“Winter’s Dream,” a new immersive light show in Lake George Village, is expected to welcome tens of thousands of visitors to Warren County this winter.
The multi-sensory, outdoor, night-time experience is being staged at Fort William Henry. It’s the work of Montreal-based Moment Factory, which has done similar installations around the globe for clients ranging from huge international airports to world-famous pop stars.
“At a time when the world is in complete turmoil with violence, protests, political agendas and uncertainty, Lake George offers the perfect escape this winter,” said Sam Luciano, Fort William Henry Corp. president. “It offers a place you can experience the peace and innocence you knew as a child.”
Luciano belongs to the newly-formed Warren County Winter Coalition, a group of local civic and business leaders spearheading efforts to welcome visitors to the Lake George region, not just in summer, but at all times of year.
Warren County is supporting the project, scheduled to have a five-year run, with $3 million in occupancy tax money.
“Our main goal, built into our DNA, is to bring people together in public spaces to share collective moments of wonder,” said Bronwyn Averett, the show’s lead creative director. “When you walk into the fort’s central parade ground, five large installations invite you to an interactive experience with lights, moving color and music that’s for all ages, the young and young at heart. We want the magic to be as magical as it can be so that it’s hard not to be inspired by.”
Although designed and created by Moment Factory, day to day operations are under the direction of Americade owner Christian Dutcher, who coordinates a variety of large events around the country in addition to the family-oriented motorcycle rally that brings more than 40,000 people to Lake George each year.
Stepping out of the museum lobby to fort’s courtyard, the first thing that hits you is the sweet aroma and soft glow of campfires, taking you back to what it might have been like when soldiers were stationed there in the mid-1750s. What comes next is beyond anything they could have dreamed possible.
“Amazing, absolutely amazing,” said Ron Miller of Lake George. “I didn’t know what to expect, but this is definitely a winner, a home run.”
“It’s just awesome to come and experience,” his wife, Kathy, said.
Each of the fort’s four second-story bastions have been converted into magical sight and sound shows with constantly changing colors and peaceful, relaxing music. Full Moons is an array of huge pole-mounted globes surrounded by rising steam. Frozen Lakes features hundreds of tiny lights with sound effects that replicate the “music” made by shifting ice.
At Winter Woods, guests are invited to wander through tall lights resembling a sparkling forest of luminous trees. Winter’s Dream is a self-guided, walking experience so visitors may take their time to fully enjoy each dazzling part of it.
First Snow’s hundreds of laser lights recreate a light snowfall, with gently falling flakes people are invited to capture.
“I think it’s wonderful, it’s very festive for the season and you can interact with it with your family and take pictures. Each part is different and unique,” said Annette Vredenburg of Wilton.
Nancy Barrow, of Glens Falls, went to Winter’s Dream for her 65th birthday.
“My favorite part is being here with my family,” she said. “It’s for all age groups, not only for little kids or adults, so you can enjoy the wonder of it together.”
One of the most fascinating features is Cabin of Dreams where guests may “help the cabin to knit up the dreams of winter” by tossing balls of “yarn” at the structure. With each hit, a large colorful quilt suddenly appears on the cabin’s walls, illuminated by a swirling snowstorm.
“It’s beautiful, really cool,” said Tricia O’Connor of Lake George. “We’ve enjoyed it a lot.”
Winter’s Dream is one of two major outdoor activities for visitors to experience this year.
On Nov. 24, a new “Winter Realms” venue opened at Festival Commons in Charles R. Wood Park, developed by the Utah-based company that brought Ice Castles to Lake George the past two winters. Challenging weather made this frosty attraction difficult to maintain and stay open, but the firm wanted to stay in Lake George, so it came up with a new plan for 2023-24.
Features include a 90 by 60-foot outdoor skating rink, an illuminated 60-foot-tall Christmas tree, Mystic Light Walk, huge ice carvings by world-champion sculptors, a fairy village, 90 live locally-sourced Christmas trees, a 15-foot snowman and hundreds of thousands of colorful lights.
“With an attraction like Ice Castles you’re constantly battling Mother Nature,” spokesman Brad Buelhorn said. “With this new attraction we decided to work with her. We’ve retooled this so that it’s an authentic winter experience for everybody whether it’s five degrees or 50 degrees outside.”
“We realized Lake George has a little bit of magic, which brought us back to the drawing board so we could come back to a place that welcomed us so warmly with open arms,” he said. “As winter settles in you’ll see some new pieces added to the attraction. Lake George is a premier winter destination now.”
Many people can’t wait to head south and escape the North Country’s cold weather. But Winter’s Dream and Winter Realms are two good reasons for making the Lake George region a must-see place to visit.
“These are two big legitimate installations,” Dutcher said. “People are going to love them. I’m a family man with little kids. This is just the kind of thing I’d be looking for. Unless you’re going to a major metropolitan area — Montreal or New York City — or a ski resort like Stowe there’s nothing like this in the Northeast.”
Winter’s Dream and Winter Realms complement many other activities the area has to offer such as Lake George Winter Carnival, held each weekend in February, in addition to several hotel ice bars, a wide variety of restaurants and recreational opportunities such as skiing, hiking, ice fishing and snowmobiling.
“So you can truly come here, relax and enjoy winter,” Luciano said.
“Winter Dreams,” opened to the public December 8 and will operate through March 31. Tickets for Winter Dreams can be purchased at LakeGeorge.WinterDreams.com.