‘Tis The “Season” at Kings Dominion’s Taste of the Season
Like so many other parks, 2020 was a very long year for Kings Dominion. The park was planning to open a new Soak City expansion; Coconut Shores, which would have attracted countless families to Kings Dominion, before Covid-19 reared its ugly head and delayed the park’s planned 2020 opening. In the state of Virginia, theme parks were given the clearance to reopen on July 1, the caveat being that they could have 50% of their occupancy or 1,000 people, whichever was less. Under those guidelines, it was decided in August that Kings Dominion would not open for the remainder of 2020.
Then, there was a small Christmas miracle. In early November, Virginia increased their theme park capacity guidelines. Shortly thereafter, Kings Dominion announced that they would indeed re-open in 2020, for “Twelve Days of Christmas”-worth of a new, limited-time, outdoor holiday event, Taste of the Season. Just like at their sister park to the south, Carowinds, the Kings Dominion edition Taste of the Season would feature the park’s spin on holiday food tastings, holiday décor, live entertainment, and a chance to ride a few of Kings Dominion’s rides and attractions.
Having experienced the Carowinds version the weekend prior, and eager to squeeze in what little bit of the 2020 theme park season was left, I made the four-hour drive north to Doswell, VA to get one more “Taste” of the holiday season. Here’s a little of what I saw and experienced!
Procedures in Place
At Kings Dominion, like all other parks in the Cedar Fair chain, guests are required to make a reservation to visit the park. Prior to entry, they’re required to submit a health screening on the Kings Dominion app, and then upon arriving to the park, they are subject to a temperature check before proceeding through the park gates. This process was seamless, and took all of about 15 seconds.
Markers like these were visible throughout the park, in lines, and anywhere a crowd could potentially gather. (The best part? People actually paid attention to them, and kept their distance!)
“Trim Up The Tree, With Christmas Stuff”
Given the fast turn around between Taste of the Season’s announcement and opening, it really was outstanding to see the park decorated as beautifully as it was. For those who have experienced WinterFest at Kings Dominion (and the millions of lights that come with it) during the past two seasons, you might notice that there are fewer decorations at Taste of the Season, but honestly, it’s a more intimate-feeling event, with limited crowds and a smaller footprint. The decorations are fantastic, and everywhere you turn, there’s something else to look at.
While the fountains on International Street are typically covered up by ice skating on Snowflake Lake during WinterFest, during Taste of the Season, the iconic fountains are on, which makes for some great photos with the holiday décor.
Everywhere you turn in the park, there are decorations to look at.
The Eiffel Tower was transformed into a 315′ tall Christmas tree.
The Garden Clock at Kings Dominion even got its own holiday facelift!
I can’t overstate how beautiful the park looked, even in the daylight.
The giant lights in Planet Snoopy were hung on the fence, rather than the trees. It was nice to see some holiday cheer at eye level!
At Winterfest, Candy Apple Grove traditionally features lights that sync up to various Christmas music. At Taste of the Season, the area is themed to “12 Days of Christmas,” and while other music in the area plays, every so often, “The 12 Days of Christmas” comes on. Each of the corresponding lights are synced to the music!
“Lovely Weather for a Dominator Ride Together”
I realize this experience might not be the same for everyone, but days like my trip to Kings Dominion feel very rare for December in Virginia. It was about 60-degrees with light breeze, and mostly sunny. The sky made for wonderful photos.
For those who are attending Taste of the Season and looking for thrills, the park has two roller coasters – Racer 75 and Dominator – that are open and operating during the event.
Even though they weren’t open, there were still some great views of Intimidator 305 and Twisted Timbers!
If roller coasters aren’t your thing (if you’re still reading our site and they’re not — thank you!), the park also had Berzerker and Delirium open as well!
Select rides in Planet Snoopy were also open, including the only operating roller coaster I’ve yet to ride in the entire commonwealth of Virginia: The Great Pumpkin Coaster.
While not open for Taste of the Season, Drop Tower received a fresh coat of paint during the elongated off-season, and looked great!
“Here We Come, A-Carrolling”
There was live entertainment everywhere at Kings Dominion’s Taste of the Season, including the “Sleigh Belles” who sang traditional songs with more of a “50’s lounge singer” vibe. (I’m not a music person, and don’t know the real style!)
The Sleigh Belles alternated use of the stage with the Tinsel Tones, who sang more modern holiday tunes!
In the most 2020 of details, the Tinsel Tones were accompanied by a beatboxer, who performed behind a plexiglass barricade, to limit spread of germs coming from his mouth!
Roaming the park on the Holly Jolly Trolley were the Humbugs, a holiday Jazz quintet featuring four saxophone players and a drummer, with a little bit of comedy mixed in.
