you can expect.
General Information about Busch Gardens Christmas Town
This year, Busch Gardens Christmas Town festivities begin Nov. 14, 2022, and will continue through Jan. 9, 2023. While the event takes place daily, some experiences may only be available on select nights. For instance, the Holiday in the Sky fireworks show hoppens every Saturday, but also from Nov. 20-23 & 25, Dec. 2, 9, 16, 18, 23 & 25-30 and Jan. 1. Additionally, "Three Kings Journey" and "Elmo's Christmas Wish" only run on select days during the event. If you want to see showtimes for a specific day, check the park hours and entertainment schedule on Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's website.
Best of all, the Christmas Town fun is included with park admission, a Fun Card or an annual pass. Most of the Christmas Town festivities take place after 2 p.m. (though during the week, shows may have earlier showtimes due to earlier park closing times), but we highly suggest arriving early, especially if you plan to go over a weekend or during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day as there are a lot of things to do! A good problem to have, right?
Busch Gardens Christmas Town Entertainment and Lights
No matter which land you're in, there's holiday excitement waiting to be found! Here's a list of the new and returning entertainment you can enjoy at Christmas Town this year.
Christmas on Ice
Christmas Town’s signature ice skating show is back at the Moroccan Palace Theater. Watch ice skaters glide to yuletide melodies with impressive choreography in solo, couples and group performances. Get to the theater about 30 minutes early to get a good seat as it can fill up quickly. Once the show starts, guests can still enter, but you'll be directed up to the balcony so as not to disturb the performers. If you're in the park on a day when this show is hoppening, we recommend catching the first performance of the day (usually at 2 p.m.) so you have the rest of the afternoon and night to enjoy everything Christmas Town has to offer.
Three Kings Journey
Located in the Dragonfire Grill, Three Kings Journey unites magical voices in perfect harmony, unfolding the famed journey to the humble town of Bethlehem. Filled with gorgeous Christmas hymns, this 13-minute show is a beautiful way to commemorate the season.
Elmo’s Christmas Wish
Join Elmo, Cookie Monster, Zoe, Grover and Rosita as they learn the meaning of Christmas during this tadpole-friendly show in Sesame Street Safari of Fun. The Sesame Street gang gets all of the tadpoles — and tadpoles at heart — into the Christmas spirit as they each share their own Christmas wishes. Cookie Monster stars in his "All I Want for Christmas is You" solo … which to no one’s surprise, "you" really means cookies, and Rosita teaches the crowd how to sing "Jingle Bells" in Spanish. The show concludes with Elmo and friends singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," which makes for a fitting finale!
We suggest catching the first show of the day at 12:30 p.m., so you have more time in the evening to explore the Christmas lights and catch the other shows. This is another show we recommend arriving about 30 minutes beforehand.
Storytime with Mrs. Claus
This merry little show stars Mother Christmas herself and one of her favorite elves! Located in the Coke Canopy, sit down on the bleachers or up in front on the rug and listen closely as Mrs. Claus reads "The Night Before Christmas" while her famous Christmas cookies are baking in the oven. This show is interactive and even includes a sing-a-long at the end! Grab some sleigh bells and warm up your vocal cords (with some delicious hot chocolate). And don't leave the stage area before grabbing a photo with Mrs. Claus after the show!
If your tadpole wants a spot on the rug, be sure to get here 30 minutes prior to showtime! If you don't have a seating preference, arriving 10 to 20 minutes before showtime won't be an issue.
Holiday in the Sky: A Fireworks Spectacular
End the night with a bang (literally) as you watch colorful fireworks burst into the sky during this new pyrotechnic display, which is synced with everyone’s favorite Christmas songs and holiday tunes. Plus, Iron Gwazi is lit up in red and green, adding a jolly backdrop if you’re viewing the fireworks from the Festival Field. When we went both this year and last year, though, the winds were too high to view the show from the Festival Field. The best place to go if that happens is right next to the Coke Canopy and, yes, the show's music is still played over the speakers.
