On my continued quest to find Ry local fun and festive winter activities, I invited my colleague, Karen and her toddler grandson, Jordan along to the opening weekend of Winter Fest OC. The latest in wintry activities offered in SoCal, Winter Fest takes place at the Orange County Fairgrounds from Dec. 18, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016. Being billed as one of the best holiday festivals in the country, personally, it didn’t quite live up to the hype. But more on that later.
We met at the fairgrounds at 11:00am, which at that time was still sparse with attendees. We introduced our tots to each other, but both were too shy to exchange any words, just curious glances. Upon entering the festival we headed towards the “world’s largest walk-through ornament” to snap some photos and then to the giant Christmas tree for more picture taking. We subsequently hopped on the little wooden choo choo train (Ry’s fave) that chugged around a small portion of the event grounds. We even spotted Santa on a walk. Thereafter, it just became a comedy of errors.
Little Jordan had a minor accident. Karen said it must’ve been all the excitement since he’s potty-trained. But Karen goes back to her car to retrieve Jordan’s extra set of clothes. In the meantime, I supervised the kids as they played inside the free bounce house, as well as briefly marveled at Santa’s reindeers (a pair of them) who looked a sad and bored sight caged up in a small space with absolutely nothing to do. It wasn’t their feeding time when we were there. Fifteen minutes later, Karen reappeared and took Jordan with her to the restroom. Meanwhile, Ry spotted big bubbles floating into the air. Immediately, he runs toward the magical liquid spheres. He was having a ball trying to corral the bubbles and pop them until he accidentally tripped and fell into a dark puddle of water. Ick.
So as Karen and Jordan returned, we basically traded spaces as Ry and I headed in the direction they just came from. However, I wasn’t as prepared as Karen. Ry never has accidents in public. Like never. Ever. Being spoiled by his super-tot ability to stay leak proof and dry, I never bother to bring extra clothes of his with me. Oops. But I’ve learned my lesson. Fortunately, Ry was wearing his pajama bottoms underneath his jeans for extra warmth. So I just took off his muddied jeans and sweater. For a few hours while Ry’s jeans dried atop Jordan’s stroller, he walked around the fairgrounds with his beige long-sleeved shirt and red and blue horizontal striped pajama pants. I have to admit embarrassment, but Karen reassured me that Ry looked like a typical two year old in his mismatched outfit. Ok, I’m fine with that. So, after all the mishaps and almost an hour lost, we resumed our quest for frosty fun. Time to hit the inner tubes.
But alas, just our luck. It wasn’t meant to be. Both Ry and Jordan weren’t allowed to partake in the ice tubing activity because they didn’t meet the minimum height requirement of 42″. I swear, I didn’t see that in the fine print. We were very disappointed, especially after Ry went tubing on a slope about the same height, if not taller just the day before at Discovery Cube’s Winter Wonderfest. Feeling defeated, we walked away, but gosh dang it, we were determined to make the most of it and decided it was time for the carni. We opted to bypass the ice skating rink, as well as the indoor arts and crafts area where Santa and Mrs. Clause were supposed to make their appearances.
At the carnival, the rides had varying minimum height requirements, but ultimately it was the ride attendant who had the last say. My kiddo, only slightly shorter than Jordan was not tall enough for some of the rides, but a couple of the attendants just couldn’t resist his cuteness and charm that they let him on anyway. Keeping a tally, Ry and Jordan rode on the dragon ride twice, and once on the spinning apple, the circling car, and the carousel. They also slid down the really tall slide. Add a few carni games in there, as well as carni food and it felt more like we were at the fair (which we actually were – the OC Fairgrounds) than at a winter wonderland.
Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the wintry aspect of the event. Granted, there were Christmas decorations, Santa, reindeers, an ice skating rink, and tubing slides, it just didn’t have the feel of what a winter fest should be. I didn’t get that festive vibe I was expecting or hoping for. Instead, it just felt contrived and blah. Who knows. Maybe it’s because it’s the first year running the event and some kinks still need to be worked out. Maybe it was just my irritation for the kids being snubbed at the tubing slides. Maybe it was seeing the poor reindeers in their tiny enclosure. Or maybe it was observing some of the carnival attendants looking miserable at their jobs. I really can’t pinpoint it. On the upside, the boys didn’t know any different, and they had a total blast despite all the mishaps. They also came to dig each other’s company and became good buddies by the end of the day. That’s all that really matters anyway, right?
Things to Know…
– Read the fine print for ticket inclusions. I didn’t when I purchased mine online. My mistake.
– Prices vary depending on whether you go on the weekend or during the week, if you go in the morning or in the afternoon, and if you buy your ticket online or onsite. Check ticket prices here.
– Tickets to Winter Fest include one free carnival ride and one free carnival game. Note: Using your free carnival game ticket (blue ticket) will only win you a candy cane prize, so use the ticket on a game that your kiddo might not necessarily like the prize to.
– Carnival rides will otherwise run you three tickets and carnival games will cost $5.00 cash. The $ starts adding up fast.
– The unlimited ice tubing activity is only available to those 42″ and taller, which pretty much eliminates the littlest ones.
– Parking is $7.00, cash only. However, I read somewhere that some folks just tell the parking attendants that they’re going to the swap-meet next door (weekends only) since parking for that event is free and they share the same lot. You can figure it out, but let your conscience be your guide.
OC Fair & Event Center
88 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone #: 714-708-1500