amusement and theme parks

‘Mini-Disneyland’: Araneta Group reopens Fiesta Carnival in time for Christmas 2023

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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‘Mini-Disneyland’: Araneta Group reopens Fiesta Carnival in time for Christmas 2023

NOSTALGIA. The Araneta Group reopens Fiesta Carnival on December 9, 2023 in time for Christmas 2023, in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City.

Isagani de Castro, Jr./Rappler

(1st UPDATE) The Araneta Group banks on nostalgia to lure patrons to its reopened indoor amusement park Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City

MANILA, Philippines – The Araneta Group, owner and developer of the 35-hectare Araneta City, is banking on nostalgia to attract people to its central business district in Cubao, Quezon City.

Last Saturday, December 9, it reopened Fiesta Carnival, an indoor amusement park of today’s Baby Boomers and Gen Xs, hoping that people now in their late thirties, forties, and up will bring their kids to what was one of their memorable entertainment destinations in the capital from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Also called the Philippines’ “mini-Disneyland” in its early years, Fiesta Carnival was launched in 1971 as an indoor amusement center that was open all-year round. It had attractions such as a large carousel or merry-go-round, roller coaster, skating rink, go karts, bump cars, and various perya or carnival games such as ring toss and shooting hoops. 

It closed in the early 2000s as newer amusement parks and indoor electronic arcades opened in malls in Metro Manila and other cities, and more kids turned to playing computer games at home. Shopwise Cubao, then owned by the Tantoco family, was put up in place of Fiesta Carnival. The grocery chain, now owned by the Gokongwei family, transferred to the south wing of the basement of Araneta City’s Gateway Mall 2.

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“Fiesta Carnival holds a special place in the hearts and minds of its guests before. With this exciting reopening, we want them to revisit their unforgettable experiences, and bring their kids or grandkids to create new delightful memories,” Lorna Fabian, vice president for leasing of Araneta City, said on Monday, December 11.

“The legacy of Fiesta Carnival lies beyond simply being a colorful, inviting amusement park. It is a place of happy experiences – both for the earlier generations with their amazingly fun stories and memories, and for the younger generations who will enjoy new exciting adventures to last a lifetime,” she added.

“Parang gusto namin i-pass on sa new generation yung experience ng mga older generation (It’s like we want to pass on to the new generation the experience of the older generation), Marjorie Go, assistant vice-president for marketing of Araneta City, said during the soft launch on Saturday, December 9. 

Fiesta Carnival’s largest attraction is the Wii Jump Playground where kids can play on trampolines. 

Here are photos of some of the attractions in Fiesta Carnival, which is open from 11 am to 11 pm on Mondays to Thursdays; and from 10 am to 11 pm on Fridays to Sundays. On December 24 and 31, from 11 am to 7 pm.

Walking Dinos
Person, Indoors, Accessories
DINOS. Kids ride on battery-charged Walking Dinos at the Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 10, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler
CAROUSEL. Kids ride a white merry-go-round at the Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 10, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
Chicken Run
CHICKENS. A chicken-themed roller coaster is one of the attractions in Fiesta Carnival, which reopened in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 9, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
Wii Jump Playground
JUMP. A colorful trampoline playground is one of the attractions in Fiesta Carnival, which reopened in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City, on December 9, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler
Billards
POOL. A billards section with several tables is one of the attractions in Fiesta Carnival, which reopened in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 9, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
World Trip
TRIP. Kids try out the World Trip ride at the Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 10, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
Jurassic Adventure
OBSTACLE. Children try an obstacle course with a short zipline at the Jurassic Adventure in Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 10, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
Boat Pool
BOATS. Children ride on black swan- and Loch Ness monster-designed boats at the Boat Pool in Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 10, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
Ball Battle City
BALLS. Kids have fun shooting soft balls in Ball Battle City at the Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 10, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
Roller Fever
SKATING. A roller skating rink with neon lights is one of the attractions in Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City, which reopened on December 9, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
F1 Go Kart
RACING. Kids try out the F1 Go Kart at the Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 10, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
Carnival Games
PERYA. Various perya or carnival games are some of the attractions at the Fiesta Carnival in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City, which reopened on December 9, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
Arcade
ARCADE. Many arcade games can be played in Fiesta Carnival, which reopened in Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City on December 9, 2023. Isagani de Castro Jr./Rappler 
Christmas on Display

Nostalgia was also a sentiment tapped by the Araneta Group when it brought back in recent years the C.O.D. or Christmas On Display, a show of moving mannequins with structures such as small churches and nipa huts in the background that made people go to the Manila C.O.D. Department Store in Cubao where it was shown on the ledge of the building.

The COD had different themes such as The Nativity, Muslim Festival, and various fairy tales. It was started in Manila in 1957 by Alex Rosario, owner of Manila C.O.D., and continued in Cubao where he moved his department store until it closed in 2002.

The show became a yearly Christmas tradition with families going to Cubao to watch the display from the street. There is no C.O.D in Araneta City this year, however. After 16 years, it was revived by the Araneta Group for Christmas in 2018 and also in 2022.

IN PHOTOS: Christmas on Display returns to the Araneta Center

Araneta City dubs itself as the “City of Firsts” due to its pioneering commercial and property development, as well as entertainment projects. Its founder, Filipino industrialist J. Amado Araneta, undertook major projects that would make various activities accessible to the common man.

Fiesta Carnival was the Philippines’ first all-year indoor amusement center. 

Araneta Coliseum, also known as the Big Dome, is the Philippines’ first indoor arena. At 108 meters, it was the largest dome in Asia when it opened in 1960 and held the title for several decades. 

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Major events such as the Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant, international boxing matches, international cockfights, and local and international basketball tournaments, were held in the Big Dome. The annual Binibining Pilipinas pageant is a project of the Binibining Pilipinas Charities Incorporated, founded and chaired by Miss Colombia 1959, Stella Marquez. She married Jorge Araneta, now the chairman of The Araneta Group.

FIRST. Ali Mall is the Philippines’ first enclosed, fully-airconditioned, multi-leveled shopping mall. Named after boxing legend Muhammad Ali, it is now 47 years old. Courtesy of Araneta City website

The Araneta Group also put up the Philippines’ first enclosed, fully air-conditioned, multi-level commercial mall, Ali Mall, which opened in June 1976. It was named after the late boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, who won the 1975 “Thrilla in Manila” boxing match against Joe Frazier at the Araneta Coliseum. Ali was guest of honor during Ali Mall’s inauguration a year after the bout. 

Ali Mall also had the Philippines’ first Cineplex with two initial cinemas. It also housed the largest indoor skating rink, and pioneered the concept of food court with its Food Gallery.

The Araneta Group also owns New Frontier Cinema, the Philippines’ largest theater with 3,500 seats. It first opened in 1967 and was later transformed into a modern theater. It was renovated in 2014 and reopened in August 2015 as Kia Theater. In October 2018, it reverted to its original name and is now one of the premier performing arts venues in the country. – Rappler.com

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.