Visiting Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland with Young Children

(AD - Press Tickets) We were lucky enough to be invited to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland on Sunday for the 2019 Press Day. I have visited Winter Wonderland in previous years with friends, but this visit with my partner, 3 year old and 10 month old was the first time I have been with children. We had a brilliant day and I wouldn’t hesitate going again with children.

Night view of the lit up giant wheel at Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland


What is There To Do When Visiting Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland with Young Children?


Entry into Winter Wonderland is free and you can go along just to soak up the atmosphere and what an atmosphere there is! Especially after the sun sets and it is all lit up with colourful lights and music. I previously visited after work to listen to music and drink beer, but visiting with young children is a little bit different, to start with the day began a little earlier…

Mr. Men and Little Miss - The Show


We started our visit at the Mr Men show in the MegaDome (the largest circus tent in the UK which is well heated) . The kid’s show is on every morning at 11am and has an advertised run time of 45 minutes. It tells stories about many of the well loved Mr Men and Little Miss characters like Mr Happy, Mr Tickle and Little Miss Naughty. The characters are puppets which are moved around and voiced by a team of actors. 

My 10 month old spent most of the time engrossed in the show and while my 3 year old was restless at times she said afterwards she really enjoyed it. Our performance was effected slightly by sound quality so it wasn’t always easy to hear what was being said, I don’t expect that to be an issue for all performances though. 

The Mr Men and Little Miss show is great for fans of the books who can watch the stories come to life in front of them. It’s a relaxed atmosphere so it doesn’t really matter if children make noises or stand up. At one point a boy ran onto the stage and he was taken off again by his mother without any drama.

View to a stage with mr men puppets being moved by actors in the Winter Wonderland MegaDome
Mr Men and Little Miss Show at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland

Watching Zippos Circus at Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland with Children


We had a quick walk round and grabbed some chips before heading back to the MegaDome for the 1pm Zippos Christmas Circus. It is also on daily at 2.30pm and 4pm.

The circus is pretty amazing with a variety of acts including: a double trapeze act (The Gemini Sisters from Norfolk), a record breaking juggler, tightrope walkers (Khametov’s High Wire troupe from Uzbeckstan) and more all pulled together by Ringmaster Paul Winston. 

The circus runs for under an hour making it a manageable length for children. The acts contain a reasonable amount of peril which will make older audience members gasp, but my children were oblivious to the risk and skill involved. My 3 year old simply enjoyed the circus for the performance, lights and music in front of her, she didn’t realise just how impressive it was for a lady to be balancing en pointe on top of a man’s head while he walked the tightrope. The adults did and even the lady seemed relieved when they successfully made it across.

The show is Christmas themed and the gaps between acts are filled by the Ringmaster and Emilion who entertained the audience in various ways including dragging a few members of the audience into the ring to perform a little show. 

Zippos Christmas Circus at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland runs until 5th January 2020. Tickets should be pre-booked to avoid disappointment.  


The MegaDome At Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland

Image c Zippos Circus ringmaster
The Ringmaster

Double Trapeze Act The Gemini Sisters at Zippos Circus Love
Double Trapeze Act

Zippos Circus finale in a tent full of people with performers on stage
The Finale at Zippo's Christmas Circus

Magical Ice Kingdom - A Christmas Carol 


Next we visited the Magical Ice Kingdom which we had been warned was cold so I wrapped my children up in hat, coat and gloves before we went in. My daughter was still so cold that she didn’t enjoy it and she quickly asked to leave.  It was a relatively mild day for November and we had recently been in the warm MegaDome so the contrast with the freezing (literally) Ice Kingdom was noticeable. I don’t think Little had a chance to adjust to the temperature change which was a shame because she missed out on the ice slides in the kingdom which looked a lot of fun. I suspect on a cooler day it won’t be such a noticeable drop in temperature making it more comfortable for children. 

Despite 2 grumpy children who wanted to warm up I was really impressed with the Magical Ice Kingdom. The ice carvings beautifully tell the Charles Dickens story of A Christmas Carol and there is something to see where ever you look, plus plenty of photo opportunities. You walk through a path surrounded by the carvings and are asked not to touch, but there are points like the ice bridge, slide and some chairs you can sit on where you can touch the ice.

It is meant to include 500 tonnes of snow and ice which have taken months to carve. It is beautifully lit up and best enjoyed if you can take the time to walk through slowly and really appreciate the talent involved. The -10 degrees Celsius environment will be best appreciated while wearing a hat and gloves.

A cold looking child inside Hyde Parks Magical Kingdom
Frozen in the Magical Ice Kingdom

an ice carving of big ben behind some Christmas trees
Carvings of London landmarks in the Magical Ice Kingdom 

Giant Wheel


Next we went to the new Giant Wheel, a 70 metre high ferris wheel which makes even the tallest rides look small in comparison. Thankfully the enclosed pods feel safe when you are on board. Admittedly when I stood to change the radio channel and it started swinging I didn’t feel quite so safe, but we all stayed firmly seated while it rotated several times round. 

