Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Business

Busch Gardens plans new Christmas wonderland event

TAMPA — Busch Gardens plans to transform itself into a Christmas wonderland for 12 nights after Thanksgiving this year in a holiday event it says will be worthy of a separate admission.

The Tampa park's sibling in Williamsburg, Va., drew big crowds three years in a row to its ticketed European-look Christmas Town that features live seasonal entertainment, Santa's Workshop, a gift market and special foods. And many of the Orlando theme parks have staged multimillion light holiday extravaganzas and special dinner shows for years. Busch Gardens, however, would be the first Florida theme park to try to turn its whole park into a paid family holiday event.

"We've been successful with Howl-O-Scream as a separate ticket (event) for 13 years," said Jill Revelle, Busch spokeswoman. "This is a natural progression. Our Christmas Town will be a holiday celebration like Floridians have never seen."

Busch will need to put on quite a show to pull it off. All the rival parks already deck themselves out in elaborate holiday finery. Many resorts and local botanical gardens charge extra for special staged events. Busch's corporate cousin Sea World in Orlando stays open late and builds live entertainment and holiday lighting displays into its daily ticket price leading into Christmas.

"This will be the beginning of a unique holiday tradition for the Tampa Bay area," said Jim Dean, park president.

Pricing will be similar to Howl-O-Scream (regular general admission of $77.99 plus tax), meaning it will be close to full daily admission at the gate. But discounts as deep as 50 percent likely will be widely available to stimulate attendance on slower weekends.

"We'll be priced for families, especially those with children 3 to 9," said Revelle. Annual pass holders will have to pay, but at a discounted rate.

Theme parks have turned to the same strategy to boost traffic and revenues in slower months in the fall and spring. Separate ticket events can easily double attendance on busy days.

Except for Christmas and Thanksgiving weeks, November and December are the two slowest months of the year for the local vacation industry.

The Christmas holidays are particularly appealing to Busch, the only major Florida park to rely on locals for about half its annual attendance, because locals are here in abundance in December.

The park normally closes around sunset then. Starting Nov. 30, however, the park and its rides will close for an hour or so every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then re-open after sunset festooned with thousands of colorful Christmas lights, wandering carolers, gift shops and vendors peddling hot cocoa.

Mark Albright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8252.

Comments
Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Q: I have become very disillusioned with my telecommuting job. I accepted this position about a year ago because I liked the idea of working from home. However, I now have so many assignments that I can barely keep up. I was recently given a huge pro...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

DUNEDIN — The Pinellas County Commission pulled the final trigger Tuesday on dedicating $41.7 million in bed taxes for upgrades to the Toronto Blue Jays’ stadium and spring training facilities, a pledge that amounts to covering more than half of the ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida small business owners say their top concern is a lack of skilled workers, according to a recent survey by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Workforce quality has been a recurring issue for small businesses, according to previous surveys. In th...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

TAMPA — The world’s biggest hotel company already has 29 properties in the Tampa Bay area, but its CEO says a plan to put more than 1,400 rooms in three Marriott-branded hotels within a few blocks of each other says something about how Tampa is evolv...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

If you’ve ever complained about other motorists on the road, you may have been justified. The Sunshine State ranked No. 8 on GasBuddy.com’s list of states with the most aggressive drivers."Our findings indicate that states with densely populated citi...
Updated: 7 hours ago
First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

Amazon is taking the growing curb-side delivery trend a step further — now shoppers don’t even have to be inside their cars to get their items.The online retailer announced Tuesday it has begun delivering packages to newer cars with OnStar service in...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

WASHINGTON — The company formerly known as Yahoo is paying a $35 million fine to resolve federal regulators’ charges that the online pioneer deceived investors by failing to disclose one of the biggest data breaches in internet history. The Securiti...
Updated: 9 hours ago
The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

"Stay thirsty, my friends," the most interesting man in the world is coming to Tampa to tend bar on Friday. Jonathan Goldsmith, the face that launched a thousand memes, will be slinging cocktails at Tampa’s trendy Hall on Franklin, the food hall anno...
Updated: 11 hours ago
So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

NEW PORT RICHEY – The typical tourist in Pasco County this year most likely is a Floridian.But there are lots of Canadians here as well. Nearly 80 percent drove, rather than flew, to the region. Forty percent stayed in hotels, but more than a quarter...
Published: 04/24/18
Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

NEW PORT RICHEY – Hockey pucks could replace lacrosse balls as the required sports equipment for the holiday tourism season in Wesley Chapel.The Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, founded by Canadian hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, is seek...
Published: 04/24/18