Queen Mary’s annual Chill winter event takes guests on an international expedition, with the 38,000-square foot ice park being divided up into six different “lands.” Explore the cultural experiences, menus, crafts and activities of Germany, Switzerland, China, Russia, Holland, and the fabled North Pole.
You can also meet and have a photo opp with each country’s version of “gift bringers” like Santa Claus. I asked Germany’s St. Nicholas where Krampus was, and he replied, “Ohhh, I just felt like being on my own tonight.” I talked to Russia’s Jack Frost about the pagan roots of the celebration and the difficulty of delivering gifts to Siberia. They might be actors, but they know their stuff. I even encountered Germany’s Kristkindle, who I mistook for Sweden’s Santa Lucia, a similar image you often see of an ethereal lady with a crown of wreathed candles, but you rarely see either one personified in this way.
The culinary treats are all delicious and pretty authentic. We loved Russia’s pierogies and the ginger-pork dumplings provided by the LA-based Bling Bling. We filled up pretty quickly after sandwiches from Zurich Deli, and did not have room for Swiss meatballs, or the German sausages provided by Long Beach’s Rasselbock Kitchen. Holland offers a breakfast buffet and a variety of cocktails, which we didn’t even find while wandering around. Lantern Lane offers “Eastern” ice cream treats (We had frozen cheesecake on a stick, but maybe they had green tea and red bean ice creams. I didn’t investigate past “frozen cheesecake on a stick”).
Photo essay after the break
Guests who are over 21 can enjoy a wide variety of beverages. There are beer flights in Germany, cocktails at the Pinnacle Chalet Bar in Switzerland above the cafe, “liquid candy” at Switzerland’s Chocolatier’s, and our favorite–an actual ice bar like you see on travel shows. Chill out in the 12 Degree Pinnacle Cathedral Ice Bar fashioned like Moscow’s Basil Cathedral, which features vodka flights from a selection of over 20 different flavors and brands from around the globe. The doormen bundle you up in a huge parka before sending you into the chilly bar. $15 lets you sample vodkas and hang out. You can even take a selfie on a big ice throne. There are also lots of nonalcoholic drinks like hot cocoa and butterbeer.
Performances happen all over the park. We would hear loud music and rush over to catch the Chinese Acrobats, a ballet aerial show, or the dancing Chilletes. And I totally missed the Northern Lights Air Show. At the time, I wished they had a brochure with a map and a list of performance times, but it seems like you just have to do your homework. Here is a schedule of performances. Be sure to check out the German Village Players, and you just try not to polka.
What about the rides and activities? Starting out in Switzerland, you can slide down Matterhorn Mountain’s two-story, six-lane, ice tubing slide. Another activity that is included with admission is endless ice skating, and even a tunnel so you can skate through the Russian dome or stop off for a drink.
The one thing that turned me into a kid again was the giant rocking horse. I had never seen a picture of one, and didn’t know it was going to be there. I actually ran towards it with a squeal. It’s a little bit tall, so people with a fear of heights didn’t want to go on it. But even babies accompanied by parents rode it. Two men take turns pulling on one of the rockers until it feels like the next person’s turn. From the ground it’s hard to tell how intense it is as it rocks wayyyyyy forward and then wayyy back. You really have to hold on to stay seated.
Some of the activities are not included with entry. The center of the Chinese section is the ice bicycles. They are 3-wheelers, so they are safe and easy to handle for guests of most ages and abilities. ($5 ticket). There is also a Zen Teahouse there where you can make paper lanterns and learn about the tea ceremony. The Amsterdam Bumper Boats, which look like a blast ($5 Ticket), and the North Pole Express Zip Line ($15), which you couldn’t get me on for all the tea in the China section, both require an additional ticket.
On the ship itself, they are showing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 4-D, which, in addition to the usual 3-D effects, adds physical elements like a cold wind, and maybe snow. They should really do snow in my opinion. I can’t find the price on the website. One tip I can give you is that there is a real Ladies Room next to the theater if you hate those porta-potties. There are also crafts for the kids all over the park, but mostly in the North Pole. Some crafts are included in your entry, some are not. Making a stocking at the North Pole ($10), Lantern making ($5) and making a gingerbread house in Germany ($15) will also set you back.
The most relaxing area of the park is the Alpine Patio in Switzerland, where you can watch the skaters and bumper cars cozied up to a warm fire. Apparently you can also order marshmallows for toasting and s’mores fixings.There are also exclusive VIP inflatable igloos, for those “private cabana” people. At $69 for the night, it’s not a bad deal since you can fit up to ten people in one, leave all of your stuff there while you run around, plus you have personal drink and dinner service with a friendly hostess.
We ended up hanging out for five full hours and didn’t even see the whole park or participate in any of the crafts or ride all of the rides. You can see that the extra prices for parking, tickets and food can add up. Remember, this is more like visiting a theme park like Disneyland than visiting somewhere like the zoo. It’s going to cost more. Plan your budget ahead of time, and the evening will be more than worth it.
CHILL pricing starts at $29.00 for adults (ages 9+) and $19.00 for kids. VIP Ultimate Expedition tickets are also available starting at $79.00 for adults (ages 9+) and $69.00 for kids. We felt the Ultimate Expedition wasn’t worth it for just one free ride, but the front-of-the-line access it offers may be worth it. The Taste of Chill Passport is worth it if they are handing out the same treats we received at the Press Preview. With six tastes for $44, we received a full order of pierogies, a full order of dumplings and a large sandwich before we were stuffed. We heard two of the other tastes were a large sausage sandwich from Germany, and a cocktail from Switzerland. It is probably about $60 worth of food. Just double-check the menu items when you buy the passport.
CHILL will run through Jan. 7, 2018, excluding Dec. 31, 2017. For more information, including food and beverages offered, hours of operation and to purchase tickets online, check out the website.