Saturday, April 21, 2018
Business

Busch Gardens to open Christmas Town this holiday season

TAMPA — Forget the 90-degree heat. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Busch Gardens.

On Tuesday, the theme park announced plans for its new Christmas Town celebration running Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights Nov. 30 through Dec. 23.

This separate-ticket event will have nightly concerts by Jars of Clay, a holiday ice show, a train ride for kids and a Christmas village with 50 tons of snow. It will snow every night and, of course, Santa Claus will come to town.

Like the park's popular Howl-O-Scream, Christmas Town will be open extra hours from 6 to 11 p.m. and cover most areas of the park. Many, but not all, attractions will stay open, including the Cheetah Hunt, Gwazi and SheiKra roller coasters.

Christmas Town has been in the works for some time and marks Busch Gardens' first foray into a Christmas celebration similar to Lowry Park Zoo's Wild Wonderland and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Disney World.

"This is something that we should have done a long time ago,'' said Busch Gardens president Jim Dean. "We're about making memories for families every day of the year and especially at Christmas time. This is going to be an annual tradition.''

The details might win over even the Grinch: 300 Christmas trees, a mile of garland and 1 million lights — enough to stretch 50 miles from end to end.

About 600 glowing lanterns will light Miracle Way, which also will have a nativity scene made of topiary. Jingle Bell Junction will have a Christmas train for kids; the main train ride will turn into a big Christmas carol sing-a-long.

During the holiday season, Busch Gardens will replace its popular Iceploration show at the Moroccan Palace Theater with a Christmas on Ice show during the day and another skating show at night. Elmo and his friends will wear their holiday best in Sesame Street Safari of Fun.

Poinsettia Parkway will feature 4,000 flowered plants arranged as Christmas trees, and the Crown Colony House will have 3,000 twinkling lights synchronized to seasonal songs. Even the flamingos will get into the spirit in a sea of pink lights adorning Enchanted Flamingo Valley.

In a nod to the South Pole, Busch Gardens is adding penguins to its animal attractions. They will take up residence in the current otter exhibit in Nairobi and will be on display only at night during Christmas Town.

Gwazi Park will transform into a winter wonderland with snow, ice slides, tunnels and party pictures with giant snowmen. Kiosks will sell roasted nuts, fudge, hot chocolate and other festive foods. Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves will invite friends to tour their home. Jimmy Osmond of Osmond family fame will perform at the Stanleyville Theater.

Admission to Christmas Town is $29.99 in advance for adults and $9.99 for children ages 3 to 9. Tickets the night of the event are $39.99 for adults and $14.99 for children.

Through next Tuesday, premium pass holders can buy tickets for $9.99 at the Christmas Town Preview Center now open in Timbuktu or online at christmastown.com. Otherwise, premium pass members get $5 off adult admission.

For an additional $20 for adults and $14 for children, guests can have dinner with Mrs. Claus at the Desert Grill. The ticket also gives people front-of-the-line privileges at the snow play area and Santa's house.

Comments
Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

Some people are paying for cuddles. And it’s not what you might think.

When Samantha Hess’s marriage ended five years ago, she felt she was lacking a basic human need: Physical touch. As a woman in her late 20s living in Portland, Oregon, she found plenty of men interested in dating, but sexual contact was not what she ...
Published: 04/21/18
Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Judge: Foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa violated numerous rules of conduct

Tampa Bay foreclosure defense lawyer Mark Stopa has violated numerous rules of professional conduct and caused two clients to nearly lose their homes because he failed to tell them about settlement offers from their banks. Those were among the prelim...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Goodwill to open second store in greater Brandon

Times staffThe greater Brandon area will celebrate the grand opening of its second Goodwill store beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday (April 28) at 1407 U.S. 301. The new store will add another 12,000 square feet to the complex, which includes a 200,000-...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/21/18
Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

Regulators allow major solar company to lease home equipment

State regulators Friday determined that one of the country’s largest residential solar companies, San Francisco-based Sunrun, is allowed to lease solar energy equipment for homes in Florida. The decision, solar energy advocates say, could open the do...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

Florida unemployment at 3.9 percent for sixth straight month

For the sixth month running, Florida’s unemployment rate held at a nearly 11-year low of 3.9 percent in March as steady job gains continued. While many factors kept Florida’s economy chugging along, three industries stand out for leading year-over-ye...
Published: 04/20/18
Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

Owners say new house is a disaster; developer accuses them of ‘online terrorism’

ST. PETERSBURG --- Stretched across the front of Tim and Hyun Kims’ two-year-old house is a big banner with the name of a developer and the words: "I have to fix my new house."Some of what needs fixing is instantly apparent. The front steps are too ...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

Q&A: Walmart leader chats about Florida stores, and the chain’s latest retail strategy

The Tampa Bay Times recently sat down with Walmart director of corporate communications Phillip Keene to chat about the retail giant’s latest retail strategies and how the company is winning over customers in a competitive market.Already, two of the ...
Published: 04/20/18
SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

SunTrust warns 1.5 million clients of potential data breach

Associated PressNEW YORK — SunTrust Banks Inc. says accounts for 1.5 million clients could be compromised following a potential data breach. The Atlanta bank says that it became aware of the potential theft by a former employee and that the investiga...
Published: 04/20/18
Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

Spring break, hurricane relief boosted Tampa Bay hotels in March

The Tampa Bay area’s hotel occupancy rate rose to 87.5 percent in March, the highest level in three years. The rise was fueled by spring break vacationers as well as insurance adjusters and hurricane cleanup crews flooding the state to restore it aft...
Published: 04/20/18