Seasonal spectacular: don’t miss Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland

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Christmas comes but once a year, so the saying goes, which is a moot point because, although that means we don’t experience the festive season more often, we do now at least get the wondrous Winter Wonderland attraction in London’s Hyde Park every late Autumn (until the early New Year). Packed full of activities and entertainment – everything from ice-skating to ice bars and circus shows to fairy-tale adaptations – it makes for a multi-venue, multi-attraction day- or evening-out. Here’s more on of what it offers…

Ice-skating

As far as this year’s Winter Wonderland attractions go, it doesn’t get much bigger than the biggest open-air ice-rink in the whole country – which this one, to be found circling the park’s grand, ornate bandstand, undoubtedly is. Plus, owing to its setting beneath a beautiful canopy of old, wise trees glistening with Christmas lights, it would make for an unforgettable festive treat for your little ones.

And it’s perfect for morning (when the air’s crisp and the rink’s less busy), afternoon (with the sun spreading across and glittering on the ice) or in the evening (when there’s a joyful hubbub to savour with friends or, should it be quieter, the perfect location for a romantic glide on ice-skates with your someone special). Plus, your skating proficiency doesn’t matter, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or accomplished on the ice.

As you might expect, there’s music to soundtrack your session too, but being this is Winter Wonderland, the music from the bandstand itself is live and often seasonal, while before or after your outing on the rink, you can enjoy a refreshment provided by a hot drink – or something stronger.

Further points to note:
• a specialist ‘ice guide’ can attend to you if you’re a beginner and your footing’s not too clever

• if you bring along your own ice-skates, expect them to be checked for suitability (no ‘speed skates’ are allowed)

• ice-skates are provided for those who need them, however, and included in the ticket price (maximum size 14-15 for adults – although those two sizes are limited – all the way down to the minimum for kids that’s size 9

• no bags or bulky, sizeable items can be taken on to the ice, for obvious reasons; they must be checked into a cloakroom at £1 per item

• a professional photographer is on-hand to snap souvenir photos of you and yours

• ‘bob skates’ – featuring twin blades – to fit over children’s footwear are available free of charge, as are ‘penguin skate aids’ for those under five-years-old at request and for a small fee, but their numbers are limited.

Bar Hütte

Bringing a touch of the Alps to Hyde Park London, Bar Hütte enables Winter Wonderland visitors to experience après ski via its alpine village-like reconstruction complete with a bar and restaurant where the food and drink is served by waiting staff, making you feel like you’re just about to step on to or have just stepped off the piste, skis propped up against the wall.

As it’s ideal for groups of friends and gathered-together families, you can bask in the laid-back, cosily snug atmos with its rustic wooden décor and, of course, the complimentary karaoke (or carol-oke) machine in the corner, ensuring those who like nothing more than to belt out their favourite festive tunes – mic in one hand and a cocktail in the other – can indulge both themselves and, well, everybody else who’s feasting on stone-baked pizzas and chocolate calzone desserts.

Plus, deals available include a champagne upgrade that throws in a bottle of bubbly your your time in the Hütte, while the fancy dress package ensures the venue’s decked out with props and accessories to ensure you and yours’ party is perfect for all those must-experience selfie moments.

Further points to note:
• you can book a Hütte for a party of more than 10 people (as long as it’s no more than 20 people); in order to do so visit the Winter Wonderland official website

• each karaoke machine is loaded with not just Christmas tunes but pop hits to sing along to

• you’re advised to arrive early if you’ve booked a Bar Hütte slot (each booking is an hour-long; beginning and ending on the hour), as it can take time to walk between all the Winter Wonderland attractions)

• if you haven’t arrived within 20 minutes of your slot, expect it to be released and given away to someone else on the waiting list

• do note that, outside of Hyde Park, the nearest Tube stations to Bar Hütte are Bond Street, Paddington and Marble Arch (so, the venue’s easy to reach whether you’re staying at one of the hotels near Hyde Park or not).

Magical Ice Kingdom presents Deep Sea Adventure

This offering is an immersive one, to say the least. It offers visitors the opportunity to throw themselves into the extraordinary adventure of mermaids, gods and all manner of other sea creatures – without getting wet! Featuring spectacular ice sculptures on a magical marine theme, it includes a terrific mermaid grotto and a fantastic octopus battle – one that’s been literally frozen-in-time. There’s also an unforgettable temple for the ancient sea god that’s Neptune, as well as a plethora of beneath-the-sea mythical creatures.

Now, when you read the term ‘ice sculpture’, you tend to think of statues that are transparent, right? Not so fast, because at the ‘Deep Sea Adventure’ the sculptures come in all sorts of bold colours – perfect then for that must-snap selfie; for instance, you or one of your little tykes sitting in Neptune’s throne as you snap away.

Further points to note:
• be aware, however, that as this magical kingdom is, of course, full to brimming with ice sculptures it has to be kept cold (lest they should all melt!), so its temperature is usually kept at -10°C, which means it’s imperative you dress accordingly – wrapped up nice and warm in winter coats and/ or jackets, hats, scarves and gloves

• pushchairs can be brought into the Magical Ice Kingdom and the attraction’s also wheelchair accessible

• if you’d like a souvenir photo of your visit then approach the professional photographer in attendance

• the nearest Tube stations are Bond Street, Paddington and Marble Arch.

