Christmas time is here and is shining the brightest at Christmas Town Busch Gardens in Tampa – an event that offers a wide range of merry activities for everyone to experience together.
Best thing about it is that it’s INCLUDED in your theme admission!
Busch Gardens is one of the world’s most stunning park that dresses the evening with more than 10 million lights.
Plus, Christmas treats, Santa’s house, Rudolph and more can be found in this annual Winter Wonderland experience right in the heart of Tampa Bay.
AND you can do this from November 15, 2024 through January 5, 2025.
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What is Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa?
Christmas Town is Busch Gardens way of showing you a unique way of celebrating the holidays in the wilds of the African-inspired theme park.
At this Tampa theme park, you’ll enjoy a holiday-themed sing-along train ride, heartwarming shows, fine dining, electrifying festive shopping, Santa’s workshop, and a chance to watch twinkling lights.
These are just a few things that makes Christmas Town Busch Gardens a must-do holiday event for both the young and the old.
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During the holiday season at Busch Gardens Tampa you will be able to:
- Discover Christmas Town® Village
- Enjoy the Holiday Train
- Marvel at the NEW 40-foot pixelated tree in Cheetah Hunt Plaza
- Listen to holiday tunes
- Meet Rudolph and friends, including Sam the Snowman, at Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland
- Shop for the perfect gifts in Santa’s shop
- Taste special Christmas treats unique to this event only
- Visit Santa’s House
- Step into the majestic light tunnel near the Bird Gardens area
- Hangout with your favorite Sesame Street characters in their cute holiday outfits
- Watch outstanding ice skaters
- Check out the NEW light displays that will take over the Jungala area
What is the Busch Gardens Christmas Town Village?
The absolute best part about Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is the Village.
Oh, how I love this addition to the event!
Christmas Town® Village has some of the cutest cabins that are not only decked out in holiday designs, they also serve up delicious sweets and savory dishes inspired by the season.
2024 Busch Gardens Christmas Town Dates and Times
The Christmastime event runs through select dates from November 15, 2024 through January 5, 2025.
What Time Does Christmas Town Open?
Christmas Town will be open on most days with the park hours from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. From time-to-time it will close at 8 p.m. on select weekdays.
Hipster Power Tip: Although Christmas Town technically opens with the park, many of the activities do not start until the afternoon time. You can view the full schedule here.
Is Busch Gardens Open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is open on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
- Christmas Eve hours: 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
- Day of Christmas hours: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
What’s New for Busch Gardens Christmas Town?
Later in this guide, we’ll go through all the new activities for Christmas at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, but for now let’s chat about something amazing that’s happening this year.
Pass Member Preview for Busch Gardens Christmas Town
One of the great perks of being a Busch Gardens Pass Member is that you get to have early access to special events like the park’s Christmas Town celebration.
Pass Members will get an exclusive preview of select Christmas Town offerings such as a dedicated viewing time for Christmas on Ice, priority 2-hour access to Santa’s North Pole experience on November 11th and November 12th of 2023.
Get started on Your Tampa Bay Travel Plans here!
Let’s Indulge in the Busch Gardens Christmas Town Food
Now we’re at my favorite part of the Christmas Town adventure…the food!
While you’re there, be sure to look for seasonal offerings throughout park and inside Christmas Town Village.
This year, you can enjoy the holiday feast “food festival” and eat your way around Christmas Town.
The best way for you to do this is to get the Christmas Town Food & Beverage Sampler Lanyard.
How much does the Busch Gardens Christmas Town Food Sampler Lanyard cost?
Starting at $45 and redeemable at the numerous holiday cabins located throughout the entire park.
Samplers offer the best value for guests and will be available in quantities of 5 and 10.
There’s an exclusive 12-item Sampler for the same price as a 10-item is available for all Pass Members.
Busch Gardens Tampa Holiday Food Menu
I am currently waiting for the final holiday menu from Busch Gardens; however, I do have a few of the newest items being added to this year’s Christmas festival below.