On the main stage by the Eiffel Tower, there was a socially distanced holiday dance party with DJ Giftwrap, as well as the interactive “Reindeer Games.”
For a little bit more “interactive” entertainment, Kings Dominion’s Taste of the Season also featured the QR Elf Adventure, where you were tasked to find Santa’s Sleigh. I didn’t play, but the sleigh is almost hidden in plain sight!
Even the PEANUTS gang donned their holiday best, and were available throughout they day and night for guests to take socially distant photos with!
“Carving The Roast Beast”
Taste of the Season is advertised as an “Outdoor Holiday Food Festival,” so of course I was going to do some eating. My advice for you if you visit Taste of the Season: Come Hungry. There are 25 unique tastes available at the event, from savory to sweet. While the menu is very similar to the food at Carowinds’ Taste of the Season, I learned that each of the parks’ respective executive chefs were able to have their own “spin” or interpretation of the tastes. So, while the food is similar between the two parks, it’s actually completely different.
Of my six tastes, I went with five savory options: First, the Southern Poutine (pictured above, my favorite!), which featured Sweet Potato Fries, Cheese Curds, Sage Brown Butter Gravy, Ham, and Green Onions. So much flavor in every bite.
Next, I tried the Seafood Stuffed Hush Puppies (stuffed is an understatement! You could actually see the tiny shrimp that were in every bite.) and the Sweet Shrimp, which were actually battered with Funnel Cake batter! Both were served with delicious sauces — the hush puppies with a Creole remoulade, and the shrimp with a cranberry cocktail sauce.
Tastes 4 and 5 were a Pimento Cheese Sandwich, and Merry Berry Turkey Slider. Head chef Denis Callinan is fiercely proud of his cheeses, and makes his pimento cheese from scratch. There was a perfect creaminess and subtle heat that mixed so well with the thick cut bacon. The turkey sandwich was served on a toasted pretzel roll, and featured a cranberry aioli. Also very tasty.
My final taste was the Wonder-Mint Ice Cream sandwich. I posted a blurry photo on twitter, but then didn’t realize it was blurry, because I ate it so fast. I wish all ice cream sandwiches could be like this.
Several of the tastes were served out of Food Trucks, which will be operating inside of Soak City next season.
“Walking in a Winter Wonderland”
As is usually the case with Christmas lights, they look a lot better when it gets dark outside, and you can see their “true colors.” Taste of the Season is really two different events, depending on the time of day you’re there. It’s a completely different, but equally as festive atmosphere.
Even on International Street, the buildings were lit up in red and green, and the colors would alternate. It was a beautiful sight, and I was happy that night.
“A One-Horse Floorless Sleigh”
Prior to visiting Kings Dominion, my most recent ride (roller coaster, or otherwise) of 2020 occurred at the end of February. It was on a Wacky Worm at some Family Entertainment Center in Florida. Don’t judge me. Before I left the park, I was determined to ride something, and decided that something would be Dominator.
The line was short (relatively), and only appeared long due to social distancing measures (which again, were being followed — shoutout to Kings Dominion’s guests!) in the queue. Dominator was only boarding one party per row, every other row, so the 32-passenger trains would be nowhere near their traditional capacity. (Of the eight row train, rows 1, 3, 5 and 8 were occupied.)
The coaster trains were also sanitized periodically, including the rows that were not being used – a great job by Kings Dominion’s ride operations team! (This was a theme I noticed throughout the park, as associates were constantly wiping down and sanitizing guest areas like tables and hand rails.) Riding in row five for my only coaster ride for the final 300+ days of 2020, it felt great to be back on a coaster, and even though you couldn’t see it behind my mask, I had a giant grin on my face as I ascended the lift hill.
There four single-riders on my particular train, and they dismissed each row individually, to ensure even more social distancing measures.
In all, the entire team at Kings Dominion deserves a TON of credit for putting together such a fantastic event with such a tight window of preparation. The decorations were beautiful, the food was delicious, the entertainment was stellar, and above all, it was great to just be back in one of my “home away from home” parks. If you’re looking for a true “taste” of the Holiday Season, I can’t recommend “Taste of the Season” enough.
As of this writing, there are eight more opportunities to visit Taste of the Season at Kings Dominion. The park is open from 2:00pm-8:00pm from Friday, December 18 to Wednesday, December 23, closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then open for some Boxing Day weekend fun on the park’s last two operating days of 2020, Saturday and Sunday, December 26-27.
For more information about Kings Dominion’s Taste of the Season, be sure to visit the park’s website, and follow Kings Dominion where ever you consume your social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram