Event Review: Winterfest OC

What It is:

Winterfest aims to bring winter to Orange County. They have all sorts of winter activities including ice skating, tubing, snow, and nightly tree lighting and fireworks.

*Many of my pictures did not really turn out or had a large amount of kids in them, so I don’t have much!

What We Did:

I have to start off by saying that I was really excited for this. I have been wanting to go for years because it sounded fun and I love wintery stuff. I finally convinced my husband we should go this year.

We bought tickets online before the run of Winterfest started because they were a bit cheaper this way. We ended up picking the day after Christmas because it started December 21 and that just didn’t leave a ton of time before the holidays came about. After looking at their schedule, we planned to get there around 4:30ish so that we could be there for the parade, tree lighting, “snow fall,”and fireworks show at 5:30.

Since we already had our tickets we waited in line for check in. Despite the fact that they had about 8 people to check tickets, there was no way to get to the ones in the back since they were blocked by the people getting checked in at the front. Apparently it was taking so long since if you bought upgraded tickets you got a wristband. We had general tickets and there was no one that could just scan our tickets and let us in. A minor thing, but I think this could be done better.

After checking in there were a bunch of photographers with green screens set up. We took a picture, but my husband was wearing a green jacket and C was wearing a green onesie so they were both see through in the picture. It was amusing and I would have bought it if it didn’t cost $30! In case you go, don’t wear green if you want this picture!

Right after you walk in.

Once inside we wanted to get the lay of the land. We found where the tree lighting and “snow fall” area were so we knew where to go for that. On one side they had some rides and carnival games. Very similar to things you’d see at a fair. We stopped by the tubing hill was and talked about if we wanted to wait in line for one of us to do it. (Answer was no.) The tubing looked fun and people looked like the enjoyed it.

Tubing in a building!

We had some time before the parade so we went to check out the snow play area. They bring in fresh snow everyday since it melts so fast. We passed the petting zoo which had a HUGE line. I wanted to take C in, but it was so not worth the wait since there was no time limit once you were in there. There were some bounce houses and ropes course things for older kids and a stage where an unenthusiastic Rusty Rivets thing was happening. Whether he was unenthusiastic because of the small audience or if the small audience was because of the quality, I will never know.

Where all the snow is.

Then came the snow area. It is all under a tent. There are probably 3 different little snow sections and a snow hill for kids. It was advertised and labeled on the map that there was a specific toddler snow play area. We didn’t see anything labeled in the tent as to which area was which and there were no employees watching the play areas (they were only at the snow hill) so we had no idea. And neither did any kids. Older kids were in all of them. Having intense snowball fights. There was one section that adults with littler ones seemed to gravitate towards, so we went there. In order to get in you have to step up the 1 1/2 foot step into the snow area. It was a little rough, especially while holding a kid. C walked around a little bit, but moved on quickly. Getting out was even harder than getting in and we ended up having to get one of us out to take C so the other person could get out. It was super slippery and a big step.

Walking in the snow.

Around that time we headed back for the parade and all that. We got a nice spot right around the tree and discussed food options since we had about 10 minutes before everything was supposed to stop. At this point we knew we weren’t going to stay too long so even though there were really good food options, we decided against it. 5:30 (the parade start time) came and went. And nothing. No announcement, no parade. Around 5:45 they made an announcement that things would start soon. Now as you can imagine kids were MELTING down. They’d all been sitting there for at least 20 minutes and many longer than that. It was not good. 5:50 is when things finally started. There wasn’t a parade like they make it seem. It was more an announcer and a few people dressed up walking into the tree lighting area. Disappointed.

The tree and the host of the ceremony.

The host guy pulled a few kids in to help get the tree lit. It probably took about 5 minutes. He then said to make sure to say hi to all the characters and I thought it would be fun to get pictures with them after, but I have no idea where they disappeared to. They seem to have left VERY quickly. There was a short fireworks show loosely set to music that was over the building the tubing was in. That was kind of fun to watch. It wasn’t anything spectacular but it was good. The fake snow fall was limited to a few areas but it seemed to fly around nicely. If you want to be near the snow fall though, pick a spot close the the edges of the ice skating rink. Then it was over. We waited 40 minutes for that. More disappointment.

The start of Festival of Lights.

Then came the best part. We bought a hot cocoa. It was $3 and a nice size for the price. It tasted really good. I got to drink it on our walk through the Festival of Lights. I love Christmas lights and decorations so I was kind of looking forward to it. It was okay. There were quite a few lights that were out so the decorations weren’t complete, but it was cute.

Festival of Lights

On the way out we stopped at the World’s Largest Ornament. You can walk through it and take pictures. It was a quick stop and we got our picture taken by a nice family. We did have to wait a few minutes to get in because there was a large group blocking each entrance taking pictures, but that isn’t surprising.

Inside the ornament.

And that was it. We spent about 2 hours there and most of it was waiting to the parade/tree lighting/fireworks/”snow fall.” Other than the tubing, we did everything that we could do without buying more experience tickets. I felt bad that I dragged us to this. There are so many other holiday activities out there that we could have gone to!


  • The hot chocolate was good and a really good size.

Not So Good:

  • There wasn’t the parade that they show online.
  • The tree lighting and firework show didn’t start anywhere near on time.
  • The supposed toddler snow area was not patrolled so there was no actual toddler area.
  • You get nearly nothing with just the cost of admission.
    • They advertise that a lot of things are included, but those things aren’t really anything at all.


General admission for kids: $12-17 (depending on if you buy online or there) and for adults: $17-$22 (depending on if you buy online or there.)

Ice skating, rides, games, and many of the attractions all cost extra.

Parking is an additional $8.

Our Verdict:

So obviously I was not impressed. This was not what I wanted it to be and I felt that we paid for way more than we got. Because we bought early we paid $15 for each adult. Including parking we spent $38 (hot cocoa not included!) for less than 2 hours. Sure we got some cute pictures by the giant ornament and it was a way to get out of the house, but we thought it was a massive disappointment. We will probably never go again unless I hear that it has changed quite a bit and only when C is old enough to be able to do ANYTHING. If you have older kids that can play carnival games and rides, then this would be a lot more fun.


4 thoughts on “Event Review: Winterfest OC

  1. I ordered two tickets for Winterfest at OC Fairgrounds a while back! They took the money out of my account that same day but I never received my tickets anybody else have this problem? They were cheaper online that’s why I ordered them there! They were supposed to email them to me! I’ve called the number that I was given by the Orange county fairgrounds but nobody calls me back! xoxoxo

    1. Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that. I know they are extremely active on social media so it might be worth reaching out that way. If they don’t respond, I hope you dispute it with your credit card since you never got your tickets! Good luck!

  2. United Airlines has better service! We had a very bad experience at the ice skating booth on my daughter’s birthday celebration. They couldn’t help me with a girl that was bleeding and they accused me of assaulting them after I was trying to get help for my guest and the other girls I had with me. It’s really not worth going over the details, this place is not only full of false advertising, they do not care about you having a good experience. I even was advised to suit them, we decided not to pursue this claim however I think people should have a better idea of what kind of place this is.
    I posted a decent negative comment on Facebook and they deleted few days later. That’s how they manage to stay in business.

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