Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier, Chicago

Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier

Christmas may last only one day, but there are ways to stretch out the holiday season and squeeze every drop of merriment and joy out of it. A lesser known way to do that is with Winter Wonderfest, which took place this year at Navy Pier through January 12.

Winter Wonderland on the Pier

Here’s the lowdown on the event: It’s a giant indoor carnival that just so happens to be Christmas themed. It has all the trappings of a classic carnival: overpriced rides, the ubiquitous smell of elephant ears, screaming children, disaffected teenagers strutting with hordes of peers.

But it also has a massive ice rink decorated with magical blue lights. A towering Christmas tree so densely decorated with bulbs and ribbons that it can be hard to tear your eyes away. Displays that show Christmas traditions from various European countries. Hundreds of Christmas trees of all sizes, decorated by international participants. It’s massive. It’s worldly. And if you go in the right mood, it’s a little enchanting.

My favorite thing was train that wound through a tiny, wintery village. I’m a fan of pretend buildings and I couldn’t get enough of the various villages and “houses” spread throughout the fest. I also liked the incredibly detailed Christmas trees, many adorned with unexpected and completely random items. (Like a teacup!)

I was half-tempted to get on the Ferris wheel, but in my maturish adult years I’ve become a little wary of mechanical thrills over which I have no control. Also, the wheel was turning too fast for my taste—just watching it made me a little ill.

The Lowdown

I’ll be clear about one thing: This is an event primarily for overly energetic children and exhausted parents struggling to keep up with them. Entering Winter Wonderfest is free, but it costs to do anything interesting, like ride a ride, ice skate or eat. Still, it’s a worthwhile trip for Santa-obsessed Christmas lovers who can’t shake the holiday spirit.

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