- Chicken coq-au-vin served with red bliss mashed potatoes
- Holiday Poutine, served with gravy, cheese curds and cranberry relish
- Smoked turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, gravy and Texas toast
- Seared scallop, ruby red couscous and goat cheese crumbles
- Mistletoe Margarita – Tequila, Monin pomegranate and a splash of lime
- South for the Winter – Jack Daniels, Jack Daniels Honey, Monin cranberry, ginger and lime
- Jack Frost – Coconut rum, blue curacao, mint and a splash of lime
- Ginger Snap Mule – Spiced rum, Amaretto, ginger and a splash of lime
- Candy Cane Lane – Vodka, Monin Peppermint, grenadine and a splash of lime
There’s no holiday visit to Busch Gardens without the signature Christmas Town Hot Chocolate located in various locations throughout the park.
My Top Picks for the Best Food at Busch Gardens Christmas Town
Please note that the number indicates which booth the food is at on the map below:
- Cookies & Cocoa: Fresh Baked Deep Dish Cookie (Double Chocolate Chip, Holiday Sugar, Cinnamon Swirl)
- Christmas Cocktails: South For The Winter (Jack Daniels, Jack Honey , Monin Cranberry , Ginger and Lime)
- Coca-Cola® Pretzel Cabin: White Chocolate
- Char Siu Christmas: Red Curry Shrimp and Jasmine Rice
- Cookies, Cocoa & Cocktails: Specialty Hot Cocoa (Served in a Souvenir Cup with your choice of Peppermint or Gingerbread and Whipped Cream)
- Holiday Hearth: Braised Beef, Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese AND Smoked Turkey, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Texas Toast , Gravy
- Polar Pavilion: Candy Cane Lane (Vodka, Grenadine, Monin Peppermint, Lime)
- Xcursions: Eggnog Cupcake AND Apple Crumble Cupcake
- Christmas Celebration: Pork Shank Braised with Spiced Pineapple & Brown Sugar, Green Beans
- Cookie Time: Decorate Your Own Cookie (Choose Snickerdoodle, Sugar, or Chocolate Chip)
- Holiday Joy Tasting: Brussel Sprouts, Crispy Bacon, Apple Cider Vinaigrette AND Chicken Coq au Vin with Red Bliss Mashed Potato
- Dasher’s Delight: Seared Scallop, Ruby Red Couscous, Goat Cheese Crumbles
- Cocoa & Cream: Snickerdoodle Apple Pie ala mode
- Springs Taproom: Abita Brewing | Christmas Ale (Covington, LA | 5.8% ABV | 40 IBU)
- Holiday Wines & Sweets: Gingerbread Pudding (Rum Sugar Glaze)
- Sesame Treats: Christmas Churro
- Smokehouse Mobile: Carved Beef Brisket, Texas Toast, Beef Gravy, Onion Crisps
- Cookies, Cocoa & Cocktails: Mistletoe (Tequila , Monin Pomegranate Syrup, Lime Juice)
- Cocoa & Coca-Cola® Mug: S’More Please (Shmallow Whiskey, Hot cocoa, topped with a toasted marshmallow) AND Mexican Hot Cocoa (Ghost Tequila, Baileys Chocolate, Hot cocoa, whip cream, topped with chili flakes)
- Cookies, Cocoa & Cocktails: Candy Cane Lane (Vodka, Grenadine, Monin Peppermint, Lime)
- Dragon Dog: Turkey Dog, Stuffing, Cranberry Relish
- Twisted Tails: Spinach Feta Stuffed Pretzel
- Dragon Fire Grill Pub: Ginger Snap Mule (Spiced Rum, Amaretto, Ginger Beer, Lime)
- Kenya Canteen: Peppermint Brownie Sundae
- Giraffe Bar: Funky Buddha | Last Snow Coffee Porter (Oakland Park, FL | 6.4% ABV | 25 IBU)
- Coaster Coffee: Mini Funnel Cake
11 Fun Things to Do at Busch Gardens Christmas Town in Tampa
As if the delicious sweet treats and savory dishes weren’t enough, you can relax in between the thrilling roller coasters by watching a holiday show or enjoying the charming holiday activities.
One of my favorite things to do at Busch Gardens Tampa during the holiday season is to partake in the amazing Christmas entertainment.
