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Here it is, 2014, and Thanksgiving is already behind us. You know what that means right? Busch Gardens Christmas Town has begun! The park is ready to boost our holiday cheer.
But you know what the best part of that is?
Nestled amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, the familial obligations, and shopping chaos, Christmas Town offers up a chance to slow down and smell the roses; or in this case, soak in the beauty over 8 MILLION lights!
Relaxing at Christmas Town is, hands down, my favorite tradition.
This year was no different. I attended the opening day festivities and it was a rather cold evening; alright…… very, VERY cold evening. Nevertheless, the entire park looked stunningly beautiful that frigid, frosty November night.
Upon entering, several Marines were stationed outside collecting unopened toys for the Toys for Tots program. Their enthusiasm and smiles warmly greeted those entering the park.
There is still time to assist: Donations will be accepted through December 14th. Just drop new and unwrapped toys at the Busch Gardens Welcome center to support local families in need.
Going back to Christmas Town, here is what I wish to point out for those seeking something new based on my experience on opening day:
England’s decor along with the new show Scrooge no More is high on the list of what I adore. All the while, Banbury Cross (as us old-timer Park enthusiasts say), was adorned with floating wreaths and lights galore!*
* I changed that whole paragraph to rhyme on my third edit. You’re welcome.
In front of the Globe, snow falls from the sky at night and Carolers and a Brass Band wander through the crowds at various times each day. The Hamlet is simply dazzling at night!
Over where the portrait artists are during the regular season, the park has converted the area to a bar staffed with Victorian dressed baristas, who serve you all kinds of tasty beverages, spirits, and treats. In addition, Squire’s is now Dickens Tavern and serves guests traditional Christmas dinners.
The Globe now features a new show aptly named Scrooge No More. My review?
I was blown away! The show is an instant park classic and a hopefully a tradition for many years to come. As the title suggests, it is based on Charles Dicken’s classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey to rekindle his Christmas spirit. It is a perfectly balanced with music, dance, theater, and high tech special effects.
I promise to write a full review after this season. But for the sake of those who have yet to see it, I dare not ruin the magic and surprise!
*On a side note: My appreciation goes out to all those folks who worked diligently to put this together. It is a strong, well choreographed musical that as a local, I am honored to have showing at Busch Gardens. Love, Love, Loved it!
Outside the Globe Theater, there is a photo opportunity where you may take a picture of yourself with friends and family with very Victorian themed backdrop. Possibly with a Clydesdale! Keep in mind that the horses have a limited time range with guests, so try not to fret if you miss it. The Highland Stables will still offer photo packages.
This brings me to another bonus this year: the “Photokey” option. If you plan on making memories with all the photo ops around the park, you may want to consider purchasing a Photokey in order to save money. Here are the locations included:
- Front Gate Photo (Fountain)
- Highland Stables (Scotland)
- Polar Pictures (Polar Pathway in Italy)
- Frosty Friend Photo (Festa Italia)
- Christmas Carriage (Big Ben in England)
- O Tannenbaum (Oktoberfest)
- Verbolten (Oktoberfest)
- Pierre & Penelope Photo (France)
The park offers a Single Day Photkey and a Premium Photokey (good through the entire event – until December 31st) . There are differences in price and what is included, so please link here if you are interested in either deal and read more about exactly what each package includes, availability, and pricing: buschgardens.com/photokey.
* Some of my own personal Photokey pics taken that day:
Most of the park, as well as the shows, remain the same. The shows: Miracles, Gloria, and Deck the Halls return this year. As always, they are amazing. Since I have reviewed them all before, I will move on to some tips that may come in handy regarding the entertainment:
- Get to each show early as seats go fast! Gloria especially.
- On busy days the Festhaus may reach capacity, so if you wish to eat dinner and watch the show, plan your trip accordingly.
- Dress in layers. The Virginia weather is iffy, always. It is also very warm in the Festhaus and in the inside theater. So keep that in mind.
- Download the Busch Gardens app or pick up a map upon entering the park to have an idea of the showtimes.
If you are a wine drinker (like me), you may wish to take advantage of the lovely wine glass set you can gather by visiting the France (Le Belle), Germany (German Gifts), and Italy (Bella Casa). These shiny goblets, etched with Busch Gardens on the base are sold as is, or as I prefer… (for a little extra cost), with wine in them!
They are so sparkly and festive with Busch Gardens softly etched on the base, that I was in complete “Must Have” mode when I saw them. So yes. Thank you Busch Gardens. I always wanted a themed sparkly wine glass set of my very own.
My Personal Wine Tips:
- Wines served at tastings vary through the seasons. Check them out periodically. There is a fan page dedicated JUST to wine at Busch Gardens. Did you know? Post your photos and keep in the loop here: https://www.facebook.com/OldCountryGrapevine
- Pace yourself. There are several places offering wine tastings. If you purchase a wine tasting you get a Christmas Town wine glass and when using the glass at the other locations, you get a discount.
- Don’t forget that if you are a season pass member, even wine has a 10% discount!
Christmas is also the season of giving. So don’t forget to peruse all the goodies at the gift shops this year. You may just find that perfect gift for your loved one.
For me, the Emporium is one of my favorites. You can get the latest Christmas Town items including the 2014 ornaments, Department 56 Colonial Williamsburg sets, and even personalized custom ornaments.
**They also had this mistletoe, frosty display that was so pretty. So yes, I had to get a picture of it.
So basically Christmas Town where you can enjoy, world class entertainment, lights-lights-and more lights, rides, seasonal foods and beverages, and visit jolly ol’ St. Nick all-in-one!
