It’s becoming a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for our family – we love to attend the first weekend of the Holiday in the Park Lights event at Six Flags Great America.
If you’re not familiar, the Gurnee theme park is open for about a month or so in the winter with millions of Christmas lights thrown up all over the park. There are some holiday themed shows, you can meet Santa Claus and most of the flat rides are running. The major roller coasters may be closed but that didn’t stop us from having plenty of holiday fun.
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We visited the park on Saturday, November 27th. There was a bit of rain in the early evening which may have led to smaller crowds. I love that first moment when you enter and see the Columbia Carousel all decked out for the season. The Elegance Light Show happens up here, all of the lights timed to different holiday music. It’s also the perfect spot for a family pic!
Six Flags has done a good job setting up all kinds of spots for a photo. Enter and walk to the left and you’ll find this giant wreath in Orleans Place. It took some bribing but we got the kids to jump in there and even SMILE!
Something else we noticed for the first time this year, you can order Starbucks Lattes and hot chocolates at the Go Fresh Cafe, also located in Orleans Place. The prices weren’t too bad, either!
As mentioned, the large roller coasters are closed, but many of the family rides are open. We stopped at the Big Easy Balloons first. The lines for pretty much every attraction we saw were about 10 minutes or less.
Holiday in the Park really isn’t about the rides for me, though. I just love walking through the park, especially all of the bridges. Some are packed with disco balls while others are just glowing bright with light.
As for the new elements this year, we absolutely LOVED the Holiday Funhouse! Look for it in the back of the park in the Kidzopolis section, near the American Eagle. It appears they took one of the haunted houses from Fright Fest and rethemed it for the holiday season. As one of the characters inside kept saying – this is a CHEERFUL house not a FEARFUL house! That didn’t stop my wife from sneaking ahead and jumping out at the rest of us lol. There are some fun mirrors, a room that makes you feel like you’re spinning, and a fun little maze. We went through this a bunch of times and loved it. Don’t miss it – I hope they do more things like this in the future.
You can see video of the Holiday Funhouse in my Instagram story here!
Another staple is the fully lit up Southwest Territory with the Peppermint Swirl attraction at the center. They take the Chubasco spinning tea cup ride and turn off the lights, add some lighting effects, holiday music and even snow blasting in the air. Here’s a video of me on it from a few years ago…
One thing to note, this ride can be a little hard to find if you haven’t been to Great America before. It’s located INSIDE of the big Kalightoscope building at the center of Southwest Territory. See the archway gate in the next photo? That’s the entrance to Peppermint Swirl! There are usually some employees standing out there, but I saw a few people walking by a bit confused, looking for where you get in line for the ride…
You have a chance at a new experience every time you ride Peppermint Swirl. They have a sign in the queue listing all of the possible songs you might hear. Take a look…
Again, this is another attraction the kids absolutely love. My son says Cup #2 spins the most, in case you are looking for that – or looking to avoid it lol. There are a bunch of benches outside of the ride as well. My wife and I sat there and watched the kids ride it over and over until the park closed at 9pm.
We arrived a little bit later this time because of the rain, but if you get there early you can see the main Christmas tree lighting every evening. It’s located in Hometown Square – you can watch the tree lighting then hop on the classic Triple Play attraction.
There are other activities we didn’t have time for on this visit. You can roast marshmallows and making smores. Some of the larger attractions are open like Justice League: Battle for Metropolis and The Dark Knight indoor roller coaster.
Overall, it was a really great visit. There were some shows and rides we wanted to hit but we just didn’t have enough time – another reason to come back! I want to give a special shoutout to the employees dressed up in character. They were all outstanding interacting with our kids. It made for a special visit and some fun memories made.
ONE MORE THING that is not Holiday in the Park related. You can’t ride it right now, but you can take a look a the Vertical Velocity roller coaster that has gotten a new paint job! Rumors suggest the ride is being rethemed for The Flash in 2022 – the sign outside seems to confirm it. You can see the yellow track is now being held up with red supports. It looks sharp! Here are some photos…
Holiday in the Park Lights runs weekends and some select weekdays through the holiday season. Daily tickets are $24.99, however the event IS included with your membership or season pass with no extra cost required. You can find the full operating schedule on the Six Flags Great America website.
They are also doing the Holiday in the Park Lights Drive Thru experience again this year. This event requires a reservation in advance. The full schedule is also on the Six Flags Great America website here.