Tim's Turn: Lifting Spirits with Holiday Cheer
Christmas events and activities in parks worldwide are not only popular with guests, but are great revenue generators for the park operator. Bright lights, delicious aromas, and festive decorations are everywhere. But maybe more importantly, guests don’t expect great weather. After all, this is December. Let it snow!
The most memorable December days I’ve spent in a park took place in 2005, when my wife Kathleen and I visited Liseberg in Gothenburg, Sweden. The “Christmas at Liseberg” celebration included live entertainment, food, drink, and, of course, a holiday shoppers’ market. A few mostly family and children’s rides were open as well.
I was particularly intrigued by the Ice Bar. I had heard of them but never had the opportunity to experience one. Held in conjunction with the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden, this was the first year for the novel concept and a quite fitting addition to Liseberg’s holiday lineup. To help maintain the frigid inside temperature, we were all required to wear outer garments and gloves, which they provided. We sat on ice benches in front of ice tables, drank out of ice cups, and bellied up to an ice bar. A small ice slide from behind the bar delivered the drinking vessels— each made out of ice—to the bartender. Only a limited number of patrons were allowed inside at any one time.
Our hosts for the evening in the park were two former IAAPA Board of Directors chairmen, whom I had the privilege to call my friends. Mats Wedin, Liseberg CEO at the time, and the gregarious Bo Kinntorph, who Mats replaced as Liseberg CEO in 1994, were on hand to try out the Ice Bar as well. Bo had heard we were coming and came out to welcome the group and party with us. I forget what adult beverage we drank that night … I know we overstayed our allotted time inside, but I didn’t feel too guilty as we left, passing a substantial queue.
Before retiring to our wonderfully warm and charming room at the park-owned Hotell Liseberg Heden, we walked a while with the others through the festive environment as they explained the importance of holiday markets, such as this one, which European parks began operating decades ago—long before American parks decided to cash in on the season.
Before leaving us to have fun on our own, Mats and Bo wanted to share with us a very Swedish holiday custom: glögg, their version of mulled wine, but with an amped up adult-oriented attitude! A combination of red wine and vodka with assorted spices (including clove, which I don’t like) and served warm during the holidays, the glögg was a nice change of pace after the Ice Bar. After hearing of the ingredients within the brew, I initially declined the drink, until I found each mug was served with ginger cookies! Drinking the beverage outside on a cold winter’s eve certainly produced a warming effect within, which, of course, it should, noting that when translated, glögg means “glowing ember” in Swedish.
We spent some time shopping and were impressed with the high quality of the products the vendors had for sale. Kathleen purchased a beautiful piece of pottery from a local artisan and some hand-crafted jewelry. I bought more ginger cookies.
Tim O’Brien is a veteran outdoor entertainment journalist and is a longtime Funworld contributor. He has authored many books chronicling the industry’s attractions and personalities and is the only journalist in the IAAPA Hall of Fame.
In 2005, Tim O’Brien and his wife Kathleen visited Liseberg’s Ice Bar as part of the “Christmas at Liseberg” celebration. (Credit: Tim O’Brien)