We didn’t quite get a chance to do the whole Christmas thing like we usually do this year. This season, there wasn’t the same opportunity nor urgency as other years to get in the Christmas spirit. My parents came for an almost-three-week visit at Thanksgiving time, we’re only in this house temporarily, and we weren’t going to be here for Christmas anyway. Also, our weekday afternoons and weekends were filled with soccer practices and games unlike we’ve ever experienced before so we really had no time for much of anything else. We didn’t even have a tree this year.
But we did try a new special holiday event this season! We went to CHILL at the Queen Mary in Long Beach, “SoCal’s only frozen holiday adventure,” in its second year. A friend and I had discussed the idea of going last year when it first appeared, but we didn’t get around to it. This year I saw discounted tickets offered at Living Social so I seized the opportunity for us to go while my parents were in town. They always enjoy experiencing something new while they’re here, and I was curious about it.
We visited CHILL the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (its fifth day after opening) with the hopes that the crowds wouldn’t be too overwhelming yet. In that respect, it was great. The crowds were very manageable, and we experienced minimal lines and easily found tables to eat at. However, it felt like we were there too early in the season. Some activities and areas weren’t open yet, there were no holiday carolers or holiday-themed entertainment as mentioned on their website, and they still had some fine-tuning to do with regards to ice tubing in particular.
The Ice Kingdom was CHILL’s main attraction. It was a separate area inside their great, big dome known as The Igloo. It is “an awe-inspiring exhibit featuring larger-than-life ice creations that towers over 2.5 stories tall and used more than two million pounds of ice.” CHILL’s website had warned us that the temperature inside the Ice Kingdom was kept at 9 degrees so we dressed accordingly and brought outerwear for sub-freezing temperatures, or at least we did the best we could living in Southern California and having visitors who came to enjoy warm Southern California weather. Before entering, we were offered long parkas which we gladly accepted when they assured us that it really was only 9º inside the Ice Kingdom, maybe even colder.
I can’t say I was disappointed with the Ice Kingdom, but I was a little underwhelmed. I had read descriptions and seen pictures on their website, but I still imagined more white or clear ice and not so much colored ice. The colored ice almost made the ice sculptures look fake, like they were made of plastic. I had to touch to make sure they really were ice. I did, however, like how everyone wore the Ice Kingdom’s blue parkas. Instead of a great mish-mash of different colors, we all blended in together. Also, it was great to have the long parka when I went down the ice slide on my bottom. The ice slide was certainly a fun little diversion in the Ice Kingdom.
We spent about 20 minutes touring the Ice Kingdom, and then we headed to the ice tubing area, also inside the Igloo. The boys’ tickets included five rides each. Doobie wasn’t interested, but Sonny was eager to try it. It turned out he had to return to the back of the line after each ride down. That meant another 20+ minute wait for a ride that took no more than 15 seconds. That meant it would take more than an hour to complete his five rides.
I complained. The lady manning the line was friendly and sympathetic to my frustration and suggested I go to Guest Services. Guest Services said that’s not how it was supposed to be, that each rider should finish their five rides without having to return to the back of the line. Guest Services went to the lady manning the line… Long story short, there was no change in procedure, but they did make an effort to move everyone along faster. The lady manning the line was not so friendly anymore. We were there at the beginning of the season at a relatively quiet time. I hope they figured out a better way to run the ice tubing before crowds really started coming (which it seems they did based on recent Yelp reviews).
In the end, it worked out alright. Sonny really enjoyed the rides, especially when the guys at the top spun him around as they pushed him off. He moved faster through the line. My father took Doobie’s ticket and joined Sonny on a couple of runs. We moved on after Sonny had done four rides and my dad had done two rides. My dad was a trooper for joining him!
Once outside the Igloo, we were ready for lunch. Healthy options were limited. The food choices resembled county fair food. We ended up with chicken kabobs and pizza from Rudolph’s Pizza. We saw afterwards that there were also burgers and hot dogs offered around the corner. After lunch, the kids wanted ice cream, but they didn’t really like the gelato that was there. You could also get fried Twinkies and Oreos, popcorn of all varieties, candy apples, cotton candy, funnel cakes, and crepes, just to mention a few things.
As I mentioned earlier, several activities and areas were not ready for visitors yet. The North Pole Village featuring a post office to mail letters to Santa and Claus Cabin for story time with Mrs. Claus and visits with Santa were not open as far as we could tell. Also, there was no “world’s tallest rocking horse” nor a giant life-sized snow globe, both of which I think would have been fun, unique experiences. The “world’s largest snowman bouncy” was operating, but Doobie didn’t think it was very bouncy. Sonny enjoyed riding the wild bucking reindeer.
One perk of the CHILL visit was that we got to visit the Queen Mary for free while we were there. I had never been aboard before. It was interesting to take a step back in time and see what luxury travel used to be like. We strolled around a bit and enjoyed the view from the deck. Now we can check the Queen Mary off our list of 100 Things to Do in LA with Kids Before They Grow Up.
Would we want to go to CHILL again next year? My kids would say no. They were not overly thrilled with what they experienced. I don’t blame them. Had all the activities been ready for them, it might have made a huge difference. Hubby said he might consider going back, but maybe at night when the lights would be on and there would be more winter ambiance. I would consider going again if we found discounted tickets, but certainly not at full price. And I would make sure to go when all activities are in operation, yet when all the crowds aren’t there as well. I could see lines for the activities as becoming unreasonably long. Going with friends for the kids would also be fun.
I’d be curious to hear feedback from other families who went later in the season. And CHILL has been extended through January 12 for those of you who haven’t gone yet. All prices are 50% off. Now might be a good time to go!