Plenty of festive fun to be had at Winter Wonderland and beyond
11:16 12 December 2016
There’s plenty of Christmas fun to be had across London’s parks and museums as Bridget Galton wraps up warm and discovers for herself.
‘Too soon?’ asks the festive Tesco advert, featuring a busy mum shopping in November. Many parents faced with the burden of putting on a magical Christmas for their children know just how she feels.
But as our squares and museums fill with ice rinks, and our parks with glittering lights, most Londoners come round to her ultimate cry of ‘bring it on’.
The opening night of Winter Wonderland always heralds the start of the festive season as Hyde Park is turned into a Bavarian themed fairground.
Now in its tenth year it was suitably icy the night we went along with the trees and sky ablaze.
There’s inevitably ice skating – on London’s biggest outdoor rink – plus homegrown entertainment from Zippo’s Circus and new for this year, the awe-inspiring Nutcracker on Ice in the indoor Winter Palace.
There’s something for all ages here from the Christmas themed rides for pre-schoolers in Santaland to huge rollercoasters that loop vertiginously.
Our kids ran the gamut from traditional fairground rides like the dodgems and Helter Skelter to exploring the giant funhouses and the indoor Polar themed rollercoaster.
Our five-year-old was delighted to ride the smaller coasters, including a sleigh driven by Santa – and didn’t turn a hair at the creepy haunted house.
You can take time out in the many alpine-style bars in the Bavarian village, some with roaring fires, or pick up a snack from the food stalls and pit-stops that dot the site selling traditional wurst, burgers and hog roasts.
Shoppers can also pick up crafts from the 200 chalets in the Christmas market, the annual ice sculptures in the Magical Ice Kingdom are always a highlight that will literally take your breath away (it’s seriously sub-zero in there).
This year’s nautical theme of narwhals, walrus, a frozen ship, igloo and husky sled were no exception and the children loved sitting on frozen thrones and sliding down the ice slide.
But the whole thing is probably best viewed from the top of one of the rides. From the giant observation wheel to the Thriller coaster you can look down on the whole twinkling spectacle and think ‘bring it on’.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is open until January 2. Winterwondland.co.uk.
Or try ice skating at JW3’s small but beautiful rink in Finchley Road from December 3 until January 8. Adults £12 children £7.50 jw3.org.uk.
Or skate in the shadow of Wembley Stadium at the London Designer Outlet until January 2. iceskateldo.com The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew always pulls out all the stops at Christmas and from November 23 until January 2 is the annual after dark festive trail where you follow a mile of paths through the gardens which sparkle with lights.
Laser beans light up the glasshouses and lake, there’s a scented fire garden, fairy tale adventures of flora and fauna, not to mention Santa and his elves in the North Pole. Kew.org.