Christmas with the Celts & Wizards of Winter
Hop inside the Stanleyville Theater during the last two weekends of December and the first weekend of January to listen to holiday melodies performed by talented musicians. From Dec. 16 to 18 and 23 to 25, celebrate Irish dance, music and culture with the Celts and enjoy fresh holiday musical selections, as well as ancient Celtic Christmas carols and Irish dance. From Jan. 6 to 8, get lost in the soaring vocal harmonies, precision string instrumentation and powerful percussion of the Wizards of Winter — an 11-member ensemble featuring former members of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Def Leppard, as well as some Broadway and theatre veterans.
Wander in awe of the millions of dazzling Christmas lights displayed throughout all corners of the 335-acre park. From the entrance’s festive projections to adorable waddles of light-up penguins, there are plenty of opportunities for merriment and photos.
We frogs unanimously agree that our family’s favorite display was Luminosity Lane, a tunnel of dancing lights that coordinate with music. We just stood off to the side for a solid 10 minutes to watch the lights turn into festive colors and patterns. The tunnel connects the Congo and Stanleyville areas.
Holly Jolly Express
Hop aboard the Holly Jolly Express! Celebrate the holiday season with a scenic ride into the safari while listening to popular Christmas tunes. We suggest getting on the train at the Nairobi station so you can catch the animals in the Serengeti Plain, though you can hop on or off in Stanleyville.
Character Greetings at Busch Gardens Christmas Town
A few guests from the North Pole traveled a great distance to make a special appearance at Christmas Town. Meet Santa in Nairobi and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer accompanied by Clarice and Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster in Pantopia and pose with each of them for a festive photo.
Additionally, be on the lookout for festive characters like the Sugar Plum Princess, Flurry the Snowman and more who have fun meet-and-greets around the park! The holiday princesses have meet times listed right next to their photo locations. They normally come out once every hour once the sun starts setting.
Busch Gardens Christmas Town Dining and Shopping
Indulge in holiday treats and pick up any last-minute Christmas gifts while you're visiting. The options are endless at the Christmas Town Village cabins offering seasonal flavors and festive beverages. A cabin just for cookies and cocoa?? Guess where I'd stayed all night! Christmas Town Village Food & Beverage Cabins open at 4 p.m. daily. There are also Christmas Town food booths right outside of Christmas Town Village, and as far as Pantopia.
Marrakesh Market (home to Santa's Workshop) is located at the park entrance and is the one-stop shop for all things Christmas. The gift store has ornaments, nutcrackers, snow globes, pillows, nightlights and so much more. There's even special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer merch! You'll also find special holiday merchandise at Xcursions, Light Up the Sky on the Festival Field, Rudolph's Winter Store in Pantopia and various Holiday Artisan Craft booths on and near the Festival Walkway.
New Year’s Eve Celebrations During Busch Gardens Christmas Town
On New Year's Eve, you’ll be able to celebrate with your favorite thrill rides, animal encounters and everything Christmas Town has to offer. Meanwhile, at night, you can experience all of the Christmas Town offerings while the park is beautifully lit up and countdown to 2022 with a special New Year's Eve fireworks show at 12 a.m.
Additional Tips for Busch Gardens Christmas Town
- If you’re like us and want to try ALL of the yummy treats and drinks, consider purchasing a Food & Beverage Sampler. Choose between an 5-item sampler for $40 or a 10-item sampler for $55.
- As far as crowds go, the park was not as busy this year as it was last year — even on a Saturday. After Christmas on Ice, we made a beeline for Montu which only had a 15 minute wait. That being said, the holiday season is notoriously pretty wild at the theme parks, so don't expect lo wait times upon arriving. If it’s your first visit or if the rides are a big priority, arrive early and focus the first half of the day on hitting as many rides as possible so you can enjoy all the Christmas Town festivities later.
- In between performances of Three Kings Journey, a guitarist performed Christmas music on stage. If you want a sit-down meal in between all the holiday goodies, check out Dragon Fire Grill & Pub for market-style international cuisine and festive music.
- Don't froget to travel beyond Stanleyville or Pantopia. You don't want to miss out on Luminosity Lane!
We're so hoppy that we went to Busch Gardens Christmas Town this year, and we look forward to continuing this new Frog Family tradition! Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions.
Related: The Frog Family's Wild Guide to Busch Gardens Tampa