Speaking of Santa, I was finally able to enjoy Fireside Feast! If you want your family to get a unique experience with Santa, this is it. The dining extra is something best spent with the little ones, but I highly recommend it.
In case you are interested: The food was well seasoned and satisfying. During the meal, Santa recites the Night Before Christmas in a building that is both cozy and as warm as toast. After the recital, everyone gets a chance to go up on stage to visit with Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the Elves. It certainly made me feel like a kid again! Yep. Even I saw Santa…… and took my husband with me!
Click here for more info: http://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/christmastown/dine-and-shop/santas-fireside-feast/
Overall, Busch Gardens tied Christmas Town up in an exquisite bow for all of us to open and enjoy. I wish I could cover every store, every show, every little thing; but my suggestion is to get out there and see it for your self!
May you all keep the spirit of Christmas in your heart always. “..and as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless us Everyone!”
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
Growing up I was a competitive roller skater. My mom used to drive us out to practice six days a week with us doing our homework in the car while cramming in an after school dinner. Twelve years of my life went to lessons, dance classes, and choreography. At the end of it all, I wasn’t able to go to the Olympics, get a scholarship, be a paid professional, or even have my face on a Wheatie’s Box. Roller skating never did anything more than to give me the ability to enjoy dance and various rhythmic styles.
You know what though… I’m Ok with that. I learned to dance like no one was watching.
Skating led me to appreciate all forms of musical performances. As a kid I knew all the lyrics and choreography in musicals such as Cats, Annie, and Phantom of the Opera. It is only natural that when I am Busch Gardens, I get to reconnect to that little part of my life again.
In my heart I sing along and dance with those on stage. Inside I sing like no one is listening.
Since my life has made it more difficult to ride rides like I used to, I find that I now gravitate more to the various shows at Busch Gardens. Luckily, the park offers more than thrilling coasters.
Despite the lady that ran the red light and changed my life, it’s helped me to love like I was never hurt.
So you see, this has brought me to reflect on the “theme park” entertainment profession in a deeper, more artistic level. For example: What kind of person spends their days practicing and going through a mountain of trials, just to get to be on stage at a theme park?
My educated guess:
Years of training, tons of auditions, call-backs, failures, successes, and then working a bunch of crazy hours in extreme conditions with an unknown rehiring status; all for a few months out in the spot light with a mere hope of the crowd appreciates what they do. No matter what, they perform like it’s heaven on earth.”
Musicians, singers, dancers, technicians, and stage hands have to work hard as a team to pull it all together. It takes fast learning to pull off learning the lyrics, choreography, lighting and sound cues, all within a few weeks before putting it all out in front of a packed theater. The competition is tough and the stakes are high. The directors, producers, and stage managers have an ever watchful eye; mostly for mistakes.
Yet, I look back to my life with all of those tedious hours of skating; my coach barking “Arch your back, point your toes, head up, one-to-three, on-two-three! AGAIN!! AGAIN!!”
It was like Abbey Lee Miller on Roller Skates. Much of it was rather tough for a kid my age but I honestly loved every minute of it. If you asked me now: “Do you want to go skating?” My answer will always be yes! It is in my blood forever.
You see, the people out there put themselves through this daily grind for the dream of it all. To make a living using what they love more in life. It is noble. It is inspiring and I wish from the bottom of my heart, that they all make it big.
I’ve spoken too many of the performers from various decades. They all share similar stories of “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” The job is hard. No matter how talented, young, or nimble you are, the schedules are grueling. Don’t forget that any profession has its fair share of politics and drama as well. I’m sure there is a TV spin-off that is just waiting to be made.
I’ve never performed at any theme park, but I imagine it is much like skating was. You work all year for a single performance (aka audition or competition) to either: 1) blow the judges away or 2) just go home with your tail between your legs. Either one opens the door for even more psychological drama. Even if you win… the pressure is on!
For example: I once ran across an old guide for entertainers back in the Old Country days. It was for a street performer and it was for a complete improve role in the 1980s. In a very “round about way” the job was summed up to this possibility: Congratulations for making it. Expect to be heckled and ridiculed, worst yet… ignored! Any stand up comedian, dancer, or performer will tell you this is so true no matter where or when they work somewhere out in the public.
I’ve witnessed the last one first hand.
In France, I watched these extremely talented musicians out playing for the crowds. People began walking in front of standing audience instead of going through the obvious pathway because they could care less.
There is also that awkward stare of “Whaaa?” And then they kind of shuffle off like the sight of a guitar is something never seen in this world. There is also the occasional (thankfully rare) individual that shouts out a rude comment now and then. Just like the booklet from the 80s said, it is all part of the game.
However I see that most people, regardless to how long they did stay, pause, listen, and smile before moving on. There are also those that sit and remain for the whole performance. That of course, is what keeps those in the field going. That mutual respect of performer and the audience. God bless them.
My hope is that this little story may change a few minds about those on stage working hard for your applause and praise. They pull on those hot, sweaty costumes every day to showcase their talents in hopes to forward them in life and to have that glorious sound of applause.
Even if you don’t like a show, consider it like going to a restaurant where you may have a bad meal, but the server is good. Tip the server! If the performers are out there giving 100%, even if you find the show droll, clap after they are done; don’t be shy. I promise they won’t bite! All of their hard work in life has led up to this moment of entertaining you. In fact, those working behind the counters and rides that smile and wish you a great day, even when the weather is miserable, are doing it for you as well.
Just remember that if you see something that makes you want to clap and sway in your chair:
“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
Oh, and some applause would be nice.