Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park
Dear Mummy, thank you for being brave enough to venture into the big smoke and take me to London’s Winter Wonderland, I’ve had a really great time!
It’s not often that we brave London as a family, you see the thought of boarding a train full of commuters, packed in like sardines, sends shivers down your spine. Coupled with a noisy toddler *me*, a buggy, Christmas presents for my Aunty and a large rucksack with previsions for the day sounds like an accident waiting to happen!
However, on this occasion, going up to London is a must visit. See, we’re heading up to meet your sister, my Aunty, and hang out with her and Grandma at Winter Wonderland. We brave the 45 minute commute up to London Waterloo and leave after rush hour so we don’t catch too many suits *business commuters* on a Monday morning as they are notorious for being grumpy and rude. However the train is still a bit full, so we scramble for a seat. Bright winter sunshine is filtering through the train windows and flashing against the trees, which is driving my mummy insane, it hurts her eyes, everything feels rushed and she’s slightly anxious at what lays ahead.
We all meet outside Waterloo train station and jump into a taxi, especially handy when you have a buggy, loads of bags and not a clue where you are going. Imagine using the packed tube or bus to get to Hyde Park, disastrous and stressful. Instead we opt for the easy way out and travel in style…it’s not everyday we head to the big city. I enjoy looking out of the windows and seeing the queues of traffic, pedestrians and big London landmarks such as Westminster, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. I have great fun jumping up and down on mummy’s lap, much to the annoyance of the cabbie. However he was friendly enough and wished us a Merry Christmas as we left the black cab. It’s cold outside today, but we couldn’t have picked a better time to visit Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park.
In this bright sunshine it would have been nice to mosey on down to the parks and you can walk to Winter Wonderland from the following London Underground stations:
Green Park (Victoria, Jubilee and Piccadilly lines)
Victoria (Victoria, District & Circle lines and National Rail)
Marble Arch (Central line)
Edgware Road (Bakerloo line)
Bond Street (Central and Jubilee lines)
It’s just after lunchtime on Monday afternoon and there are NO crowds *yes you heard correctly* and the sun is shining. We head into the Winter Wonderland through Angels Christmas Market, it’s very pretty and the 200 fairy lit Bavarian style wooden chalets are filled with candles, jewellery, toys, gifts, sweets, stocking fillers and everything you could possibly want for Christmas. The prices are a little expensive but that’s to be expected from a top quality Christmas Market in the heart of London….opposite Mayfair! We follow the long avenues of twinkling lights down into the food and drink section of Winter Wonderland. We can smell roasted chestnuts, German sausages and very VERY strong mulled wine. Sweet candy floss fills the cold air with enticement and expectation. My mummy has butterflies in her tummy on what to expect next. It’s our first time here and we have no idea where we are going….this place is HUGE, we can see a giant white wheel in the background, so we decide to head for that.
You can take a ride on the Giant Observation Wheel and soar 60 metres into the London sky in little pods. While up there you can see 360˚ panoramic views and the whole of the London skyline. Each flight takes 12-15 minutes and the wheel is open until 9.45pm. We don’t venture on the large wheel as I’m a bit scared of heights and pods.
Winter Wonderland has no admission fee to enter its gates – you simply turn up and pay to do whatever takes your fancy. Some attractions get fully booked during peak times and my Aunty is treating us to the Magical Ice Kingdom which was pre-booked off the website back in October. If you are visiting and fancy a go on the fun fair rides you can and just need tokens available from the token booths on site.
It’s worth pre-booking tickets in advance for:
The Magical Ice Kingdom
Zippos Christmas Circus and Cirque Berserk
Bar Ice to ensure you get the time and date you want with no disappointed faces.
We carry on walking up the great avenue towards the wheel, more Christmas gift stalls line the pathways with children’s rides scattered around, giant winter creatures greet us as we find ourselves at Santa Land. We love the Nutcracker statue and bright painted signs.
We don’t spend much time exploring the land of Santa, and miss Santa’s Toy Factory fun house where Santa & his elves are making gifts ready for the big day. We’re worried about finding somewhere warm to perch our bums to have our lunch so the hunt goes on for the perfect spot. Santa opens his grotto every day from 10am to 6pm and it is FREE to visit Santa. Run on a first-come first-served basis and the VERY good children receive a small gift.
One thing that we were impressed with is that the walkways are great for babies! Most of Winter Wonderland is flat and level for buggies, with only gentle inclines. The baby changing facilities (when we visited) were heated and clean with loads of room are were situated around the Winter Wonderland site. The only thing we will say is that there weren’t enough heated seating areas to eat food or take a relaxing break. Everywhere seemed cold and we couldn’t find any high chairs! We looked around and before we knew it we are finally at the foot of the giant wheel, opposite is a warm indoor eating place. At last! Somewhere warm and cosy! Unfortunately the only seats are high stools (not really practical for children) next to the hay bales. We can’t see any high chairs around 😦 and assume its an oversight for Winter Wonderland as they seem to have everything else? This is the first massive hurdle we’ve encountered, I can’t sit on the floor as it’s too dirty and the hay bales are part of a display. Maybe next year they could use hay bales as a cheap low seating solution for small children. Mummy and Grandma have to hold me during lunch while I precariously balance on one of these high stools like a proper adult. We enjoy our lunch which is a hot dog and chips and mulled wine for Mummy, Grandma and my Aunty.
