December 20, 2012: Just a quick update. We paid another visit to Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland tonight and, again, it was great. My only word of advice is to skip the Winter Wonderland Experience in the stadium. It comes with a $4 per person separate admission fee. There was so fake snow for the kids to play with and a Grinch maze that was kind of scary. There was also a knock-off Mickey Mouse, Rudolph, and Cookie Monster character opportunity. We spent ten minutes in it, at the very most. Normally I’d try to find the high points in something like this for a fair review, but this add-on was so small that it just should have been included.
On upside, the $2 train ride around the field was totally fun. We got views that we’ll probably never get again and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately it started to rain, so we didn’t get to do the pony or camel ride, for $5 and $7.
November 27, 2011: I’ve been looking forward to going to Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland ever since writing about it back in mid-October. It seemed similar to the Osborne Family Lights in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, something our family always enjoys during trips to Florida during the holiday season. Before even getting details about Shadrack’s, I couldn’t wait to go!
Admission is a little steep. I was a little surprised to hear it would cost $25.50 per carload, but when I broke it down into a per person rate, our family of four got in for just over $6 each. If we would have stuffed more riders in, the per person rate would have, obviously, been even less. If you’re a Costco member, they sell tickets for $18. And, I’ve just learned via Facebook that if you ask for the discount, locals can get in for $20. While I’m not certain they require photo ID to prove your residency, I would be prepared to show it.
You enter through the main BB&T Coastal Field gates on Robert Grissom Parkway. There is an admission booth that you access from your car’s window. Upon reaching it, you’re told to tune your radio to 101.1 FM, turn on your parking lights only, and to stay on the guided path. The ride takes 25, or so, minutes, spanning seven songs. Lucky for us, the weather was very mild so we turned on the heat and opened the windows.
So what is it? Simply put, it’s a very large holiday lights display, with many components, all synchronized with holiday music. You remain in your car the entire time. You’re encouraged to take your time and in various spots throughout the display, there is enough room for you to pull to the side and let others pass if you’d like to stop and enjoy for a bit.
The path snakes through the parking lot at Pelicans’ stadium, running through it and along the perimeter. As the music plays, the lights dim, jump, twinkle, and every other word I can use to describe them. As the music speeds up, the lights do too. When there’s a dramatic pause, they go out completely. My favorite is when the lights simulated quiet thunder and lightning.
The songs are all, naturally, family-friendly, though it’s worth mentioning that one is heavily Christian in nature. It’s called “Christmas with a Capital C” by Go Fish. It talks about how “Merry Christmas” has turned into “Happy Holidays” in an effort to not offend those who don’t believe in Christ. The song doesn’t have any questionable lyrics (read them here) and seriously, you’re more entranced by the beat and how the lights react to really listen. Still, I thought it was a small stretch to put such a Jesus-y song in there when there are no less than a million other Christmas songs to choose from. While it didn’t upset me a bit, it may rub those who aren’t really into the religious aspect of the holiday the wrong way.
Another noteworthy mention is the presence of security patrolling the apartment complex just on the 21st Avenue side of Pelican stadium. You can see the full display through their fence, though I’m very certain Shadrack’s is doing their very best to disallow anyone trying to get a free peek. My advice would be not to try.
On the final stretch of the display, the lane is very wide and we, like many others, chose to stop for a bit and just enjoy. We were there for about 10 minutes and while stopped, I had a look at the cars passing by me. One was a pick-up truck with people in the back on lawn chairs. Another was a Yukon with children literally on the roof. Not kind of standing up through a sun roof or anything. They were sitting, unrestrained, on the roof. I tried to get a picture but it was too dark. Folks, while it’s tempting to squish as many people as you can in your vehicle, remember that situation makes it a little difficult for everyone to see well. Please, please, PLEASE resist the urge to be foolish. It’s dark in there and while the rate of speed is very slow, drivers are distracted by the lights. If by some horrible chance one of those kids slid off, I would hate to see the consequences. Everyone should remain in their seats with seatbelts fastened. The display, in most parts, is on both sides of the vehicle and when you turn, you will see whatever you missed on the other side. No matter where you’re seated in your car, you have a fantastic view.
Upon exiting the light display, the road leads you to the Christmas village. Parking is in the grass lot and the village is mostly housed in an event tend. On the outside is an opportunity to ride a real camel for $7 per person, a magic show, carnival balloon game, and a video game trailer. On the other side of the tent are a bungee jumper, inflatable bounce house, and a few vendors. Inside is a petting zoo where you can purchase food for the goats and sheep for $0.25. There is a pony ride for $5, plus an additional $5 if you’d like a picture. Pictures with Santa are available starting at $10 with photo packages going up in price from there. Despite the, in my opinion, high price, the setting is very nice and Santa looked great. They even have a Christmas card package, 24 cards for $20.
Also inside are more vendors, a face painter, balloon animal maker, snacks, gem mining, and my favorite, snow. While the radio ad promotes snowballs, I wouldn’t go that far. There is a snow machine on top of the inflated decoration, just across from Santa’s area. It flurries down upon you and it quite fun, though the amount is no where near snowball caliber. There is, however, a “snow pit” outside near the camels where children can play for $1, though the snow isn’t real.
We went into the Christmas village with a $20 limit. We opted against the photo with Santa because Bass Pro Shop does them for free and their Christmas village is something we look forward to each year. One daughter wanted to ride a pony, so there was $5. Another one wanted to feed the goats, so that was another $0.25. We bought two pairs of fuzzy gloves for a total of $2. Before going, we ate dinner, so no one was hungry for snacks or treats. We tried to talk them into balloon animals for $2, but they weren’t into it. So that’s it. We spent a whopping total of $7.25.
I won’t lie – I had a feeling the Christmas village would be very nickel and dimey and that intuition was mostly right, but I still left there feeling more in the Christmas spirit than I have yet this year. One daughter was wishing there was more for her to do and I kind of agree. The amount of things to do in the Christmas village was a little disappointing, through I’m not sure what else I would add.
All in all, we had a good time. I feel quite certain I wouldn’t pay another $18 (Costco discount) to go through again this year, but I may be talked into it again next year. The lights, alone, were worth it.
When I teased this topic on my Facebook page, someone asked if it was better than the Festival of Lights at James Island County Park in Charleston. My answer, “It’s not nearly as good, but much closer.” Hope that helps!
For a great video we shot from our car, have a look here.
Photo credit: Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland on Facebook
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