WinterFest Returns To Carowinds

Sleigh bells ring, are you listenin’? In the lane, snow is glistenin’. A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walkin’ in a WinterFest Wonderland. 

After its debut last year, WinterFest at Carowinds quickly became one of my favorite events/seasons to visit the park. Featuring live entertainment, fantastic food, and more than 5 million lights, WinterFest most certainly lived up to the “hype” as one of the best holiday events in the Carolinas. Obviously, I was eager to get back and experience it again (which sadly never materialized last year), so I had to wait 11 months to experience WinterFest at Carowinds for the second time, at this past weekend’s pass holder preview. Here’s a little of what I saw.

Santa and his reindeer are again using Fury 325’s “fly-over” Carowinds’ entrance as a runway.

Plenty of holiday decorations were up around the main entrance.

The centerpiece of the decorations in this area was a 70′ tall tree, split perfectly down the North Carolina and South Carolina State lines.

WinterFest kicks off every night with a medley of Holiday Music and a “tree lighting ceremony.”

The lights in Celebration Plaza looked great! These photos will truly not do the lights justice as the 5 million lights really sparkle throughout the park.

The pathway under nighthawk has been transformed into Candy Cane lane, with thousands of red and white lights, gingerbread houses, and candy decorations.

Windseeker has been transformed into a 300′ tall “tree” as well. These lights were changing colors throughout the night.

If you go to Carowinds this time of year and don’t take photos of Copperhead Strike Construction, did you really go to Carowinds? Lots of track has gone in since we were last at Carowinds, and work on the station is coming along nicely.

The supports are also up for the Top Hat!

County Fair has once again been transformed to Coca-Cola Polar Bear Plaza, featuring the familiar Polar Bears and Santa Claus imagery that Coca-Cola typically rolls out this time of year. This area looked great, and was definitely improved upon from last year! Even better, County Fair’s four flat rides – Zephyr, Do-Si-Do, Rock-N-Roller, and Electro-Spin – were all operating!

A new area this year for WinterFest, The North Pole, is located in Carowinds’ Carolina Harbor Water Park. There’s a good amount of lights and photo opportunities in this area, not to mention Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen where you can decorate cookies, and Carriage Rides!

The horse-drawn carriages took riders through Carolina Harbor, which featured lots of lights and Christmas Decorations. The Storm Surge tower looked great lit up!

Carriage Rides are $5 for Season Pass Holders, and $8 for non-passholders. Two quick tips for Carriage Rides: 1) The Carriage Rides are near the “back” of the North Pole. The ticket booth for the Carriage Rides is located just outside of the “front” of the North Pole, near the rope ladder game. There were a good number of people who didn’t realize this, myself included, who went to the back of the area, and had to go back to the front to get a ticket to ride. 2) This line will get long, so if you want to experience a carriage ride, head to the North Pole early in your visit!

 

I’ve mentioned this before, and I know it might be hard to believe, but probably my favorite thing I’ve ever eaten at Carowinds was at last year’s Winterfest: The Fried Turkey Sandwich, which was located at Wings. While Wings was closed as it prepares for its transformation into Blue Ridge Country Kitchen next season, the Fried Turkey Sandwich (and The Roast Beast Burger, another Wings Holiday Favorite) was available at Dasher’s Diner (Sharky’s in Carolina Harbor).

I dreamed about this sandwich for 11 months before having the chance to experience it again this year, and I can safely say it didn’t let me down. I can’t recommend this sandwich enough, but there are plenty of amazing food options at WinterFest. (Including the addition of “Create-Your-Own” Mac & Cheese, located at what is typically known as Burrito Cafe!)

One of my favorite areas at all of WinterFest is the area around Ricochet, where the lights are all synced to music. Another place where the photos won’t do any justice, especially when you add in the Holiday Soundtrack.

Even Ricochet’s sign gets in on the color changing lights!

Check out a few minutes of the lights below!

 

I really enjoy the lighting near Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. Love how the trees are wrapped.

 

One of my favorite shows from last year, Jingle Jazz, was located in the gazebo in front of Boo Blasters.

Boocifer was even getting into the Holiday Spirit with his decorations!

With the transformation of Camp Snoopy this season, I was curious to see how the area would change for WinterFest. The over-sized multi-colored lights were everywhere, and looked great!

In the interest of time, I didn’t get a chance to go deep into Camp Snoopy, but the area looked great. Charlie Browns Christmas Tree lot returned as well!

I did manage to catch some of the “roaming” entertainment from the Holly Jolly Trolley. They performed several Holiday Standards, and were all very entertaining performers! I definitely have learned to appreciate performances like these in the park!

Over near Harmony Hall (Holiday Hall for WinterFest) were the repurposed Fleet Street set pieces from SCarowinds, themed to London from Dickens’ A Christmas CarolWhile last year, Ebeneezer Scrooge was out to interact with guests, this year, we had the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas yet to come!

Ice skating was taking place on Snowflake Lake, adjacent to Intimdator and Harmony Hall

And I managed to catch a few minutes of the Christmas Bluegrass performance. Not sure what it is with this performance, but I always walk up when they’re playing “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

New this year at Carowinds were the addition of private “Igloos” that include seating for up to 8 people, food & beverage options, and the promise of warmth! As the temperatures get cooler as WinterFest progresses, these Igloos might become a bit of a “hot” commodity! Learn more about Igloo pricing here!

Another place to stop and be mesmerized by the lights is underneath the covered walkway between Celebration Plaza and Carousel Park. Though not synced to music, the light show is still outstanding to watch for a few minutes.

 

Artisan Alley returned to WinterFest as well this year, with several merchants selling their handmade goods.

The second new “area” of WinterFest was located near Hurler and the Juke Box Diner, and was known as Tinseltown. I thought the decorations in this area were great!

I was even fortunate to meet the “Mayor” of Tinseltown, Oscar Tannenbaum, and his lovely wife. Compared to a lot of areas of Winterfest, this space wasn’t very busy to walk through, but the character interaction was pretty great!

I took one more stroll down Candy Cane Lane…

And made one quick stop in the gift shop to add to my Carowinds Ornament collection before heading home.


A few quick thoughts.

  • My one “ride” (outside of the Carriage Ride) of the night was on Carolina Skytower. I highly recommend this, as it’s very cool to see all of the lights from above. It’s one of 23 rides that are scheduled to operate during WinterFest, including all of the flat rides in County Fair and Camp Snoopy, and for those searching for those night ride coaster credits, Afterburn, Ricochet, and Kiddy Hawk. (Rides are open subject to weather.)
  • There are so many great photo opportunities, both with decorations and characters. You might even see the Coca-Cola Polar Bear!
  • The passholder preview was just 5 hours long (5:00pm-10:00pm), and to see and experience everything would have been tough to do in one night! There are 12 shows — consult a times guide to plan out your evening!
  • Come hungry. Chef Kris and his culinary team have outdone themselves with Holiday Fare. I’ve got to go back to try more of the dessert-like items!

WinterFest at Carowinds takes place on select evenings. (November 23-25, 30, December 1-2, 7-9, 14-23, 26-31) – hours are 2-10pm on Saturdays, and 5-10pm every other day, with the exception of December 31, where WinterFest will be open 5pm-1am, and have special New Year’s Eve Fireworks!

For information about WinterFest admission, click here. And be sure you’re following Carowinds on Social Media to learn more! Facebook  |  Twitter  | Instagram

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