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Review By Noreen Lambert
On Friday, November 26th, 2010, Christmas Town, a Busch Gardens Celebration opened. This was their second year putting on such a celebration. I had been anticipating attending for the last three months and the day finally came.
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I loaded up my family and my parents along with one of my daughter’s friends, the day after Thanksgiving for the 4 hour drive to Williamsburg, VA. We opted out of the “Black Friday” madness going on in retail stores everywhere to trek northward from our North Carolina hometown of New Bern, to join the festivities.
Now, I must say my mother and I share a birthday on November 26th and my oldest daughter has her birthday on November 28th so this weekend was the perfect opportunity to escape and celebrate in a different way than ever before. Everyone was excited. My mother especially was talking about the trip for weeks prior to our leaving and I had never really seen her that way before. Having been to the park 3 times in as many months prior to this trip, I knew that she would not be disappointed. I couldn’t wait to see the look on her face when entering the park. I knew that would be a priceless memory.
Let’s walk around the park shall we?
Upon arriving at the front gates at around 4 p.m., it was apparent that this was going to be a festive evening. The landscaping had been decorated with lights as you enter the parking area and it just went on from there. You know I always love the feeling I get when I get out of the car and can hear the music coming from inside the park. There was electricity in the air and everyone was excited. You could smell chocolate, and cinnamon as you approached the entrance and the lofting themes of the soundtrack to the Polar Express played as you entered the park. My mother’s reaction did not disappoint. Just as I imagined, she was awestruck, as were my daughters who are now seasoned “regulars” to BGW.
Entering through the turnstiles we were greeted by a large Christmas tree dressed in full holiday regalia. Beautiful! Walking through England we were met with Dickens style carolers who were singing Angels We Have Heard on High in 4 part harmony. A little further down as we approached the crossroads of Scotland and the road to Killarney, the sky was filled with illuminated snowflakes hovering above you. The sky ride had been transformed into the “Flight of Lights” and each car had been decked out with Christmas lights, as had everything else in the park. There were lights everywhere you turned, and they were themed! Blue lights on every tree down from the Loch Ness Monster to Ireland. Green lights abounded throughout the Thread Needle bridge area and OH THE AROMA! Evergreen, the smell was intoxicating and plunged you back to Christmas past!
As always, we first took a trip around the park on the Busch Gardens Railway. It was absolutely beautiful what they had done with the lights. At dusk the lighting was great, after dark it was spectacular. The lighting and decorations in Italy and Davinci’s Garden were astounding. A tall tree stood in front of you, lit with what could be imagined was a million lights. To stand in front of that tree I felt like a child in awe, seeing something magnificent for the first time. There were many times like this for me during our visit, but I am a sentimental fool and I tend to get teary eyed very easily.
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Walking through Italy, just past Davinci’s Garden, and just before the piazza, there was a beautiful Nativity scene, illuminated all around by trees covered in golden lights. This, to me was a wonderful and stunning display and I love that BGW included this in their celebration. It is too often in this world, in my own opinion, where the reason for Christmas is lost hectic preparations and over indulgence, and while I realize that saying this about a theme park may be a little contradictory, I really feel that BGW did a wonderful job of making this experience one that will help us appreciate the holiday even more!
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Getting on with trip and leaving Italy and moving over the Italy/Oktoberfest Bridge, there was an amazing sight! A lit display of “Peace on Earth” flanked by trumpeting angels was placed on the train trestle parallel to the footbridge. Each side of the river banks were lit with golden and white lighted trees. As if that weren’t enough, the music playing in this area was a children’s chorus singing “Let There be Peace on Earth”. As if it were right on cue, I looked down and floating along the river was a single white swan. To say that I became choked up was putting it lightly. I needed a moment.
So after pulling myself, together, we moved on to Germany where we were greeted with an enormous Holiday tree in full Christmas finery. This would be where we saw our first of one of the 4 shows that the park had to offer, this one was O Tannenbaum. What a sight, holiday lights synchronized with the music and boy was it great. My kids love it, not to mention my husband and my parents. A great way to start off the evening!
