PROSPECT HEIGHTS – A holiday festival that promised to transform a 40,000-square-foot space behind the Brooklyn Museum into an outdoor winter wonderland featuring shopping, entertainment, and activities has left some families feeling disappointed.
While Winterfest at the Brooklyn Museum does not charge an admission fee, select attractions will cost you, including Santa Land, “The Chocolate Story and Tasting,” a Snowzilla slide, a giant snow globe, a Christmas tree maze, and wine tastings.
Weekend ticket prices for the family-friendly attractions are $20 for adults and $15 for children and include a photo with Santa, seven chocolate tastings, a cup of hot chocolate, access to the tree maze, and other activities.
“The ‘paid attractions’ are a complete scam,” reader Julia Kopelson commented on Bklyner on Saturday. “Those few that were not outright absent are not as described (ex: the immersive chocolate experience is actually a cup of instant cocoa and a Tupperware of fun size Halloween candy, the ‘Santa Museum’ is a gator board with some facts printed on it). Pretty outrageous for $20/adult and $15/kid.”
It was a “disappointing experience,” said one mother on Sunday afternoon, November 25, who drove into Brooklyn from Long Island City with her husband and two young children for the event. She added that the actual experience was very different from what appears on the Winterfest website saying, “the pictures are far beyond what it was.” Some of the promised attractions, such as the slide and snow globe, were not open during their visit. She noted that she would look into getting a refund since she did not feel her family got what they paid for.
Eppie came to Winterfest from Bay Ridge with her 14-year-old nephew Kristian and two other families with small children. She agreed with the previous guest saying that the paid attractions were “not what we expected” based on what she had seen online, noting that she was surprised that the chocolate tasting consisted of Reese’s and Milky Way miniatures and Swiss Miss brand hot chocolate. She also said that the Christmas tree maze was not challenging for the little ones she accompanied who ranged in age from four to nine.
“Is this it?” her nephew Kristian asked when he stepped inside the paid attraction area. Though he is older than the targeted age group for the section, he told Bklyner, “I thought it was going to be better.” His aunt suggested creating “more of a holiday experience and activities for the kids,” and adding more festive decorations as a way to improve the event.
Winterfest is currently operating under a “soft opening right now” and is “improving on a number of things,” says event founder Lena Romanova who has organized similar holiday events in Boston and Las Vegas over the past two years.
This is Winterfest’s “first entry” into Brooklyn and Romanova says her “vision” for the event is to create an “outdoor destination for people to come and enjoy.” She noted that Brooklyn has its “own culture and expectations” and she is listening to feedback from visitors and “learning what [Brooklynites] like and don’t like.”
What works elsewhere “might not work in Brooklyn,” she noted, adding that she is working on tailoring the event more for the community, including more holiday decor and an improved chocolate experience.
As for the closed attractions, Romanova explains that the Snowzilla slide had to be nixed because she found out only ten days prior to opening that the city would not issue her a permit for it. Also, due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the snow globe delivery was delayed, but is expected to arrive this week.
Romanova told Bklyner that refunds have been given to unhappy customers as well as vouchers for a return visit anytime in December. She said visitors who were dissatisfied with the paid attractions during the opening weekend can contact Jennifer Crosby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally from Latvia, Romanova’s family has been hosting holiday markets in Eastern Europe for nine years. She says she is taking the negative feedback “personally,” adding, “I want to make people happy.” She promises an improved experience by Tuesday or Wednesday this week when Winterfest reopens to the public. “We want it to be a memorable experience,” she says.