Let’s go through some of the must do’s for Christmas at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
1. Enjoy the Holiday in the Sky Fireworks Show
This year you’ll enjoy a reimagine fireworks spectacular called Holiday in the Sky!
Busch Gardens is creating an over-the-top colorful holiday experience complete with a water fountain show that moves to the beat of the festival songs.
The Holiday in the Sky will take place on the Festival Field on select nights of the event.
Recommended: Top 10 BEST Christmas Lights in Tampa You MUST See
2. Do a Holiday Tour at Busch Gardens
Get all of the inside details on what it takes to bring Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa to life with a holiday tour!
There are two options offered for the year:
- Christmas Town VIP Tour: includes Front of the Line access to Santa’s House and Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland, a complimentary souvenir mug, reserved seating to the Christmas on Ice show, an opportunity to feed Flamingos, and more!
- A Christmas Town Elite Tour: includes everything the VIP Tour offers plus a meet and greet with Santa and reserved seating for the fireworks show.
3. Listen to Storytime with Mrs. Claus
Enjoy a mixture of classic Christmas tales with Mrs. Claus as she takes you on a holiday adventure through storytime!
This is one of my favorite things to do at Busch Gardens Tampa for Christmas.
4. Hang Out in the Land of the Sweets
When you enter the sugary wonderland, you’ll come face-to-face with a majestic Sugar Plum ballerina stilt walker and her Cavalier soldier as you marvel in the beautiful holiday decor!
5. Admire the Massive Christmas Tree
While you’re enjoying the holidays at Busch Gardens Tampa, be sure to make your way over to Cheetah Plaza to check out the new 40-foot-tall Christmas tree!
This Yuletide feature near Cheetah Hunt is sure to put you into the holiday spirit as you gaze upon its beauty while being surrounded by the red and white winter wonderland.
6. Explore Santa’s North Pole
This is one of the things you must do at Busch Gardens for Christmas!
Presented by Coca-Cola, Santa’s North Pole Experience gives you the chance to hangout with Santa Claus and his delightful elves.
You’ll also get to enjoy many holiday adventures such as:
- Photo with Santa’s sleigh
- Storytime with Mrs. Claus
- Meet Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Clarice, and Bumble at Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland
7. Watch Christmas on Ice
This is a holiday classic at Busch Gardens that you don’t want to miss!
Christmas on Ice will be located in The Moroccan Palace Theater and takes you through an ice-skating winter-wonderland epic journey complete with your favorite holiday songs.
8. Enjoy Elmo’s Christmas Wish
This is special for the little ones, as they join Cookie Monster, Rosita, Grover, and Zoe as they help Elmo find his Christmas wish!
This fun holiday show will take place in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun area of the park..
9. Listen to the Three Kings Journey
Go on a musical journey as the story of the Three Kings is told through song.
You can hear the three wise men’s journey to Bethlehem at Dragonfire Grill on select nights from November 15, 2024 through January 5, 2025.
10. Hop Aboard the Holly Jolly Express
It’s time for you to jump aboard the Christmas train at Busch Gardens.
This experience is sooooo much fun as you get to circle around the huge theme park listening to your favorite holiday songs while looking over the Serengeti.
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11. Have Fun on the World-Class Roller Coasters
Now, you can’t visit Busch Gardens during the holidays without riding one of their famous roller coasters or rides.
It’s the absolute best way to do one my favorite theme parks for Christmastime.
Christmas Shopping at Busch Gardens Tampa
Now that you know what you can expect from all of the entertainment, food and other holiday adventures, let’s go through a few places that you can pick up your Florida yuletide souvenirs to gift someone this Christmas.
Xcursions, is one of Busch Gardens holiday shops located outside Christmas Town.
It features ornaments, nutcrackers, one-of-a-kind clothing, holiday trinkets that you can personalize for yourself or for someone else this holiday season.
You can also do more Christmas shopping at the other shows located in the park such as:
- Marrakesh Market
- Painted Camel Bazaar
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11 Tips to Make the Most of Your Visit to Christmas Town at Busch Gardens
Christmas at Busch Gardens has never been so exciting with both world-class rides and amazing activities for you to enjoy this holiday season.
Let’s go through a few tips to help you get the most out of your time at this event.
