Because I was clearly neglected as a child, this is the first year that I’ve actually been to Hyde Park’s infamous Winter Wonderland. And – despite being filled with as many amazing Christmas themed wonders as is humanly possible to cram into the west London park – all I really did was drink mulled cider. It was brilliant. But, for anyone not on their way to becoming a fully-fledged alcoholic the park is a place of endless joy and possibilities – or at least a fun way to spend an evening – no matter what your age.
For starters, the sheer amount of work that went into constructing the park is phenomenal. From a German market full of Christmas presents just waiting to be bought (your awkward Aunty Kath never knew a porcelain-shadow-dome-thing was what was missing from her life until now!) to theme park rides and a beautiful ice rink, there’s something for everyone. All the bars are sturdily built out of wood – no drunkenly-erected summer cider tents here – giving it a strangely ‘indoors’, permanent feel. And all the rides seem stable, which is always preferable.
There’s live music in grottos dotted around the park, some of which are ‘interactive’ (we got heckled by one entertainer as we went to get a drink – in a friendly way, I think) and one massive building with lots of food and drink stalls and a stage was selling German beer for £9 a litre. As we passed through we were entertained by a guy called ‘Joseph’ singing popular past hits and there was a Harry Potter themed birthday party happening in a VIP area off to the side, giving an already magical night an even more surreal touch.
Make sure you get to the Wonderland with plenty of time – we came after work at seven and as it closes at ten you have lots to fit in. We made plans to do lots of things over the first mulled cider – and ended up doing absolutely none of them – but actually, exploring with friends, sampling hot honey mead and eating Bratwurst as we went, turned out to be a great evening in itself.
The other downside was that you had to purchase expensive tokens for most of the rides (though with this being London, that’s not unusual). Having said that, some of the rides may be expensive but it’s free to go in and have a wander. They also only accept cash in the grounds and the cash machines charge a (not so) small fortune so make sure you know what you want to spend and take it with you.
My parting advice would be to do a lap round the park first to make sure you don’t get to the end of the evening and find out you haven’t got enough money left for that last mug of mulled cider. I mean, for the Ice Kingdom…
Winter Wonderland is in Hyde Park every day (apart from Christmas day) until January 5 from 10am-10pm.