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Winter Fest OC at the OC Fairgrounds

Winter Fest OC at the OC Fairgrounds

Winter Fest OC wasn’t on my radar until 2019 when I found out one of my readers bought season passes and offered to write about how she saved money at Winter Fest OC and still had fun when she went with her family.

It went to a drive-through event in 2020 and 2021. It was back in-person for 2022. For 2023, the event started on November 24th and ends on January 7th. It was only a two week event when it started back in 2019 with a MUCH lower price tag, but now it is open for a full season.

The question we were trying to answer in this post was: Is it worth it?

In 2019, her resounding answer was YES. It was a 2 week only event and she spent a TOTAL of $75 worth of $25 season passes for herself and 2 kids. She went 3 times. So each visit ended up only costing her $25 (or that makes it about $8/person per trip).

winterfest oc christmas tree decorated in silver and gold

Is Winter Fest OC @ the OC Fair Grounds worth it?

Fast forward to 2023.

For 2023 the season pass is available—but now the passes are $83.99 per adult and $78.99 per child (ages 3-12 years old). Children 2 and under are free.

So for her and her two kids to go with the season passes it would be about $242. Parking is an extra $12 every time you go. So it would actually be more like $254 total. (For 2022, the season pass would have been $140 for her family and $10 parking, so the passes have gone up quite a bit in price. I do think there might be more included? But it is hard to tell if the snow play and winter tubing is included in the season pass.)

It is worth noting that I have NOT experienced the 2023 Winter Fest OC. So I am NOT speaking from experience. I am only looking at this from a price point / math equation lens this year. Maybe it is worth the money to you? Maybe not?

The season pass DOES include:

  • Unlimited Entry for all 32 days of Winter Fest OC
  • Access to the North Pole Journey Guided Tour
  • NEW Unlimited Snow Play including snowman building, snow sledding (under 42″), snow carousel & more
  • Unlimited GA Snowflake Summit Ice Tubing Slide (42″ or taller, no lap sitting)
  • Nightly Live Entertainment
  • Evening Tree Lighting Show
  • Light Displays
  • Photo Ops
  • Meeting Santa

They did add in snow play and ice tubing this year.

Otherwise, I think you could get the rest of those things for FREE or a much lower cost at other events. For instance, most malls have nightly tree lighting shows. There are light displays at Santa’s Village at Irvine Regional Park along with photo ops and admission is free there. Meeting Santa is often free unless you invest in a photo package.

Unfortunately, that price does NOT include these ADD-ON activities:

  • Arctic Ice Trail ($25 for a 45 minute ice skating session)
  • Polar Playground ($19-$55 passes for Carnival Rides & Games)
  • Blizzard Bumpers ($12 for 1 session)
  • Polar Putt Putt ($6 for 1 round)

So, at a minimum, you could add on the Mini Golf on one trip for a total of $260. But let’s say you want to do the ice skating and bumpers: $25 + $12 per person = $37 per person!

That original $254 total would turn into an extra $111 (and that $111 is only good for one visit with your season pass). An astounding total of $365 for one adult with two kids between the ages of 3 and 12 years old.

winterfest oc blue tree

What if we just go for ONE day?

You do have the option to buy a day pass instead of a season pass. Late in the season, select dates are much less expensive. So let’s say this same family went for one day AFTER Christmas or on January 3rd:

  • Adult=$30.99 + $6.20 fee
  • Child=$25.99 + $5.20 fee

The ADD-ON activities would still cost the same. So at the lowest, it would cost ONE adult with two kids between 3 and 12 years old a total of $99 for General Admission. Remember that $37 per person above for the extras? That would make it $210 if you did the ice skating and bumpers.

Or let’s say we just pick one . . . just skating for 45 minutes. $25 per person. So that would make it $174 total.

Check the Ultimate Experience Pass if you are just going for a day (lots of “unlimiteds” in this pass and it might make it more worthwhile – but the total price tag for that one adult with 2 kids would be almost $276 for that one day!).

And watch for new “fees” that are not included in the stated ticket price, but when you go to purchase they range from $5.20 to $15/$16.

What you need to know about Winter Fest OC:

  • Parking is $12
  • Generally open 12pm-10pm, but check the calendar!
  • Deals get better after the holidays
  • Buy your ticket online to save money rather than paying at the gate
  • Open through January 7th at the OC Fairgrounds
  • Visit the OFFICIAL Winter Fest OC website to buy tickets and see a detailed map

Kristin is a 5th grade teacher in Orange County. She enjoys being outdoors and playing with her family. In her spare time she can be found digital scrapbooking, looking on Pinterest for new ideas for her classroom or activities for her kids, researching places to go with her family, or reading a book. Photos and post courtesy of Kristin.

Updated for 2023 by Michele WITH input from Kristin who said: There are SO many other free or inexpensive activities to do in SoCal.