As you may have figured out already, I am a stickler for tradition. Another one of our many annual traditions that I require my family to participate in this time of year is going to see Christmas lights. Over the years we have tried out a few different venues for this, adapting to what we thought would be a better fit for our particular family. We found that some of our favorite places just didn’t work very well due to spacing of crowds and accessibility of strollers. We needed somewhere with paved paths and something that was not shoulder-to-shoulder crowded. That type of crowding just isn’t safe when you have a child prone to elopement. There are a few great places around us that fit the bill and we love, but this year we decided to give a new place a try and check out Winterfest at Kings Island.
You may already know from my past review that my kids are not strangers to Kings Island, but Winterfest has quite a different feel than your normal trip to this amusement park. With far more to do than any other holiday lights trip we had been to so far, it definitely had plenty of things to keep my whole crew entertained. Honestly, there is way more to do than can be done in one visit. So, make sure if you can’t go more than once, you prioritize. We brought my parents and Uncle Bradley along as well, having multiple autistic persons in our party requires a little extra planning but obviously that is what we are used to. Here are some highlights and good things to know if your family is planning a visit:
- Plenty of Light Displays and Picture Options
You know I can never pass up a forced family picture moment! Whether you want it right in front of the entrance overlooking the skating rink and giant Eiffel tower turned Christmas tree, or if you want to check out the big blown-up snow globe (having issues when we went by so we grabbed one outside of it), or any other number of pretty light displays options, you won’t be disappointed. The light displays they have put up all over the park are really are beautiful.
- The Add-Ons
Winterfest offers a large number of add-on options such as ice skating, horse drawn carriage rides, cookie decorating, and even personal family igloo rentals. All of these things seem very cool, but for our first time out we decided to skip the add-ons and just do what was included. For anyone interested in these extras it is important to know before you go as many of these need to be purchased online ahead of time and some items (such as the ice skating) have a limited number and specific time spot. But don’t worry, if you’re not looking to spend any additional money, there is still plenty of stuff to do that is already included with the price of admission.
- No Fast Lanes
During Winterfest there are still a limited number of rides open including many of the kids rides, as well as a small snow tube area, and even a few of the rides for us bigger kids. With rides come lines, and no fast lanes access is definitely something to be aware of if you have a child like mine that has difficulty waiting, and personally something I think they should reconsider. We went on a Sunday hoping that the crowd would be less but it was still a good size and even with a lot to do, lines can still stack up. For most of the Winterfest season the park is only open on weekends, but the week before and after Christmas it opens up every night, so maybe a week night would be less crowded. Either way, if you know that long lines will make your trip unbearable, there is still the option of a disability pass that you can grab ahead of time at guest services. It won’t save you time like a fast pass, but it allows you to do your “wait” after the ride, so standing in the physical line is not a problem.
- The Shows
Plenty of little singing numbers and bands to run into around the park. But if you have any Peanuts lovers in your family like a couple of my kiddos are, sitting down to check out one of their shows can be fun too. They have a couple of different options for these but the one that we stopped by at the Kings Island Theater and watched the Charlie Brown Christmas Spectacular. Shows run every hour but actual show time is only about 20 minutes which was a great amount of time for my kids that have limited attention spans.
- The Parade
Definitely a highlight of the night with many moving lights displays and singing and dancing along the way. The parade route is marked in white around the park and you can find the outline of the route in the maps handed out at the front of the park. Show starts at 8:30 but I would recommend grabbing a spot at least 10-15 minutes ahead of time. We brought a blanket with us to help define our “claimed area” so we didn’t get overcrowded.
So, I hit on a few important highlights, but let me tell ya, there is absolutely more. Our group had to split up for a short bit while my parents stayed with my youngest and we took our older two and my brother to ride one of the bigger rides. My parents were telling me about a talking reindeer set they had seen that Drew loved, as well as some drummers passing through. We had walked through “Charlie Browns Tree Farm” with a small display of trees including the famous Charlie Brown Christmas tree. We rode on the train that drives you around looking at a few Christmas light displays with corresponding music. Online they made mention of a craft area and even some live nativity scene animals which we never made it around to seeing. Needless to say, there is more to do than one visit allows. But I have a feeling since it is our new favorite place to “see the Christmas lights”, that just means we have a whole set of new stuff to check out in our visits to come.