Now that both of the girls are aware (ok, Reagan is vaguely aware, but she still appreciates decoration and lights and festivity), we're on the hunt for family friendly events. We turned down the Polar Express again (too expensive to risk pre-bedtime meltdowns, plus it's a good hour from us), but there are plenty of places to go. Last Friday we tried the Holiday Lights at Lake Compounce.
Now, we all know how my girls do with theme parks. Good idea in theory, disaster in execution. However, this event is not your typical theme park visit. From 5:00-9:00 on Fridays and 4:00-9:00 on Saturdays and Sundays, the summer destination is transformed into a winter wonderland, decorated with thousands of lights, an ice carver making unbelievable creations, carolers, dressed up characters, and a music and light show.
|Apologies in advance for the quality of these photos. Everything was done one handed because I was holding a 20 lb toddler for two straight hours. Note: bring carrier next time.|
We went on the very first night. Hard as it is to believe, I was considered a "media VIP" and got a few perks. We were able to have some special warm treats inside the theater before starting. We had clam chowder, mac and cheese, hot chocolate and egg nog.
Then Reagan started melting down.
It all started because I wouldn't put her down inside the crowded food area. She wanted to run free, but for some reason, I just wasn't comfortable by letting her loose in a beautifully decorated room in a busy theme park crowded with families with hot food and beverages.
I know. I'm mean.
She didn't want to sit and eat. She didn't want me to hold her. She didn't want to wear her coat, or her shoes, or her socks. She was heading toward the point of no return, and Adam and I were sighing with disappointment that our night might be over before it started. No Santa visit. No gingerbread house making or cookie decorating. No storytime with Mrs. Claus. No writing Santa letters. No kiddie rides. No ice carver. No scavenger hunt for the Twelve Days of Christmas, which were scattered throughout the park.
Awesome. My first VIP event ever and we'd be leaving early. No, not even early, Immediately.
I took Reagan outside because her meltdown was taking over the VIP room, and I felt really bad for all the happy families who were trying to eat and chat. Adam stayed behind to let Madison finish eating. I walked Reagan around the indoor pavilion where Santa was set up, and she started to calm down...enough to get her coat back on her for the ride home. We stepped outside...
And she was instantly transfixed.
It was amazing. It was evening, she was in her hated hat and mittens and coat, she'd totally refused to eat, she'd been melting down, but the moment she got a good look at the illuminated scenes, she was into it.
Christmas lights ARE magic!
We spent the next hour wandering around the park, taking in all the sights. We sang along with carols. We hunted for all Twelve Days (we found ten of twelve). We watched bundled up kids brave the cold wind as they rode the few rides that were open. We bought a bottomless cup of hot chocolate to share ($7 and they refill it all night) and refueled as we needed to. The girls were in awe. Reagan snuggled into me, but her eyes never seemed to close as she took it all in. Madison rode on Adam's shoulders and narrated everything she saw.
|Kyle the Crocodile in his holiday finery|
|Adam is actually happy. He just doesn't smile in pictures.|
Yes, it was cold. Yes, we didn't have a great start (or a great finish - we checked out the music and light show on our way out and unfortunately were standing next to a speaker when it started. Madison jumped, burst into tears, clamped her hands over her ears and refused to take them off, even when we relocated. We ended up watching from the tunnel. But the lights were definitely cool).
But the lights solved all our problems that night.
And now the girls are hyper focused on Christmas lights, staring out our front window at night and pointing them out on every house when we happen to be in the car after sunset.
Magic. If I encounter any tantrums from now until January, I know what to do.
Our tickets were complimentary since I'm a VIP now (and obviously, expect nothing but VIP treatment in the future), however, Adam and I definitely agreed that we would have happily paid to get in. 14.99 for adults and free for under 3s (10.99 for older kids) was well worth it. In addition, if you were to buy your season pass NOW, it would be free. If you're in the CT area, I highly recommend heading over before December 22!