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Towards the end of November, Hyde Park ceases to be a peaceful haven of tranquility for walkers, joggers and cyclists and turns into the madness that is the Winter Wonderland. Neon lights, fairground rides and attractions as far as the eye can see and we had decided to throw ourselves into the middle of it and meet some friends there for an evening of festivities to see what it was all about. I’d been once before, a few years ago and remembered it as a sea of people, so crowded that you could only move as fast as the person in front on you (which did not make for much of a relaxing or festive experience) but I’d agreed to give it another go this year. More by luck than judgement, we seemed to plan it exactly right. Apparently our friends showed up at 7 and had to queue for 20mins to get in but when we arrived just after 7.30 we just walked straight in.Once inside your are hit from all sides by the sounds, sights, noises and smells of a fairground. I’m reliably informed that most of the attractions are from Oktoberfest in Germany and make their journey to London after October to become a Winter Wonderland. Maybe it was the time of night but it seemed much less crowded than when I’d been before, maybe as the kids had gone home for the evening – it was definitely a much older crowd this time around.We headed to the German Beer House to meet our friends and indulged in some Gluhwein while we stood around catching up. There were plenty of drinks on offer to tempt us, hot apple cider, German beer in those huge steins, hot chocolate with Kirsch, it all looked so delicious, but soon everyone started to get hungry…definitely not a problem in the Winter Wonderland!There was food everywhere…everything you can imagine, from burgers and hotdogs to hog roasts, sweets, churros, noodles, and candy floss to pizza – definitely something for everyone (except maybe me?). Pretty sure that I wouldn’t find anything I would be able to eat, I was very excited to find the flame cooked salmon and salad plate! And my personal favourite that just screams christmas to me its the roasted chestnut carts set up all over the place!
Tummies full, we wandered around the stores for a bit and found shops selling everything from Christmas Decorations to scarves to hats, candles, gifts, handmade jewellery, soaps and cosmetics, to toys and games, pretty much anything you could ever need. At this point I should probably point out that in the Winter Wonderland, cash is definitely king. There are quite a few ATMs dotted around the park so you can get cash out but most places won’t accept cards and to get on the rides you need to purchase tickets at the special booths as the rides don’t accept cash either.
Speaking of rides, we decided that we had to go on one. We thought about the big Ferris wheel that dominated the Winter Wonderland skyline as it towers over everything in the park but then decided on something a bit wilder. We went for one that spins you every which way, upside down whilst throwing you into the air – right up my street but maybe not some of the others judging by their expressions! It was great fun but I think the scariest part was the price – £8 for 4 minutes!!
And so may rides to choose from, rollercoasters, fun houses, one that spin you, ones that drop you from great heights…
And if you prefer something more sedate, there’s always the classic carousel!If scary rides aren’t your thing there’s plenty of other options in fact, there’s so much on offer to do there, that in the few hours we had, we barely scratched the surface! There’s a huge Ice Skating Rink (pre-booking tickets online is recommended), The Magical Ice Kingdom where you can wander around amazing ice sculptures, The Nutcracker on Ice and even a Circus.
After our ride, we decided another drink was in order so we headed to the famous Carousel Bar, a bar that rotates whilst you stand at it. There’s so many novelty bars here from the Ice Bar to the Ski Lodge, to the German Beer House that there’s bound to be something for everyone. I even found myself a Princess Bar!!
We decided that we couldn’t leave the park without a memento of our evening so we played some of the fairground attractions. I’m the first one to admit that these are usually a con and pretty impossible to win but Dan seemed to have a natural gift. From throwing balls into pots and smashing plates and rifle shooting and spinning the roulette wheel, we came away with quite a stash!
Dan definitely regrets winning these now since they’ve taken up residence in our flat!
We had a really fun (but expensive) evening and the whole place felt magically festive and really got us into the Christmas Spirit. I’d definitely recommend Winter Wonderland to everyone – especially big kids like us!
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
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