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Last year Busch Gardens unveiled Christmas Town, a wonderful way to experience the holidays with your family. Now through New Year’s Eve, our favorite theme park will be filled with dazzling light displays and Christmas magic.

During last year’s media preview, I met Scott Gasparich, vice president of entertainment, who has watched this vision become a reality. “Christmas Town has been on the drawing board for 12 years,” he explained, “but when Howl-O-Scream became so popular, we concentrated our efforts on expanding that.” Now Busch Gardens is ready to focus on a new season, and I think it’s a keeper.

First of all, the park has been transformed into a winter wonderland: sparkling lights decorate trees, lighted snowflakes and stars illuminate the skies, and holiday décor has turned the Old Country into something new and fresh. “Each village has a theme, a color palette,” Scott said. For example, Ireland is decorated in green and gold and it’s very whimsical, and New France features a country Christmas theme, he explained.

As I walked through the park with my husband, Peter, I felt a palpable magic in the air. Everyone around us seemed enraptured by the surroundings, pausing for photos or to experience a “snowfall” in France. When I saw kids catching “snow” on their tongues, I wondered what the snow as made of. Rest assured, an employee told me, that the snow is environmentally safe: simply soap flakes that won’t cause any harm.

The illusion of snowfall stopped people in their tracks. “Look, Mom, it’s snowing,” said a little boy as he ran around in circles with glee. It’s amazing that people have such affection for snow—maybe because this stuff isn’t cold and wet, just pretend snow that doesn’t clog up the roads.

A few rides are open, but mostly Christmas Town is about enjoying the holiday ambience—and of course watching shows. There’s “A Sesame Street Christmas” for the young ones; “Deck the Halls,” a musical tribute in Das Festhaus; and “Rejoice,” a choral concert with hymns and Gregorian chants.

Families can also sign up for a special dining experience with Santa and Mrs. Claus at “Santa’s Fireside Feast,” where you’ll enjoy a buffet dinner and a classic Christmas story in an intimate setting. Santa visits are also on tap. We watched a little fella, obviously afraid, pose on Santa’s knee for a photo with a Mom-get-me-out-of-here look on his face. So cute.

A German-style outdoor Christmas market offers souvenirs, gift ideas, even mulled wine and hot chocolate. And if you’re worried about getting cold, there are patio heaters spread throughout the park, perfect for taking the chill off. If you get hungry you’ll find lots of restaurants offering holiday-themed fare and some of your old favorites. Turkey drumstick, anyone?

Peter and I barely had time to see the whole park and hope to come back with the kids. If you have a chance, start a new tradition this year and head up to Williamsburg with your family for a magical Christmas experience. It’s like Scott Gasparich said, “Christmas is about family and friends, about coming together, about community.” You’ll find these things and more at Christmas Town. Merry Christmas!

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Peggy Sijswerda

Tidewater Women Magazine, Editor & Co-Publisher.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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