Global Winter Wonderland dazzles at Cal Expo


Global Winter Wonderland, returning to Cal Expo for its third year in a row, opens Saturday, Nov. 19, with dazzling new light displays and a plethora of winter activities.

Seventeen acres of LED lanterns arranged in family-friendly scenes are the main attraction at this wintry fair organized by the International Cultural Exchange Group (ICEG): Folks can see 8-foot-tall nutcrackers and teddy bears in Toy Land; visit the Elf’s Clubhouse in Santa’s Village; and channel their inner Alice among giant mushrooms and flowers in Fantasy Land. New displays this year include Candy Land, which will feature a glowing candy forest and a 40-foot-tall candy cake; Snow Land, where youngsters can play in snow flurries and find their way through a glacier maze; and Under the Sea, an indoor installation with glow-in-the-dark jellyfish and mermaids.

Adjacent to the Under the Sea display will be a new glow-in-the-dark activity center, where kiddos can play games like neon-lit hop scotch and ring toss, and get hands-on with crafts like painting their own ornaments and writing a holiday wish to post on the “wishing wall.”

Gingerbread men welcome visitors to Candy Land

The park will also have a carnival with rides for wee ones (like the Christmas train and spinning teacups) and older adventurers (like the Drop Zone and the Tornado), as well as an ice skating rink.

“I am excited for guests to see the Under the Sea activity center,” says Joanna Ricken, ICEG event organizer. “It’s a new thing for us to have the indoor lanterns. We’re also having a winter slide this year that’s a spin on a giant carnival slide. We have a few new thrill rides coming to the carnival section and the snow maze. It’s going to be exciting.”

Guests can also watch free nightly performances by the Circus of Light, which will include fire juggling, contortion and balancing acts, partake of such global cuisines as Thai, Mexican and Mediterranean at the international food court, and take photos with Santa and the new Global Winter Wonderland mascot Penny the Penguin against a snowflake-laden backdrop.

Global Winter Wonderland runs from Nov. 19-Jan. 8. Tickets are $18, $16 for children ages 4-12, and free for ages 3 and under. Ice skating is $12 for a 45-minute session and skate rental. The park is open all holidays. Hours vary. Cal Expo, 1800 Exposition Blvd. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit

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