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Monday, June 27, 2022

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Kings Dominion Winterfest

It’s December! And that means that everyone is putting up their holiday decorations. The good folks at Kings Dominion are joining in the fun. I’m a big fan of Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town, but Kings Dominion’s Winterfest has really been growing on me the last couple of years. Probably because it’s been growing more every year! The lights, the food, the activities, and the attractions have been improving consistently for the last few winters that we’ve gone to Winterfest.

Anyone who’s taken kids out to an amusement park knows that it can be difficult. You need to carry along drinks and snacks and coats and hats, and in our case a giant double stroller. It can be extra complicated when you have some extra kids in tow. We were there with my father- and sister-in-law plus a niece and nephew. But there’s so much nice stuff going on at Winterfest that the inevitable mishaps and whining didn’t detract too much from the overall lovely experience.

You really get the flavor of the place before you even go inside. You see their big Eiffel Tower lit up with thousands of lights like a gigantic Christmas tree, cycling through a lovely light show of colors. There’s a 100-foot Christmas tree outside the front gate, also with a stunning show of light and color. And all throughout the park, they have hundreds of thousands of lights set up that really make it something to see. The kids loved it, and hey, I loved it too. 

I really wanted to take the kids ice skating, so I headed there first. The pond that’s between the entrance and the Eiffel Tower was covered up and coated in ice and turned into a lovely little ice rink! Little Lily was too young to ice skate, so she went off with my wife. I took Benny and his cousins Venus and Jayden (5 and 12 years old). Benny has been ice skating before, but Venus and Jayden had never gone. I love being involved in a “first” for my kids or my niece and nephew.

We went over to the ice skate rental area to sign up and grab our skates. But we learned that they run ice skating in 1.5-hour blocks at 5, 7, and 9, and we would only have 20 minutes skating if we started just then at 6:10. So we decided to go do something else until 7:00. The kids weren’t disappointed. There were a ton of “snow” blowers all around and as long as they got to run through some snow they were happy.

So we met up with my wife at the drink stand right by the entrance, and all got some warm drinks! We got hot chocolate and hot apple cider for the kids, and some tasty boozy drinks for the adults. I got myself a hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. It’s the perfect beverage for a chilly night. I highly recommend it.

We meandered over to the big theater to see the Charlie Brown Christmas Spectacular. But we were 5 minutes late so they didn’t let us in. So I decided to take the kids and go do that ice skating I wanted to do. We would certainly make it back in time for the last Christmas Spectacular showing of the night at 7:30, right? Well, when a parent makes a plan, the world laughs at him. But I’ll get to that.

I took the boy and the niblings off to ice skate. We got our skates and headed over to the rink. We had to wait in line to get the skates and to get into the rink, but overall it didn’t take too long. There were employees walking around offering to help the kids get their skates on, which I really appreciated. I was able to get mine on while all three kids got helped with theirs. 

As for actually getting on the ice, well, it was less than graceful. I had set expectations pretty well with the newbies that it wouldn’t immediately be easy, I’ll give myself that. But the little push-and-ride dolphin thingies for new skaters were all taken, so the kids had to content themselves with inching along the side of the rink. Jayden fell and got discouraged and I had to help him off the ice. But I’m really proud of him for trying something so new, which is hard for him. I eventually snagged a push-and-ride dolphin that the two younger ones could use, and we did a couple slow laps of the rink. We had fun!

I cut the ice skating short to try to get back to the Christmas Spectacular show. But even running all the way back, we got there at 7:31. One minute late. And they wouldn’t let us in. That was what ticked me off the most there, that they wouldn’t let us in even though we were just a minute late and the rest of my family was already inside. Oh well. My wife said the show was really great.

Everyone was bummed out. I made the best of it and dragged the kids off to go to the carousel while we waited for the show to get out. Once I got them up on the horses their moods improved, and Benny finally stopped wailing for mommy. We met back up with the rest of the family, then split up again so I could go off with my nephew to get some funnel cake. We chowed down then met back up with the family to watch the parade at 9:00. And this time, my timing worked out and we got to the parade route just in time for the show.

The parade was great! It started off with a jazz band walking by, followed by several floats and dozens of dancers. The kids loved all the bright lights, and I enjoyed it a lot myself. It wasn’t exactly the wild half-mile-long parade you’d find at Disney World but it was a really solid showing. It was definitely worth staying til 9:00 p.m.—the kids were tired but they really enjoyed it.

Overall, Winterfest at Kings Dominion was a lot of fun. We had some hiccups, but the volume of activities, shows, food, drink, and beauty more than made up for it. If you like Christmas at all, I recommend making your way out to Kings Dominion for Winterfest!

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