WinterFest Takes Over California's Great America

Several seasons ago, it was unheard of to visit a theme park after Halloween events came to a close. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has had their Holiday in the Park event for several years now and this year, Great America steps into the arena with their brand new WinterFest event.

Larger than life toy soldiers line the front ticket booths.

Typically when something is done for the first time, it's done in baby steps, to test the waters before going all out. The creative minds behind the WinterFest event had a different frame of thinking - to go all out. Needless to say, WinterFest has now created a new standard for theme park holiday events in the area.

Plenty of atmosphere as you enter the park, decorations surrounding the nearby
"Snow Flake Lake" ice skating rink.

As you enter the park you find that the  iconic reflection pond has been transformed into an ice skating rink dubbed "Snow Flake Lake." For a small fee ($15) one can book a 30 minute session out on the ice rink (made up of real ice too, not the synthetic plastic "Glice."

As one enters the front plaza, they get a small taste of what they're about to experience beyond the gates.

Just beyond the iconic Carousel Columbia stands a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree. Before the night begins, the park kicks off with a nightly tree lighting ceremony featuring a choir and special guests to help light the tree. The ceremony features a number of holiday classic songs and the lighting of the massive Christmas Tree!

The choir begins the night with some Christmas favorites!

Countdown begins for the lighting!

The massive tree lit up during the night.

A handful of rides are open, giving a selection of gentle and thrilling rides for everyone. Gold Stiker and Flight Deck are included in the list of high-thrill attractions. One of the attractions received a holiday overlay, the park's iconic Star Tower which has been transformed into the "North Pole." The North Pole has a custom onboard soundtrack with narrative based off the "Night Before Christmas." We were delighted to hear a subtle Easter egg that was dropped in the ride's audio and We're sure other Haunt fans were excited too!

Snow Flake Lake down below, as seen from the North Pole (Star Tower)

Take a ride on "Cold Striker" too!

If rides aren't quite your thing, there is still a ton to do at the park with plenty of live entertainment around the park. One of our favorite shows there was Tinker's Toy Factory as it tells a meaningful story and depicts some of mishaps with our current generation of youth as one of the lead elves feel that kids don't care to play with simple toys these days.

The lively cast of Tinker's Toy Factory

Poor Tinker isn't quite feeling up to it...

Nobody wants old fashioned toys, something Tinker has a soft spot for.

The rather demanding lead elf takes a time out to write out his wish list.

Kids want Xboxes, Apple Watches, Wireless headphones...not Teddy Bears...

Somebody out there still cares for old fashioned simple gifts.

Also be sure to check out the ice skating spectacular, It's Christmas, Snoopy! This show takes on a more milder/relaxing pace as the Peanuts crew tell the true meaning of Christmas. Other shows include Jingle Jazz, a group of acapella singers who do frequent shows in the Hometown Gazebo, Cool Yule - a choir singing several favorite holiday tunes by the 60-foot tree, and Holly Jolly Trolley where a small San Francisco-style cruises through Hometown Square, making a stop in front of the Gold Striker gift shops for a singing performance.

Holly Jolly Trolley - brings back the days of when Great America had a trolley that traveled around the park.
This one is not designed for guests to ride however :)

When not checking out the shows, there are plenty of eye-popping visuals throughout the park including Orleans Place, featuring high-energy music with lights synced to them. It's fun to walk through as the lights pulsate and change color to the rhythm of the music.

Orleans Place "The Mistletoe" Shop with a cool lighting package.

Mistletoe Shop and Antique Photos (along with other buildings in Orleans Place) also equipped with
colorful flood lights that light the walls and roofs.

A very colorful Orleans Place from above.

Orleans Place looking toward Celebration Plaza. Since the lights all flash on and off,
a long exposure is a must if you want to catch a view of Orleans Place with all the lights on at once :)

Theatre Royale also equiped with some cool lights!