I get fidgety and my mummy takes me out one of the side doors, suddenly we’re transported into a winter scene, giant polar bears and penguins, an iced waterfall and snow. It’s beautiful the whole area is blue and white with wooded chalets dotted around, steam chugging out of their chimneys and doors, we can see lots of people wrapped up warm here. Right in front of us is The Ice Kingdom which we are going to at 3pm. My Aunty had booked us all tickets to go and see the ice sculptures for our Christmas presents!
We walk around the area known as the Article Circle. There’s plenty of entertainment on offer in here, from winter themed rides, ‘try your skills’ games and even the North Pole frozen fun house. We watch the Winter Wonderland StarFlyer which Soars 60 metres into the air overlooking the whole Arctic Circle, it makes my stomach turn just glancing up at it! Behind us we hear screams and laughter coming from the Ice Mountain roller coaster, it’s built like a bob sleigh and zooms around a lot going through an ice jet! Brrrrrr too fast and too cold for me!
Before we know it the small queue has started to form at the Magical Ice Kingdom, this is why we are here today so we rush to join the end of the line. We put on our wooly hats and mittens which I proceed to take off the nearer and nearer we get to the entrance. It’s cold outside but we really have no idea how cold it will be in the Magical Ice Kingdom. It’s a walk through experience and the largest of its kind in the UK. The normal time it takes to walk through this Ice Kingdom is 15 minutes, as spending anymore time in the -8c temps true is too much for anyone to take, unless you are wrapped up in Arctic gear. My mummy stupidly forgets her gloves so her hands are freezing. She stuffs mitten on my hands and squashes then under her armpits to keep them warm. We see the frozen forest with the ice unicorns drinking from a lake, the ice fairies and the ice thrones which we sit on. And get our photos taken (there are no queues today!) my grandmas braves the ice slide while my mummy and I look on in amazement! But before long I’m scrambling for the door as its soooooo cold in here. As soon as we get out into the day light we are bathed in the British winter weather and it seems barmy and much milder than inside the Ice Kingdom! Still seeking more heat to warm our cockles we head to the Arctic Lodge and warm up by the open fire and enjoy a hot chocolate and more mulled wine.
The rest of the afternoon is filled with walking around the remainder of Winter Wonderland and as we lose the daylight the artificial lights and magic continues to make us smile with the fairground rides coming to life. We watch skaters on the ice rink, people on the roller coasters, shoppers in the market and families cozying up in the numerous food outlets and bars. The Ice Rink looks truly magical and romantic. It’s set around an old Victorian bandstand and illuminated with over 100,000 lights. There are a lot of people watching the skaters and it seems busy now its night-time. It’s open from 10am until 10pm and you don’t need to bring your own skates as they are provided as part of the ticket price! Booking is recommended though as this is one of the key attractions at Winter Wonderland!
We leisurely stroll around the Christmas markets on the way out. As we are leaving there are masses of people queuing to get into the Winter Wonderland at 5pm. It must get busy here in the evenings my mummy thinks due to people finishing work and kids wanting to go after school. We picked a good time to go.
So will we return? Yes, now that we’ve done it we will be brave enough to head up to London again, it’s a very long day for us but worth it. We might pass on Winter Wonderland next year and wait until I’m old enough to go on a lot more rides. Next time we’ll like to explore Santa Land, but I’m still a bit scared of the man in the red suit with the white beard. Until next time London!
Top tips for visiting Winter Wonderland
1) Go on a week day, less queues, more seats, more space and a better experience.
2) Wrap up warm and wear layers.
3) Take buggy clips for bags, jackets and scarfs.
4) If you are a baby-wearer take a sling, it’s a must for busy areas like this or reins for walking little people.
5) Grab a map at the ticket/token booths.
6) Find and set up ‘Base Camp’, an operation like a trip to London requires a go to haven if children get lost.
7) Take lots of money and change, you’ll going to need it, pre-book well in advance for the major attractions to avoid disappointed faces.
8) Keep an eye on your personal belongs, wear your rucksack on your front and keep valuables hidden and close to you.
9) If you can afford it, grab a taxi or walk with small children, the tube is stressful if you aren’t use to the underground and can ruin a day out with the kids on a busy day.
10) Breath and relax, find time to sit and watch the world go by at Winter Wonderland, it is a beautiful setting and very Christmassey.
Love Bella x