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Nov 14, 2009
Williamsburg, VA
We got there @ 3. First thing to note, no preferred parking. We usually pay the extra $6 to park up front, but they said they weren't doing any preferred parking at all for CT. Not an issue at that point because there weren't that many people there. From talking to some people inside it seems that not many were aware of the hours change and most arrived at 4 instead of 3. I'm guessing the lot filled up later on and people had to use the tram.

The good, bad and ugly from inside the park.

The good:

Park looked incredible after dark! Great atmosphere, the lights and decorations were awesome.

They did a great job (as usual) with the theme. The North Pole area was cool, as well as the outdoor market place in Octoberfest.

Lots of new food and good deals in the gift shop. They had a coffee mug (I think $3?) that you could refill with hot chocolate all night for $.99.

The rides were dead. We went to Griffon at the beginning of the night, again around 6:30 and again around 9 and rode it several times each. Zero people in line each time. Got to walk right on. Same w/DarKastle. Even the kiddie rides were dead. The only ride we saw any kind of line on all night was the swings (go figure?).

They had outdoor heaters, which were a nice touch with the cold. I would have never thought of that.

The bad:

Crowded. Very crowded. They had the bridge blocked off by BBW and the path by the train in Scotland. That left the only path around the park through Ireland, France and Germany. Train was running, but not Skyride (not sure if the Rhine River crossing was open or not?). Without being able to circle the park you kind of felt trapped in one area. We're used to looping the park 5 or 6 times when we're they. Because it was so crowded on the paths, we didn't get around like we normally do and I felt like missed out on a lot. We noticed on the way out that the barrier was down by the Scotland train, so maybe by the end of the night you were able to circle the park.

Because of the cold, and lack of places to go, the show areas were packed. I'm not waiting an hour to see a show. We never made our way back to Ireland for the show there because we didn't want to battle the crowds on the path. We took the train from New France to Scotland at the end of the night. The Festhaus was so crowded all night that it was basically shut down. They were letting people in in small groups at the door as other people would leave. (Hint: you can sneak in through the bathrooms). We didn't get to see the show there. The line for food, literally (not joking), started at the front door!

There were two live penguins in the penguin "show" ('nuff said). Keep that in mind as you're waiting in a 30 minute line.

The ugly:

The park stunk. I think they were piping in some "seasonal" scent or something, but ewwww. I thought the smell was terrible and I couldn't escape it all night (although it didn't seem to bother my family that much).

All in all, we had fun, but not sure if it's worth going back. We planned on getting the 3-day pass and going again Christmas week. We'll have to keep thinking about that. Not sure if it's worth the $100 in ticket price for the family.

Looking forward to hearing other some other reports!
You saw 2 penguins?!? Lucky! I saw... wait for it... 1 that was just sitting there in a box.
Nice trip report, I'm excited to go, I'll be going next weekend, my nose will be on the lookout for bad smells.
Ok, so after saying we probably weren't going back... my in-laws are in town this weekend for the holiday and they bought my wife and I tickets for tonight and offered to babysit our kids (for an early Christmas present!). So, my wife and I will be going tonight. I'm sure I'll have a different perspective tonight w/o the kids:)

I forgot to mention, on the BBW front, the ride is like 90% disassembled. The whole village is gone. But we did get these big stuffed-animal BBW wolves in the gift shop that retailed for $45 on clearance of $5 bucks!

Oh, and another tip: New France is the way to go if you need a break from the crowds. It's right in the middle of the "path" but it was the least crowded spot since there really wasn't a specific attraction there. Also the smokehouse wasn't really crowded either :) They had one of the gift shops cleared out and put in table seating in so you could eat indoors (they also had heated, walled tents with seating throughout the park). They had street musicians which my daughter loved. It's also a train stop if you wanted to jump on that to get back to the front of the park without having to trudge through the crowds. It was a perfect place to sit down and get a break from everything.

One odd thing we noticed... they moved a family dryer over to France right outside the penguin area. Maybe just for people to warm up in?? Seemed out of place.
Ok, day 2 was much better than day 1. It was not as crowded. I suspect tonight will be even better.

We took the train around the park @ 7-ish and noticed that the Battering Ram was open in Italy. So when we got off, we went to check it out. Indeed they had pulled some of the trees aside (but didn't remove them completely) that were blocking the paths to Italy. There were some decorations, the Battering Ram, Flying Machine, Balloons, and Gliders were all running. The coffee shop and bathrooms by the theater were open and they had some of the street musicians that were performing in New France moved to Italy wearing San Marco garb. Festa Italia was blocked off.

We asked the employees what was up and they said that the plan was to partially only open Italy if needed due to crowd size. So it will be closed when the park opens, but if the crowds get too big, they'll open it up in that limited capacity. I asked if that was the backup plan all along and they said it was not. Basically, Friday was so overwhelming they scrambled on Saturday morning to decorate/set up Italy so they could use it if necessary.

Lines for the rides were still light. Very short wait at Griffon and DarKastle (interesting note: they turned the water spray off at the end of Darkastle, employee there said people complained Friday night about getting wet and having to go back into the cold.) Corkscrew Hill was closed for repairs when we went by.

