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?!?"|