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'Winter Wonderland' is a temporary theme park type set up held in Hyde Park every year over the Christmas period. It's got a large ferris wheel, various rides, circus, ice rink and numerous festive stalls and food and drink vendors. In 2013 it opened on 22nd November is open everyday exclusive of Christmas day, until 5th January 2014. My work colleagues had been going on about WW the last few years, and seem to count down the days until it's on. So this year, I went on the first weekend to find out what all the talk was about.
We went to Marble Arch tube, and one of the entrances to Winter Wonderland is just a 2 minute walk from there. Other tube stops nearby are Green Park and Hyde Park Corner. Also easily accessible by bus and, well it's central London so you're never stuck for transport. Just don't drive, it makes no sense as you won't save any time or money and good luck finding that parking space.
The actual site is free to enter but don't be fooled into it being a nice free day out. All the attractions cost extra. Here's a few examples - Ice Skating Adult £10.50 (off peak) - £14.50 (peak) / Child £8.50 (off peak) £9.50 (peak) Ice Kingdom Adult £7.00 (off peak) - £9.00 (peak) / Child £5.00 (off peak) £7.00 (peak) Giant Wheel Adult £7.00 (off peak) - £8.00 (peak / Child £5.00 (off peak) £6.00 (peak) Circus Prices from £6 Fairground rides average £3There is a full price list for all the main attractions on the Winter Wonderland website including Family tickets and details of concessions. You can either buy tickets for the attractions online before you go and save yourself the queuing, or at the various vendors around the site which can get rather busy at peak times. As you can see it can easily add up to a costly day out.
What's worth doing /not doing?
I guess, it depends what you're into. There are a good selection of rides for thrillseekers which throw you up in the air and whizz you round at a million miles an hour, which if they has a 'pay once and everything is included' ticket, I'd probably taken advantage of but a £3 a go and a heap of queuing to boot... nah.The ice skating is always a favourite at Christmas time, and of you're nearby or visiting anyway and fancy getting you skates on then why not? I wouldn't make a special trip, however. With lots of pop up ice rinks in and around London with much more impressive views and atmosphere such as Somerset House, The Tower of London and Hampton Court to name a few, Winder Wonderland's offering isn't really up there with the best.
The Giant Wheel and the Ice Kingdom are the more worthwhile attractions and have a bit more 'wonder' to them than the rest. The Ice Kingdom has impressive ice sculptures while the giant wheel will give you a views over the park but it's a bit chilly at the top!
Maybe I'm getting a bit old for the main attractions because the main draw for me was the food and markets. The food is mainly based on the German Christmas markets so expect plenty of sausages, hog roast, beer, hot chocolates, waffles and warming boozy concoctions. The food here is pretty good, thought not a lot of variety. The markets were also a let down, not nearly as may stalls as I was lead to believe and again, a lot of the same. Once again I wouldn't advise a special trip to Hyde Park for these as there a far more superior Christmas markets about.
But it gets you in the Christmas spirit...right?
Well I have to say, no... not really. The elements are there the pretty lights, the smells from the stalls, but it's just lacking in atmosphere. I think it's become a bit of a victim of it's own success because it's so popular you simply can't move for people. Looking at some of the stalls is almost impossible and just as you're about to take a swig of your eggnog, it's likely to get poured all over you as you get elbowed from all sides. Also it's a pretty big site and it's tiring being on your feet all day. I think if the organisers want people to spend a decent amount of time there they need to think about some more seating areas as trying to find somewhere to park your bum is pretty impossible. Even without the crowd rage though, I think they have overstepped festive and ended up with tacky. Overall, Winter Wonderland is a one stop shop for festive attractions, though the quality and atmosphere is compromised and there are many other places doing the festive thing much more effectively. As I took the painfully slow walk back to the tube in the crowd of zombie like visitors, I could only feel relief to be out of there plus a good measure of Bah Humbug.
More information - www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com