Santa’s Enchanted Forest at Hialeah Park plagued by long queues and disorganization

Claudia Cuevas hopes for a Christmas miracle in November: access Santa’s Enchanted Forest.

After standing in line for almost two hours outside the theme park gates on Saturday night, she just wanted her kids to have a ride or two before having to make the 30-minute bus ride back to the car and then back to the House .

Cuevas, his children, elderly mother, and friends who brought their own families – a group of 20 in total – arrived at Santa’s new digs in Hialeah at 7.45am. At 9:30 a.m., standing in a mass of people still several meters from the ticket office, the mothers reached the third stage of mourning: the bargaining.

“Who wants to go? We can go earlier another day. Even if we go in now, you will only be able to make one trip, ”Cuevas told his pack.

“I don’t care, mom! Pleads the son of Cuevas, unfazed by the sea of ​​people standing still before them in no discernible order, inspired to persevere by the promise of twinkling Christmas lights, big wheels and to meet the big man in red himself.

This is the second weekend since the opening of Santa’s Enchanted Forest at Hialeah Park on E. Fourth Avenue, after Miami-Dade County refused to renew the theme park lease at Tropical Park, and things haven’t been really happy and bright.

Potential customers have complained of languishing in long, disorganized “lines” – if you can call them that – as parents, children and teens crowd and push to reach the ticket booth while a single security guard. watching from an elevated trailer keep the peace, if not order.

Parking was also a problem.

At 8:45 a.m., park visitors who had already braved 30 minutes in traffic to walk just two blocks on E. Fourth Avenue to reach the park’s main entrance were pushed aside by a worker with a light wand who said they had to enter through the other entrance, as a school bus bypassed traffic and passed the worker and through the main gate.

Another worker armed with a wand then instructed drivers to drop their cars off in a parking lot at the Metrorail station attached to Hialeah Park, then board one of the school buses that transported guests to the self-proclaimed Wonderland. .

A pre-teen in a group of 100 waiting for the bus said, “I don’t want to go to school! It’s a Saturday!

The spokesperson for the enchanted forest of Santa Claus, Maritza Gutierrez, tells New times the theme park hired school buses to transport people to the event space from the grounds belonging to Hialeah park adjacent to the park itself.

When moving from Tropical Park to Hialeah Park, Santa lost less than 200 places, according to Gutierrez, although she declined to provide the exact number.

She says parking is available through the main entrance at 3100 E. Fourth Ave., and when that lot fills up, the overflow is directed to 2200 E. Fourth Ave.

(Although Gutierrez did not say so, at least last Saturday night the overflow was directed to a parking lot adjacent to the Hialeah Metrorail station at E. 21st Street and E. Second Avenue, where shuttles were also observed. Operating.)

Asked about overcrowding at the entrance, Gutierrez said long lines are common at theme parks and attractions.

“When I left, all I saw were queues. To go anywhere, even to Disney World, there are queues to enter,” he said. she.

Some customers who did manage to enter the property made the mistake of parking at the Hialeah Park Casino on their way to Santa Claus, only to find their cars had been towed on their return, according to a Facebook post from the opening weekend.

Click to enlarge The crowds and disorganized lines prompted some potential customers in Santa's Enchanted Forest to give up and go home after waiting over an hour.  - PHOTO BY JOSHUA CEBALLOS

The crowds and disorganized lines prompted some potential customers in Santa’s Enchanted Forest to give up and go home after waiting over an hour.

Photo by Joshua Ceballos

Gutierrez says Santa’s Enchanted Forest guests are not allowed to park in the casino parking lot because they are two separate businesses.

The sons and daughters are sitting on their parents’ shoulders, their eyes misty, soap bubbles spurting out of Santa’s armpit. They gaze in wonder at the multi-colored lights inside the park and audibly “wow” as their adult counterparts consider approaching the young man carrying a flag who says, “Is the line too long? The Santa Claus Express Pass is sold here ”.

Karen Herrero managed to get in, but as she heads for the bus that will bring her back to the parking lot, she advises not to waste time trying to get in.

“You wait an hour in the car to park, then you wait an hour for the bus. Once inside, you can’t even walk around, and it takes 20 minutes in a line to fetch water. “complains Herrero. “Inside is horrible. Hundreds of people are walking on you. Tropical Park was much better. ”

Herrero’s daughter, Elena, is more forgiving, having fun even though she didn’t ride.

“I had so much fun! I saw a gingerbread man,” reports the elementary school student.

At ten to ten, after two hours of trying to cross the pearly gates of the subtropical North Pole, Cuevas decides to stop.

From the loudspeakers, Andy Williams sings “This is the happiest time of the year” to the hundreds of people still waiting to shell out over $ 37.38 for a ticket.

“Vámonos,” Cuevas said, eliciting moans and questions from the young people who were willing to wait longer to see the games, the food, the shows and the nurseries. “The line is really bad.”

Clarification published at 7 p.m.: As originally published, this story implied that the move from Tropical Park to Hialeah Park reduced the available parking due to the much larger total area of ​​the former. After the post, Santa Claus Enchanted Forest spokesperson Maritza Gutierrez contacted New times to clarify the gap. The above version has been modified to reflect this clarification and to remove the comparison between the areas of the two locations.

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