WinterFest returns to Carowinds; Here is what we saw!
One of the best things about 2021 is that after a pretty “meh” year for many parks around the world, normalcy is starting to return. Last year, Carowinds was able to provide a “Taste” of the holiday and theme park season with “Taste of the Season” (which was good enough on its own). However, after a one-year hiatus, WinterFest is RETURN in Carowinds, offering North and South Carolinians a chance to celebrate the season at the largest holiday celebration in the Carolinas.
When we spoke with Ryan Allen, Head of Live Entertainment at Carowinds, earlier this year, he made sure to note that WinterFest at Carowinds was all about creating traditions. With that in mind, many elements of the WinterFests’ past (at least the current ‘race’ starting in 2017) are present at this year’s event. There are millions of Christmas lights, tons of holiday backdrops, more live entertainment than you can experience in a single night, delicious holiday food, and a number of attractions in operation, which are all “oh what a pleasure” to drive.
We visited Carowinds for WinterFest on a Sunday evening, and it was quite chilly in the air, which made it even easier to get into the holiday spirit. Here is just a quick rundown of what we have seen and experienced!
There are over a dozen options for live entertainment at Carowinds WinterFest, so much in fact that there’s a better chance that Santa will make it to every house in the world in one night than to be able to see each WinterFest show in its entirety in one. visit. The park gates opened just before 5:00 p.m. on our visit, and we headed to the large WinterFest tree that straddles the state border, to prepare for the nighttime tree lighting, which took place at 5:30 p.m. .
Before the tree was lit, we were greeted by Blitzen’s Brass Brigade, who played some holiday favorites with a “jazz-y” twist. The six-piece group performed for about ten minutes before moving to their next location. I have to give Carowinds a lot of credit for the outfits. Woods ? Sweaters ? Kiss from the head.
After the Blitzen’s Brass Brigade, it’s time for the night-time tree-lighting ceremony, accompanied by a little song and a dance!
If you’ve been to Carowinds for WinterFest before, this sight will certainly be familiar to you. The performers are all great, and between the dancing holiday lights, the music, and the “snoap” falling after the trees are lit, this is a great way to soak up the holiday spirit before the night ahead.
After the tree-lighting ceremony, I headed over to “Celebration Slopes,” the holiday-themed name of the Thrill Zone, to see a screening of Winterfest’s latest show, SnowXtreme.
This show features four “Xtreme” athletes performing a number of flips and maneuvers on trampolines, with snowboards strapped to their feet! It had the perfect amount of tips, artist interactions, and a fantastic soundtrack. For fans of the old Skeleton Crew show at SCarowinds, SnowXtreme is truly “must see” entertainment. But, if you can’t make it to WinterFest, luckily for you, we’ve got some video footage!
Elsewhere in Celebration Slopes, another “new” take on an old favorite is featured with “Four Drummers Drumming”.
Traditionally (at least in the past and in other Cedar Fair parks), the “Four Drummers” have resembled toy soldiers with robotic movements. In line with the Celebration Slopes theme, the four talented percussionists are dressed in ski outfits that carefully hide their drum harnesses. Granted, I’m a fanatic of a good theme park drum show, but this was my favorite version of “Four Drummers” that I’ve seen at various WinterFests. The movements were crisp, the handling of the stick was impressive and the music was top notch too!
Check Out Four Drummers Drumming Below!
Elsewhere in Celebration Slopes, the Rock Shop has been taken over by students, who deliver letters to Santa Claus. The store had been completely emptied and heavily oriented towards a North Pole post office.
Elves were everywhere!
I loved this letter from Ebeneezer Scrooge that was displayed among the children’s letters. Note the brand synergy in the crossed out word!
Not specifically related to WinterFest, Carolina Cyclone is in the process of being repainted. It’s definitely less yellow than at the start of the season!
This is not the first time that the Carolina Cyclone has had a bluish color!
