The holiday season is in now in full swing. Fir wreaths, jingle bells and holiday cheer are on full display everywhere. In the spirit of the holidays, Kings Island has transformed itself into WinterFest, an enormous, sparkling celebration of the holiday season. This weekend we met up with some friends and explore WinterFest at Kings Island for the first time together. What an experience! The main park opens at 5 pm; however, International Street opens at 4 pm on Saturdays and 4:30 pm on other days. Arriving early means parking closer to the entrance and less walking for little ones. A huge plus in our book. Getting in a little early also allows you some time to grab a hot chocolate, browse the shops, and get acclimated a bit beforehand. As you’re entering the park be sure to grab a WinterFest map and the “Experience Guide”. We found the map, coupled with the pocket sized Experience Guide, provided a comprehensive view of where and when each event and activity was taking place. They were invaluable in keeping us on time and on track, and helped us make the most of our WinterFest experience. With so many possibilities, what to do first is always a question when visiting a theme park. Fortunately, our kids made it easy for us. They love rides, and are up for almost anything after they’ve scratched the twirled and coasted for a bit. So naturally we started our evening in Charlie Brown’s Christmas Town, home to many of the park’s rides with something for every age and interest. After everyone had their fill of roller-coasters and bumper cars we set off to explore the rest of the park. WinterFest is filled to the brim with a variety of live entertainment (all of which is free with admission), most of which recur hourly. With that in mind we designed our own tour with the idea of taking in as many acts as we could. Drummers, carolers, a brass ensemble, pop singers, sing-a-longs, ice-sculpture carvings. These live events take place throughout the park, and I found that moving from event to event led us to explore WinterFest naturally. We could have spent the entire evening just taking in the live performances, and I doubt we would have seen all of them. The talent in these performances is outstanding, and really encouraged us to keep moving from one to the next! The highlight of our evening was “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Spectacular” which is staged once per hour in the “Kings Island Theater” in the International District. This show finds Charlie Brown directing the annual Christmas Show with the help of the costumed Peanuts gang. Rounding out the costumed cast are an assortment of singers and dancers who perform several numbers throughout the show. As a family, we take in quite a bit of live theater and we were blown away by the level of talent on display here! The theater is comfortable, the show runs about twenty minutes, and it has the added benefit of providing everyone a moment of rest and rejuvenation before journeying on to your next adventure. I highly recommend this show! As the family photographer I strongly encourage you to bring your camera. The lighting, scenery, and atmosphere of WinterFest make for many opportunities to grab memorable and remarkable photos of your kiddos. Ice-skating on Snowflake Lake, and the whimsical walk through Candy Cane Lane are just a couple of spots for cool holiday photos. Going through my pictures and I can see over a dozen that would make great holiday cards and gifts for family and friends. Speaking of holiday gifts, take a moment to swing through the Artisan Village. Located in the center of the park, around the Eiffel Tower, the Artisan Village is a circle of shops run by local artisans and craftspeople. You’ll find an assortment of unique, handmade items for sale -- all of which would make great holiday gifts! We spent five hours at WinterFest, and I think we only scratched the surface. Ice-skating, pictures with Santa, card making, cookie deocorating, and train rides are just some of the experiences that we didn’t quite get to. Having said that, we left feeling more than satisfied, and genuinely impressed with sheer number of things to see and participate in. In WinterFest, Kings Island has put together an epic holiday experience that is top notch across the board! WinterFest at Kings Island runs through December 30 (check the calendar for dates/times). Unlimited admissions to WinterFest are included if you’re a Kings Island 2018 Gold Season Pass or higher. About Jon: Jonathon Karysn Paasch is husband to an intelligent, generous, and creative spouse, and father to two caring, smart, and funny girls. A Cincinnati transplant, Jonathon and his family are avid weekend explorers, particularly drawn to the plethora of amazing outdoor activities available in the tri-state area. With a passion for photography, Jonathon rarely misses an opportunity to document and share the Paasch family adventures.