The two biggest negatives (I hate to be negative, but...) are the Festhaus and the penguins. The Festhaus is just ridiculous. It's so crowded you can barely get near it. The penguins are, well, I actually feel a little embarrassed for the park by it. They moved the entrance from by the train tracks over to the other theater entrance (next to the bathrooms) and the wait was 45 minutes when we went by. Keep in mind, there are TWO penguins sitting in a glass enclosure at the very end of the walk through. People are expecting dozens of penguins wearing scarves and puffball hats, like doing some sycronized ice skating or something. The let down is just tremendous (particularly given the wait). Just watch the looks on people's faces as they exit.

My advice: get there early (3-3:30), run to the penguins before there is a line just to check it out for yourself, and then jet to the 4:30 show @ the Festhaus. Otherwise, be prepared to wait in long lines for both.

Have fun!

Oh, and again, New France smokehouse is definitely the place to eat. The foods rocks, it's not crowded at all , and there's plenty of heated indoor/tented seating.

(and the funky smell seemed to clear up:) )
They opened Italy at 6 on Friday. We got a ride on the Battering Ram right before the park closed. Also, did you notice (while on the train) that the Elephant ride in Festa was taken apart? You can see it here: (go to 0:48)
Swiftman said:
They opened Italy at 6 on Friday. We got a ride on the Battering Ram right before the park closed. Also, did you notice (while on the train) that the Elephant ride in Festa was taken apart? You can see it here: (go to 0:48)

That's great to know that it opens at 6. We were where going to go the 12th, but we can't wait we've decided to go next weekend.
I don't think that it will be that time every day, we asked and they said that whenever it got busy, they where going to open it. Just keep an eye out for it. Also note, they said that DaVinci's Cradle wouldn't be operating.
Both time we rode the train were at night so we didn't really see anything going on in the park. We didn't really catch on to the Italy thing until like 7:30-8:00. My wife and I got hot chocolates and sat in the theater listening to the musicians. There were only a handful of people there, so it was a nice break for us.
Hey Shafor, do you mind if I post your trip report to the regular site? Obviously full credit will be given to you.
Hey Chris, I'm Working on the press trip's report with Swift and yoshi. I'll have Mine done by tomorrow and then all We have to do is blend them.
Fur Dozy said:
Hey Chris, I'm Working on the press trip's report with Swift and yoshi. I'll have Mine done by tomorrow and then all We have to do is blend them.

That'll work.
Went back again last night (we're suckers). Completely dead vs. last weekend. Didn't really like to see that for the sake of the success of the event...but it was nice to be able to get around.

It was a much more pleasant experience. Got to see all the shows with no lines or waits. The family really enjoyed Deck the Halls in the Festhaus. We got a much better look at the lights and decorations. The weather was actually a little warm too, which was nice.

On the penguins: there was no wait at all. Went through twice and walked right in both times. Also, they put in a second display case opposite the first one that had three additional penguins in it. So there were 5 total this time.

Italy did not open at all.
Glad to hear that there are more penguins, but they are still in a box (if it is the same as the other one). I hope next year will be better.
Went again last night. Definitely most crowded night of weekend, and pretty cold as well. Just an FYI, the Griffon was not open due to the cold. It was closed the entire time. Three different employees told us that if the temp is below 40, it will not open (*shrug*).

Also, don't know if this has been posted yet (forgive me if it has), but I pulled this from the notes section of the BG facebook page:

"Busch Gardens wants to thank all of its Fans who took the time to tell us about their experiences at Christmas Town. Our new event is off to a very strong start. We heard many positive guest comments about the sights and sounds of Christmas Town’s opening weekend, and we also learned a lot from you about what we can improve. When you talk, we listen.

Here are a few of the changes we have made:

We’re starting our O Tannenbaum performances an hour earlier. The performances will now occur every 30 minutes starting at 5:30 p.m.

On Christmas Town’s most popular nights, we’ll open Italy to help with our guest traffic flow. Please keep in mind, Italy was not planned to be part of Christmas Town in 2009 and will not be heavily decorated, but you can enjoy some of this area’s rides. When Italy is open, we still encourage you to enter through Banbury Cross and take a right at Scotland to enjoy the best of Christmas Town and all the decorations, shows and dining.

In addition, we reconfigured our penguin attraction to make the queue more efficient.

We’re opening up more drink stands – so you can warm up with cocoa and coffee.

And don’t forget, we have extended Christmas Town’s hours from 3 - 10 p.m. We thought that would give everyone more time to spend in the park to enjoy this great event.

Again, thank you for your feedback and Merry Christmas."
they need to do more than reconfigure the penguins, they need to redo the entire thing. I'm not exactly a crazy P.E.T.A. operative or anything, but I those penguins should have more room. A 10'x10' open or closed enclosure(that sounds funny) ought to do. A 2x4 cage is way too small for 1 penguin, let alone 2.

*One thing to note is that they most likely have a better enclosure for when they're off display.
I was thinking the same thing. Next year they NEED to do better. That was (for me) the most disappointing thing there (I heard a lot of others complaining about it also.
RE: Christmas Town! 12/ 5/2009

AWESOME!!!!! We went even though the weather man called for 100% rain all day long. Well, the gods we favorable to us that day--it didn't rain at all, just misted every now and then, but stopped altogether by 4:30. This also kept the crowds away big time--dead, dead, dead. Got to ride the rides as many time as we wanted, Griffon was closed though :( Lots of places to sit and eat with heat. The light show was great, even though it has a section of lights out on the tree. Festhaus show rocked as always. Penguins were cute--there were 5 the day we went --no line for them either. Two thumbs up. Yeah for BGW ChristmasTown 2009!!!
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