A Look at California’s Great America’s WinterFest 2017

California’s Great America kicked off their second annual WinterFest event last weekend, and we stopped by the park to take a look. This year, WinterFest at CGA is one of several Cedar Fair parks hosting a holiday “WinterFest”, along with Carowinds, King’s Dominion, King’s Island, and Worlds of Fun. Below you’ll find some photos we took of this years event.

The map of 2017’s WinterFest, showing which parts of the park are open. The best coasters are open, which is what matter’s most).

Only part of the park is open for WinterFest, as was the case last year, with several major rides and park areas still closed for the offseason. Making up for the closed rides, WinterFest adds a lot in terms of live entertainment. Different groups perform in different areas of the park, and costumed characters like toy soldiers and elves wander throughout interacting with guests. In addition, the pool at the entrance to the parks is converted into a 6,325 square foot ice rink for guests to skate on under the lights of the Columbia Carousel. One other fun part of the partially closed park, is that an employee route is open to the public (and decorated as Candy Cane Lane) to cut between sides of the park, which gives guests a little bit of a “behind-the-scenes” look at the park.

Gold Striker topped with Reindeer, as it was last year.

No decorations on Patriot, but the bold blue color does look nice at dusk.

The decorations throughout also bring to life the holiday event. There are over 7 million LED lights strung, and over 300 decorated Christmas trees with 1500 ornaments. A giant tree, one of the largest in the Bay Area, dominates the decorations and is the site of the daily Christmas tree lighting ceremony (on the opening night the tree was lit by 49ers Pro-Bowler Joe Staley, very exciting for this Niners fan). Finally, the “artisan alley” with more than 20 local craftspeople selling hand made goods (yes, I bought bbq sauce).

Lit Christmas Tree behind the Columbia Carousel.

49ers tackle Joe Staley and his family do the ceremonial tree lighting

Roving groups of singers (in this case jumping off the trolley) keep guests entertained throughout the open areas of the park.

The expanded artisan alley with lots of local craftspeople selling things

In general the event felt similar to last year. Lots of decorations and family friendly performances. It’s fun to walk around, but definitely geared towards families and kids. Maybe not ideal for thrill seekers (although the best coasters are open, and who doesn’t like night rides).

The decorations on “candy cane lane”, the employee access route used to cut across the park during WinterFest.

Planet Snoopy was decked out and completely open for families to enjoy.

There were a couple of hiccups opening night, the biggest being that every restaurant and food stand, many of which had special dishes for the holidays, was swamped by 6:30 PM (Winterfest opens at 5PM). I suggest eating early, or having a late lunch so you can wait until crowds thin a bit. The coasters all appeared to be running single trains, but it’s possible that later in the night, or on future weekends, they’ll up those to two trains. The waits didn’t seem horrendous even with one train operation, but I could see it getting bad when schools go on Christmas break.

The restaurants had holiday themed meals available, but make sure you eat early or late if you don’t want to wait in a giant line (this was early).

Only one train operation on the coasters, but that may change later in the season, and lines weren’t awful.

I think this may have been leftover from Halloween…(the guys in the background were taking it down as I took the picture)

WinterFest at California’s Great America runs through December 30 on select dates (generally weekends for the first part of December, then daily the last two weeks of December with a couple of days off). Tickets are as low of $25 (with some other discounts on certain days), which makes it a pretty good deal for families. It’s definitely something that I think kids would love, and the decorations are well done. There’s no part of the park that doesn’t feel decked out for the holidays. More details and the full schedule for WinterFest can be found here. Are you planning to go to any holiday seasonal events at any parks this year? Let us know which ones and what you think of them!


And cince I know some of you are probably curious, here’s a little look at the foundations for RailBlazer installed behind the fences.

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