As I’m taking down Christmas decorations, I can’t help thinking about how fast the holidays flew by. It brings a touch of sadness that another year has passed, yet pure joy at the thought of what amazing memories we’ve made. The holiday’s are always an extra special time of year. There are the obvious reasons of celebrating the birth of Jesus and embracing the peace, love and joy of Christmas. It is special in that we also focus on family. My husband always takes off from work the end of December through to the New Year. During this time, we slip into the routine of sleeping in and taking the day slow; stresses of everyday life seem to disappear as we bond over the holiday spirit. We enjoy baking cookies together, cuddling on the couch to watch Christmas movies, making special visits to see relatives and going on a winter weekend vacation.
For the past five years our family has been traveling to Williamsburg to celebrate in the festivities at Christmas Town. It’s the beautiful light displays, entertaining shows, amusing rides, and special “extras” that make Busch Gardens Williamsburg Christmas Town an annual tradition for our family. Christmas Town is the perfect weekend getaway for families (especially with the park being only about a three-hour drive from Southern Maryland.) After reading this article you will definitely want to add Christmas Town to your plans for next year’s winter vacation plans.
If you’ve been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg before you probably will agree that it is one of the most beautiful theme park in the US. The amusement park follows the theme of touring European Countries such as England, France, Italy and Germany. During the holidays these quaint European villages are decorated in its traditional style with over eight million lights, a thousand Christmas trees, twenty thousand ornaments, and over three miles of garland. It is truly a breath taking scene to see the park lit up at night.
Christmas Town was open this year from around Thanksgiving until New Year Weekend. Most days the park is open 2PM until 9 or 10PM; which provides plenty of time to explore the park. I highly recommend coming to the park when it opens. This will ensure you enough time to enjoy the rides and see shows before the crowd shows up (most people arrive after the sun sets to see the lights.)
Normally when we arrive to the park we start our day in Scottland and visit Highland Stables; where you can interact with Clydesdales, blackface sheep and their Border collie guardians. We than make our way over Tweedstation to take the first train that embarks around the park. The nice thing about showing up early is that you get to watch the train pull into the station. Since it’s the first train the conductor gives plenty of time for guests to arrive and board the train. While idling in the station you can walk down to the engine to see the beautiful locomotive and get your picture taken with the engineer. This year we were touched by the generosity of one of the engineers. He saw that my oldest son loved Trains, reached into his pocket and pulled out a small gift. Receiving the small toy train made his face light up with pure joy. This is just one example of how the staff here goes above and beyond to make our visit special.
On the day we came they had two different trains running; a green steam engine and blue steam engine. Our first trip around the park was on the blue engine. Later in the day we came back for a ride on the green engine because it had a caboose! One of the great things about Bush Gardens is that you can use the train ride and the skyline as not just a fun ride but as transportation around the park. The train has three stations Tweedside (Scotland), Jingle Junction (Italy) and Caribou Crossing (New France). The skyline will take you from England to France, France to German and Germany to England. I highly recommend riding the skyline at night. It is so beautiful to see the lights from above.
We always try to make sure that we see the show Gloria first before we do anything else. Gloria! Is a musical that retells the Biblical Christmas story; all done with amazing vocalists, special effects and a full orchestra. I’m always blown away by the extraordinary talent, not to mention amazed by the special effects such as moving platforms that create a walking or floating effect. This show brings the Christmas miracle to life. The show performs inside the Abbey Stone Theater in Ireland, so it’s a great way to stay entertained and warm.
All the shows at Busch Gardens are amazing though. In addition to Gloria! There are five other performances to see: Deck The Halls, Miracles, O’ Tannenbaum, Scrooge No More and Twas That Night. Despite that it can be done, it is hard to see all the shows in one day. We usually pick three performances to see, that way we still have time for rides. Deck The Halls is an upbeat musical that features classic holiday songs at Das Festhaus indoor dining hall. Miracles take place in the outdoor Italy’s Il Teatro di San Marco Theatre. This show’s classical and contemporary dance movements coupled with live vocalists is inspiring and passionate. O’ Tannenbaum is a majestic 50-foot Christmas tree with a multi-colored spectacular light show. It is located right in front of Das Festhaus. Scrooge No More is a fun musical that retells the classic tale of Scrooge in the Globe Theatre. ‘Twas That Night performs on the outdoor Royal Palace Theatre stage that is transformed into a full-scale ice show. This show re-imagines the magic of Christmas Eve and the classic poem A Visit from St. Nicholas. World-champion figure skater Elvis Stojko brings this beloved Christmas story to life, on ice. The park also features a number of street performers, including carolers in England and jesters in France.