1. Pack Light
Many of the thrill rides at Busch Gardens requires you to leave your bag in a locker or with someone in your party.
If you’re going to Christmas Town with family or friends, then you won’t have to worry about the various locker fees throughout the park that can range from $2 to $20 per day.
I recommend packing light for your trip to Busch Gardens and only bringing your necessary items that can fit in a small bag such as:
- Cell phone
- Debit cards, cash, and I.D.
- Feminine care and hygiene products
- Hand sanitizers and hand wipes
- Hat and sunglasses
- Lip gloss
- Portable charger for your phone
- Reusable water bottle
- Small disposable poncho
- Theme park tickets
- ThemeParkHipster app downloaded
- Ziploc bags that are waterproof
Although I love my solo trips, it does suck to have to keep finding a locker near the roller coasters to store your things.
Plus, going back and forth between the rides and your locker can take away the fun and excitement of your day.
2. Get to Christmas Town Before it Opens
Although the festivities for Christmas Town don’t start until later in the afternoon, I still think it’s good to get to Busch Gardens earlier than the start of the event.
This will give you time to enjoy the thrilling rides and unforgettable shows.
Once the holiday happenings start, you’ll be able to focus primarily on them without worry about missing out on an attraction.
The time you’ll spend having fun at Busch Gardens Tampa will go by fast, so allow yourself enough room to enjoy the park by arriving early.
Just remember that the park schedule of operation varies each day, so be sure to check the Christmas Town dates before you head out.
3. Dress Appropriately for the Weather
During the months of Christmas Town, Florida weather can be hit or miss. However, it will not be as torturous as the summer months here in the Sunshine State.
You’ll definitely enjoy some of the best weather that the state has to offer, plus being so close to the Gulf of Mexico allows you to enjoy the wonderful breeze.
I do recommend that you check the weather before you leave. Even if it’s warmer when you arrive, always have a backup sweater with you in case it gets cooler in the evening.
Also, don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat and some sunglasses to help block the rays of the sun.
Recommended: Top 10 BEST Christmas Lights in Tampa You MUST See
4. Stay Hydrated
It’s important to stay hydrated at Busch Gardens Tampa especially if it’s a warmer day.
You can avoid heat related illnesses such as, a heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash by having proper hydration.
Remember to have a reusable water bottle on hand to refill it with water throughout the day at Busch Gardens.
5. Go During the Weekdays
To avoid the frustration that a crowed day at a theme park can bring, I suggest trying to avoid the park as Christmas Day approaches.
Is Busch Gardens Busy on Christmas Day?
Holiday peaks, crowd sizes, weather, and a few other factors have a lot to do with your Busch Gardens experience, including how long you’ll be waiting in line for your favorite rides.
Although Busch Gardens is not as crowded as the Disney parks, this is the time that locals flood the park to enjoy the holiday festivities and to ride the world-class attractions after their own Christmas celebrations at home.
Because of this, expect higher crowds on both Christmas Day and the week following the holiday.
6. Find Busch Gardens Discounted Tickets and Special Deals
Tampa Bay CityPASS allows you to visit multiple attractions in Tampa for one low cost such as:
- The Florida Aquarium
- ZooTampa at Lowry Park
- Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
- Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) OR
- The Tropics Boat Tours Dolphin or Sunset Cruise OR
- Glazer Children’s Museum
7. Pass on Preferred Parking
Try to get to Busch Gardens early and park near the tram station in the regular parking section.
If you pay for an upgrade to preferred parking, then there is a possibility that you may get placed in the back of that lot and will have to walk quite a distance to the front gates.
8. Have Christmas Dinner Outside of Peak Times
Consider having your holiday meal before lunchtime or right before the dinner rush.
This will allow you to take your time while dining and enjoy the celebrations with your loved ones over a delicious feast.
9. Celebrate Christmas at Busch Gardens the Week Before
If you can come a week or two before Christmas Day, you’ll be able to do many of the things listed in this guide without the hassle of the crowds.
It doesn’t matter what day you celebrate as long as you understand why you’re celebrating.
10. Do Some Holiday Shopping
You can find some unique holiday décor in the stores located in Busch Gardens, but Marrakesh Market offers the best!
