The Global Winter Wonderland has returned to the Cal Expo fairgrounds, marking a second year in Sacramento for the holiday theme park, after a successful debut last year.
“Sacramento is one of the most diverse cities in the United States … and Cal Expo is the ideal venue,” said Joanna Ricken, marketing director for Global Winter Wonderland, “(We felt) so welcome last year, we couldn’t wait to return.”
The towering light displays were the major draw for attendees last year, who found little in the way of other entertainment options beyond a few carnival rides and booths with fried food and holiday gifts.
Global Winter Wonderland has addressed that.
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The illuminated displays have been multiplied and organized into themed four-season areas along with the returning holiday village. The displays are more interactive this year, with several tunnels and paths throughout. The rides and carnival games take up about a third of the map and offer more of the classic fair experience. A Santa Claus meet-and-greet area offers various activities for children.
“We wanted to ‘wow’ our guests this year and get them excited about coming back for something new,” said Ricken. The changes, under a new theme of “Magic of the Seasons,” brings some welcome additions to last year’s formula.
The Village Stage in the Expo Center features musical acts that range from ethnic dancing to small local bands. Apart from these acts is the highly touted “Acrobats on Ice” show, a musical experience of nimble performers twirling and balancing through colorful lighting and snow effects, which starts a new show roughly every two hours.
An ice rink is available this year by the entrance, requiring a separate fee and reservations.
The International Food Bazaar returns with a makeover from last year. Remodeled to look similar to store fronts or corner restaurants, the cuisine ranges from Greek to Indian and offers the ambiance of an outdoor patio area, albeit in one of the expo buildings.
Across Cal Expo, scents from the booths offering fried Twinkies and funnel cakes pervade the air. Portable food stands were redecorated this year to include winter and holiday characters such as Olaf from “Frozen” and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, little touches that add to the overall holiday experience.
Global Winter Wonderland
What: Multicultural lantern festival featuring illuminated displays, live entertainment, food, vendors and carnival rides
When: Fridays-Sundays and daily in holiday weeks through Jan. 3, including holidays; variable hours, check calendar for specifics.
Where: Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento
Cost: Individual entry, $14-$18, free for ages 3 and younger; rides pass $25 (does not include lights show admission); season pass $40-$46
Information: www.globalwonderland.org; 510-962-8586