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From there, we went into the Festhaus to see “Deck the Halls”. I will take this time to mention that we did purchase the Quick Queue passes for the evening and we were very glad we did. This allowed us reserved seating at the indoor shows as well as preferred queue on the rides that were open. We were assigned specific show times for each of the three indoor shows and that seemed to work out well Now, I will also preface this show review by disclosing that I had previously viewed last year’s performance on You tube and I was not impressed. So I was skeptical of what I was going to see. My preconceived notions were wrong! Deck the Halls was, in my opinion the best show in the park, fun, upbeat and it looked like they had rehearsed lots for their performance, considering that this was their first official performance for the Christmas Town season, it was spectacular and will only get better with each one that they do. I have been in performing arts for a number of years and I understand what it takes to organize a show like this, so kudos to the performers, directors, light and sound people, choreographers and vocal coaches. GREAT JOB! Done in the 40’s style, and taking the audience through such holiday favorites as I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, Up on the Housetop, Jolly Old St. Nicolas and others, there was even a visit from Frosty himself! Great vocals, great dancing and great fun!
After Deck the Halls, we walked through to have a ride on Dark castle (always fun) and then on through the North Pole and over the bridge into New France where you could just smell the wonderful scents wafting from Trapper’s Smokehouse, on through to France where my 13 year old daughter took her grandmother on the Griffon for the first time. I have to say, I though mom would chicken out, but she didn’t! She was a trooper and even said that she would ride it again! We did not get a chance to see the Polar Pathway because there was just not enough time in the evening and decided that we would try to go another time.
Walking through France and down over the Thread Needle bridge area up to Ireland, we approached the Abbey Stone Theater where we had reservations for our second show of the evening “Rejoice”. Now, I had seen other people’s reviews from last season, however did not see a performance video, so I had no preconceived ideas about this performance. The theater and stage were lovely and the show began with the musicians taking their places. Then several be-robed individuals took the stage, all men, singing selections in harmony. It was different, it was enjoyable but different, not for all tastes I imagine. I could definitely see where they were going with their performance and the vocals and the orchestra were FABULOUS! The high point of the performance for me was when they performed “Silent Night” One man singing the lead and the others standing behind him with large round mirrors. The spotlights were hitting the mirrors so that beams of light were thrust into the theater. It was beautiful and touching. In all I enjoyed this show as did the rest of my family, but my mom and I felt like the choreography could have been a little different. Really it looked like they were doing stylized field exercises to a degree, but in all lovely.
Now, having ridden a few rides, done a full circle, on foot, around the park we were all hungry so we decided to eat in Italy. After we had purchased our food and went into the Theater area for seating, we realized that they were getting ready to do a performance and the seating was very limited with the exception of the area reserved for Quick Queue holders. I get a little uptight because when the ticket says your reservations are for a certain time, than that is when you go, but the workers doing the ticket checking invited us to sit at this performance while we ate. In fact they were happy to let us. I am glad that they did. While we ate we were able to watch the third and newest show in the park this year “Miracles”.
“Miracles” is a lovely show combining vocal performance along with jazz/ballet and modern dance selections. Starting out with the song “Just, Another Ordinary Miracle Today” they moved into others such as “I Believe There Are Angels, Among Us” and other inspirational selections. The dancers were out of this world and the stage was dressed beautifully. Simple and elegant along with the music and dance made this one of the most, lovely holiday performances I have had the opportunity to see. At the end they set off confetti cannons and showered the crowd with white. I hope they keep this one for years to come and expand on it. This show only lasted 15 minutes in comparison to the 20 minutes of Rejoice and the 30 minutes of Deck the Halls, but in all it was wonderful.
‘Miracles’ Part 1/2
‘Miracles’ Part 2/2
The time came to leave the park. I hate it when the “voice” comes over the public address system letting you know that closing time is near. Our visit to Christmas Town was coming to a close. In all it was a wonderful way to celebrate 3 November birthdays in our family. In another it was a spectacular way to kick off the holiday season. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a Christmas junkie. We put up our Christmas tree at home a week prior to our visit.
Christmas Town is the fix that every Christmas junkie needs. It touches all your senses, the sights and the lights, the beauty and the landscaping. The sounds of the holiday music, the shows and the individual performers in each country fill your ears with happiness. The smells of hot chocolate, fudge, brownies, hot soup, turkey dinner, funnel cakes, treats, and evergreen almost take you to sensory overload, but in a good way. The tastes of the holiday treats make you a child again. The touch of your family close by holding your hand as you walk along the lit pathways of Christmas trees giving you a little squeeze letting you know that they are happy and that you are loved.
Thank you to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for sharing the holiday season with all of us. Everyone who gets the opportunity should consider attending. The tickets are not expensive with single evening ticket priced at $21.99 per person, ages 3 and up. If you are a season pass holder you are able to purchase tickets for yourself at half price and for non pass holder family and friends at a cost of $16.99. You can visit their website at buschgardens.com for more information.
I hope that my not so little review helps to make the decision to visit Busch Gardens this holiday season. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Videos by Tanisha Johnson.