Located towards the entrance of the park is Marrakesh Market that has been decorated to look like Santa’s Christmas Workshop.
The store is one of my absolute favorite places to stop at while visiting Christmas Town.
It’s known to be decked out from brim-to-brim in Yuletide decoration and wild surprises.
While you’re in the shopping mood, be sure to stop by Christmas Town Village for some beauty and local artisan crafts and gifts to buy.
Recommended: 12 Most Festive Things to Do in Tampa for Christmas
11. Look for Festive Photo-Ops
As if the picturesque gardens, roller coasters and topiaries aren’t’ enough, during the Christmas season you’ll have the opportunity to take many festive photos.
Around the park look for unique background and holiday specific décor such as majestic Christmas Trees, giant toy soldiers, and holiday findings inspired by animal prints throughout Busch Gardens.
Remember that you can use your PhotoKey to get all your pictures stored that day while at the park.
What is PhotoKey at Busch Gardens?
It’s a subscription-based photo app that Busch Gardens uses to store your photos taken by their Team Members digitally with your own PhotoKey card that will be stored to your account.
During Christmas Town you can use the PhotoKey option at the following meet-and-greet locations:
- Santa Claus (Santa’s House)
- Rudolph (Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland)
- Bumble and Snow Globe
What to Know Before You Visit Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa
Trip planning can be hectic, so here are some answers to the most popular questions before your holiday vacation at Busch Gardens.
What Time Does Christmas Town Open at Busch Gardens?
As mentioned earlier, Christmas Town hours at Busch Gardens starts around noon and ends at park closing which varies from day-to-day.
However, during the season you can expect hours to be around 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
These are the normal Busch Gardens Tampa Hours:
Busch Gardens usually opens at 10:00 a.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m. However, during the peak season the park may be open until 10 p.m.
Remember when planning your trip, always check the park’s website or mobile app for the current hours and wait times.
Are Rides Open During Christmas Town Busch Gardens?
Many rides at the park are open for visitors during the event unless under some type of maintenance.
It is, however, important to note that water rides may be closed due to cold weather.
How much is Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Tampa?
It is FREE! Christmas Town is included with park admission. So, all you need to do is show up and enjoy the festivities.
You will have to pay for merchandise and any food, but you can participate in some the holiday activities at Busch Gardens at no additional cost to you.
Get started on Your Tampa Bay Travel Plans here!
What’s the Address for Busch Gardens Tampa?
The address for Busch Gardens is 10165 N McKinley Drive Tampa, FL 33612.
How do I Get to Busch Gardens Tampa from Disney World?
- Travel WEST on I-4 to I-75 (About 58 Miles)
- Merge onto I-75 NORTH via EXIT 9 toward Ocala (stay on I-75 for about 3.74 miles)
- Take EXIT 265 toward Temple Terrace (this exit is also the exit for the University of South Florida)
- You will merge onto E Fowler Ave/FL-582 W via EXIT 265 and stay on here for about 4.65 miles
- Turn left onto N McKinley Dr/County Hwy-585A (stay on here for about 1 mile)
- Make a U-turn onto N McKinley Dr/County Hwy-585A
- Arrive and park at Busch Gardens
Ready to plan your theme park trip? Watch the best vacation planning tips on YouTube. Get started here!
My Final Thoughts on Visiting Busch Gardens Tampa Christmas Town
Overall, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens is one of the top holiday events to experience in Florida.
No matter how you choose to spend your day there, you will have an incredible day.
Just be sure to plan out your day and start early so that you can see and do it all!
Have you ever been to Christmas Town? Let us know in the comments section below.
If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll love these:
- Complete Guide to Busch Gardens Tampa
- Ultimate Guide to SeaWorld Orlando
- Disney Christmas Decorations Tour
- Epcot Festival of the Holidays Tips and Tricks
- Best Disney Resorts to Visit at Christmastime
- Tips for Doing Christmas at Disney World
- How to Celebrate Christmas at Universal Orlando Resort
Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!
About the Author
Traveling alone to the parks has changed my life and I want to show how you can create your own solo theme park memories.
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(Original Article Date: December 9, 2017/Updated November 4, 2023)