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A Reader's Take On Santa's Wonderland in College Station
altMerry Christmas Y'all! There is no better place to experience a Texas Christmas like Santa's Wonderland in College Station. This season marks Santa's Wonderland's 20th Anniversary and WoodlandsMommy.com reader Jessica Palmer, mom of two year old twins, has just returned with a review and tips for this can't miss family holiday adventure! She's happy to report the park has made numerous improvements to their layout this year, allowing for better flow of crowds and more food choices. The time, energy and money they've invested in the park is evident.
 
Santa's Wonderland is the biggest Christmas attraction in the state of Texas and is truly a magical experience. The main attraction is the ride through the Trail of Lights. When purchasing your tickets you can select either a classic hayride or a horse and carriage tour. With either selection you will enjoy a ride along the trail and marvel at the dazzling holiday lights and adorable scenes. There are literally millions of lights that light the path as Christmas music fills the air and creates an unforgettable experience. Each hayride trailer holds roughly 25-30 people and each truck pulls two trailers so even when the line is long it still moves pretty quickly. There is not a bad seat on the hayride as the twists and turns on the trails allow a great vantage point for everyone to see the sights. The lines for the hayride start forming at sunset and can get long on busier days so plan accordingly. Make sure you visit the restroom before you get in line as you will have the wait time plus about a 15-20 minute hayride ahead of you. Last year my family went on a busy Saturday night near Thanksgiving and we waited about 1.5 hours for the hayride. This year we went on a Friday evening a little earlier in the season so we waited less than 10 minutes. Definitely consider wait time when picking what day you will attend.alt

Another festive attraction is Santa's Town, comprised of amazing shopping, food, music and even Santa's Cottage where you can meet the jolly fellow in his full Texas gear including big black boots and cowboy hat. Dont miss Santa's nightly grand entrance minutes after the park opens. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive in a horse drawn carriage and open the park with a song or two. After leaving the park my two year old daughters told me how much they loved watching Santa sing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". After the grand entrance, Mr. and Mrs. Claus can be found in Santa's Cottage waiting for you to join them for a one-on-one experience meeting and interacting with your family. The visit is included with your hayride admission but you are not permitted take your own photos inside the cottage as there are professional photo packages available for purchase after your visit is complete. In the center of town is a large stage surrounded by bench seating that allows you to watch the amazing live music while munching on a delicious funnel cake and sipping hot chocolate all while staying warm by the large campfire in the center. This area is also the spot you can expect to get caught in a rare Texas snow, proving that it does indeed snow in Texas! Multiple times every night the town is blanketed in snow (bubbles) and you can see the wonder and delight in every childs face. The park also boasts over 10,000 sq. feet of covered shopping that will allow you to find the perfect gift, even for those that are hard to buy for.
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Don't forget to visit all the other fun attractions that are included with the purchase of your hayride ticket. Included with admission are photo opportunities in front of the giant lighted Texas flag and front row seats to classic Christmas movies on a Texas sized screen. Train rides on The West Pole Express Train are included as well. There's even a separate train for kids under 48" and both trains are covered in hundreds of lights. Kids can also enjoy rides on a large inflatable slide, race down roller lanes at the Toboggan Chute and jump and play in Frostbite's West Pole Bouncy House. Adults can join in the fun and take a turn on Santa's Mechanical Bull. Additional attractions that are available for purchase are entry to the petting zoo, pony rides and a turn in a Giant Snow Globe. Reservations for the snow globe should be made as soon as you arrive at the park.

If you are a foodie then you will definitely appreciate the huge selection of food and treat offerings available in Frostbite's Food Village. They serve many nostalgic Texas foods including BBQ, tacos, and burgers, as well as treats like kettle corn, funnel cakes, and s'mores roasting. Prices are what you would expect to pay at any amusement park but the food is good and most portions are "Texas size." Wine lovers can also visit Wonderland Winery and sip on holiday wines that are made locally in the Lone Star State.

As a guest at Santa's Wonderland you will appreciate the abundance of friendly and helpful employees and the awesome restrooms that are always very clean and have large stalls. At one point we had two adults and two 2 years olds in one regular stall with room to spare! Some minor complaints we had would be the pea gravel that can be found in many areas of the park, the amount of "extra" costs and the possibility of long wait times. We had a difficult time pushing our double stroller through the pea gravel and in some places we actually had to turn the stroller around and pull it for more leverage. This also makes it not friendly for disabled adults and wheelchair access. The extra costs are all optional but do make for a better experience. These include VIP parking, photo packages with Santa, professional photo at the lighted Texas flag, Snow Globe photos, petting zoo and pony rides. The wait times can also be long depending on the date you are visiting.

Jessica's Top 10 Tips for Santa's Wonderland:
  1. Purchase tickets in advance online at a discount and check out their Facebook page for frequent giveaway posts.
  2. Check the website for the Crowd Forecast to see what days are predicted to be the busiest. Any Saturday or the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas will be the busiest with week nights and Sundays being less crowded.
  3. Arrive early. Free parking is off site and will require you to ride a shuttle to get to the entrance so allow for plenty of time. Traffic getting into the parking lot can also back up depending on the crowd that day. There are parking lots onsite and much closer to the entrance but they do cost an extra fee and must be purchased online beforehand for a specific arrival time (30 minute period). From my experience the paid parking lots are well worth the extra money as the lines to enter are shorter and you do not have to ride the shuttle.
  4. The park opens at 6 pm Monday-Friday. Saturday and Sunday it opens at 3 pm which allows for time to get in many of the attractions prior to the Trail of Lights opening.
  5. Santa's Grand Entrance happens within 5-10 minutes of opening so arrive early if you are interested in viewing this.
  6. If you arrive at park opening and watching Santa's Grand Entrance is not high on your priority list then the best first stop would be to go straight to Santa's Cottage to get in line to meet Santa. If you do not get in line first thing then come back after visiting other attractions as the line gets longest following the Grand Entrance. Santa's Cottage will be located on your left as you enter the park.
  7. Be on the lookout for Santa's helpers while in line to meet Santa and they will provide a form you can fill out to determine if your child is on the nice or naughty list including the reasons why. Santa's helper will return and present each child with an adorable souvenir certificate with their name certifying which list they landed on.
  8. Pictures at the giant lighted Texas flag are available for purchase but the attendants are willing to snap pictures with your own camera for free.
  9. Be prepared for lines during peak times and dress appropriately. Santa's Wonderland operates rain or shine with the majority of attractions outdoors.
  10. Children 2 and under are free and there are tons of sights to see to keep them entertained.

Santa's Wonderland is just over 75 min. from The Woodlands at 18898 Hwy. 6 in College Station and is open nightly through January 7, 2018. Hours and ticket details can be found on their website.
 
Written by Jessica Palmer for WoodlandsMommy.com.
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