Thursday, December 13, 2018

Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest 2018

It's been a family tradition since even before we moved to Chicago to come to Winter Wonderfest. Navy Pier's indoor carnival/celebration of winter.

 This is the 18nth one, and we've been to probably 8. (And our son is 10) Considering we've only lived in Chicago 4 years, that's pretty good!

PLEASE NOTE:  I received free admission to this event in hopes that I would write about it.  My opinion of the event has nothing to do with the freeness of the tickets.  
I take my integrity seriously, and so should you.

Click to make schedule larger
This year's event runs through January 6, and features a lot of what we've come to expect from the event. Throughout the giant convention space of Navy Pier (they say 170,000 square feet, and I believe it) there are indoor rides (including holiday themed classics like a Tilt-A-Whirl, Bumper Cars, a superman flying and a kiddie train), winter themed slides galore, a bouncy house inside an inflatable snowman,elaborately decorated christmas trees and holiday bushes, a rock-climbing area, and a full sized ice skating rink.  It's beautiful on the inside.
We went with a family of 9, cousins and grandparents included.  My son loves the ice skating rink and we even bring our own skates!  (There are skates for rent if you don't want to bring your own)

Here's a video pastiche of some of my photos from the event:

There's also a Santa station, as well as a Wonderfest village that occasionally houses some improv performers that interact with kids and adults.   There are also places to get your picture taken for an additional cost, including a giant rocking horse and a giant chair.

There are also some snack areas, and places to buy a quick bite, or some cotton candy, or candied nuts,  And what would be a wonderfest without a cookie decorating station?

 In the past there had been a full lineup of musical and variety performances, but that seems to have gone away over the last few years. (I do note in the press release they sent me that there are some brief aerial performances  by a group I've never heard of: Aerial Ataraxia , scheduled on Tuesdays and Sundays, but we went on a Friday night, and they weren't there) UPDATE:  I asked around, and Aerial Ataraxia are Chicago based aerialists  Dayleen Marrero-Taylor, Julie Marshall, & Zoë Sheppard.  (Pictured below)  They don't have a website as far as I can tell.

Aerial artists Dayleen Marrero-Taylor, Julie Marshall, & Zoë Sheppard perform at Winterfest.  Photo by  James Richard IV.. 

We have a good time every year we go, and it's a fun event.  However-- you do need to know that the security details have changed this year and that the prices have changed

In terms of security, because of construction at Navy Pier, you can no longer walk from the parking all the way upstairs into the center.  This year, you have to take a long walk (probably 10-15 minutes from the front of the building) through the parking lots of Navy Pier.  You go outside several times, so don't leave your coat in the car.  (I did, and was pretty frozen by the end of the long walk.)  You then go through a pretty extensive security checkpoint, including a bag check and a wand check before you can get inside.  There has been a security check for the last few years, but I would say this is the most thorough one I've been through at Navy Pier.

Prices and the pricing structure have changed over the last few years.  A couple of years ago it was free to enter, but if you wanted to ride on anything you had to pay (or buy a bracelet for all you can ride)  That was great for adults, as you only had to pay for kids.  Apparently that was not satisfactory, so for the last couple of years everyone has to pay.

This year, prices for adults range from $20-$28 depending on the day, and Seniors and Juniors (those under 42" tall) are $12.00 each. Children under 36" are free with a paid adult. Military discount is available to US active duty service members. Present ID at box office.

BUY TICKETS ONLINE.  There is also a groupon available, that lowers those prices slightly.

Please note that the prices above are online prices.  If you just buy them at the box office they are even more expensive.  While I was there, I saw several people walk up, thinking they would just wander around for a few hours, and then turn away when they heard the price.  I'd like to see them have a "Guardian" band at around $10, that allows people to enter, but not go on rides.

 I should also note that every ticket is good for one admission/ride on the Centennial wheel as well.  That offer is good through March 2019.

Parking has also gone up a little bit.  Total cost is $30 to park at Navy Pier. (It used to be in the 20's)

All in all, it's not cheap to go to Winter Wonderfest, but it is totally a lot of fun, and it's a great thing to do to build memories with your family!

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