Christmas Town to shine bright for its 10th anniversary

Staff writer

Each November, Busch Gardens transforms into Christmas Town, a winter wonderland decked out with Christmas lights, decorations and themed stage shows.

When the holiday attraction opens for its 10th anniversary Saturday, it’s poised to come back bigger than ever with a Christmas-themed train tour around the park, a new stage show and more.

Christmas Town debuted in 2009 with an ever-expanding number of lights, ornaments and other decorations covering the park. This year, Christmas Town will be illuminated by 10 million lights and will spread holiday cheer with 20,000 ornaments, more than 1,500 fresh-cut trees and more than 700 wreaths and artificial trees.

“This park becomes very magical this time of year,” said Kevin Lembke, Busch Gardens and Water Country USA park president. “Our number one goal is to create a celebration unlike anything else offered in Virginia.”

But decorating the park to this extent is no small task.

Matthew Edwards, manager of events for Busch Gardens, said a decorating team of more than 200 people has worked for more than 10,000 hours to put everything in place before the holiday attraction opens its doors later this week.

“Rain or shine, our teams are out there working,” he said. “We have approximately three weeks from the time Howl-O-Scream closes until Christmas Town opens to completely transition the park.”

Along with stunning visuals, guests can enjoy the new Christmas Town Express, a 1.5-mile, 14-minute train tour across the park where riders can sing along to Christmas classics and enjoy light displays and themed holiday vignettes.

“The train was the last area of the park that we hadn’t had an experience on yet, so it was really a huge addition for us and it’s a really exciting one for guests to be able to ride around the park and see all of the lights that we’ve put up,” Edwards said.

The Sesame Street-themed Forest of Fun area of the park will also get a new addition in the form of a stage show called “Elmo’s Christmas Wish,” and the Wilkommenhaus in the park’s Germany section will feature a new projection-mapped show about virtual gingerbread men coming to life.

A number of Christmas Town experiences will return from previous years, including “O’Tannenbaum,” a 50-foot Christmas tree light show in front of Das Festhaus in the park’s Germany area. Returning stage shows will include “ ’Twas That Night” in the park’s Royal Palace Theater, which is headlined by former Olympic skater Elvis Stojko.

A number of rides at the park, including Verbolten, InvadR and the new Battle For Eire virtual reality coaster, will be open for guests to enjoy, Edwards said.

“Guests will see a lot of what they’re used to, a lot of the good nostalgic memories that they’ve had from year one and year two,” he said. “It’s really going to be a great opportunity for guests to come out and continue making those incredible memories that they’ll have for years to come.”

Want to go?

Christmas Town will open on select dates from Nov. 17 to Jan. 5, and will be open from 2 to 10 p.m. on most operating days and from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, visit christmastown.com/va.

Single-day tickets cost $54 when purchased at the park and vary in price from $30-$49 when purchased online. The Christmas Town Fun Card offers unlimited visits to the park for $49. Busch Gardens’ new membership program includes admission to Christmas Town. For more information and to buy tickets, visit buschgardens.com/williamsburg/tickets/theme-park-tickets.

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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