Bar Ice

Somewhat combining the cool spectacle of the Magic Ice Kingdom with the relaxing vibes of Bar Hütte, is this year’s Winter Wonderland take on Bar Ice. As in previous years, it’s the perfect place for repose, where you can enjoy an alcohol beverage of your desire in a chilled environment (yes, in more ways than one!). And, don’t doubt it, the atmospherics are particularly impressive, themed as they along the lines of Ancient Greece, complete with ice columns and (yep, more) ice sculptures. Indeed, even the bar’s chairs, tables and glasses, nay the actual bar itself are entirely crafted from ice.

Thanks to an impressive teaming with the vodka company Smirnoff, Bar Ice can rustle cocktails of all different types and flavours – and all of them delicious to the palate – as well as tasty, flavoured shots. Moreover, as there’s a complimentary drink included in each and every ticket to this particular venue, guests can sample an alcoholic (or, if they prefer, a non-alcoholic) cocktail on arrival, to get them in the mood and give them inspiration for what more they might want to sample.

And don’t worry about the temperature either; yes, Bar Ice obviously has to be kept cold (like the Magic Ice Kingdom, around -10°C, but you’ll be given a warm, winter cloak and gloves as you enter.

Further points to note:
• each session at Bar Ice lasts 20 minutes (remember, it’s cold in there!), so you’ll be required to choose a time-slot when you make a booking; the last session each evening starts at 9.20pm, with the final serving of drinks at 9.45pm

• obviously, because it’s primarily a location designed for people to enjoy alcoholic drinks, Bar Ice is an environment that’s adult-oriented, but if you feel you’d like to go along with children or minors, they will be fully welcome – although all those entering under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult

• although, as noted, a cloak and gloves are provided as you enter, you’re advised to definitely dress in warm clothes

• no refunds are available for late arrivals – and be sure to arrive on time for your booking, as your slot is only 20 minutes

• the nearest Tube stations are Bond Street, Paddington and Marble Arch.

Cinderella on Ice

There are, as mentioned, several shows and performances on at Winter Wonderland that are more than worth checking out. And perhaps the most popular among them may prove to be Cinderella on Ice, which blends the timeless and universally popular, magical fairy-tale with stunning and exquisite world-class, professional ice-skating. Its story is, of course, widely known, narrating how the downtrodden heroine discovers, captivates, loses and, finally, regains her handsome prince, thanks to a slice or two of magic courtesy of her Fairy Godmother and in spite of the machinations of her stepsisters.

Featuring particularly beguiling choreography and bewitching special effects that combine to suggest the likes of rain, fire and people flying, this production features a cast of 18 World, European and National Championship skaters, whom perform terrific turns, pirouettes, lifts, jumps and high-speed throws.

Each show runs for around 50 minutes; performance times each day being 12noon, 2pm, 4pm, 5.45pm and 7.30pm.

Zippo’s Christmas Circus

With every performance of this traditional family show taking place during the day and none in the evening (12.30pm, 2pm, 3.30pm – on selected days only – and 5pm), this one’s truly ideal if you’re planning on visiting Winter Wonderland with very young kids. Not least because each performance is only 45 minutes-long and jam-packed full of extraordinary acrobats, silly, comedic clowns and all-round colour, vibrancy, variety, bravura and breath-taking feats of strength and illusion.

Plus, circus-goers of all ages will be beguiled by the sheer scale of the event that unfolds before them, especially as its venue is the Circus Megadome, the biggest tented structure in the country; resplendent too with theatre-quality seating, heating and fantastic refreshments like traditional candy floss, irresistible popcorn and marshmallow-topped hot chocolate.

Cirque Berserk

Admittedly less suitable for the little ones than Zippo’s Circus, but undoubtedly a thrill-a-second experience, is the more adulted-oriented Cirque Berserk. The showcase is all about delivering full-throttle energy for guests in the shape of off-the-chart stunts. Entitled ‘Rebellion’, this year’s show delivered by the bold and daring Cirque Berserk team, combines truly spectacular and nerve-shredding thrills and spills; amazing acrobatics, sensational trapeze and extraordinary contortion acts, including a motorbike ridden along a high-wire and – count ’em! – five motorcyclists participating in the insane Globe of Death stunt.

Also taking place in the Circus Megadome, each Cirque Berserk show lasts around 45 minutes and performance times are 7pm, 8pm and 9pm daily.

The Sooty Christmas Show

The UK may have gone Paddington crazy in recent weeks with the release of the Peruvian ursine one’s latest movie, but it’s the yellow-fleeced, black-eared family favourite Sooty – as well as his loveable, mischievous dog friend Sweep, sensible panda pal Soo and human companion Richard Cadell – that kids of all ages can see for real and live at Winter Wonderland this Christmas. Performances take place at 11am everyday and last around 45 minutes; guaranteed to contain a marvellous mix of entertainment, music and, yes, magic – izzy-wizzy, let’s get busy!

Giant Observation Wheel

Finally, what better attraction to finish with than the one that enables you to survey the entirety of Winter Wonderland from high above Hyde Park itself? This giant Ferris wheel – the largest in the UK – makes for an excellent and ideal occasion-marking venue (say, for a birthday or anniversary); yet, it’s also ideal for viewing the exquisite panorama of the London skyline and treating yourself to something a bit different but rather special as Christmas approaches in earnest.

Do note that timings for sessions (or ‘flights’) on the wheel last between 12 and 15 minutes, while booking a VIP pod on the wheel ensures your flight will be slightly longer – around 20 minutes. Plus, note too that the final flight of each day kicks-off at 9.45pm. So, don’t be late; your pod won’t wait!