There was a bit of a wait in the queue before going on, but it moves in stages (they fill up the pods about 6 at a time then when it’s full it goes round a few times before people get off and the pods are filled again) so sometimes the queue doesn't move for a while, then you move quickly. We ended up going on about 3pm and could see a great few over Winter Wonderland below, Hyde Park and over much of London. It was a great view and felt like it was over too soon, although it says they take around 10 minutes. 

You can buy a fast track pass which might be worth it at busy times. Each pod is for between 4 and 6 people so at busy times you might be asked to share with other people, we just had the 4 of us in ours. 

A child in a pod on the giant wheel at Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland
View from the Giant Wheel at Winter Wonderland

Santa Land


Finally we hit the rides. There are a huge number of fairground rides at Winter Wonderland, many I am amazed have been assembled temporarily for the event they are so big and impressive. With 2 small children we didn’t explore the “Thrill” area where many of the bigger rides were and instead we spent our time in Santa Land. 

There were a great range of rides suitable for children in Santa Land including some that my 3 year old could go on by herself, a few rollercoasters she went on with her Dad and even a little train ride that all 4 of us went on.

Also in Santa Land you can visit Santa. I didn’t realise this was free, but there was a queue and with so much else to do my 3 year old wasn’t that interested (she has already met Father Christmas twice this year already).

Santa Land was absolutely perfect for my 3 year old who was happy to go on the smaller rides herself and the slightly bigger ones with an adult. I don't think there are many rides suitable for 1 and 2 year olds who are too young to go on rides on their own, but a few of them should be fine.

The cost of the rides differ and you either need to pre-buy tokens or many rides let you use contactless. It would be easy to spend a huge amount of money on rides so I would recommend deciding in advance what you want to spend and helping to manage children’s expectations of how many they can go on. The children’s rides were between 2 and 5 tokens per person (which I think equal a pound each).

A 3 year old child on a bike on a ride while visiting winter wonderland

Children's rides at Winter Wonderland a child on a rocking reindeer

Swing chair for children with a 3 year old girl sitting on it at Winter Wonderland

Fairground games at Winter Wonderland with giant teddy bear prizes

Practicalities - What You Need To Know When Taking Young Children To Winter Wonderland


Pushchairs

Inside the Winter Wonderland fence is covered in a temporary flooring so you won’t need to worry about getting stuck in mud, but it does get very busy so you might find the crowds a bit challenging to get through. It is a fun, but exhausting day out though so you might be grateful for the pushchair when they get tired. You can't take pushchairs into the MegaDome, but there is a pushchair park to leave them outside (at your own risk).

Clothing

While the shows are in doors most of Winter Wonderland is outside so you need to make sure you are dressed appropriately for the weather.

Entry

There are a number of gates you can use to get into Winter Wonderland. The red “family entrance” is close to Marble Arch station and goes straight into Santa Land. If you are heading to this area or the MegaDome from the Hyde Park Corner end of Hyde Park you might find it easier to walk around the edge of Winter Wonderland rather than through the middle. At each entrance there may be queues at busy times and there are bag searches.

Winter Wonderland opens at 10am everyday (and closes at 10pm). Check the website for times for the grotto etc.

Leaving

Most of the nearby stations are exit only at peak times so make sure you have enough energy when you leave to walk to slightly further away stations (or get a bus/ taxi). We carried the children to Bond Street.

Water

You are asked not to take open drinks containers into the site and I was asked to pour my water away from my reusable water bottle, but they directed me to where I could refill it for free. 

Food

Unsurprisingly food is expensive onsite. It cost £4 for chips,  £5.50 upwards for a hot dog and other meals were more. There is a huge range on site and plenty of treats like hot chocolate, sweets, churros and HUGE candy floss sticks. I brought some sandwiches with us and only really ate chips because I didn’t fancy asking each place about what contained dairy. There were a few places selling vegan food eg vegan curry and a vegan pizza, I also bought a vegan caramel brownie from a stall next to the Street Food Market.

Chill Zone

In Santa Land there is the Family Chill Space which is a small indoor venue where you can sit down, I found it handy for breastfeeding. Around meal times expect it to be busy, but there is a microwave and sink which could be handy for baby food.

Toilets

There are toilet blocks around the site which are porta cabin style with running water. Every time we went I saw a lady cleaning them (or the floor at least) so hopefully they should stay in a reasonable condition.

A row of portacabin ladies toilets at Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland
Ladies Toilets at Winter Wonderland

Baby Changing

There are baby changing rooms at each toilet block so you don’t need to try and squidge your family into a disabled toilet.

Getting Lost

I wasn’t able to come up with a good plan for what to do if we got separated from my daughter, there is no obvious place to go for help. There are staff around on all the rides, food concessions etc as well as the exits and I assume any one of them would help a lost child. Agreeing where they should ask to be taken to, like Santas grotto, or making sure they have your mobile number written on them might be a good solution.

Night view at Winter Wonderland


***Disclosure: The press tickets we were provided with were roughly the same as the Mr Men Family Bundle which includes: the Mr Men Show, Zippos Circus, Magical Ice Kingdom, Giant Wheel and a rides pass. All thoughts are my own.***

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