I’m always amazed at all the rides that are open during Christmas Town. This year there were a few new rides to share about, including two roller coasters and kid-friendly rides in Sesame Street Forest of Fun. Thrill seekers daring to defy gravity will enjoy the addition of Tempesto while Grover’s Alpine Express offers a family-friendly coaster experience suitable for our smaller guests. If you have small children you will want to make sure you visit North Pole to see Santa. Even if you don’t go inside to sit on his lap, it is still a lot of fun to see his workshop. My boys love that there no matter how cold it always snows in this section. For rides that young children can ride alone be sure to visit Italy and check out Davinci’s Little Glider and Little Balloons.
There is more than just lights and rides at Christmas Town, the food options are pretty amazing too. Your options include; Dickens Tavern in England, Irelands Grogan Grill, Trappers Smoke House which smells heavenly as you walk through New France, Das Festhaus where you can watch Deck The Halls while you eat, Dashers Diner in Holiday Hills or Marco Polo’s Market Place where you can watch Miracles while enjoying a warm meal. You can also have dinner with Santa and indulge in a festive traditional Christmas meal. We usually try to step inside to warm up at Das Fest Haus because we love the upbeat show and festive food.
Tips for your Visit:
- Planning Ahead- If you can, give yourself an option of a couple days to visit for weather. Be mindful that if there are freezing temperatures some of the rides shutdown.
- Tickets- Consider purchasing a “Bounce Pass” which will allow you to bounce between Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Christmas Town for three days. Keep in mind you still have to pay for parking. Be on the look out Groupon sometimes has discounts.
- Rides– I love that when you enter the park you can have your child’s height checked. They will provide a wrist band according to which rides they can go on. They will also give you a list for the rides they can go on independently or with a chaperone. Use the train and skyline as fast transportation around the park. Be sure to take the Skyline ride at night! See the Busch Gardens site for a full list of seasonal rides and a park map
- Shows– Seeing a show is a great way to keep the kids entertained while staying warm.
- Dining– The price range for food and beverage are typical for an amusement park. One thing to keep in mind is that you can purchase refillable cups you can purchase for fountain drinks and even hot cocoa. Since Busch Gardens is a family friendly park they do allow Snacks from outside the park. We usually pack a few water bottles and snacks for the kids but enjoy dinner at one of the dining halls.
- Lights– Take time to view the lights displays around the park; be sure to stroll through the “cascade” of lights down the Polar Pathway and Peace on Earth display as you cross the bridge that leads from German to Italy.
- Dress for the weather– I think one of my biggest pieces of advice is to dress in layers. We usually dress the boys in layered warm clothing with a coat, hat and gloves. A few shows and Das Festhaus are indoors, mostly everything is outdoors. Most years when we’ve been it is deceivingly warmer during the day but drops in temperature drastically at night. There are warming stations that you can keep an eye out for too!
- Stroller– You can bring you stroller with you, as there are plenty of places to park and ride. However, if you don’t want to hassle with loading a stroller on the train or skyline you can rent a stroller. This way you can park the rented stroller in the designated spots and grab a new one once dropped off at the next station. They are inexpensive and fit two kids, plus your gear! Since there is a lot of heavy walking you will find little ones can get tired.
- Sneak Peak- We are definitely coming back in the spring/summer to see the new roller coaster being built! Busch Gardens Williamsburg will add a new woodenroller coaster to its collection of world-class thrill rides in spring 2017. The family thriller will be the Virginia theme park’s first wooden coaster and eighth roller coaster in total! https://seaworldparks.com/en/buschgardens-williamsburg/pages/project2017/
For more information on places to eat, stay and play at during your vacation in Williamsburg read: https://theplayfulparent.org/2017/01/03/williamsburg-our-winter-weekend-getaway/
Christmas Town- Busch Gardens
1 Busch Gardens Blvd
Williamsburg, VA 23185
***The Playful Parent does not receive payment to write articles, all information and opinions shared are written by The Playful Parent. Discounts and complimentary admission is always a plus but not a requirement. I enjoy writing articles about my families experiences so that parents feel encouraged to get out and try something new with their kids. Personalized pictures by The Playful Parent and Professional photos special thanks to Busch Gardens***