Debut of Winter Wonderland at Circuit of the Americas

As far back as I remember, my family would take a weekend sometime before Christmas and go look at Christmas lights together. This was my Mother’s favorite time of year and she was always like a kid when we would go see the beautiful displays of lights and decorations. 

Whether it was walking down 37th street (off of Guadalupe) in Austin for the neighborhood that all decorated in glorious fashion (now sadly, not as spectacular as it used to be), or going to Zilker Park for the Trail of lights and spinning under the big tree of lights (also, a little less wow and a lot more crowds than when I was younger), or traveling to Mozart’s café for a beautiful light show that will blow your mind;  we did this as a family and it has been so much fun. With this in mind, I was so excited when I heard that Circuit of the Americas was creating a Winter Wonderland for family Christmas fun and I could not wait to see what they had in store.

So, my first thought is $16 per person; that could put a huge dent into a family’s budget, but as long as it’s fun, then it would be worth it. The problem is once you get inside; you have to pay for almost everything separately.

Granted, there are free things: movies in the park, singing Christmas trees, Human Snow globe, and lights galore; but you still have to drop a pretty penny for the carnival rides, camel rides (an outrageous $10 or $15), petting zoo for $5, and it goes on and on.

Concessions are overpriced but good, we spent $30 on two mac and cheese with bbq and two drinks. It was tasty, but if you are a family, then it could really get expensive. So be ready to pretty much hand over your wallet when you go.

Now for the experience, we had fun and there are a few things that are pretty cool; the tunnel of lights were really neat and a fun experience, but a very short walk indeed. The longer walk was the stroll around the track with cheap light displays that were very disappointing and part of them did not work.

The singing trees are cool, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly, and the human snow globe is a cool idea and people seemed to like it judging by the long line. The movies in the park was playing Frozen, and then Elf; and then the characters from Frozen were walking around greeting the children.

We walked towards Santa’s village and the line to see Santa was outrageously long.  I read there would be ice skating, but it was just a skating rink for inline skates. There was also was supposed to be a hot air balloon but it was down on opening night when we attended.   

My overall thoughts about the experience is it was very disappointing, so underwhelming and too expensive for a family outing. I hope that COTA will learn from the mistakes and missteps of this first year and make it better in years to come; but for this year, I would suggest going to Zilker Park, Mozart’s or venture out to the Hill Country for budget-friendly local Christmas lights and fun.

Winter Wonderland runs Thurs – Sun through Dec 30 starting on Friday Dec 8.


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