by Analea Zinnermann
This holiday season has sucked.
I miss my friends and family, I crave building gingerbread houses with my sorority, and for some reason drinking two litres of eggnog is frowned upon when you do it by yourself. Although Christmas and New Year’s was a little less climatic than I’m sure we all would have hoped, I have been on a mission to find socially distanced, COVID friendly activities that allow me to still feel some sense of festive joy, and let me tell you, I have found the one event that tops the list.
The show is coined ‘The Magic of Lights’ and features hundreds of individual Christmas light exhibits which tells stories from the 12 days of Christmas, to the nativity. The event itself is a drive through attraction where you experience each display and festivity in the warmth of your own vehicle, with a portion of all ticket sales going to 630 Ched’s ‘Santa’s Anonymous’.
I know what you’re thinking, this sounds like a straight through drive, but it the magic of it all comes with its location: Castrol Raceway. Something about the winding turns and opportunity to be on a track where thrill finds its home, just adds to the magic of it all!
I went with my partner Bryan on a December weekday. The attraction offers various ticket packages, and although I had heard the raceway can have up to two-hour long waits for this Christmas special, I decided to skip getting the $45 ‘dash pass’ (a ticket that essentially allows you to surpass the line) and opted instead for the standard $25 per car option. Fortunately, our decision to go on a Monday paid off, and we were through the wait in just over 30 minutes.
“You know what I could go for right now?” My boyfriend wondered.
“If you say hot chocolate I’ll be convinced telepathy is a thing” I shot back.
And ladies and gentleman, I am now a believer in mind reading. That hot, creamy drink had been on our minds all night, mainly because the idea of blasting Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas Is You’ without a cup of cocoa is honestly sacrilegious.
And out of the corner of our eyes, like an oasis in the desert, we spotted it: ‘Dad’s Mini Donuts’ food truck. Now at this point, we would take anything festive to snack on. We didn’t expect it to be outstanding hot chocolate, especially because the focus of the food truck was clearly mini donuts, but… WOW! This was the sweetest, creamiest, smoothest cocoa you would ever taste. The best part of it all, we never even had to leave our car to get it.
As we made our way back towards the front of the lineup, we found out that the raceway actually has their own Christmas radio station that we could tune into if we found ourselves wanting some extra holiday cheer. Since it was so warm out, we decided to roll down our car windows and sync our music with the tunes the raceway was playing through loudspeakers outside. With a warm breeze in our hair, and hot cocoa in our hands, we made our way into the main attraction.
Spoiler alert – if you don’t want to know what the attractions were, skip the next paragraph (after all, a lot of the wonder for me came from not knowing what to expect!).
My biggest boost of holiday cheer came from the drive through light tunnel towards the end of the track. Thousands of multicolored bulbs that pulsate, flash and flicker, wrap you in a 100ft long arch that made me feel as though I was travelling at warp speed in Star Trek. Following it up was the 12 days of Christmas light exhibit, featuring 12 drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords a leaping and well… I’m sure you can guess the rest! Even though I confidently know the lyrics to the song “12 Days of Christmas” now, Bryan and I spent a good five minutes confusing the line about geese and the line about swans with each other while we were trying to piece together the 12 Days exhibit at the light show.
Although the majority of the show was vibrant, colourful, and cheery, it was not without some errors. At certain points, light displays would short out causing sections of the track to go black. And although there is a 5km/hr speed limit, and a no stopping rule, Bryan and I were halted mid-track for minutes at a time because vehicles down the line would stop to take some time at each attraction. Although these stops were definitely annoying, we were having so much fun we barely cared.
Overall, it took Bryan and I about 45 minutes to drive through the 2.5km racetrack, which definitely made the equal wait time worth it!
I would recommend Castrol raceway to anyone and everyone looking to experience a bit of Christmas seasonal joy. You can fill as many seats as are in your car for only $25-$45 and I guarantee you will find yourself belting out the lyrics to “Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer just like Bryan and I were. Make sure to book in early next year and snap up your tickets sooner rather than later, as the display typically only runs until around January 5th!