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How to visit Santa’s Enchanted Forest without completely losing your mind

Santa’s Enchanted Forest opens on Halloween and some of you will, once again, refuse to go to Miami’s holiday theme park.

What is wrong with you? That twinkling wonderland just off the Palmetto is an oasis of joy on that horrifying highway. Just ask your children, who are begging you to take them to see all those pretty lights and ride that massive Ferris wheel.

We know why you’re avoiding it. We all hear the stories: It’s full of horny teenagers. It’s too crowded. The rides all spin in a circle, and someone is going to puke for sure.

All of those things are true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time at the world’s largest Christmas themed amusement park. Plus we can make it easy for you. Here is your game plan for mastering Santa’s Enchanted Forest. Follow these steps, and you will see just how enchanted Christmas in Miami can be.

Step 1: Arrive EXACTLY at 5 p.m.

Not a minute later. If you show up at 5:02 p.m., the spell doesn’t work. In order for you to have the best time at Santa’s Enchanted Forest, you have to arrive the minute the doors open, literally. And the doors open at 5 p.m. Be the first person in line. The sun is going to set in 20 minutes. You can appreciate the lights later on.

Step 2: Proceed to the back of the park

Do not stop and marvel at the nativities. Don’t say hi to Santa. There’s no time to take photos next to the giant Christmas tree. You need to run to the back of the park like you are about to miss your plane. This is critical.

Step 3: Do not get on the first ride you see

The first ride is one of those spinning rides that goes in a circle. Santa’s Enchanted Forest is full of spinning rides that go in a circle. The line will be long because everyone wants to start there. Don’t be deceived. Head to the Crazy Mouse or the Avalanche in the back. Start with the roller coasters or any ride that seats less than 10 people. Those are the lines that take forever once the park gets packed. If you do this, you won’t need to spend the $20 on the Santa’s Express pass that lets you skip the line.

Step 4: Don’t eat until you are done with the rides

Like we said, Santa’s Enchanted Forest is PACKED with rides that just spin you in a circle. You do not want to get on the Starship 3000 or the Magnum with a belly full of deep fried Oreos and Blue Slushy.

Step 5: Bring cash

Some of the food vendors take credit cards. Some don’t. But the one that sells the deep fried item that you are craving most will inevitably send you scrambling to find an ATM.

Step 6: Watch out for those extra fees

Your kids will see the trampolines with the bungee cables and want to hop over the fence and bounce like crazy. But the reason there is a fence is because you have pay extra for the trampolines ($5 a kid). There are a few attractions throughout the park that require additional cash. You have been warned.

Step 7: Don’t use the bathroom

The bathrooms are basically those fancy double wide Porta Potties. And there is someone keeping them decent. But the line to the bathrooms can be just as long as the line for the Ferris Wheel.

Step 8: Done with rides? Time for photo opps

OK, now as we are leaving the park at a reasonable time, at like 8:45 p.m., all of Miami is arriving. These folks are going to be here until midnight, with their babies asleep in strollers while they make out at the picnic tables. All you need to do is stick your face through the little elf cut out, smile for the camera, stand in front of the giant tree that plays Pitbull songs, and marvel at the Santa on Jet Skis.

That was an enchanted evening.

If you go:

What: Santa’s Enchanted Forest

Where: 7900 SW 40th St., Miami, inside Tropical Park

When: Open daily from 5 p.m.-midnight

Holiday hours:

Christmas Eve: 5 p.m.- midnight

Christmas Day: 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.

New Year’s Eve: 5-11 p.m.

New Year’s Day: 5 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Cost: Single Day: $27.10-35.51; Santa’s Express: $18.69 plus tax

Info: 305-559-9689 or www.santasenchantedforest.com

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