The Nutcracker Prince, the Grinch, Snowflake the Elf, Santa Claus and even a tap dancing Christmas tree will be joining the whimsical cast of characters at Children’s Fairyland this holiday season. For 10 days, the beloved Oakland theme park will be transformed with twinkling lights and decorations into a multi-cultural winter wonderland.
The annual Fairy Winterland does not focus solely on Christmas. The Jewish holiday of Chanukah, African Kwanzaa, the Mexican tradition of Las Posadas, the Hindu festival of lights called Diwali and Chinese New Year will all be represented with displays at the children’s park, located on the north side of Lake Merritt in Oakland. These cultural displays will join the Old Lady in the Shoe, the Jolly Roger Pirate Ship, the Alice in Wonderland Tunnel and other storybook sets that are fixtures in the park year-round, helping bring to life holiday traditions around the globe for visitors, both children and adults.
“The Bay Area is such a diverse region,” said Maria Rodriguez, a graphic designer and photographer at Children’s Fairyland. “It’s important to represent all the different cultures that make up Oakland and the Bay Area.”
The park has been hosting this holiday-themed event for nine years: the first Fairy Winterland was created in 2004. The holiday celebration has emphasized diversity from its very first year. Fairyland itself has been an Oakland fixture since 1950. In addition to Winterland, the park holds a yearly “Jack o’Lantern Jamboree” for Halloween, and an adult-only costume party and gala in June.
Winterland is a very popular event, Rodriguez said. Since she usually works at the beverage booth—all visitors to Winterland get free hot cocoa and hot cider—she has seen the same families come back for this special event in December, year after year.
“People are coming for the holidays, and really making it a family tradition,” she said. “One year, we had a whole family show up in gnome outfits, dressed like Christmas elves.”
During the 10-day holiday celebration, there will be performances at the Storybook Puppet Theater, magic shows, arts and crafts and unlimited rides on the Jolly Trolly train, mini Ferris wheel, carousel and Fairyland’s other child-size rides. Each day, Santa Claus will visit Winterland in his red suit, from 5 to 6 pm. Children can sit on Santa’s lap in the Chapel of Peace and tell him their Christmas wishes.
Each day will feature different events—from a variety of puppet shows and circus acts to performances by the Pacific Boy Choir, the Oakland Ballet Company, storyteller John Weaver and magicians like Blake Maxam, Magic Dan and Mike Della Penna. Fairyland characters will be wandering the park, greeting visitors, throughout the afternoon, and Winterland will close with a Festival of Lights Parade at 6:15 each night.
The park, normally open from 10 am to 4 pm, has different Winterland hours. It will be open December 14 to 23, from noon to 7 pm. Admission is $8 for adults and children over the age of 1, and $4 for members.