‘OC Winter Fest’ Was the Grinch that Stole My Christmas

GameStop, Inc.


I don’t usually write sensational headlines, but after letting my night at ‘OC Winter Fest’ sink in, my determination is that it was just plain bad.  Whether it be opening night jitters or miscommunication, the visit started out rocky and never recovered throughout the experience.  My daughter and I began our visit at Snowflake Summit, which essentially was the only tangible ride experience included with your general admission.  It was also the one pro of our visit as my daughter enjoyed multiple trips down the ice covered slide before we headed off to check out the carnival rides and games.  This is where the evening took a turn and just left a bad taste in my mouth.

20151218_155422As stated on their website Each admission includes One complimentary Carnival Ride and One Complimentary Carnival Game, but upon arrival the rides and games were each ran by a rather unpleasant assortment of Carnies who were setting there own rules on how those tickets could be redeemed.  My daughter approached the woman at the game she wanted to play while I was checking out another one across from her  Within a few seconds she came back over to me and informed me that the woman wouldn’t let her play, according to the game it wasn’t a ticket for a free game but instead was a buy one get one free coupon and couldn’t be used until we paid $5 for another ticket to play.  I checked the information on the ticket (which stated nothing of the sort) and told my daughter she must have been mistaken, then walked her over myself.

I tried handing the woman the game ticket and told her my daughter would like to play the game.  She then informed me of the same stipulation and even after arguing with her for a little bit we walked away bewildered and unhappy.  Throughout the carnival portion of the event this same scenario played out a few times until we found a couple of carnies that were willing to take our ride and game tickets from us.  Now you may notice I used the slang term carnie, it is really the only descriptor I can find in my vocabulary for the workers in the carnival area of ‘OC Winter Fest’.  My hopes and dreams were sucked away by their faces with hard lines, deep, hopeless eyes and for a few, missing teeth.  At one point I tried to approach the Ferris Wheel ride operators to make sure they would take our tickets and before I could get close to them the woman shouted at me in a low, gravely voice “No single riders allowed!” and before I could finish my approach or respond the male ride operator stepped from behind her repeating the same thing,  I was finally able to get close enough to tell them I was only trying to ask a question, but the damage was already done.  The carnies had already set the precidence that this wasn’t going to be a night of magic and wonder, it was going to be a night of nickel and diming families to death.  We finally made it onto the Ferris wheel where the cabin was filled with graffiti and each pass by the ride operators became a game between my daughter and I, as to what they would they be yelling or complaining about the next time we spun past.

Once the ride was over I decided to take her by the Reindeer and bounce houses (which were located next to each other). 20151218_155805 The bounce houses are the kind used at a small children’s party, not the larger ones you would expect at an event like this.  Ready and prepared to host a slew of children bouncing through them.  The reindeer laid lazily nearby, in the dark, as unimpressed by the event at this point as we were.  No indication given as to when visitors would be able to interact with them as two women sat inside the fence in lounge chairs not addressing the people gathered around.  So we moved on.

We had saved the best for last, the ice skating.  When we had attended Queen Mary’s chill a few weeks before it was nearly impossible to pull my daughter off of the ice.  We eagerly got our skates laced up when my daughter went to ask for a polar bear “ice assist” to help her on the ice since it was only her second time skating.  Again she returned to me empty handed informing me that ice assists were an extra $5 (nickeled and dimed) but they were included in the cost of ice skating at Queen Mary’s Chill.  Rather than sticking to my guns and leaving, which was my first instinct, I acquiesced for my daughter.  For me it was the straw that broke the camels back and it was time to cut my losses and head home, for her it would have been missing out on the one part of the event she was truly looking forward to.

The ice skating was vanilla, but like the rest of ‘OC Winter Fest’ it was unorganized, at Chill there were attendants at the entrance helping people on and off the ice, lifting their ice assists out of the way. At Winter Fest the entrance/exit was a log jam of bodies, and forgotten polar bears and penguins.  A slew of attendants were waiting to hand out skates but none were at the rink entrance ensuring the safety of the guests.  There was one teenager making lazy circles on the ice but he seemed oblivious to the goings on around him.  While my daughter was still skating I decided to try out a cup of that $5 Hot Cider… “We aren’t serving Cider tonight sir”.  But they were serving cups of $5.75 Hot Cocoa, at those prices I was expecting something rich and frothy made with milk but instead received a hot concoction of instant cocoa mix and some of the strongest tap water I have had the displeasure of drinking.  It was par for the course for this evening, I let my daughter finish up her skating session, she then changed back into her shoes and we headed back to the car.

I thought long and hard about this, I truly hate writing negative reviews but our experience at OC Winter Fest warranted it.  There were several other things I left out because they were only media related but they only further highlighted how unorganized and poorly things had been communicated to the staff.  In my opinion save your money or head on over to Chill at the Queen Mary which truly was a magical experience.


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