Winter Wonderland returned to Hyde Park on 21 November last year, and is now in its closing weekend.
Our schedule meant that sadly we could not conduct a review earlier in this season’s event, but we felt it important to still reflect on the event’s offerings this year.
Notably expensive with its pay-per-ride system, the event remains free to enter following a quick search of any bags you might be carrying.
Avoid the ride token and loadable pass card booths immediately at the entrances, as there are many more inside the event which have shorter queues, if any.
Contactless debit and credit cards are now accepted at each and every ride booth, which makes the use of tokens and the loadable ‘season pass’ card somewhat redundant – but note that American Express is not accepted.
The event features a number of pre-bookable attractions such as ice skating, ice sculpture area and the ice bar among many others all available for a considerable upcharge, but we did not sample these.
As ever, Winter Wonderland is something of a hotspot for celebrities and their social media shares.
The Premier League footballers of London are also regular visitors to the event, and last night Arsenal’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Martinelli could be seen enjoying the rides with his family.
Like all funfairs, Winter Wonderland really comes alive at night with its sea of coloured LEDs and bustling atmosphere.
A taste of Germany
The Bavarian Village succeeds in offering an authentic German fairground efeel in terms of the food and beverage on offer.
There is abundance of pretzels, beer steins, sauerkraut and bockwurst sausages on offer amid the open fires and wooden stands.
But the entertainment within the Bavarian Hall is more reminiscent of Blackpool or Benidorm as aged singers croon out beery standards such as Sweet Caroline – but the crowds are engaged and loving it, and the atmosphere is superb.
At £11 a go, the giant Ferris wheel was a step too far, but it is an impressive and integral part of Winter Wonderland, particularly in the form of the new 7o-metre model in London for the first time this year.
It is simply that many of the higher rides give just as an impressive view of the site.
The now famous Munich Looping, the world’s largest transportable rollercoaster, is a natural highlight of the event.
Well into the day (to be sure of a full warm-up) and with a full train of people, the experience on the back row is particularly exciting, even at £9 per ride.
As with any Schwarzkopf rollercoaster, the experience can be somewhat overrated by ride enthusiasts.
It is however still a remarkable ride, particularly when you consider its age, size, the ride forces involved and the fact that it is transported between sites relatively effortlessly.
It is undeniable that it is possible for a family – or even an individual – to easily spend into the hundreds of pounds in just a few hours at Winter Wonderland.
Supply and demand is an obvious driver of prices – many of the large thrill rides have considerable queues even on a moderately busy night.
But key is to remember that many of the rides are neither unique, and not exactly unavailable at other places around Britain. You have probably ridden many identical models elsewhere.
If you target the unique and memorable moments offered by half a dozen or so rides in the park, while taking the time to enjoy the atmosphere, entertainment and everything else on offer – you will not go far wrong.
Also it is important to remember that this is a travelling fair, and the operations staff can act very differently from ride attendants at permanent theme parks.
While many of them will jump off moving platforms, physically usher you through ticket points and speak little English, they make up an incredibly well-oiled machine.
Winter Wonderland remains an absolutely vital part of London’s festive season and will continue to be enjoyed by ride enthusiasts and fun-seeking families families alike.
Even considering the expense, it is quite simply the best travelling fair experience available in the UK.
This season’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland closes at 10pm on Sunday 5 January. It will return in late November.