Busch Gardens announced Friday morning that it will offer a $30 "Fun Card" for Christmas Town this year.
No Twitter deals will be available.
In addition, an announcement was made in September that annual pass members can purchase a Christmas Town pass add-on for $30. This also offers unlimited admission and gives pass members access to their year-round benefits, such as free parking and in-park discounts.
So here's the question many will ask me today: What am I doing for my family's tickets?
My family of four does not currently have annual pass memberships to Busch Gardens -- the main reason being that my children are too young to take advantage of such a large purchase. (Annual pass memberships cost $120 for visitors 3 and older).
That means, for me, a trip to Christmas Town will cost $120 for my family -- a price that is too steep even for my favorite local holiday tradition.
But I see what Busch Gardens is doing here.
When Twitter and other drastically limited-time deals have been offered in years past, it has, without fail, caused jubilation for some customers and turmoil for others. Last year, shoppers stormed and crashed the website, causing a two-day debacle. Busch Gardens offered supreme customer service throughout, but, to an outsider, it seemed to be more trouble than it was worth.
Then there were the annual pass member complaints. They should get extra perks during Christmas Town, access to the best deals, they argued. And they were right.
So, here we are in 2013, and Busch Gardens says the pass add-on is the best deal available. But they are careful to say that it is the best deal available for active pass members.
This leads me to believe that there will be some -- maybe light -- discounts available on single-day admission tickets. I will be looking to LivingSocial and Groupon for those deals. Local visitor centers and grocery stores may offer coupon discounts off single-day tickets.
UPDATE: A press release from Busch Gardens added these discount opportunities for single-day tickets: Coupons for $5 off single-day tickets (making them $25) are available at Farm Fresh, Papa John's Pizza, and Chick-fil-A. Wendy's restaurants in the Washington DC and Maryland area will offer coupons for $10 off (or $20 off using an online promo code) for a multi-day flex ticket.
Waiting to see if something pops up doesn't hurt a non-pass-member like me, because the Fun Card will be available all season. I can wait for a deal, and if I don't get one, there's a Fun Card to fall back on (or, in my case, we will find another Christmas activity).
But the fact is, Christmas Town is not suffering a lack of visitors, and Busch Gardens is working a long-term strategy, here. For the past several years, single-day admission tickets have continued to raise in price while annual pass memberships have stayed the same. The park gains much more from locals by encouraging them to buy annual memberships, and they are going to make them as attractive as possible.
My prediction for next year? Annual pass memberships will increase in price to $150 a person, and Christmas Town will be included.
The rest of us will have to scrounge around for the hope of a small discount coupon.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun