Pros: Reasonably priced event, great entertainment, easy to meet and greet characters
Cons: Could be cold, not for coaster enthusiasts
This review will be focused on my experience at Winterfest at Paramounts Kings Island in Cincinnati, Ohio. Winterfest is an annual event that takes place from mid-November to the end of December annually to celebrate the holiday season. A completely different line-up of shows and attractions is presented during this time of year than during the summer. If you are planning a visit to next years Winterfest this review should be very helpful. However, if you are planning a summer visit I suggest checking out one of the many other fine reviews here at Epinions.
During Winterfest, the park is open each day at four until either nine or ten. Tickets can be purchased either online or at the park. We saved significantly by purchasing our tickets online the day that we visited. The cost was $18 per person for five of us, but would have been $25 at the gate. Packages offered this year included some with parking vouchers and meals at one of the parks restaurants.
There was plenty of parking available for this event, although the cost was $9.00 per vehicle which seemed a little high to me. We were able to walk from our car to the main entrance in about three minutes.
Not all of Kings Island is open during Winterfest. The areas accessible are International Street, some of Rivertown, Octoberfest, and parts of Hannah-Barbara Land. These areas and attractions are renamed with Christmas names, of course.
Special Things to Do/See
There is a great line-up of attractions just for Winterfest. The following are a few of the highlights. Keep in mind that if you want to see Santa, you must go BEFORE December 25th and not on one of the dates after Christmas. We visited on the 27th so we did not see the big red guy.
Santas Toy Factory Musical - The first thing you should do upon entering the park is stop to the left of the entrance and pick up free tickets to this (or whatever musical is showing next year). Shows take place every hour, but the free advance tickets are required for admission. This musical was shown in the very nice Paramount Theater. Modern holiday songs were cleverly reworked and the words changed to tell this story about an elf who loses his Christmas spirit. I thought this would be way too corny but it was really kind of adorable. We did this last when the temperature had dropped, which was a pretty good plan.
Christmas Parade - Short and sweet, the parade featured about 6 or 7 floats and various costumed performers dressed like trees, ornaments, etc. The costumes were cute and I noticed the staff in the parade were very enthusiastic and did a great job of interacting with kids along the parade route. This parade is only shown once nightly, so plan accordingly. When we visited there was no problem getting a viewing location at the last minute so we didnt waste time waiting around. Santa is in the parade up until Christmas.
Ice Skating - If you are willing to pay a couple of extra bucks and like to ice skate, there is a beautiful little rink right in front of the Eiffel Tower Christmas Tree area. I cant imagine skating under prettier scenery, as the lights change color and holiday music plays.
Scrooges House - Located on International Street, this attraction kind of scared me. Scrooge is a Muppet-type puppet who surveys the crowd and picks on people standing nearby. Think of mean Bobo the clown from your local carnival. This was a big hit with some folks, but I guess I am just a wimp. I found myself hiding behind the people in front of me so Scrooge wouldnt see me.
Holiday Illuminations - This a very pretty show that played every half hour. A series of trees on the water were lit up with a series of light patterns in tune to Christmas music playing. Snowflakes dance in the background and the whole thing is very nice.
Nickelodeon Holiday Tree Lot - For a very uncrowded character meet-n-greet area, this is the place to go. We were able to meet Dora the Explorer and her brother, Spongebob and Patrick, and Blue all within just a few moments. The Christmas tree backdrops allowed us to get some very nice photos.
Regular Attractions Open
Most of Kings Islands regular attractions are not open during Winterfest. There are, however, just enough that are to make you feel like you are at a theme park. The following rides are open to enjoy.
White Christmas Express - The parks train ride was transformed to a great way to get in the holiday spirit. The conductor has a dialogue with a singing soldier on his way home, and the train takes guests past a series of scenes showing Christmas memories. This is a cute attraction and the heat lamps at the station platform were very welcome.
Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle - This is a ride where guests shoot at targets with laser guns, similar to Buzz Lightyear at Walt Disney World. The ride is transformed for the season with Christmas decorations and is somewhat addicting and fun for all ages.
Carousel - The parks pretty carousel is in operation. Our whole group took a ride on the horses. This is especially pretty at night, and the whole carousel was decorated for the holidays.
Top Cats Taxi Jam and Hannah Barbara Carousel - These two kids attractions were in operation for the little ones.
Shopping and Dining
A lot of restaurants and shops are open with a seasonal influence. We stopped for drinks at Winter Festhaus and enjoyed some cute girls and guys performing lively Christmas carols. We also had some delicious hot, fresh donuts at a stand on International Street. Other food options include pizza, funnel cakes, hot chocolate, popcorn, cotton candy, ribs, and Christmas cookies.
If I were to change one thing, I would visit Winterfest before Christmas instead of after to take advantage of some of the neat Christmas shopping opportunities. If you are shopping for a kid who loves the Nickelodeon characters, youre at the right place. There is a large store devoted to the animated characters. Many of the shops are stocked with decorations and ornaments, and street vendors offer craft products. Its a festive shopping atmosphere and I didnt think the prices were out of line at all.
Kings Islands Winterfest was a great experience for us in 2005. If you are going to try to ride coasters...don't. If you are going to soak up the Christmas spirit with your family, do! I visited with my husband and in-laws and everyone really enjoyed our trip.
The decorations alone were worth visiting for and I thought the price for tickets was reasonable for 5-6 hours of entertainment. The park was impressively clean and the staff were friendly. We were lucky enough to have weather in the 55 degree range, which I'm sure contributed to our enjoyment. Families with children would also really love this event. We are already planning to visit again in 2006, and there may even be some new attractions offered.
Happy New Year!