In a year when nearly everything is topsy turvy, it’s the traditions of holidays’ past that might just be our saving grace. But what happens when even holidays can’t look like they used to look—when the visit from Grandma just can’t happen and the usual big indoor gatherings are canceled? That’s where one local mainstay comes in, ready to combine the nostalgia of years gone by with socially safe modifications. Queen Creek’s Christmas at Schnepf Farms is committed to being exactly what families need this holiday season, determined to inject a bit of much-needed cheer and restore the wonder of Christmastime.
Sitting on over 300 acres, Schnepf Farms is known throughout the Valley for their downhome offerings—from a pumpkin and chili party in October to peach-picking season during the spring. But come the holiday season, 25 acres of the farm transform into a real-life winter wonderland. The normal promenade turns into Santa Claus Lane, complete with shops full of Christmas goodies. Plenty of vendors are on standby, ready to provide you with kettle corn, candy, spiced nuts, pizza, barbecue, ice cream, and more.
Continue on and you’ll see Mrs. Claus’ cookie shop, Santa’s workshop and a letter-writing station for the big guy himself. There’s also pine-cone decorating, enchanted holiday movies, and snow-globe mini golf. But the attractions don’t end there. You can jump on a trolley, take a hayride to feed the reindeer, frolic through the world’s largest Christmas-themed obstacle course, and ice skate the night away. The historic Christmas carousel dating back to 1955 is also not to be missed, as it features an antique Wurlitzer band organ ready to play all of your Christmas favorites.
The centerpiece of Christmas at Schnepf Farms is the Illumination Express train ride. The farm has partnered with the audio-visual lighting experts of World of Illumination — responsible for the largest drive-through light shows in the world — to create a mile-long train ride through an RGB LED tunnel.
“We are so excited to partner with World of Illumination to create this one-of-a-kind Christmas event,” says owner Mark Schnepf. “It’s an incredible overload for your sight and senses. The farm has never looked more beautiful!”
If you’re looking for that special one-on-one time with Santa, Kris Kringle will be ready and waiting to hear your tykes’ Christmas wish list; there will even be the option for a photo opp. You can also enjoy the warmth of one of the Christmas campfires, complete with your very own s’mores kit. And if you think the farm is just for kids, think again — a large beer and wine garden is available for grownups to enjoy while the children explore the park.
COVID-compliant policies are in place, including hand sanitizer stations by every ride and food area, limits to the number of people in the shops, and mask requirements for all staff and vendors. Social distancing guidelines are also enforced and capacity at the farm is limited in accordance with government guidelines.
“We’ve taken great precautions to ensure the safety of our visitors,” says Callie Graham, one of the event’s organizers. “We want people to feel comfortable enjoying a whole lot of traditional Christmas fun while doing it in a safe manner.”
Because of limited capacity, it is highly recommended that guests purchase tickets in advance at schnepfchristmas.com. Tickets are $15 online and $17 at the gate. Children two years of age and under are free of charge, and veterans, with valid military ID, can enjoy $5 tickets. Christmas at Schnepf Farms runs nightly until December 31, including on Christmas. The farm is closed for private events on the first two Mondays of December.
For many, things may not look or feel like they have in years gone by, but that doesn’t mean the love for the holidays shared by so many must fall by the wayside. In the immortal words of Neil Diamond: “You make it feel like Christmas, even when things go wrong.” And with Christmas at Schnepf Farms leading the charge, Christmas cheer can be just as big a part of 2020 as any other year. Perhaps, in a very real way, the magic will be felt even more deeply — because we need it now more than ever.