Winterfest at California’s Great America

img_1124We had the opportunity to visit the brand new Winterfest at California’s Great America on opening night. We were very impressed by the scope and detail of the event, especially considering that this is its very first year. Below you’ll find what you can expect as far as attractions and entertainment as well as our more specific opinions. Please enjoy the following write up from California’s Great America’s Winterfest!


The park was looking gorgeaous on a backdrop of a setting and obscured sun, and the crisp weather only helped further set the holiday mood.dsc_0787

We immediately entered to see the Tree Lighting Ceremony behind the Colombia Carousel. Snoopy and special guest olympic skater Polina Edmunds were there to help with the ceremony. dsc_0807

After an opening performance of variations on some holiday classics by a group of singers, the tree was lit.dsc_0800img_1047-1

Of course the start of the event was christened by a fresh coat of “snow”, courtesy of Jack Frost.img_1052

As far as other live entertainment, there a few really neat gems. One of our favorites was the Holly Jolly Trolley, a trolley that takes singers throughout the park to perform. What a neat and old school attraction.img_1145

The park also features a group of characters by the name of Jingle Jazz who are quite talented. winterfest_1690

The park was then nice enough to provide us with a delicious holiday themed dinner in the Great America Pavilion, which included ham, turkey, and a very tasty thanksgiving sandwich.img_1070

Formalities out of the way, let’s cut to chase. Is the event any good? Well, yes it is. To reiterate, we were very impressed with this event, in a few ways, but let’s start with the scope. Although the back third or so of the park was closed. The event still felt very expansive, a lot of this was done to the immense number of lights, 7 million to be exact. img_1114

It seemed that just about every tree, bush, and shrub was draped in lights, the park certainly did not cut any corners in the lights department.img_1149

We were also very impressed by the detail that went into the event, much of which is seen in the shows, attractions, and even characters around the park, so let’s run down what Winterfest has to offer.img_1124

Perhaps the flagship attraction of Winterfest is Snow Flake Lake, the Ice Skating rink in front of the iconic Columbia Carousel. Guests can grab a par of ice skates for $12-15 and enjoy whisking across the reflecting pool with family and friends. This is a great attraction for all ages, and is a really unique experience as a them park goer. We most definitely recommend you check it out.img_1121

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Also a unique experience, the reindeer! Just in front of Patriot is a pen with a handful of reindeer that guests pet and play with. The kids were totally loving this, and it’s not everyday you get to see reindeer in a theme park., or anywhere for that matter.img_1104

Just next door is St. Nick’s Pics. Located where season pass processing is usually housed, children visiting can go get their picture taken with the man in red himself for a nominal up-charge. There’s nothing too special about this one, but it’s a must do for any families with younger children. img_1144

In this area, Hometown Plaza, you can catch Jack Frost as he makes it snow every night. The actor who portrays Jack Frost is excellent, one of the best the event has to offer.winterfest_0998

Just a midway away is the impressive ginger bread house, an ornate and detailed entrance to Candy Cane Lane. This is a great example of the detail we were talking about. This facade is very intricate, and it serves as a great entrance to the following area.img_1091

Well what about Candy Cane Lane itself? A little underwhelming. The Candy Canes, although very tall, are just uncovered pieces of metal. The entire area is also surrounded by some thinly covered chain link fences. We understand however, that this is a practical path from one side of the park to the other,  so the lackluster level of theming can be partially excused.img_1089

After walking through Candy Cane Lane, you’ll arrive in Planet Snoopy. The area is of course all decked out in lights for the season and has all of its kiddie attractions operating. img_1078

We also enjoyed the floor projections around the park (especially in Planet Snoopy), that was a very nice touch. img_1083

In Planet Snoopy you can find Charlie Brown’s Tree Lot, a of which whimsical stroll through will lead guests to the tree made famous by Charlie Brown himself. img_1081

Moving up the midway towards Mass Effect (which is closed), there is a large selection of retail booths from which venders were selling an assortment of holiday merchandise.  img_1074

Also in the area is a giant inflatable snowman that kids can actually go inside of and play in. Oh, and Delirium is open, why not.img_1076

The next official themed area is Orleans Place, a very beautifully done section of the park. dsc_0819dsc_0820

In the area there are a few activities to be enjoyed, such as Mrs. Claus’ Cookies, where younger guests can enjoy decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus herself (Portrayed by a good friend of ours Celia) for a small fee.winterfest_0576

Just across the midway is Sally’s Christmas Crafts, where again younger guest can join Sally and write letters to friends, family, or even Santa himself.

Of course also in Orleans Place is one of the two coasters open during the event, Flight Deck. I’ll tell you what, Flight Deck absolutely flies. The speed at which it whips through each element is incredible, and the cold wind in your face, the winter Flight Deck experience is a special one. img_1138

The other roller coaster open at the event is Gold Striker. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to ride Gold Striker, which is reason enough on its own to return to the event, but we can only imagine a winter ride on this GCI work of wonder will be spectacular. img_1148

That also brings us to Star Tower, or should I say, the North Pole. We actually really enjoyed our experience on this attraction. The custom soundtrack and spiel about the park is a wonderful touch, and the view of all the lights is genuinely breathtaking. This one was one of the surprise highlights of our visit.img_1121

Last but not least, we were able to catch the last It’s Christmas Snoopy! of the night. We were very excited to see the the return of an Ice Show to the Great American Theater, and overall we were not disappointed. img_1165

The show follows and uses clips from the famous Peanuts Movie A Charlie Brown Christmas. As a result, the show carries a pretty clear religious overtone for better or worse, but also does a good job of pulling the nostalgia strings. The skaters are quite talented, and the choreography is solid. Although it wasn’t mind blowing, we really enjoyed the show and recommend you check it out.img_1173

That’s all for this one. Thanks very much for reading. Make sure to check out our Knott’s Merry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain Holiday in the Park reports!

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One Reply to “Winterfest at California’s Great America”

  1. My partner and I went on Saturday night 12-3. Having been a lifelong visitor of the park since it opened 40 years ago, I’ve seen the park’s ups and downs. All I can say, I’m thrilled that Cedar Fair has dedicated a long term vision of investment into the park….this first Winterfest was clearly a validation of Cedar Fair’s commitment to the park.

    Like CCK’s review says, the attention to detail from the most apparent (like the lights) to just the more subtle details was awesome. The custom holiday signage that had been created and replacing the regular season signage on storefronts and attractions was very cool. Even holiday oriented “artwork” replaced what would have been normal seasonal artwork in the venues and eateries…Maggie Brown’s had holiday and Christmas oriented artwork hanging on the walls…such a simple/subtle detail went a long way into the park’s transformation.

    The entertainment was great. We saw the It’s Christmas Snoopy ice show and Tinkers Toy Factory. Between the live shows in the venues and live entertainment throughout the park, I really felt like Cedar Fair was paying homage to the Marriott days when Great America was just as much a “show” park as it was a “ride” park…it was great.

    The only thing they could improve is the one train operations on both Flight Deck and Gold Rusher. And while the lines were only 30 minutes for each ride, a two train operation would have allowed us to experience more of the Winterfest activities since the park is only open for 5 hours.

    All in all though, Winterfest was awesome. The park looked beautiful, and there are enough activities and attractions to keep you fully entertained for the entire 5 hours. If you plan on going, plan on arriving at the park when it opens to see the tree lighting ceremony and to stay pretty much the whole time.

    Finally the piped in music throughout the park and entrance plaza (inside and outside the park) again was reminiscent of the Marriott days. It really made me smile and I felt like a kid again. Great job Cedar Fair and Great America!

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