Thursday 21 December 2017

London: Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland - Is It Worth a Visit?


Last weekend my family headed in to London with the intention to have a few hours fun at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and then to go to the theatre.  Well, the theatre was amazing and I'd recommend La Petite Soiree to anyone who'd listen but Winter Wonderland was a bit of a let-down to be honest.

Would we got again?  No, probably not but you might enjoy it. Every family is different, so I'll give you my very honest low-down and share with you some links to review posts from other bloggers, then you can make your own decision.

Travelling to Winter Wonderland
Of course you'd expect the weekends to be the busiest times and also after school and into the evening I believe, so be ready to battle the crowds in the tube stations. We came out of Hyde Park Corner station at about 11.30am on Saturday 9th December and it was heaving, we had to hold our kids hands and they are nearly 5ft tall. I'd have worried if I had to battle those crowds with a toddler or buggy.

Later in the day we tried to get on the tube at Marble Arch at about 5.45pm and it was so busy they were turning people away to use different entrances. We headed over and caught the bus on Park Lane, which was definitely less packed and more desirable.

Top Tip - Plan your journey in advance and leave plenty of time. Check out the TFL journey planner to help you.

Entry to Winter Wonderland
There are a few entrances (which I don't think most people realise) so don't make the mistake of just queueing at the one closest to Hyde Park Corner tube station. When we arrived at about 11.45am to the entrances the first one we came across had mega queues and really didn't seem to be moving very fast. We walked a bit down and yes we joined a queue but it was about 4 times smaller than the first one and we were in within 10 minutes, so I was pleased with that and there is a fast-track lane if you've booked to see any shows or join in with an attraction.

I was a bit miffed that they took my water away though as it was in a plastic bottle and apparently a safety risk.

Big plus point, there is no entrance cost to Winter Wonderland, so you can just go in and soak up the atmosphere, without spending a penny - if your kids will allow you to of course!

Christmas Market
We liked all the Christmas market stalls but they are a bit repetitive as you walk around. The prices are slightly more expensive than in the shops but of course you'd expect that at a venue like this. I bought a few Christmas decorations as there was some lovely wooden, glass and porcelain ones. My girls also treated themselves to some fake snow to take home and make.

A few of the stalls have artisans showing you their trade and they are definitely worth looking at. My girls loved watching the wood carver at work, just look at his Olaf which is fab. There's no denying that there are lots of wonderful photo opportunities all over the park.

Girls with wooden carved Olaf at Winter Wonderland 2017

Eating at Winter Wonderland
There really is loads of options for eating at Winter Wonderland. We just had some Churros and for £5 including cinnamon sugar (shop around the prices vary slightly) they were fab. The cone happily gave enough for four of us to have about 3 each and we enjoyed them. There were loads of great authentic German sausage stalls where they were grilled on massive indoor BBQ's. You can find all the street food you fancy if you have a good walk around and there is burgers and chips too if you like more familiar food.

The Bavarian Village is wonderful to look around and my girls were in awe as we've never experienced anything like a German Volksfest with massive tankards of beer and loads of great smelling street food. I bet the atmosphere is magical in the evening.

Top Tip - Make sure you have cash with you, very few stalls accept card payments. There are cash points available on site but they have a withdrawal fee.

If you fancy something a bit nicer then you can book a table in the Bavarian Hall, where they'll be live music and DJ's. There are various different packages available but again its not cheap. Prices start from about £500 and you can have up to 10 people for that price.

The Bookable Attractions
There are quite a few shows and attractions that you can book in advance. These range from the Sooty Show, to Cirque Berserk, to a humongous observation wheel, to ice skating, to Cinderella on ice, to an ice bar or the magical ice kingdom full of sculptures. There really is something for everyone and I think if we had been to one of the shows or attractions we might have had a better time.

If we had booked for the Cinderella on Ice show, which is 50 minutes it would have cost us around £83 for our family of five. 50 minutes ice skating would have cost £57.50, a 30 minute walk through the Magical Ice Kingdom £47.00 and for 5 of us to go on the Observation Wheel for around 12 minutes would be £37.00. So you do need to think carefully about what most appeals to yoru family and book wisely.

Top Tip - Do book in advance to avoid queuing, both at the attraction and at the main entrance, as there is a fast track lane for those with bookings.

Top Tip - Arrive 30 minutes early for any booked session to ensure you can enter on time, as there are no refunds or exchanges.

Scene at Winter Wonderland, London 2017
Can you see the crowds?

All the Fun of the Fair - Rides
There are dozens and dozens of rides and side-stalls and I thought we might enjoy these. I'd told the kids they could have a couple of rides each. We aren't a family into the massive, scary roller coasters but we like things like the waltzer, carousel and side stalls. I was so, so surprised to find that if we wanted to go on the Waltzer it would have been £5 each. There was an aeroplane ride that one of the kids fancied but again the price just seemed crazy, it was £6 for a child and £8 for an adult, or rather the equivalent in tons, which you had to buy first from one of the kiosks dotted about the park. Also, quite a few rides seem to have a 'no lone rider' policy which meant we'd have to pay for two tickets if it was something just one person wanted to ride.

I think if you are a ride loving family who might normally go somewhere like Alton Towers and are happy to spend about £40 or £50 to get in there then you'll probably be quite happy paying as you go for your rides and just picking the ones you fancy.

My kids decided they would rather have a tenner each to spend at the shops, than go on two rides.

Other Useful Information
  • Address: Hyde Park, Park Lane, London,  W1K 7TY.
  • This year Winter Wonderland is open from 17th November to 1st January 2018.
  • The site is open 10am to 10pm.
  • The site is closed Christmas Day but open as normal on all other festive holidays. 
  • There appeared to be loads of toilets across the site and the ones we used were clean and well stocked. We also saw baby change and accessible toilets.
  • You can visit Santa from 10am to 6pm each day and this is free, including a small gift. It is not bookable though, being run on a first come, first serve basis. So plan that in to your day early.
  • The Magical Ice Kingdom and Ice Bar are kept at - 10 degrees, so do wrap up very warm if you are visiting them. 
Fabulous Magical Ice Kingdom photos from Stephs Two Girls (see her post below)

Check out what some Other Bloggers have to say
Meet the Wildes - A day at Winter Wonderland with one adult and 3 year old twins.

Loads of fab photos over on Little Likely Lads on a post about visiting Winter Wonderland with smaller kids.

Steph's Two Girls took her two tween/teen daughters to Winter Wonderland, read how they got on when one of them has PDA (a type of Autism).

It looks as if the Joy of Five had an amazing day at Winter Wonderland.

Another review full of amazing pictures and especially fabulous night-time ones from Family Days Tried and Tested.

Whilst we won't be going back any time soon, I'd say if you are happy to go along with at least £50 in your pocket then I'm sure you'll have some fun. Just be ready to spend, spend, spend and avoid those weekends, the crowds were awful!

Why not pin this post for later?

Winter wonderland London - an honest post revealing all about if it is worth a visit

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