Hyde Park: The place to be during the holidays

Written by Jamie Tullett

It’s that time of year again!

It’s that time of year again! Christmas is fast approaching; window displays are going up, lights are switching on and perhaps you’ve even started searching for that refreshing winter sun break abroad. But for the majority, Xmas means snow,  santa and spending treasured moments with your family, and where better to do this than at London’s Winter Wonderland Christmas festival. Open from now to the 5th January (excluding Christmas Day) and completely free to enter, there really is no reason not to visit if you’re in London this festive season.

Situated in the capital’s Hyde Park, seconds from Hyde Park Corner Underground station, this family-friendly event is in its seventh year and has seen millions of visitors from all across the world since its inception. Packed with fairground rides, an ice rink, a giant ferris wheel, Santa’s grotto and an abundance of food, drink and merchandise stalls there really is plenty to keep those of all ages occupied at this Christmas haven. 

Food, Drink and Merchandise

In this year’s festival the number of food, drink and general merchandise stalls has increased hugely, with, amongst others, hats, gloves, marzipan, fake snow, waffles, candles, toys and mulled wine on offer around the park.

The ever-popular Bavarian Village makes a reappearance, along with many log cabin style beer halls dotted around the park, to provide adult refreshments. Look out for this particular tavern with the loud-mouth talking moose bust adorned above the enterance.

There is a large array of winter-warming snacks available, with the Austrian Bratwurst a particular favourite throughout the park. Be sure to grab yourself a glass of mulled wine when you arrive as this sells out very quickly, especially on weekends.

As with the merchandise, the food and drink available at Winter Wonderland is unfortunately not very cheap so do not be surprised if you do end up spending a lot. It is highly advised to bring cash with you as, despite the park having scarce ATM services, they are often very busy and also run out of notes early in the afternoon.

Rides and Attractions

2013 sees the return of all the favourite Winter Wonderland attractions from last year plus an introduction of a few new rides that are sure to become very popular. Following a sell-out success in 2012, The Magical Ice Kingdom has returned and is back with a vengence! Twice the size, this sub-zero experience takes the visitor through real ice and snow, past medieval villages and giant’s forests and all the way to the scary dungeon.

Crafted from over 200 tons of snow and ice this has been specially created for Winter Wonderland and is unique in the UK. Tickets are required, however, with adults paying £7 off peak and £9 at peak times (Children £5 / £7), and due to its popularity half hour time slots have to be reserved in advance, so make sure you don’t miss your slot!

The UK’s largest outdoor ice rink also makes a comeback, with the bandstand in the centre always full of live music to supply the perfect backdrop for the many young couples that frequent the ice every year. Ice Rink tickets are £10.50 for adults (off peak; £14.50 peak) and £8.50 for children (£9.50 peak).

For the younger visitor, Santa Land returns, housing the Lego Santa Express, Santa’s Workshop and of course Santa’s Grotto, where the little ones can meet the big man himself. Two further regulars, Zippo’s Circus and The Giant Ferris Wheel, also require advanced ticket booking, so if you are planning to make the most of your trip to Winter Wonderland pre-booking is a must! 

Thrill seekers have been accounted for more than ever this year, with 3 rollercoasters added to the park this year, including the exciting Wilde Maus XXL, as can be seen below. Getting on these attractions is easier than the booking-required rides, with plenty of token stalls spread all over the park, however once again it is not cheap. Most attractions require a minimum of 3 tokens to ride and as 1 token = £1 the costs can soon add up!

Despite all these additional costs, the Christmas atmosphere at Winter Wonderland 2013 surely cannot be rivalled and it really does make for a fantastic day out for the family. As an ultimately free event you can experience the festivities for relatively little if you do not run up many extra purchases, but for those wishing to fully immerse themselves in the experience bringing plenty of cash and booking tickets in advance is a must do.

What do you think? Have you visited Hyde Park during the holidays? Have your say in the comments section below.

Images: Jamie Tullett