Things will look a little brighter, wintry and nostalgic at Busch Gardens Tampa this coming holiday season.
The park announced Thursday that it will create a separate ticketed event called Christmas Town to lure after-hours visitors with seasonal sights, sounds and flavors.
For the first time in its 53-year history, visitors can experience evening attractions, shows and shopping on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 30 through Dec. 23, according to a news release. There will be live music, holiday food, holiday shopping and thousands of twinkling Christmas lights.
The sister park at Williamsburg in Virginia has been staging a Christmas Town for several years now. And over in Orlando, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a perennial draw, along with special holiday programs.
Similar to the park's popular Howl-O-Scream, Christmas Town will be a separate, ticketed event. So regular daytime Busch Gardens admission is not required or included. Discounts will be available for annual pass members, and families with children ages 3 to 9 will receive special ticket prices.
Park officials will also offer new opportunities for groups looking to book a holiday party.
For information, visit seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-tampa.
Sandstorm to move; new ride planned
The park has filed for permits to remove its Sandstorm ride from the Timbuktu section of the park to make way for a new attraction in 2013.
Busch officials confirmed they are moving the Sandstorm, a portable so-called flat ride, to the plaza in front of the Gwazi twin coasters, but said it was "too preliminary" to talk about what might go in its place.
Based on fan websites and park attraction buying history, speculation is focused on a new drop tower rising in front of the Festhaus.
Drop towers, which feature free-fall drops at 60 to 80 mph, can range from simple tummy ticklers at state fairs to the elaborately themed Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios that unpredictably bounces riders up and down a few times.
Busch's sister park in Virginia, which this spring opens a coaster from the same ride builder that created Cheetah Hunt in Tampa, last year debuted a 245-foot-tall drop tower next to the park's Oktoberfest dining hall.