There’s so much stuff to do in December! We can barely dig the winter coats out of storage in time to take the kids Christmas tree shopping, to the Polar Express, breakfast with Santa, lunch with Santa, the Lasdon Park holiday train show, the Botanical Garden holiday train show, the Rockefeller Center Tree, Macy’s Santaland, allllll those mall Santas, the Greenwich Reindeer Festival, FAO’s reopening, Sesame Place, Christmas parties, holiday break camps. I’m out of gas just thinking about it! (Then as soon as January 2nd hits…NOTHING until April! Give us moms a break and throw us some post-Christmas winter kids events, please!)
But one event I love that gets better every year is Westchester’s Winter Wonderland, an outdoor carnival now in it’s 5th year returning to the Kensico Dam Plaza for food, fun, and activities. Your $20 admission goes to support Westchester Parks (#shoplocal), and includes a whole night of fun for everyone! Read on for our review and tips on how to have a great time with your littlest elves.
But first… GIVEAWAY ALERT! Next Saturday, December 8, the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center will host an interactive movie screening of perennial holiday favorite Elf. Baby Got Chat has a family four pack of tickets to the screening!
Audience members will receive a participation bag filled with various Elf-related items to use throughout the show. These include indoor “snowballs” for a snowball fight in the theatre, a bag of pasta, and the four major food groups which, according to Buddy the Elf, are candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup. Vendors in the theatre will offer “the world’s best cups of coffee and hot chocolate.” There will be call outs throughout the movie to further involve the audience as well as an Elf trivia contest sure to put everyone’s memory to the test.
To enter, follow us on Instragram and fill out this entry form by Tuesday, December 4. The winner will be chosen on Wednesday, December 5. Visit www.chappaquapac.org for additional information about the screening.
WALKING (OKAY, MORE LIKE TODDLING) IN A WINTER WONDERLAND
Westchester’s Winter Wonderland takes place Thursdays to Sundays from 5pm to 9pm or 10pm, depending on the day. They also have a special New Year’s Eve celebration from 5pm to 9pm that features an early ball drop for the kids. But you don’t have to wait until the end of the month to make a visit. For a flat fee of $20 per person (kids 3 and under are free), cross Candy Cane Lane and into their winter village. There’s indoor and outdoor stuff to do, but dress warm because you will be spending time outside. We also recommend bringing your stroller if the kids are too little for long walks, or just to have someplace they can sit with a blanket.
When you’re outside, you’ll be able to enjoy unlimited rides like a carousel, a teacups-style dragon ride, a large slide, a Dumbo-style ride, a 6-car ferris wheel, and about 4 round-the-track carts/trains/coasters.
Our 2-year old could go on just a few of them but our 4-year-old was at the perfect height to have her pick of the place. The lines weren’t long when we went, so if we wanted to ride twice, we just hopped right back on.
There are also a few carnival games, so bring cash if you want to test your hoop dunking skills.
The Light Show
Lights of Wonder is their holiday light show that gets more impressive every year. What started as some lights blinking in time to music has evolved into a narrative of lights. Elves toss presents into Santa’s sleigh and words like PEACE appear in sync with the lyrics. The show runs continuously and is about 3 songs long. Our kids were captivated from their strollers. There are some chairs and heat lamps set up nearby if you want to take a seat and watch the show.
Line up for a hayride along the back of the plaza. Hop in the truck for a great view of their 40-foot tall Christmas tree in the middle of the Winter Village.
Outdoor Ice Skating Rink
Those who want something a little more active can pick out skates (rentals and skating included in the price of admission) and hit the rink.
Food and Drink
Food trucks are lined up offering pizza, Greek food, desserts, BBQ, and more . Featured trucks include Crafty Cue, Roaming Woodfired Pizza, Waffle Box, Gyro Uno, Road Grub Mobile, Donut Box, and Empire Bakery.
Head inside the dining tent where picnic tables are lined up and the temperature is toasty. While there you can even get an adult beverage! And the kids can enjoy a magic show once an hour.
Warm up between rides inside the big red-and-yellow circus tent, home to nightly acts such as the trapeze, plate balancing, silks, and a nerve-wracking crossbow act. We’ve been to the circus here every year and while it may not compare to a world-famous tour (we’ve seen some oopsie moments, but it makes it that more fun—and nerve-wracking!—when the bow-and-arrow duo come out to shoot apples off each other’s heads. The circus runs every hour. Bring cash for face painting and snacks.
Duck inside the smaller tents to pick out gifts, ornaments, and other Christmassy items.
The Santa Experience
Your ticket includes a visit with Santa. This year’s Santa is nice, friendly, and more traditionally dressed than the yellow-vested Santa outfit of years past. There is no photographer selling prints, so make sure your cell phone is charged and ready. The Santa tent is a warm and cozy place to wait in line for the big guy, but Mrs. Claus and the elves are selling light-up toys and other tantrum-inducing one-offs. Bring cash or get ready to add your kids to the Naughty List.
Theme Nights and Donation Days
Every Sunday in December, your kids’ favorite characters visit Winter Wonderland. Check out the schedule on our event calendar to meet your friends from Minions, Star Wars, Frozen-style princesses, and superheroes and other (PJ?) masked characters.
Plus, on Thursday 12/6 and 12/13, kids ages 4 to 12 get free admission by bringing in a donation to one of these two charities: 12/6 is Toys for Tots Night, so bring an unwrapped toy. 12/13 is Camp Morty night. Bring sporting goods from the following list: basketballs (better quality), long jump ropes, soccer balls, footballs, badminton rackets, birdies, volleyballs, portable soccer nets, air pump, kickballs, frisbees, tennis balls, and slip n slides.
We’ve gone to Winter Wonderland every year for the past five years and each iteration is better than the one before. It’s a great cold weather carnival and an easy drive from anywhere in the county. Parking is free and there are real bathrooms (but no changing station, so bring supplies to change the baby in the car). If you have an infant, they might not get much out of it save for a photo with Santa, but toddlers and older kids will love the rides, magic show, circus acts, and of course, Santa!
That's it for this week. Be sure to enter our contest for tickets to Elf next weekend. And don’t forget to check out our exclusive list of every children's library program in Westchester. It's been updated for Fall 2018, so everything you need to know is in one easy list.
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See you next time!