What to expect: Busch Gardens dazzles with millions of lights at Christmas Town
An enchanting holiday village set in an African-themed theme park doesn't seem like it would make much sense. But Busch Gardens' Christmas Town is simply stunning.
Each of the park's over a dozen walkable zones have a holiday theme, whether it's vibrant penguin statues lighting up Penguin Point or the illuminated Christmas Town village packed with games, lights and a holiday market.
The best way (well, the only way really) to experience Christmas Town is after the sun goes down. Around 6 p.m. nightly, the park flips the switch and over a million lights start twinkling.
It isn't just decorated trees and shrubbery. In different areas there are lit sculptures of animals and holiday characters, celestial lanterns line the walkway near the Stanleyville Bridge, glowing bubblegum pink flamingoes soaring overhead in Enchanted Flamingo Valley and hundreds of holiday flowers filling Poinsettia Parkway.
There's something quite magical about a pair of zebras made of holiday lights.
New this year is Rudolph's Winter Wonderland, where guests can meet the characters and play holiday games while scenes from the Christmas classic come to life in Celestial Crossing. Pro tip: play the "pick a present" game. It's only $5 and you get a good prize every time.
Of course, a trip to Christmas Town wouldn't be complete without a visit to Santa's house. Good ol' Kris Kringle lets the elves take over the toy-making while he takes a break to meet and take photos with those on the nice list.
Because of the obvious long lines to meet the man in the red suit, guests check in and get pagers that alert them when it's their time slot.
Christmas Town is chock full of holiday shows. There are epic skating performances at Christmas on Ice, local churches and choirs singing carols in the Hallelujah Showcase and the furriest holiday story in Elmo's Christmas Wish. And those are only three of them.
Besides the beautifully-lit gardens that make for perfect Instagrams and selfies, some of the best parts of Christmas Town are the sweet treats and rides after dark.
Slowly ticking your way up the approach on Kumba and plunging into twists and loops on Montu is so much more thrilling in the dark.
And what better way to reward yourself than with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a decadent dessert? There are treat pop ups around the park, but Christmas Town Village has a whole block dedicated to decadence.
Because I opted for both hot cocoa with whipped cream and dessert, I got a single grilled doughnut with chocolate sauce. Not too heavy, perfectly crisp and sugary.
There are also s'mores-topped sweet potato fries, fresh-baked Christmas cookies, waffle sundaes and s'mores cups.
Good luck choosing.
Contact Chelsea Tatham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @chelseatatham.
If you go
Busch Gardens Christmas Town runs nightly through Jan. 1. All holiday attractions are included with admission, starting at $82.99.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit seaworldparks.com.