The immersive light maze is once again taking over the Rays’ ballpark for the holiday season until Jan. 2.
“We just know people are ready to get out and do something fun and make memories with their family. So, we’re happy to be a part of that. Enchant Christmas this year is in four cities throughout the U.S., but we’re especially happy to be back for our second year in St. Pete,” Nancy Hutson, General Manager for Enchant Christmas St. Petersburg, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
Enchant first came to St. Petersburg in 2019 and welcomed crowds of locals participating in the maze’s “Great Search” for Santa’s missing reindeer. The event skipped 2020 due to the pandemic.
But Enchant is much more than the “world’s largest Christmas light maze” covering Tropicana’s ballfield. With a holiday market and local restaurant village, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, ice skating, “star experiences” for families and adults and a massive blackout curtain covering the stadium’s dome, Enchant has turned Tropicana Field into a Christmas theme park.
“Enchant is a full production company. And it’s a full-blown company producing it. We’re very fortunate here in St. Pete that we do have a lot of former theme park people on our build team as well as on our operations team just because we live in the theme park capital of the world,” Hutson said. “And I do think you’re seeing some of those nuances here in St. Pete this year. It really is like a little mini Christmas theme park.”
All that’s missing is rides, but we wouldn’t be surprised if some of those, like a carousel, appear in future event years.
“We’re thrilled to welcome guests back to Tropicana Field this holiday season,” Tampa Bay Rays President Brian Auld said in a release. “Our partnership with Enchant was a great success in its inaugural year, and it is a pleasure to bring joy to the community again this time of year.”
Back to that dome-covering blackout curtain.
That’s the “Magical Starry Night” curtain with the task of blocking out daylight to create a cozier, wintery night vibe inside Enchant. The curtain also supports thousands of twinkling lights mimicking stars.
Clocking in at 450,000-square-feet and more than 39,000 pounds, the curtain was a “large investment, but well worth it,” according to Enchant founder and CEO Kevin Johnston.
The blackout curtain also allows for the biggest upgrade to this year’s event—opening earlier to manage crowds. Tropicana Field is, of course, enclosed, but the iconic dome still lets in plenty of daylight. With the curtain, Enchant can open as early as 11 a.m. on 20 days of the event.
Hutson said the blackout Starry Night curtain is “a direct result of the overwhelming response” Enchant got in 2019 from guests who wanted a less crowded event.
Also, to further help crowd issues, all tickets and reservations are made online, including spots for ice skating and photos with Santa. “(Guests’) night is sort of planned out,” Hutson said. “I think people are much more used to that after the last year of doing their reservations online and using their phones to plan out their evening.”
Here’s everything else to check out at Enchant Christmas:
Enchant market and eatery Bordering about half of the light maze inside Tropicana Field are 20 pop-up kiosks full of local shops and restaurants offering holiday gifts and food fare. There are shops for locally crafted candles and hot chocolate bombs as well as local artists and jewelry makers.
As for food and drinks, more than a dozen local restaurants have spots inside Enchant with holiday twists on their dishes. Around and inside the maze are several pop-up bars for drinks and snacks as you navigate the dizzying number of lights and displays. These are the best places to grab a specialty cocktail and Enchant lightbulb sipper to drink out of.
Ice skating Tickets to skate around the ice skating trail start at $8 and include sanitized rental skates. The decked out skating loop is situated near the back of the maze, but still offers great views of the light display and some of the missing toys you’ll be looking for.
Giant walk-through light displays There are dozens of light displays around the Enchant maze—from oversized ornaments, illuminated tunnels and a dangling light forest to photo ops inside giant presents, dinosaurs, planes and even rubber ducks. The pièce de résistance of Enchant is the 100-foot-tall cone tree decked out in more than 40,000 individually controlled lights illuminating it in festive animations and patterns throughout the night. You can even walk inside the tree and see all the way to its sparkling top.
Star experiences New this year are Enchant’s Star Experiences VIP packages. The Magic Dinner includes a buffet, meet and greet with Mrs. Claus and a Christmas elf, and exclusive photo with your party and a special dining area. It also includes admission to the maze, dessert and select non-alcoholic drinks. The Magic Brunch addition includes the same as the Magic Dinner, just with a buffet brunch. The 21-and-up package includes admission to the maze, access to an exclusive bar, two beverage tickets, snacks and light appetizers and return access to the bar lounge area throughout the night.