Winter Wonderland has taken over London’s Hyde Park for the 10th year running, and it’s bigger and better than ever before. Running until 2 January 2017, it’s open from 10:00 until 22:00 and only closes on Christmas Day.
Entry into Winter Wonderland is free and you don’t need a ticket, so you can soak up the festive atmosphere and browse the Christmas markets without spending a penny. You will need a ticket for most of the shows and attractions, though, so they’re well worth booking in advance on the official site. You’ll also need tokens to go on the rides, and you can buy these from the various booths inside.
Here’s our guide to the top 10 things to do while you’re there, including lots of things that are new for 2016.
1.Walk through The Magical Ice Kingdom
Brand new this year, The Magical Ice Kingdom is a walk-through attraction made from more than 500 tonnes of ice and snow. It features polar bears, igloos and giant icebergs, and is the biggest display of its kind in the UK. It takes about 30 minutes to walk through, and you’ll choose a time slot when you book.
2.Go ice skating under the stars
The open air ice rink at Winter Wonderland is the largest in the UK, and set around the park’s Victorian bandstand. Live bands play there in the day, and the whole thing is lit up by fairy lights at night, so you’re guaranteed a really festive experience. You’ll need to pre-book a slot and make sure you arrive early to get kitted out with skates, which are included with your ticket.
3.Shop at the Christmas market
Hundreds of Bavarian-style wooden chalets make up the Christmas market at Winter Wonderland, and you don’t need a ticket to browse. As well as things like traditional Christmas decorations and posh foodie gifts, there are lots of food and drink stalls to keep your energy up.
4.Brave the world’s biggest travelling rollercoaster
Munich Looping is the largest mobile coaster on the planet, and definitely one for the brave. Although you may recognise it from Germany’s Oktoberfest, it’s the first time the ride has made it to the UK. You can buy tokens for this and other rides at various booths inside Winter Wonderland, or use the contactless payment option, Tap & Ride.
5.See The Nutcracker on Ice
Once you’ve tested your mettle on the ice rink, head over to see how the professionals do it. The Imperial Ice Stars cast is made up of Olympic and World Championship skaters who put a new spin on The Nutcracker in a 1-hour pre-bookable show. For something more suited to toddlers, book tickets for the Sooty Show! It’s on at 11:00 every day.
6.Sip a cocktail at Bar Ice
Pretty much everything in this bar is made of ice – from the walls to the cocktail glasses – so it’s about as close as you’ll get to the Arctic without actually going there. Luckily the pre-bookable tickets include a warm cloak and gloves, plus your first cocktail. And as slots only last 20 minutes, there’s no time to catch a chill.
7.Visit Santa in his grotto
Make sure you head over to Santa Land if you’re visiting Winter Wonderland with children. Father Christmas is here from 10:00 until 18:00 every day with a gift for every child who pops in. Visits are free and it’s run on a first-come, first-served basis. There are lots of child-friendly rides here too, so don’t forget to buy some tokens.
8.Ride the Giant Observation Wheel
Head 60 metres above Hyde Park on the giant wheel and you’ll get some great birds-eye views of London, not to mention some amazing photographs. The ‘flight’ takes about 15 minutes, and you can book a private pod if you don’t want to share.
9.Watch a circus show
You’ve got two circuses to choose from at Winter Wonderland 2016. Zippos Christmas Circus is a traditional mix of clowns, jugglers and aerialists. At 45 minutes, it’s perfect for families. Cirque Berserk is more of a Cirque du Soleil-type affair, with daredevil acts including the Globe of Terror, and a later show time. Both are set in a heated tent, so either way you’re going to be toasty.
10.Eat at the Bavarian Village
You won’t go hungry at the Bavarian Village. There are covered outdoor cafes and open-air food stalls serving everything from German bratwurst sausages to schmalzkuchen doughnuts. There’s also a Bavarian Hall with table packages and live DJ sets in the evening. As with all the attractions at Winter Wonderland, it’ll be popular, so just make sure you pre-book.
Hurry – book your megabus tickets to London before it’s too late.