Yesterday my two friends and I decided to venture out with our kiddos to Navy Pier's Winter Wonderfest, hoping that we'd enjoy some fun and games together after being cooped up indoors for far too long with the cold weather and snow.
Well, we would have been better off, and we'd have had more fun, had we stayed home. The Winter Wonderfest was nothing short of a disaster.
While the decorations were cute, wintery and fun, they could not be enjoyed due to the unmanageable crowds. The cost for the wristbands was reasonable, but there should have been a limit on sales. How about requiring families to purchase tickets on line or over the phone and limiting sales and requiring timed entry? We waited in line to pay for our children's wristbands only to enter the fest and discover that the wait for even the simplest kiddie rides was over an hour. You simply cannot expect toddlers to wait in line for an hour to ride a merry-go-round. I have never seen so many cranky, out-of-control children in my life - and who could blame them! Our children managed to ride on the slides where waits were about 15 minutes to a half hour, but could not have handled waiting the hour plus required to get on any of the other rides. For families paying the ridiculous amount of money to park at Navy Pier, feed a family of four and provide wristbands and a snack for the children, the cost of the day is easily more than $150. It is unreasonable, especially at the Winter Wonderfest, where the crowd prevented kids from benefiting from the cost of the wristband. I realize that venues want to sell as many tickets as possible - but at what cost to families looking to enjoy some holiday fun?
Adults, obviously, are not required to purchase wristbands (because there are no suitable rides for adults). However, when my friend asked to sit with her 18 month old atop a giant rocking horse for safety's sake, the snotty teenaged attendant told her she'd have to go purchase a wristband. This was after waiting a half hour in line. Needless to say, a temper tantrum ensued for the poor child who couldn't ride the rocking horse.
When our children approached one of the wandering actors portraying townspeople, one said she couldn't chat because she was on break. Another, when asked for an autograph on a provided card, said she couldn't find her pen.
Food options on-site were entirely unhealthy, the smell of grease from unnecessary fried foods wafting about the entire space. The video game area, featuring violent teen-rated video games, was entirely out of place.
As a writer that reviews family friendly events and venues, there is nothing I cannot stand more than watching families hope for a fun outing only to wind up feeling cheated, especially in this economy, when many families are not able to take traditional vacations and in turn opt for a few family days out here and there. It truly is time for attractions to take said families into consideration, and offer them value and organized, friendly fun.
Amy Bizzarri is a mom of two living in Logan Square. She also blogs at tiramisumom.com.
See more of Amy's stories here.