Experience snow at Wekiva Island's Winter Wonderland

Local attraction gives children a white Christmas

LONGWOOD, Fla. – The holidays are upon us, and although the Sunshine State doesn't get much winter weather, a popular place in Central Florida is giving everyone a chance to experience a white Christmas.

Snow flurries are ready to greet kids and adults at Wekiva Island's Winter Wonderland, and this year, it's added a new attraction for everyone to enjoy.

"The snow is gonna be here today," Bill Weinaug, owner of Wekiva Island, said.

The staff is decking out the island with Christmas spirit.

"It's just so exciting to see, you know, the kids' faces light up when they see the snow," Mary Weinaug said.

Bill Weinaug said local children were his main motivation when he started the event four years ago.

"My wife grew up in Florida, I grew up in upstate New York. We wanted the Florida kids to be able to experience real snow," Bill Weinaug said.

Probably the major attraction is 60 tons of snow throughout the month inside a large tent.

"We'll build a big hill in the middle and the kids will be able to walk up some stairs (and) jump on a little slide down the hill. We'll have Christmas trees and all that, they'll be all lit up so they'd be kinda like sliding down in the forest amongst the trees," Bill Weinaug said.

The latest addition is a sleigh ride that goes down the Wekiva River.

"The boat ride lasts about 30 minutes, and he'll go down about 2 1/2 miles to Shell Island and turn around and come back, give you some facts about the river," Mary Weinaug said about the new tour guests can experience while enjoying the Winter Wonderland event.

It's a ride on which guests will be able to enjoy some of Florida's vegetation and wildlife, like deer and birds.

And it wouldn't be Christmas without some of our favorite people.

"We have Santa, we have Mrs. Claus, we have different, beloved Christmas characters," Carrie Vanderhoef, retail manager for Wekiva Island, said.

The Grinch and the Whoville elves and just some of those characters. Plus, for those who have trouble wrapping gifts, help is available.

"Two little elves in our store that gift-wrap gifts. Not only (gifts) that you purchase here, but if you purchase them anywhere, you can bring them in and they'll happily wrap them for you," Vanderhoef said.

You can also help give a child a merry Christmas through the toy drive.

"December 15 will be our large drive. We'll have the Marines out. Last year, we filled six canoes with toys; this year, we want to fill 12," Vanderhoef said.

 Every day, there will be something to enjoy.

"We have classic Christmas movies on Friday nights, (the movies) will be shown on a giant projection screen. On Tuesday nights, we have ornament-decorating, Thursday nights, we have stories with Santa and Mrs. Claus, train rides and face painting on the weekends," Vanderhoef said.

Winter Wonderland at Wekiva Island runs through Dec. 30.

For more information on all the events that will take place this month, click here

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