It’s back! The second annual WinterFest at Canada’s Wonderland is set to open this November 13th. Make your holidays merry and bright with this spectacular event, which first opened to the public in 2019 to rave reviews. You’ll be amazed at the transformation this premier amusement park in York Durham Headwaters will undergo for this extraordinary celebration of the holiday season. Stepping through those iconic front gates is truly like stepping into another world!
We at YDH are thrilled to tell you everything you need to know about WinterFest 2021. Find out what’s new, what’s returning—and most importantly, get a behind-the-scenes look at the monumental dedication and effort it has taken staff at Wonderland to create and expand this popular event!
Welcome to WinterFest
Beginning November 13th, guests of WinterFest will arrive to find that, once again, Ontario’s premier amusement park has been transformed into a magical world of elves, decorations and holiday lights. Experience the joy of a nightly tree-lighting ceremony, live shows, wandering performers and select family rides. Partake in hands-on programming like cookie decorating with Mrs. Claus, letter writing to Santa at the North Pole Post Office, and creating take-home keepsakes at Sally Brown’s Christmas Crafts.
This is Canada’s Wonderland like you’ve never seen it before, and it’s bigger and better than its first year, in 2019. Want to know just how much is going into this transformation? Check out these stats. WinterFest will feature:
- 1,100 live trees strung with energy efficient lights—an increase from 800 in 2019
- 15 km of decorative ribbon
- 5 million lights strung
- 525 artificial Christmas trees ranging in height from 2 feet to 50 feet (up from 450 trees in 2019)
- 200,000 decorations on trees, wreaths, and garlands
- Two 50-foot-high Christmas trees on International Street, and one 50-foot-high tree in Elf Village
- 100 entertainers
- 200 costumes
- 5 stores undergoing complete transformations
“New for 2021, we’re expanding one of our themed areas: The North Pole,” says Grace Peacock, Director of Communications for Wonderland. “WinterFest is going to be bigger than ever. It’s going to feature more live entertainment, more holiday lights, more décor. In the North Pole area, we’ll also have an ice wine bar, a couple more rides, and this stunning new LED tunnel called Northern Starlight. The LED tunnel is filled with coloured lights and it’s about a hundred feet long, so it will be quite spectacular to walk through that and just be surrounded.”
Several of WinterFest’s key shows are returning. Cool Yule, a high-energy song-and-dance show, is back. This favourite is held on a stage in Elf Village with one of the 50-foot-tall Christmas trees, and entertainers perform all of the popular Christmas songs that people love to sing along to. “That was a great one in 2019 that had some rave reviews,” Grace says. “We’re excited to have that come back.” For the Kids, the Peanuts gang is back as well. Grace says. “We’re having the Peanuts shows, the Guide to Christmas, Charlie Brown and Snoopy will be decked out in their holiday gear, we’re going to have Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree lot for kids to walk through and do some photo ops there—it’s all a lot of fun for the kids.”
And of course, the most iconic activity of WinterFest is coming back for all to enjoy—ice skating on Snowflake Lake. You won’t believe your eyes when the fountains on International Street are magically transformed into a giant ice rink (with 1,700 sheets of plywood being put onto ice to create this extravaganza!). Experience the magic of skating in front of Wonder Mountain surrounded by millions of holiday lights.
However, please note that, due to COVID-19, times will need to be booked online in advance of your visit for skating on Snowflake Lake due to limited capacity. “This is the same as the event in General,” Grace notes. “Everyone is going to need to have a reservation to WinterFest.”
Because the park was closed throughout 2020, this is the second year WinterFest is being held. “This has been a year for the record books,” she acknowledges. “But we were thrilled to be able to open the park and welcome guests back in July, and it’s just a good feeling to end the year with such a heartwarming and magical event. We know it was really well received in 2019, so we’re excited to see that wonder on the faces of our guests again this year.”
With Halloween only recently behind us, the park has been decorated for Halloween Haunt up to October 31st, with spooky installations and décor all throughout the park. However, on November 1st, staff at Wonderland have flipped the switch. “We have two weeks—two weeks!—to get everything changed over for the holidays,” Grace states, laughing. “That’s unprecedented, because in 2019 we had four weeks to do what we’re doing now in only two. It’s all hands on deck.”
Work has been happening behind the scenes already in Wonderland’s warehouses and shops, such as crafting signs and working on some of the bigger holiday installations. All of the artificial Christmas trees have been decorated ahead of time so they’re ready to be put out, and yards and yards of garlands have been beautifully done up in advance. Grace estimates that the park will have work happening 24/7 through to opening day. “It’s going to be a tremendous effort,” she says, “but everybody’s all in, and we’re excited to get this program up and running, because it is really beautiful for everyone to see.”
For more information, or to book your ticket to WinterFest 2021, visit https://www.canadaswonderland.com/events/winterfest or call (905) 832-8131. Canada’s Wonderland is located at 1 Canada’s Wonderland Drive in Vaughan.
Story by Katherine Ryalen