Hello Panda Festival At NY's CitiField
The day after New Year's, my husband and I decided to enjoy our last day together as a family before he had to return to work. My father had told me about a festival he had seen while driving that was going on at Citifield in Queens. I looked it up online and immediately, I was convinced it was the perfect activity for my daughter, especially at her age. Instead of purchasing tickets online, I waited to get to the location first and purchase tickets at the entrance once we decided to we in fact wanted to stay for the experience.
After a quick 30 minute drive, I was amazed by all of the beautiful lights I was able to see from inside the car. To our surprise, pulling into the parking lot across the street from the festival, we were hit with a $25 parking fee. Although we found this parking fee to be quite outrageous, our curiosity and interest in the festival took over our "smart spending judgment". After noticing how excited our daughter had become just by seeing the lights from inside the car during the drive, we felt we had to just do it.
We parked the car in the lot and began walking to the festival. Once we got across the street and into the citifield parking lot, we were asked to purchase admission tickets since we didn't have any pre-purchased tickets. My hope was that we would save on extra ($3.35) online ticket fees by purchasing the tickets at the entrance. Boy was I wrong?! Just our (2) adult tickets came to a total of about $56! Children under 4 years old are free therefore, we were spared the $22 child ticket fee.
From the ticket booths, we could already see the beautiful and brightly lit Panda bear awning entrance. I was super excited myself to pass the grand entrance and see what else was in the festival. As we approached the entrance, my daughter was so excited that if it weren't for her being buckled up, I'm pretty sure she would have jumped out of her stroller! Seeing her face light up in excitement, brought me so much pleasure and I could tell it did to my husband as well.
Walking past the entrance and into the festival, it was as if we had just entered into an enchanted world of magical lights and sounds. There was a tree of life with butterflies hanging off the branches. We went through a bright dinosaur corn maze with a dinosaur interactive lite brite wall at the end. Then, there was a big open playground with big round, lighted up swings, seesaws, and a huge floor of light up squares that only lit up when stepped on. At this point my daughter was truly enjoying herself so much, we didn't even realize how cold it was. Not to mention, they had 3 heated globes with more entertainment for the kids, food, and music. The 1st heated globe we entered had a huge ball pit playground, cotton-candy, and toys. My daughter obviously wanted to go in the ball pit but, it was going to cost another $15 to get her in for just 30 min and one of us would have to pay to go in with her to supervise since she was under 4 years old. We continued to walk outside, going through all the different beautifully illuminated displays. There was an animal safari and a princess castle with carriages and horses. There was an under the sea display with a mermaid, different sea creatures, and even Nemo and Dory were among the displays.
After seeing all the lighted displays, we entered the last heated globe and inside there were many different food booths. As soon as we walked through the door, we were hit with the many delicious scents of all the different foods. There was a taco stand, empanadas, beers, sandwiches, and so much more. My daughter and I couldn't resist our sweet tooth's and stopped at the booth with all the baked goodies. I got a hot chocolate for myself and a frosted pretzel stick with sprinkles for my daughter.
Overall, there were 2 things I would have to say I disliked about this activity. For one, the ticket prices and items including food sold at the festival are extremely overpriced. We spent about $90 just on my husband and my tickets, parking, a small hot chocolate, and 2 pretzel sticks. (The hot chocolate as my husband said to me was more than the price of a short Starbuck's coffee!) Another thing I want to point out for those of you who may consider going to check this place out, there are only porta potty bathrooms which, I don't think I need to go into detail as to why that is a MAJOR unlikable factor. The other downside could also be that it's Winter in NYC and they open at 5pm because that's when it's dark out in order for the light displays to actually be seen. Hence, some nights especially once we get to the end of January will get pretty FRIGID!
However, I do have to say that I truly enjoyed this experience and I know my daughter definitely did as well. (She actually had a tantrum as we exited the festival because she did not want to leave.) I think what made it even more enjoyable was the fact that we were there together as a family because it's something that we don't have the opportunity to experience often. The displays were beautiful, my daughter was always eager to keep looking at what display was next, and she was able to spot a lot of familiar animals, cartoon characters, etc. Also, there was a lot of interactive fun play for children especially at the toddler stage, where they just want to be inquisitive, explorative, and completely hands-on. I think this is a great experience to do as a family for the little ones. It's definitely something you just do once, make the memories, take some really cool pictures, create some really cool boomerangs, and cross it off the list to never be done again, especially with those prices...
...Sew This is Life!
If you would like more information on The Hello Panda Festival in order to plan your visit, you can visit their website by clicking here. They will be stationed at CitiField until January 26th everyday from 5pm-10pm.