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Carowinds’ WinterFest Is a Holiday Treat for the Whole Family

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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Carowinds’ festive song-and-dance productions are a highlight of WinterFest. Photo courtesy of Carowinds.

This holiday season, take a break from all the shopping and decorating madness and have some fun. Treat your family to an evening at Carowinds WinterFest.

Held each year—starting the weekend before Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day —WinterFest wraps the magic of the holidays in one big, glittery package with stunning light displays, musical performances, special holiday dishes, falling snow, hands-on activities and, of course, some of your favorite amusement park rides. 

Mingle with the season’s most famous characters from Jack Frost and the Sugar Plum Fairy to Scrooge and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Go ice skating in an outdoor rink. Decorate Christmas cookies with Mrs. Claus. Take a carriage ride in the moonlight. Young or old, you’ll enjoy everything that makes the holiday season so special.


“Cool Yule” is one of the many live holiday shows offered during WinterFest. Photo courtesy of Carowinds.

The festivities kick off each evening with a spectacular tree lighting ceremony in Celebration Plaza. Singing and dancing to holiday favorites, the Carowinds performers set the mood as the crowd awaits the moment when Snoopy inserts a giant plug into an oversized outlet, lighting up the beautifully decorated 70-foot Christmas tree. 

Live entertainment continues throughout the evening and all through the park with an assortment of festive concerts and musical presentations, from the country sounds of Christmas Bluegrass to beautiful renditions of holiday classics performed by carolers dressed in Victorian period costumes.


Visitors are invited to walk through a maze of Christmas trees to find Charlie Brown’s perfect tree. Photo courtesy of Carowinds.

Be sure to catch family favorite, “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Spectacular,” presented five times a night in the Carowinds Theatre, and “Cool Yule,” featuring dazzling choreographed performances of pop Christmas hits presented on the stage at Celebration Plaza.

While the imaginative shows are a highlight of WinterFest, it’s the five million-plus holiday lights and festive decorations that turn Carowinds into a holiday wonderland. Each section of the park has its own winter motif with special attractions, holiday-themed shops, seasonal fare and a selection of rides open for the occasion. 

Reminiscent of an old German Christmas market, Artisan Alley features local craftsmen selling an assortment of handmade wares. Jingle Bell Boardwalk offers dancing lights synchronized to holiday songs, along with the North Pole Post Office where elves are on hand to help kids write letters to Santa.


Located in front of the Thunder Striker rollercoaster, Snow Flake Lake offers old-fashioned winter fun. Photo courtesy of Carowinds.

At Christmas Crossroads you’ll find a nativity scene with live animals, Mrs. Claus’ kitchen, where you can decorate fresh-from-the-oven cookies, and the big guy himself posing for pictures with visitors. Candy Cane Lane is another great spot for photos with Christmas characters like Jingle Bell, Candy Cane, Ginny and Ginger gingerbread cookies and Holly and Jolly.

For outdoor ice skating, head to Snow Flake Lake. Charlie Brown’s Christmas Town in Camp Snoopy is just steps away and features Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree Lot and rides designed for the younger set.


The Zephyr is one of nearly two dozen rides open during WinterFest. Photo courtesy of Carowinds.

Almost two dozen rides are open throughout the park, including the popular Afterburn, Kiddy Hawk and Ricochet rollercoasters, along with county fair classics Zephyr, Scrambler, Do-Si-Do and Rock ‘N’ Roller.

Except for Ripcord and Slingshot, all of the rides are free with admission. There’s also an additional fee for some activities, such as ice skating, carriage rides and Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen Cookie Decorating.  

When you’re ready to chow down, you’ll have your choice of fare, ranging from Chick-fil-A to Panda Express, as well as holiday specials like Turducken burgers, smoked turkey and carved ham with traditional fixings, gingerbread-eggnog funnel cakes, cinnamon pull-apart bread and homemade hot chocolate.


The nightly WinterFest Wonderland Parade features lavishly decorated floats, festive music and performers.

The celebration ends each night with a merry procession of the WinterFest Wonderland Parade, featuring lavishly decorated floats, festive music and an array of holiday-themed performers. 

This special holiday event is open on select nights during the Christma season so be sure to visit the Carowinds website for the complete schedule of WinterFest dates. 

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.