We 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.