Winterfest returned to Kings Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio back in 2017 after a 12 year hiatus. We have been attempting to visit since then and just recently were able to stop by and check out a great event with far more to offer than just lights, however if lights are you driver, you'll be glad to know there are over 5 million of them vying for your attention!
You've experienced amusement parks during the warmer months as screams and laughter alike fill the air intertwined with the smells of diet busting food items of all kinds. Well for the next few weeks you have the unique opportunity to enjoy Kings Island as you probably have never seen it before, exit a summertime paradise and enter a transformed Winter Wonderland!
With over 50 different attractions for families young and old to explore, spread over 9 different unique areas, you'll have a great time without even trying!
We've been to KI like everyone else more times than we can count but the moment we stepped past the ticket booth the kids were in full on "WOW" mode as they didn't remember KI like THIS!
It was if we were now guest at the North Pole as every building along International Street was encased in lights and glowing! Charles Dickens painted the mental portrait of Christmas and Kings Island brought it to life.
The Fountain has been transformed into "Snowflake Lake",one of the largest ice skating rinks around. It's also a cool thing to note that you can rent "walkers" for little kids that might not have the swing of ice skating down yet but still want to join in. Why is it called "Snowflake Lake" one may wonder? Well I didn't think much of it until Scoop yelled "Dad OMG LOOK!" as she pointed at the artificial snowflakes falling from the sky!!
One thing you'll definitely notice before entering the park, or parking lot (or even exiting the freeway for that matter), is that the Eiffel Tower is no more and instead in its place is the World's Largest "Christmas Tree". We sat for at least 20 minutes watching in awe at all the different colors it changed to.
A True Winter Wonderland
The kids were seriously in shock at how different the park looked! We initially thought this would just be a chance to see some lights while drinking hot chocolate and while that definitely was an option, there was so much more to do.
Live shows featuring The Peanuts gang, Sally's Christmas Crafts workshops and roaming Christmas Carolers are only a sampling of some of the holiday events going on that made our visit more festive. The kids really liked watching the live carving presentation as it was funny watching their faces go from puzzled to totally in awe as they transformed a block of ice into a cool penguin.
Rides Of All Kinds
Now don't just think the lights and Ice Skating were going to take over and the rides would sit idly by, I mean off season or not, this is still an amusement park. Several flat rides including bumper cars and the turnpike cars plus most of the kids attractions are open for you to enjoy. The roller coasters are closed with the exception of Mystic Timbers which is a damn good ride in the summer, but you haven't lived until you've rode in the winter at night, it just hauls @zz in and out of the trees! Of course Scoop was the only one that rode with me as the others spent their time coming up with excuses as to why they shouldn't ride.
Hands down the most surprisingly fun attraction that's not available year round was Snow Works, an ice covered sled hill you ride down on an inner tube. This was a blast because the hill isn't super tall but you pick up speed fast as you slide down to the goal line. The girls couldn't stop laughing each time they got off as somehow Munchie kept managing to end up facing the opposite direction mid race. Good to note that you don't need snow boots or any special clothing to ride.
The K.I. & Miami Valley Railroad was transformed into "The 12 Days of Christmas" as the train is decked out with lights and Christmas garland and takes you on a ride past various light displays that appear in synch with music being played onboard. It reminded us of the Polar Express and was a relaxing way to get off our feet and keep each other warm (while providing time to finish our Hot Chocolate). This is a nice attraction for adults and kids alike.
For an additional fee you can take a horse drawn carriage ride enclosed in a bubble to shield you from the elements, around the Coney Mall area.
The Tree Farm
As we were gearing up to grab a funnel cake before leaving, Chips pointed to a sign and said "Let's go to the Tree Lot". Not having a clue as to what it was but always being game to explore, we headed in. Walking along a row of undecorated Christmas Trees it seemed as if we had entered a maze similar to the Overlook Hotel in The Shining (minus the feel of Jack Torrance chasing us of course), we made a couple of turns and made it to an opening and there it was.
The famous tree from Charlie Brown's Christmas Special! Just as barren and struggle filled as seen on TV, topped off with one red ornament caught in a losing battle with gravity. As the girls posed for photos next to it, the Apex of our night happened...
The man (or kid I guess) himself walked from around the corner, good ole Charlie Brown! I'm honestly not sure who was more excited at that point, myself or the kids but it was equal parts cool and heartwarming and really just made this whole Winterfest experience resonate on a different level. I mean everything up to this point was great, but the Charlie Brown tie in made it complete.
A New Holiday Tradition
We really had a great time at Winterfest & we cant think of any other event in Ohio this time of year that can compare, especially on this scale as there really is something to keep everyone in your family occupied for hours.
Take everything in at your own pace and feel free to spend time visiting the shops while drinking hot cocoa or gnawing on a special Winterfest Turkey Leg (made with a different recipe vs. the summer months), or have a seat at one of the several restaurants serving your favorite amusement park fare to special holiday meals and even a Winterfest Buffet!
Check the video below for a virtual tour of Winterfest and be sure to visit the Kings Island website for more information and to purchase specially discounted tickets! If the cold isn't your thing, you can also rent a heated Winterfest VIP globe with seating for 8 that allows you the comforts of home while everyone else ventures out, which is a pretty genius idea.
Make a weekend out of your visit and stay at one of the many local hotels, including the Great Wolf Lodge, which is located within walking distance of the park gates!
Link: Kings Island
*Note: Our admission was complimentary in exchange for our honest opinion, and that's what we give, 100% each time.*