Have you heard of the Global Winter Wonderland? This limited-time holiday event is new to San Diego this year. The slick website shows all the activities that occur during a night at Global Winter Wonderland – Incredible, colorful and enormous lanterns representing landmarks from around the world. Performances by the talented Circus of Light. A full carnival with rides for a variety of ages. International cuisine. And don’t forget about visiting with Santa in his village! Just looking at the photographs of the event that has taken place in other cities is enough to give me goosebumps! Did the event live up to the hype? Find out in my honest review.
My family and I were hosted for a special media night event. No other compensation has been offered and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Lanterns Celebrating Holidays Around the World
Almost 100 artisans are in San Diego to design and sew by hand the lantern displays. This event features the largest display of traditional Chinese lanterns outside of China. And they are really quite beautiful. Many of the large lanterns have walkways to allow guests passage right through.
I have no idea when they started constructing the lanterns for this event but the process seems painstakingly slow. Everything from the handcrafted frames, application of the silk to the hand-painting is a long process. On the night of our visit (2 nights before the grand opening), they weren’t finished. About 60% of the displays were lit for media to see. Some lanterns were completed like the luminescent Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
The Eiffel Tower structure was built but didn’t have the fabric yet. And some of the displays were still laying on the ground, awaiting assembly. During the two hours of the event, workers stayed busy (even roto-hammering into the concrete just feet from us). I’m sure that with the opening on Nov 19th they were frantic to complete but it was still odd to have them seemingly so far from completion.
Circus of Light
Showing several times during each night, this group of talented performers includes acrobats, contortionists and fire dancers from Africa, China and Europe. The show is touted as hosting Cirque du Soleil-level performances. We were treated to a brief show on a smaller stage (the large scale stage that will host the show wasn’t completed yet). The acrobats were fun and enthusiastic and we enjoyed the part of the show that we saw. I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say Cirque du Soleil-level (at least on what we witnessed) but it was enjoyable.
On the night of our visit we were able to sample a few of the foods that will be available during the event, including teriyaki chicken skewers, corn with all the fixings and cheeseburger sliders. There were also food trucks offering more well-rounded platters with veggies and sides. I wouldn’t necessarily call the foods “international cuisine”, but more like the usual fair food offerings. You’ll find the standards too (cotton candy, kettle corn, hot dogs). I’d suggest eating dinner ahead of time and then possibly indulge with dessert or a snack during the event.
Rides & Games
For most kids, the brightly lit carnival rides are the highlight of this event. These are the typical attractions you’d find at any fair or carnival (The Zipper, Ferris wheel, Super Slide, carousel). There are 35 carnival rides, ranging from 3-5 tickets. At $1.25 per ticket, this is guaranteed to be a spendy part of the visit. With thrill rides costing $6.25 per person to ride, this is certainly something to budget for when planning your evening.
Visiting Global Winter Wonderland
SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm)
Open select nights from November 19th, 2017 to January 7th, 2018
- Admission $22
- Children & Seniors $19
- There is also a season pass available for Adults at $49 and children/seniors at $44
- Carnival Ride tickets $1.25 (each ride takes 3-5 tickets) The website mentions an unlimited ride wristband but there is no place to purchase on the site so I’m not sure of the cost.
- Parking fee is $10 per car, cash only
- Discount tickets can be purchase ahead of time at Walgreens & through Groupon
- You may bring in a stroller (there are no stroller rentals)
- No outside food
Global Winter Wonderland Review
This event is guaranteed to draw lots of crowds. The event is bright and colorful and looks fantastic in photographs and on the website. For my family, we found the event to be a bit of a let-down. Perhaps it’s because we attended the media event and many of the attractions were not yet completed. The construction around us was definitely a distraction (my electrician husband was particularly upset at seeing open and unattended electrical panels where there were children walking around). I’m hoping that all those issues get squared away before the event opens to the general public.
Go in knowing that while the lanterns are unique and creative, the cost of admission alone for viewing the lanterns and the Circus of Light show is quite high. Everything else from food to rides will cost you a considerable amount on top of the admission.