Walking in a Winter Wonderland

The the week-long festival features a ferris wheel, an ice skating rink and a carousel. Food trucks, live music and pictures with Santa will be available throughout the week as well. The event will take place in Heritage Square at 300 Austin Ave. Photo credit: Rebecca Flannery

It’s Christmastime in the city. For students and Wacoans who love Baylor’s Christmas on Fifth Street, the holiday festivities don’t have to stop there. The third annual Waco Wonderland kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday in downtown’s Heritage Square.

This event, which ends Dec. 12, features holiday lights, a skating rink, carriage rides, a Ferris wheel, food trucks and this year’s newest addition—a carousel. Each day, these everyday staples of the event will be complemented with a unique theme, such as “Cowboy Christmas” on Monday or “Glow Night on the Ice” on Dec. 10. A schedule of special events and stage performances can be found at the City of Waco website.

The most popular attraction is the synthetic ice skating rink. Susan Morton, a member of the Waco Wonderland committee since its beginning, said people should buy their skating rink tickets online ahead of time. The 40-minute sessions sell out quickly, especially prime evening spots. After all, an outdoor skating rink, beneath the shining lights of the ALICO building and Heritage Square, is quite the novelty for warm Waco.

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“That’s part of the fun of it,” Morton said. “It’s not something you’d expect to be here. And there’s some great food trucks. I’m a grandmother, and I absolutely love that my grandkids can wander around and have a good time, yet it’s not going to cost a million dollars. Then they can go get their picture taken with Santa for free.”

Santa will be on site during all event hours in a life-size Santa house. Visitors should bring a phone or camera to take their own free pictures with Santa.

H-E-B is hosting a kid tent where children can find some free goodies and make Christmas cards. Afterwards, visitors may send their wish list to the North Pole via the Santa Mail Station.

Tickets for the Ferris wheel and carousel are $4 and the carriage rides—drawn by horse up and down Austin Avenue—are $5.

“I love the fact that it’s expanding first of all,” said Virginia Beach senior Julia Wallace. “I think it shows the growth of Waco and downtown, and also the vitality of the city that they’re having these fun festivals for students and citizens of Waco.”

The Laser Light Show, presented by Op-Tec, is another new addition to this year’s event. The show will be on the last day of Waco Wonderland, at 7 p.m. Dec. 12.

“It’s really been something to watch it grow,” Morton said. “For everybody who has worked on it, everything we do comes from the heart. We all love the city and love showing it off in this way.”