There aren’t too many places in SoCal where families can experience a proverbial winter wonderland. To varying extents, The Grove, in Los Angeles, is one; the Queen Mary, in Long Beach, is another; and the Irvine Spectrum is yet another. That said, this year’s most extensive facsimile for experiencing the joys of winter, and its accompanying holiday spirit, has got to be Winter Fest, at the O.C. Fairgrounds. Entering the fourth year of its existence, Winter Fest has established a significant reputation for its numerous entertaining aspects, and it appears that it’s on course to provide yet another year of G-rated, holiday-themed bacchanalia.
The event’s various ticketing tiers generally range from $6 to $75. For the best deals, purchase your tickets in groups of 10 or more (online purchases are also less than onsite purchases). All tickets include access to most of Winter Fest’s attractions; premium tickets grant access to additional attractions, which are also available to other guests for additional fees.
For the price of admission, guests will get to experience unlimited ice tubing down Snowflake Summit, a 150-foot, eight-lane slide; the Fast Pass for this costs $10 extra. Guests will get to play in real snow, freshly-blown each day at Alpine Village; this area features inflatables, food trucks, a toddler play area and the Festival of Lights, which is a light tunnel featuring 2 million lights and a variety of holiday vignettes. Other decorative attractions of note include: The world’s largest rocking horse and the world’s largest ornament. For the kiddies, there will also be holiday-themed bounce houses and character meet-and-greets from cartoon shows like “Thomas the Tank Engine,” “Sid the Science Kid,” “PJ Masks,” and Buddy from “Dinosaur Train.”
Additional attractions on the docket for all ticket holders include Santa’s Petting Zoo, Santa’s Workshop – for crafts and games – a snowboard simulator, and a variety of live entertainment. The live performers include bands and strolling carolers. Ticket holders on Dec. 31 will also be able to join in the New Year’s Eve countdown, featuring fireworks and the dropping of 3,000 balloons – which will happen at 6:00 p.m. for the early crowds and at midnight for those who wish to ring in the New Year at Winter Fest. Each night will also feature a holiday parade at 5:30 p.m..
Next, what winter wonderland would be complete without trains? Winter Fest has got trains big and small. For the small, there will be an expansive model train exhibit from the Del Oro Pacific Train Club; for the large, there will be two trackless trains, making their way through the fairgrounds for guests who’d like to take a load off and enjoy a ride. Finally, all ticketed guests will have an opportunity to experience a nightly tree lighting ceremony while Santa and his reindeer fly overhead.
Attractions requiring extra fees include the Candy Cane Carnival, which features games and rides, such as a holiday ferris wheel. There will also be a rink for ice skating available, and, of course, an opportunity to have pictures taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Rounding out the theme, there will be over a dozen shops, featuring a Dickensian theme, where guests can buy traditional English foods and other unique items, as well as take tea and eat scones at Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe.
If there’s anything Christmas-themed that Winter Fest has left out, we can’t think of what it could be. So, if you’re in need of a holiday bonanza, then you’ve got one waiting for you at the O.C. Fairgrounds between Dec. 20 and Jan. 6. Happy Holidays!
Winter Fest will be at O.C. Fairgrounds, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, from Dec. 20 – Jan. 6. For more information, visit https://winterfestoc.com/