By Charly SHELTON
We hear Christmas songs about a “Winter Wonderland” and a “White Christmas,” but in L.A. the closest thing we get is soap bubbles falling from a “snow machine” or that awful white felt puffy fabric that is supposed to represent snow at the base of a palm tree. So when presented with the opportunity to go to a Christmas festival at an L.A. area iconic location and be surrounded by snow and ice –
real snow and ice – one simply cannot pass up the chance. Chill at Queen Mary offers just that. Between the enchanted Victorian Village and the gigantic gingerbread house and The Ice Kingdom, complete with sledding run, this is an event that is unique in L.A. and provides a one-of-a-kind Christmas celebration.
The Queen Mary in Long Beach is a historic ship turned hotel and with its onshore event space, it hosts seasonal events including Chill and Dark Harbor at Halloween. Unlike many of the other Christmas themed events throughout L.A. and Southern California, Chill offers real ice and snow – over two million pounds of it. The Ice Kingdom is its centerpiece attraction for the event and it really is something. Over two million pounds of ice inside a giant walk-in freezer has been carved to create a life size, walk-through attraction featuring the story of “A Christmas Carol.” Ebenezer Scrooge and the three ghosts of Christmas come to life in carved and dyed ice, all leading to a beautiful London skyline and an ice version of the Queen Mary ship, with an ice slide across the rooftops and around the bow of the ship. The entire complex of The Ice Kingdom is kept between 6°F and 9°F at all times, so guests are given giant parkas on their way in. For those awesome and manly enough to think that they can make it through the exhibit without the parka, as I did, you are wrong. It is shockingly cold, in a way that many native Californians are not used to.
For guests 21 and over, The Ice Kingdom offers another interesting and unique opportunity. For an extra $15, there is 9° Ice Bar – a bar made entirely of ice, situated on the bow of the model Queen Mary in the exhibit. The $15 ticket offers a vodka tasting flight in a very cool setting, pun intended. And with a view of the ice slide across the London skyline, this is a drinking experience you won’t soon forget.
Other activities at Chill include carnival type rides, a visit to Santa Claus, the North Pole Post Office where you can write a letter to Santa, an ice tubing run over real ice, gingerbread cookie decoration in a giant gingerbread house, ice skating and even a make-your-own candle bar called Illumination.
For those who enjoyed the paintball experience at Dark Harbor, it is back again for Christmas. For an extra $10 ticket, guests man a mounted paintball gun in a shooting gallery experience where you can pelt one seasonal worker dressed as a yeti with paintballs until you run out. This goes over really well with children about age 10.
Really what it comes down to is this is a unique experience for Christmas time. Tickets are only about $20, give or take $5 depending on the night, when purchased on Groupon. Some of the other theme park or Christmas experiences in the L.A. area can run hundreds or thousands of dollars to take your family out for an evening. This is affordable, fun and surprisingly well done. The Ice Kingdom, the sledding run, the Victorian Village – it’s all about seeing and doing things that you won’t be able to find someplace else.
My one word of warning would be to eat before you get there. The food is really expensive and it’s county fair style food, nothing to go out of your way for. The Scrooge and Marley Pub offers some nice drinks and mulled wine, perfect for the season, and 9° Ice Bar is another thing that you won’t find anywhere this side of Vegas. But the food is lackluster and expensive, so eat somewhere in Long Beach or on the way down. (The Auld Dubliner Pub is not far from the Queen Mary and offers great food and drinks.) Beyond that, this is a great night out for families or couples, or even a group of friends. You get quite a lot to do for very little money and it’s something you won’t find anywhere else in L.A. I highly recommend going to Chill at Queen Mary this holiday season.
Chill runs through Jan 10.