It’s become something of a tradition at work to have an annual Christmas girls’ night out. This is essentially an opportunity for us all to indulge in waffles and mulled wine, usually whilst stumbling around in the cold oohing and aahing over pretty festive lights. After a couple of years visiting Kew Gardens’ illuminated trail, this time we decided to check out Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.
We knew before we got there that this was going to be a bigger deal than Kew, but we didn’t realise quite how big. It’s so big, in fact, that we got lost. More than once. And we lost each other. Also more than once. We had to ask for directions twice to find the Magical Ice Kingdom, which was the one bit we’d booked in advance, and even then I’m pretty sure we only found it by accident.
Winter Wonderland is a mixture of funfair, market and festival celebrating all things wintery. It’s free to get in, but you have to pay for most things after that. And there’s plenty of ways to spend your money… even if you can resist the urge to try and win a giant minion or massive bar of Toblerone (we debated amongst ourselves for about five minutes before deciding it wasn’t worth trying that one), there are still loads of rides, bars and entertainment vying for your attention, not to mention a churros stand on just about every corner. Mmm, churros…
There are also some bits you have to book in advance, including a circus, ice bar and giant wheel. We’d decided to check out the Magical Ice Kingdom… and this is where I look like an idiot, because somehow it never occurred to me that a room full of ice sculptures would need to be cold. Very, very cold. So cold, in fact, that after 15 minutes inside, I’d lost all feeling in my fingers – possibly my own fault because I kept taking my hands out of my pockets to take photos. But I’m assuming I wasn’t the only one who went in unprepared, because they were giving out free hand warmers on the way out. (Actually I think they were foot warmers, but my hands’ need was greater.)
Aside from the mild risk of hypothermia, though, the Magical Ice Kingdom is amazing; the sculptures, of a variety of fantastic creatures, are beautiful and it really is kind of magical in there. And there’s even an ice slide – which apparently doesn’t make your bum as soggy as you might expect.
All in all, if you’re not quite feeling the festive spirit just yet, Winter Wonderland is a great place to find it. Whilst drinking mulled wine. And finishing (or, if you’re as disorganised as I am, starting) your Christmas shopping. And even if you don’t want to spend any money, it’s still a great place to have a mooch about and get in the mood for Christmas.