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! Last year, we started a new tradition by going to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Christmas Town for our very first time. It was so much fun that we returned for the festivities in 2021 — we had a merry time once again 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 began Nov. 12, 2021, and will continue through Jan. 2, 2022. While the event takes place daily, some experiences may only be available on select nights. For instance, the Holiday in the Sky fireworks show only hoppens on Saturdays, but it occurs daily from Dec. 25 to 30, 2021, as well as Jan. 1, 2022. Additionally, both "Christmas on Ice" and "Three Kings Journey" 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 4 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
While the majority of Christmas Town activities were found on the left side of the park last year, Busch Gardens spread everything out throughout the park a little better this year, so no matter which land you're in, there's holiday excitement waiting to be found!
Christmas on Ice
After hoppening on the Festival Field stage last year, Christmas Town’s signature ice skating show is back at its usual home 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 Stanleyville Theater, 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. There's no bad seat in the house as this theater has stadium seating, but it's still best to try to get here about 30 minutes prior to showtime if you want a better variety of seats to choose from.
Elmo’s Christmas Wish
Join Elmo, Cookie Monster, Zoe 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 made for a fitting finale! Some of the characters remain on the stage after the show for a brief photo-op.
We suggest catching the first show of the day (either 1 p.m. or 1:30 p.m., depending on the day), 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. Seats filled up quickly on a Saturday!
Storytime with Mrs. Claus
This brand-new, merry little show stars Winter the Elf and Mother Christmas herself! 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 chords (with some delicious hot chocolate). And don't leave the stage area before grabbing a photo with Mrs. Claus and Winter 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 Fireworks
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. It was super windy the night we saw the show, so while the fireworks were still set off, we were redirected to viewing areas in front of Iron Gwazi and the Coke Canopy. The view was great but we couldn't hear the music it was set to. (Christmas music plays in every area of the park throughout the entire day though!)
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 have traveled a great distance to make a special appearance at Christmas Town. Meet Santa and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer accompanied by Clarice and Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster and pose with each of them for a physically distanced photo. Santa's North Pole Experience open daily at 3 p.m in Nairobi and Rudolph's Winter Wonderland opens daily at 5 p.m. in Pantopia. On the second Saturday of the event, wait times for both meet-and-greets fluctuated between 30 and 60 minutes all night.
You can also meet additional Christmas Town characters throughout the park at various points throughout the day. Find the Ice Princess in front of the Moroccan Palace Theater, the Poinsettia Princess in the Bird Gardens, the Sugar Plum Princess in Nairobi and Snowcone the Snowman near the park entrance.
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 stayed all night! Christmas Town Village opens at 4 p.m. daily. There are also Christmas Town food booths right outside of Christmas Town Village, and as far as Stanleyville.
Marrakesh Market (currently 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! The Emporium, Xcursions and Abby Cadabby's Treasure Hut also have holiday shopping available.
Hanukkah and New Year’s Eve Celebrations During Busch Gardens Christmas Town
New this year, Busch Gardens is celebrating the festival of lights from Nov. 28 to Dec. 6, with a traditional menorah lighting outside of the Palace Theater at 5:45 p.m. each night.
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. (The first show is Elmo's Christmas Wish at 1:30 p.m.) 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 11:59 p.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 8-item sampler for $54.99 or a 12-item sampler for $64.99.
- As far as crowds go, the park was busy due to attending on a Saturday. We missed out on riding any of the roller coasters because wait times ranged from 50 to 90 minutes long. Instead, we mainly focused on hitting all of the Christmas Town festivities since we arrived at the park around 2 p.m. Tad was a little bummed, but he has tackled them during previous visits to Busch Gardens so he wasn’t too upset. 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.
- Just prior to the fireworks starting, we stopped to listen to a talented guitarist right outside of the Garden Gate Café. Just after the fireworks, there were some holiday carolers in the same spot. If you can spare a few minutes during your visit, we highly recommend checking out whichever musician or musical group is performing onstage!
- 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.