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Christmas Town has arrived early at Busch Gardens

New elements this year at the Tampa theme park include fireworks on Saturdays and “Storytime With Mrs. Claus.”
Thousands of lights decorate Busch Gardens as part of their annual Christmas Town event.
Thousands of lights decorate Busch Gardens as part of their annual Christmas Town event. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Nov. 16

Busch Gardens launched its nightly Christmas Town celebration before the Thanksgiving turkey was even trussed, and that’s a good thing.

We need a little Christmas, right this very minute.

Three new elements this year add to the experience of the theme park dressed up in millions of lights. On Saturdays, there’s a new “Holiday in the Sky” fireworks show set to classic holiday tunes. There is also a new “Storytime with Mrs. Claus” held at various times each night in the Coke Canopy. There’s also a chance for guests to visit Santa in his workshop with Santa’s North Pole Experience.

Mrs. Claus reads to children during "Storytime with Mrs. Claus" at Busch Gardens as part of their annual Christmas Town event that runs nightly through Jan. 2.
Mrs. Claus reads to children during "Storytime with Mrs. Claus" at Busch Gardens as part of their annual Christmas Town event that runs nightly through Jan. 2. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

And like a mini version of its food and wine festival, there are food and drink kiosks of holiday-themed treats set up in the Gwazi festival area. Some surprisingly hefty offerings include a bison chili mac & cheese served with pasta twists that are dusted with parmesan crumbs and Sam Adams beer cheese. Loaded mashed potatoes are piled with pulled pork, green onions, cheese, sour cream and a chipotle drizzle.

There are corn dogs on the menu, but the Christmas Town version is topped with bacon onion jam and mustard aioli.

A clever twist on chicken and waffles is fried chicken that comes sandwiched in a doughnut, topped with bits of bacon. There’s also sliced pickles in there, and it’s glazed with Mike’s Hot Honey.

Returning favorite activities include the Christmas on Ice skating show at the Moroccan Palace Theater, the Holly Jolly Express train ride, Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland, Elmo’s Christmas Wish holiday show and the Three Kings Journey musical show at the Stanleyville Theater.

Cap off the night with new specialty cocktails like the mistletoe margarita and the apple brandy hot toddy or a hot chocolate flavored with peppermint or gingerbread.

Food offerings range from $6.99 to $9.99 and drinks are $10.99. Sampler lanyards cost $44.99 for eight items. Note that each lanyard punch gets you a full food option, but only 7 ounces for beer or cocktails.

A gift shop at Busch Gardens is festively decorated as part of their annual Christmas Town event.
A gift shop at Busch Gardens is festively decorated as part of their annual Christmas Town event. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Pop-up Christmas shops set up near the park entrance have fun shirts and hoodies and holiday decor, and almost all of it is under $25.

Christmas Town is included with admission. You can find event information at christmastown.com. It runs daily through Jan. 2.

Thousands of lights decorate Busch Gardens as part of their annual Christmas Town event.
Thousands of lights decorate Busch Gardens as part of their annual Christmas Town event. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]