Like most, after overindulging on a Thursday feast, I’m ready for some sort of frozen activity. Fortunately, the day after Thanksgiving was the opening of Winterfest at California’s Great America, and media members were invited to take an early turn on Snowflake Lake, the ice rink covering the park’s signature fountain just inside the entrance. During the league’s Christmas party the first year Colin played hockey, your humble narrator got onto the ice with the strategy being that if I’m seen on skates, I would never be asked to coach, and it was successful. However, I thought there may be some good photo opportunities from ice level, so I soon found myself swaddling my tootsies into that sinister footwear. It did seem prudent to use the backup camera since I’m rough enough with them on land; plus I noticed that the backup has a fish-eye setting, so that’s something I can overuse while trying to avoid medical attention.
Lights and decor fill the accessible areas of the park. There’s nothing quite like that California Christmas Combo of Palms and Pines. Once again the back areas are closed, and Candy Cane Lane creates a link across what is normally a backstage area, although all of the Planet Snoopy kiddie rides are running this year. Most of the rides in open areas are running, including the major coasters Gold Striker, Patriot and Flight Deck, but the wonderful simulator Mass Effect New Earth was blocked by the booths of Artisan Alley, some of which are still awaiting occupants. Activities like cookie decorating and letters to Santa are available, as are numerous photo settings, musical entertainment (kicking off with the nightly tree lighting), and trademark-free characters such as Mrs Claus or Jack Frost roaming throughout it all interacting with guests and posing for photos. Listing all of the activities, special foods and entertainment here would quickly have this resembling an Encyclopedia entry. It is so extensive that they have printed a 22 page Experience Guide that should be secured by all in addition to the Winterfest map.
Once again the Great America Theater will be hosting It’s Christmas, Snoopy, with skilled skaters performing to songs both new and familiar intertwined with the story from the holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. The park had granted us early access to secure a good vantage point, and it was welcomed as most of the 1100 seats were taken by showtime. The four rink facility built and managed by the San Jose Sharks means there is a deep pool of skaters in the area, and the production is very well done.
Winterfest continues on select nights through Saturday, December 30. Tickets are $34 at the gate, but if you’re buying tickets at the gate I must assume that this is your first day here, so welcome to MiceChat! Online tickets are as low as $25 for select days, $29 otherwise. Going with a passholder brings it down to $19.99. Some activities including ice skating and cookie decorating require an additional fee.
Christmas is big business and even parks which were previously closed all winter are starting to open for the holidays. There’s more to share; however, it was necessary to book a train for the second stop on our itinerary so that will have to wait until the next Day by The Bay.