Friday, December 12, 2008

Winter Wonderland: A Storybook Christmas in Temecula

Tonight we went to a Winter Wonderland in Old Town, Temecula. It was truly a storybook experience unlike any other. The weather was cold and the air was crisp. We had on our jackets and hats as we walked down Front Street from the van. When we got there, the sun was setting and the Christmas lights and decorated store fronts began to twinkle. There was Christmas music in the background and children with Santa hats all about. It felt like we entered into a real life storybook this evening with all the beauty and fantasy coming to life.

We had about an hour before the fun started on Main Street, so we went into some antique shops and found some real treasures. We made some new friends in some of the shops and reunited with the ones we made last summer. After that, we went across the street to the Olive Oil Shoppe and Derek (who has not visited this wonderfully unique place) was awe-struck by the olive oil tasting bar, the enormous variety of olives, oils, vinegars, salts, etc.

The fire department set up a Toy Drive on Main Street and their mascot, a person in a Dalmation suit with a yellow fire helmet on, posed for pictures with the kids. Ashley, who is literally terrified by these mascots, wanted nothing to do with the Dalmation, stayed as far away from him as possible.

At this point, the crowd is starting to form at the ticket booths in front of Pennypickles. So, we walked over there to get some tickets for the activities. Luckily, we got there early because there must have been well over a thousand people who showed up!

The first activity we did was making our own flavored popcorn. We put together an interesting mix of Kettle Corn and cinnamon. Sounds weird, I know, but it wasn't bad!

The next activity we did was a science experiment. At this tent, we were greeted by friends that we met last summer and we had a chance to catch up and give each other hugs. Awwww.... Anyway, the experiment was working with ice and snow. Ashley got to test different surface areas with an ice cube to see which one melted it faster. There was a paper surface, a wood surface, a plastic surface, and an aluminum surface. Then she had to use her critical thinking skills to explain why the ice cube melted faster on the aluminum surface than on the other surfaces. Then, she learned how to make snow using polymers and water - Hollywood snow. It was interesting!

After that Ashley wanted to do some crafts. She first made a snowflake ornament. The people who were working at this tent remembered us from last summer, too, and were happy to see Ashley again. Then, Ashley went to the next tent to make wrapping paper. It was fun making snowflake stamps on the paper and making a wrapping paper design all by herself! (Unfortunately, she misplaced it somewhere later in the evening and it didn't come home with us. I promised her that we can make a wrapping paper craft this weekend to make up for it.)

Then, we decided to go check out the snow. There were tons of kids over there making snowmen and throwing snowballs. The parents were having a blast taking pictures of their kids experiencing snow for, most of them, the first time. That's California for you!

It was really getting cold, so we decided that maybe we should go inside Pennypickles to warm up for a bit. Along the way, though, I discovered a beautiful Shetland pony and just had to stop for a quick visit. Once I started feeding the pony, though, all these kids swarmed over and wanted to do the same. Lucky pony!

Aaahhhh....inside Pennypickles, getting warm in front of the Christmas Tree...nice.

We were greeted by more people who remembered us with warm memories and big hugs. It felt like back to a place like it was a second home for us. It is such a wonderful, magical place and we are so fortunate to be a part of it. This is Christmas, we said to ourselves. This is warm, wonderful, welcoming, fun, enchanting, and a place where many happy memories came from.

They had a few activities for the families all set up. We got to make a personalized Christmas ornament, Ashley and I went shopping for a Christmas present for daddy, and they had Christmas cookie decorating for the kids, too. Everyone had a good time and the excitement in the air was contagious, just like it always has been in the summertime.

When we realized that we were losing track of time, we ran to get some smores and then walked over to Daniel's Cafe to hear the storyteller read "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." He was dressed as the Mayor of Whoville and was a terrific and captivating entertainer. Here is a picture of him reading the story to the kids. (Ashley is the one in the red coat with the Santa hat on.) The parents and the kids all gave him a standing ovation when he finished telling the story. He was awesome!

Then, we went on the trackless Holiday Train. The conductor drove figure 8's around the parking lot and it was a lot of fun because he took the turns really fast! Some of the little ones were actually screaming! Here's a picture of Ashley and I on the train:

We never made it on the horse-drawn carriage rides tonight. The line was way too long and we were cold and tired, so we decided to head back home. It was an unforgettable night, though, something best described as a Christmas storybook experience. We are so grateful that we could be there to enjoy the gift that Old Town gave to the community. This experience was all about the true meaning of Christmas and a memory that we will treasure forever.

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