WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Many of us have fond memories of walking through the gumdrop fields of Gingerbread Village or sipping hot cocoa in New France. But organizers say much more goes into Busch Gardens’ annual Christmas Town event than people often realize.
With just a three-week window between the park’s Howl-O-Scream festivities and the opening of Christmas Town, the entire Busch Gardens team jumps into action, from landscapers to administrators, to create a winter wonderland that is both merry, and especially bright.
This year, the park is filled with over 10 million bulbs illuminating every corner. From England to the North Pole, hundreds of amusement park employees work days on end lighting up the entire roughly 400-acre park.
When asked how they do it, Matthew Edwards, the park’s entertainment manager, says they start early, hiding a few of the 1,000 live Christmas trees in areas people won’t see.
“We start getting trees installed in the park early, in some of the less seen areas during Halloween,” he explained. “This is actually an entire park initiative. It really does take every employee who works in the park from the folks in the back administrative offices, marketing, finance team…everyone comes out to help bring this together it is a true team effort to make Christmastown come alive.”
This is something Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Present Kevin Lembke says has become somewhat of a special tradition, both for the park’s employees and visitors.
“It has really become a tradition and it’s great to see all the families,” said Lembke. “The shows, of course, are fantastic and you’ve got to see Santa.”
This year, not only can you see Santa, but families can also dine with Santa during the park’s new Santa’s Fireside Feast attraction. Found in the Ireland section of the park, families can eat a full meal while Santa and Mrs. Claus recount classic Christmas tales.
“It’s that one-on-one interaction that the kids want,” added Lembke.
When Santa’s not reciting old tales, you can find him in his workshop. Relocated to his original workshop this year, kids can sit on Santa’s lap and share their holiday wish lists in Busch Garden’s North Pole.
In addition to Santa, Father Christmas will also be making an appearance for the first time this year. Found in England’s Kidsington Palace, visitors can have a drink, enjoy a warm fire, and snap a photo with the iconic Christmas figure.
“This year we decided to come back to where his favorite place was, which is the Oakland house, so this is where you will find Santa,” explained Edwards. “This is where he was 14 years ago, here in the book warehouse. It’s fantastic.”
While not all of the thrills of Busch Gardens are open during Christmas Town, this winter the park will be allowing guests to ride their newest roller-coaster, The Pantheon.
“We’re so excited for the holiday season and our all-new Pantheon is going to be open for Christmas Town,” said Cassady Watson, communications manager for Busch Gardens. “So what better combination than lights thrills and some of your favorite world-class coasters? you’re on the world’s fastest multi-launch coaster looking out into the park and you’re seeing over 10 million lights throughout Busch Gardens, it’s incredible.”
But above all, Christmas Town organizers say the best part of the event is knowing they are helping families make memories that will last a lifetime.
“All of us do it because we love it,” said Edwards. “We get to create these things that are so impactful and become wonderful traditions and memories for families, this is a really unique part of the job and we are all very blessed to be able to do it.”
From now until Nov. 13, Busch Gardens is offering discounted Christmas Town tickets. They are available for purchase here.