Another simple but unique area in the park is the Candy Cane Lane area. A small bypass was set up between Delirium and First Aid, taking guests up a small section of the employee service road. To mask off the would-be backstage area, chain link fences with holiday-themed banners cover employee-only areas as giant metal candy cane structures with overhead lighting dot the path.

Candy Cane Lane (Service Road). Wax Museum building is to the left.

Hometown Square - Can these building lights stay on year round? It looks really cool!

Hometown Square can easily continue to run these white lights year round as they work rather well.

Last but not least there are plenty of other miscellaneous things to check out in the park, from taking photos with different holiday characters to writing letters to Santa, to other various photo ops all over the park.

Just one of many photo ops. We've heard of people thinking they goofed up on assembling this photo card...
...thinking they put the backdrop on upside down. 

Reality is, you're supposed to flip the image over afterwards. Who doesn't like flying upside down?
This is one of our favorite photo ops and a pretty cool/fun illusion.

Just one of many memorable and lovable characters roaming the the themed areas.

"Bah Humbug! What is that device you are pointing at me, sir?!?"
Did you get to experience WinterFest at California's Great America? The park will be going into daily op starting next week so if you haven't gotten a chance to get out to the park to witness this spectacular event, we urge you make it a point to do so soon! There's something there for everyone, young and old, thrill seeker and non riders. If you experienced WinterFest, let us know in the comments below of your thoughts, we'd like to hear from you!


End of Season General Park Update + Haunt photos

We've reached that time of year when Haunt comes to and end and CGA would be facing that lovely "off season." But things are a bit different this year as we have WinterFest in about a month. Great America will have a brief hiatus before the gates are reopened for their first Holiday event in a long time (Not including Global Winter Wonderland). With this last weekend of normal operation we have a general park update. Let's start off with Patriot.

Much of the visible work is done on Patriot at this time (painting) and work continues on the actual ride system upgrade. We'll let some of the photos do the explaining.

Retractable floors are in the process of being installed. Hoping that the station itself will get a roof,
something park fans have been wanting so they aren't roasting in the summer heat.

Drive tires and friction brakes have been pulled off the brake run. Patriot will have magnetic brakes installed.
As we took our flight on Delta Flyer/Eagles flight, we noticed something on the 2 southernmost towers - have also received a fresh coat of paint!

The newly painted tower matches Patriot's blue track. You can also see the difference between the tower in the foreground and the tower just ahead with its dull blue paint.

Heading back from our "round trip" on Delta Flyer/Eagles Flight, old paint in foreground,
new paint on the last 2 towers. They pop! It's also raining further down in Los Gatos, at the base of the mountains.

Winterfest scenary continues to appear among the Haunt festivities, with a lot of things taking place back stage. One of the things we noticed was as one exits Wax Museum, you're greeted with giant steel candy cane structures, all part of Candy Cane Lane.

Candy Cane Lane will serve as a temporary path between Home Town Square and...All American Corners/Mass Effect area. The back of the park will be closed off so rides on Demon, Grizzly, Drop Tower etc will have to wait til next year.
Entry from over by First Aid
Where two holidays collide :)
Close up of the large ornaments in the trees, near First Aid.
The service road is lined with giant candy canes and overhead lighting. Guests will cut through First Aid on the other side over to the restrooms behind Delirium on this side of the park.

Lighting and decorations in Orlean's Place

Continuing into the evening we decided to snap a few photos from around the park during one of the final Haunt nights (and it was insanely packed!). We did check out the modified Dead and Breakfast and found it to be a decent maze considering the park had about a week's time to transform it. Still pretty detailed and one would almost never know it was Insanitarium a week prior to its reopening.

A bit late in the season but Firefall's fire was up and running. Would be nice to see this ride run during Winterfest as it's almost like a giant fire pit to keep park guests warm :)

Our first time ever using the stand by lines this season, gave us this nice photo op of Toy Factory's signage.
On our way out we decided to try some long exposure shots of Celebration Swings, Kind of looks like a
light-up yoyo or a spinning top :)

Did you get to visit Haunt or normal op Great America this season? What were some of your favorite moments? Let us know in the comments below!