The traditional red and white lights and Coca-Cola branding were at Polar Bear Plaza, occupying half of County Fair. The other half was occupied by Tinsel Town Fair.
The Mistletones were on stage at Tinsel Town Fair, singing a number of holiday classics!
There were a number of guests skating on Snowflake Lake – I’m way too poorly coordinated for ice skating!
Harmony Holiday Hall, another new show for this year’s WinterFest was “Sparkle City Swing Machine,” which is a play on a previous Carowinds show, Spark City Swing Machine. Four singers were accompanied by five musicians playing catchy “big band” Christmas tunes. It was one of the most “traditional” sounding setlists. While I haven’t had the full experience (again, so much to do, so little time), be sure to check out the saxophone solo at the start of the set! It was awesome!
It’s always good when a performance can be accompanied by live music as opposed to a backing track, and these musicians were awesome!
Ms. Claus’ kitchen has a new location this year, taking over from Pier 73. Although I was not involved in decorating the cookies, the space was immaculately decorated and featured a number of pink Christmas trees. lively inside. It almost looked like something out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
There were a number of families inside decorating their oversized holiday cookies.
While it is definitely Christmas, there were some awesome Easter eggs on this bulletin board inside Ms. Claus’ kitchen.
On a night when the temperatures were a little scary, the fire was really so delicious.
Outside Holiday Hall, the Holly Jolly Trolley stopped with its classic holiday tunes that had a little ‘showy’ vibe. These are some of my favorite costumes from WinterFest each year, and there is always great interaction with the audience.
Watch the Holly Jolly Trolley Singers perform “Polar Express” below!
Each year the Carowinds team goes above and beyond with the holiday decorations for WinterFest. Previous figures have indicated that over 5 million lights are used for WinterFest. I was not counting, but I have no reason to doubt this number.
Even the big guy himself was taking pictures with guests!
Every evening at WinterFest, Carowinds hosts the WinterFest Wonderland Parade. Hailing from Carolina Harbor, the parade makes three stops along the route: one at County Fair, one at Celebration Slopes, and one near the main entrance. There are a lot of energetic performers, songs and dances! (Discover the 2019 fashion show here!)
But I’ve always wondered … what a parade would look like from the other side? So, I have to find out.
Each evening, Carowinds selects several guests to ride floats in the WinterFest Wonderland parade. I was able to get on the Toy Box tank with a teddy bear, Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy.
We were located near the back of the parade, which takes place inside Carolina Harbor.
It was great fun to participate in the parade. I was able to practice my royal wave and try to learn some choreography during the three stops of the parade.
The interaction between the performers and the audience is awesome, and this parade music is always stuck in my head – in a good way!
We went live on Instagram a bit during our ride, which you can watch below!
After riding the parade, participants have the option to snap a photo with several of the parade characters!
If you’ve scrolled through all the photos and videos all the way to the bottom for a TL; DR scenario, you’re in luck. It was an amazing experience at WinterFest. The crowds were small, everyone was in the holiday spirit and the entertainment I saw was all amazing. If you were only going to see one show, I would recommend “Four Drummers Drumming”, but the beauty of WinterFest entertainment (and live entertainment from Carowinds in general) is that more often than not it’s really a step up. above your traditional regional park entertainment, and will be enjoyable.
While I didn’t ride anything on this tour, Copperhead Strike, Afterburn, and Ricochet were all open to anyone looking for their roller coaster solution! I wish I had had a little more time, because it’s always fun to go up Carolina Skytower and see the five million lights from above!
Conclusion: If you are in the Carolinas this winter, you should definitely check out the return of WinterFest to Carowinds.
WinterFest is open daily (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) from December 15 to January 2, and will feature the first long days of Carowinds operation, (if ever) with an additional weekend of ‘operating on January 8 and 9. For specific WinterFest times, be sure to visit the Carowinds website.
For more information on WinterFest, be sure to visit the Carowinds website and follow the park on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram