Kansas City’s Worlds of Fun embraces the holiday season with WinterFest

Winterfest entrance
Worlds of Fun transforms from a summer theme park to a winter wonderland during WinterFest.

Winter Wonderland comes alive as people of all ages enjoy Worlds of Fun’s WinterFest. Holiday festivities and fun are sprinkled around the Kansas City theme park as if the Sugar Plum Fairy herself waved her wand and said, “Let the holiday fun begin.” Wait, maybe she did, since you’ll see her and a cast of thousands (OK, not thousands; more like dozens) of holiday-related characters around the park, helping create a fun time.

Winterfest Sugar Plum Fairy
The Sugar Plum Fairy spreads fun and joy around Kansas City’s theme park.

We’re not big amusement park rides people, but there are plenty of rides open during WinterFest, which runs weekends and select days Nov. 23 – Dec. 31. Among those open to ride are the Bamboozler, Falcon Flight and Fjord Lane. Families can enjoy the carousel and several rides at Camp Snoopy.

Disclaimer: We were compensated by Travel Iowa for our stay. However, all opinions and views are ours.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Wolds of Fun for the complimentary park tickets, hot chocolate mugs and cookie vouchers. However, all opinions and views are ours.

I love decorations, characters and holiday-themed shows. WinterFest spreads out the attractions around the park, with each section home to a specific theme. The park offers so much that it may feel like the elves gulped down too many sweets. So, it’s important to plan your visit for maximum fun.

Winterfest large ornaments
The ornaments would be perfect in our front yard.

Arrive early

Worlds of Fun opens the parking lot about 3 p.m. We arrived there a few minutes after and noticed about 100 or so cars in the parking lot already. With a limited amount of daylight this time of the year, you may find it beneficial to take a walk around the park to scope out the lay of the land, before more people arrive.

Winterfest grass giraffe
The grass animal sculptures were beautiful attractions.

We found it helpful to check out some of the popular attractions early, such as Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, LeTaxi Tour and the Polar Express train. You can decorate cookies at Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen. The cookies are giant-sized, so be ready for some ooey-gooey fun with the frosting and sprinkles. You can take your cookie box to the package storage booth near the entrance, so you don’t have to carry it around the park. LeTaxi Tour takes you through the 12 Days of Christmas (did you realize that half the song consists of birds as gifts?). The Polar Express takes you on a tour around the park, which helps you get a view of the layout.

Winterfest holiday cookies
Our cookie decorating skills don’t even come close to the beautiful work in Mrs. Klaus’ Kitchen.

With our game plan determined, we made our way back near the entrance before the 5:30 p.m. tree lighting ceremony. Each night, WinterFest hosts a show featuring songs and dance numbers. I joked that I found out where Up with People went after the National Football League stopped using them for Super Bowl halftime shows. Following the entertainment, the 7-story tall fir is lit for the celebration. And then snow falls! It’s an enjoyable way to officially kick off the evening.

Winterfest tree
The 7-story tall tree is lit nightly, along with “snow.”

With the holiday lights shining brightly, we headed to LeTaxi Tour for a short drive through the “12 Days” attraction. We didn’t wait in line long before our turn came to drive the French taxi. The key to enjoying your favorite attractions to arrive early.

11 Pipers Piping along the 12 days of Christmas attraction.
11 Pipers Piping along the 12 days of Christmas attraction.

Next up was the Worlds of Fun train, dubbed the “Polar Express” for WinterFest. The line appeared long when we arrived, so Lisa and I thought we would have to wait for a ride or two to complete before our turn. Wrong! We ended having a row to ourselves near the end of the train. The Polar Express is a long train. During the ride, I anxiously looked for the conductor to sing and dance as he poured hot chocolate. Alas, no Tom Hanks on this Polar Express. However, we were entertained by the quite humorous Jack Frost, who narrated the ride with lots of jokes about the attractions and characters.

Winterfest teddy bear decorations
Checking out teddy bear decorations while waiting to board the train.

WinterFest characters and shows

Speaking of Jack Frost, he’s one of the characters you’ll see as you roam around WinterFest. He controls the weather from his throne near the carousel. The mischievous ice man loves showing off for the camera.

Winterfest Jack Frost
Jack Frost is quite the character. Snappy dresser. Witty old soul.

Elves were energetic and enjoyed greeting people around the park. With bells jingling and hearty laughs, they ensured visitors had fun.

Winterfest elves and soldier characters
Elves and a toy soldier pose for a picture.

Candy Cane and the Gingerbread Man spread their love for the holiday around the park, as well. The duo hung out near a gingerbread village and candy land.

Candy cane character
Candy Cane’s colors are as bright as the candy in the area.

When you visit, ensure you catch one of the 10 shows happening around the park. “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Spectacular” offers a variety of song and dance numbers, including Lucy’s version of “Santa Baby.” The show features Peanuts characters Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroder, Sally, Linus, and, of course, Snoopy. The 30-minute program runs every hour from 5:30 through 9:30 at the Tivoli Theater. We enjoyed catching some of the outdoor shows, as well, including a bluegrass band, jazz singers and a roaming trolley of singers.

Peanuts character Lucy and singers sing Santa Baby
Lucy and her back-up singers perform “Santa baby.”

WinterFest would be amiss if it didn’t honor the reason for the season. Attractions include Bethlehem village, animal stable, a manger with a display honoring the birth of Jesus Christ, as well as a Hanukkah exhibit.

Hannukah lights
WinterFest includes a religious area for Hanukkah and Christmas.

If you plan to eat at WinterFest, there are plenty of dining options, but you need to be prepared for long lines. While not a fan of standing in lines, we did so for hot chocolate. You can buy a refillable hot chocolate cup near the entrance and enjoy free refills during your visit. Keep your receipt if you plan a return visit because refills will be $1.

Santa Claus

We know that you can’t visit WinterFest without seeing the jolliest elf of them all. Santa Claus has his home near the Tivoli. As you tell him your wish list for Christmas, get a picture taken with him. When he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him “Peace on Earth and goodwill to all people.” I don’t think he believed me, so the only other thing I could think of was a football. Then, I realized I wanted the Red Ryder single-shot air rifle. We know how that’s going to turn out.

Winterfest Santa
You’re never too old to visit Santa Claus.

So, as we got up from Santa’s chair, I said I’ll see him Dec. 25. He looked at me and muttered “Sure. You keep thinking that.” Then, I noticed an elf write something on the Naughty List.

On a serious note, we recommend visiting WinterFest at Worlds of Fun. The park is open 4-10 p.m. (though people arrived as early as 3 p.m. and several rides and attractions were open) on Saturdays and 5-10 p.m. Friday and Sunday.  The park is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Check the website for complete hours and prices.

If you plan an overnight trip, we recommend staying at one of the nearby hotels, which are just a few minutes from the park. We stayed at the Candlewood Suites, courtesy of Worlds of Fun. With it being our first visit to a Candlewood property, we were impressed. The room featured a kitchen area, with a stove and refrigerator. The hotel also features a laundry room in case you might need one.