From Wembley stadium to Finchley Road: north London’s top winter wonderlands
- Credit: Archant
Whether the kids fancy a spin on an ice rink or a visit to Santa’s grotto, there’s plenty of Christmas cheer to be found locally, says Bridget Galton.
Ice dragons, circus and Christmas markets - it’s that time of year again when London’s open spaces give way to skating rinks and santa’s grottos pop up in every nook and cranny.
At the annual festive fest that is Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, it’s all rolled into one. A huge range of stalls in traditional wooden huts, a mind-boggling array of 100 fairground rides, many like the head-spinning Ice Mountain rollercoaster and the tamer Santa Express are seasonally themed, Zippos Circus and Cirque Beserk and a teeth-chatteringly cold (-8°) but awe-inspiring Magical Ice Kingdom of carved ice sculptures are just some of the other attractions on site.
My kids loved sitting on the glacial thrones, sliding down a bum-numbingly cold chute and getting up close to chilly trolls with a welcome handwarmer as you leave to thaw you out.
If the dodgems or very silly Bavarian fun house have tired you out there’s scores of food outlets from burgers to bratwurst and intriguing spots to sit down and listen to some of the live music that pops up around the site. The ever-spinning carousel bar and apres-skate Arctic Lodge were my favourites. Of course there’s Ski Zillertal’s ice rink too - once strapped into your boots after a few bambi-like splayed legs, the experience of spinning around outdoors is exhilhirating.
hydeparkwinterwonderland.com 10am -10pm until January 3.
Skating fans can also enjoy the rink in the shadow of Wembley Stadium and Arena until January 3 iceskatingatwembleypark.co.uk
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Closer to home JW3 in Finchley Road reprises its winter ice rink on the piazza from December 5 until January 3 with 200m2 of ice for 70 skaters seasonal treats from in-house Zest Cafe. Don’t miss the Chanukah silent disco on Ice on December 12. (jw3.org.uk)
As for grottos, William Ellis pupil Manu Raffray, 13, has written about visiting Santa’s 360 degree grotto at Brent Cross Shopping Centre (until December 24, £5 per child)
“The interactive grotto in Brent Cross shopping centre was a memory to be remembered.
An inviting choir, who sang Christmas carols, welcomed the Christmas spirit into our hearts. We then were welcomed into a small Igloo which was covered in screens on the inside.
Father Christmas started off by saying how happy he was to see us and asked what we wanted, if we were good or bad and had we written our letters yet. He asked us if we would like to go on a trip to his house in the North Pole. ‘YES’ he made us scream until suddenly we were surrounded by amazing pictures on screens of his reindeers, elves and his workshop. He gave us a quick tour of his work shop until it was time for us to leave. He gave us all a present and posed for a photo.
The mayor, his wife and his children all loved it and so did I as it was such an amazing experience, for I’ve never been in one like this before.”