CHILL at the Queen Mary in Long Beach
And now for something completely different.
We're fortunate in the Southland to have a wonderful variety of traditional holiday events each season; LA families can take in Christmas lights, boat parades, Nutcracker performances, and even outdoor ice skating rinks. But maybe this season you're ready for something you've never seen before - something, dare we say, completely different? Well, if you really want to see your kids' eyes pop out in winter wonder, it's time for a family drive down to Long Beach, where you can CHILL at the Queen Mary and experience ice in ways you've probably never imagined.
CHILL is a multi-event happening, but it all centers around ice. The Queen Mary's holiday set-up lets you skate on ice, slide on ice, tube on ice, and walk through a world constructed entirely of ice. The central attraction is the Ice Kingdom - an indoor pavilion chilled to less than 10° Fahrenheit - where room after room of enormous ice sculptures await. It's hard to imagine, much less to describe, the magnitude of this display; the 2013 version features scenes and characters telling the tale of The Nutcracker, along with an icy reproduction of the Queen Mary herself, all intricately carved in frozen crystals. Two long slides constructed entirely from blocks of ice keep kids' blood pumping in the arctic atmosphere, and there are oodles of photo ops at every turn.
The temperature itself is a novelty to SoCal kids, and the beauty and scale of the sculptures is the stuff that dreams are made of. Bring your warmest winter clothes, but don't worry if your coats aren't designed for polar expeditions; everyone is handed a full-length parka at the door. Don't even think of skipping the parka; there's a lot to see, and without the arctic gear you won't last more than 10 minutes in the Kingdom. This year Ice Kingdom admission is included with all tickets.
Sharing a pavilion with the Ice Kingdom is another frozen attraction, ice tubing. A tall ramp covered with a sheet of ice is set up for flying down on an inner tube, with friendly staff to help the process go smoothly and to push the tube at a thrilling speed. The ice tubing is also an indoor activity, but not in the deep freeze zone; a light jacket is warm enough to enjoy sliding down the hill. Each tubing wrist band includes five rides down the ice slope, and five joy rides is actually just about perfect. The limit brings with it the bonus that there's no need to negotiate "one more time" with kids; they can count the rides being marked off their bands as they go. (Ice tubing is included in one of the CHILL packages, or available for an add-on for $12.95.)
The third icy attraction at CHILL is the outdoor skating rink. Seasonal ice rinks are a familiar sight around LA at Christmastime - more spring up every year - but this is the only ice rink we've seen that is set up slam against the side of a vintage ocean liner. The view is breathtaking. Other treats this rink offers include luxurious cabanas with sofas and fireplaces for rental, and ice-safe walkers for beginning skaters to lean on. (Skating is included in some CHILL packages, or available as an add-on for $12.95. Skate rental costs $2.95, and season skating passes are available for $29.95.)
Other attractions include wandering performers and stage entertainment (we saw storytelling, juggling, carolers, and stilt-walking) as well as a photo-op candy cane lane to wander, a ride-on bull styled as a reindeer ($5), a giant snow globe photo station, and an enormous bounce house. Food is reasonably priced (pizza, sausages, grilled cheese, and ice cream), and there is even a full bar to warm up chilly adults' insides. All told, a family can easily spend an entire day at CHILL and find plenty to do - and then stay into the evening to enjoy the breathtaking light displays. Spending a whole day and participating in all of the fun ranges from $29.95-$52.95 for adults and $14.95-$32.95 for kids. Figure in parking ($20), or plan ahead to look for parking farther away. Purchasing tickets online in advance saves an average of $5 per ticket.
CHILL opens at 3pm on weekdays and 10am on weekends; watch for it to open at 10am during winter break. Evenings it's open until 11pm, and the nighttime lights definitely make it worth staying after dark.
CHILL at the Queen Mary is open every day - including Christmas Day - November 22, 2013 until January 12, 2014.