Christmas is awesome. First of all, you get to spend time with people you love. Secondly, you can get drunk and no one can say anything… Not bad for one day. It’s really the greatest day of all time – Michael Scott
Christmas is hands down my favorite time of the year. I get to whip out my fancy winter clothes, eat s’mores, slurp ramen, and spend time with friends and family. So naturally, around this time of year, I’m constantly trying to plan things to do that are Christmas-y. Up until now, the Trail of Lights at Zilker has been one of the most iconic Austin things you could do in December. But starting this year, another potential classic has appeared: Winter Wonderland at the Circuit.
For tickets and more information, click here
Honestly, I was skeptical at first. On paper, it sounds like a blast: Lights around the track, petting zoo, skating rink, carnival rides, food, a train, Santa, and more. But I wasn’t too confident in the execution, and I started hearing mixed reviews, so I knew I had to see it for myself. And thanks to COTA, I was provided two general admission tickets and ‘Magic Money’, which are good for food and rides.
If you’ve ever been to a concert, or F1, you know that parking at COTA can be a pain. Thankfully, they provide a shuttle even for those who don’t pay extra to upgrade parking. No more walking half a mile to and from in cold weather. I know first hand that this is a valuable service that COTA could have easily left out. People who drink a little more than usual at these things – – no judgement – – you will DEFINITELY appreciate the shuttle. And speaking of people who love drinking…
The three drinks pictured total $30, excluding tip. Pretty average for these types of events. And the best part? Worth. Every. Penny. Not even kidding. I cannot even put into words how much I loved the egg nog. It was so good that I had to get two. And I don’t even like drinking that much! That has got to tell you something. They also had White Russians, and other Christmas themed drinks. But that egg nog though. Make sure you head over to the Bud Light chalet. That’s where you can enjoy your drinks under some fire lamps, and it gives you a great view of the ferris wheel. It makes for great photo ops and the lamps keep you feeling nice and warm.
What is there to do?
Be aware that a lot of the activities require ‘Magic Money’. These are tickets that you can load onto a wristband at various booths at COTA. So in other words, don’t expect to be able to do everything for the $16 entry fee. Don’t get me wrong though, there is still a whole lot to do even if you don’t buy the Magic Money. But it can definitely add up quickly.
For an idea of what comes with general admission and what doesn’t, click here
Since COTA lays out pretty clearly what there is to do at Winter Wonderland on their website, I’ll go over my personal highlights.
Visually appealing Christmas trees that lip sync to Christmas music. It’s the first thing you run into, and it’s definitely one of the unique things COTA has to offer that you usually can’t find anywhere else. Warning: It will definitely be surrounded by Instagrammers and Snapchatters.
Why WOULDN’T the petting zoo make the list? No brainer if you bring kids.
Food. There are a few vendors who have their food trucks here. I saw donuts, corn dogs, hot dogs, tacos, pizza, chicken strips, funnel cakes, and more. I also heard from multiple people that there is a killer brisket mac n’ cheese sandwich. But sadly, I was never able to find it.
Uhm, what? This actually surprised me. It was such a surreal experience to be able to step out onto the track – which by the way, is lined with Christmas lights – and actually walk on it. This was personal favorite. You can tell even from my picture that the lights are a little spaced out. But to me, this part of COTA isn’t about the lights. It’s about stepping out onto a surface on which history is made. Get your race car sound effects ready. *VROOOOOOOOM*
The tunnel of lights. It changes colors to the music, and is truly a sight to behold. It’s romantic, fun, and a must see.
Is it worth it?
How much we spent per person:
Admission ticket: $16
Magic Money: $10
If you go into Winter Wonderland with realistic expectations, it can be a lot of fun. I stayed for three hours, and I wasn’t bored for one second. Granted, I may have spent more than the average person might, but the $16 base price still gets you one heck of a time.
This is not the Trail of Lights. I cannot stress that enough. COTA offers a completely different experience entirely. It gives you things you may have never seen before, and since it’s in it’s infancy, it is not nearly as crowded and crazy as Zilker gets on their base ticket.
So go ahead and give Winter Wonderland at the Circuit a try. It’s definitely worth your time and attention.
More pictures from that night
Don’t forget to head over to @ATXFoodiesBlog for breakfast, brunch, elevensies, lunch, and dinner ideas.
Special thanks to Glen and Marissa for accompanying me.