When is Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2019?
The huge funfair and festival in Hyde Park opens its huge gates for the Christmas 2019 season on 21 November 2019, and runs until 5 January 2020.
It's open every day except Christmas Day, and the hours are 10am-10pm every day (expect the first day, 21 November, when it opens at 4pm). We've known it to close slightly early on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve in the past — which is fair enough, as the staff have places to be.
How to get to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2019
The Winter Wonderland site (and it's a big site) is located in the south-east corner of Hyde Park — just head for the flashing funfair lights and big wheel. The nearest tube stations are Hyde Park Corner, Green Park, Knightsbridge and Marble Arch. There are multiple entrances to Winter Wonderland, although not all are open at all times, and plenty of signs and stewards to help you find your nearest entrance.
Helpful hint for parents: there's a dedicated family entrance that takes you straight into the Santa Land area of Winter Wonderland, and saves you battling the crowds with pushchairs, toddlers and young children. Look for signs to the red gate to find it.
Is Winter Wonderland child-friendly?
There's plenty for children to do at Winter Wonderland, including mini fairground rides, an ice rink, a Paddington on Ice show, and a chance to meet Santa — and that's barely scraping the surface. The bright lights and colours, Christmas decorations and myriad sweet stalls make it something of a child's paradise.
So it's child-friendly, but keeping the kids happy has the potential to make quite a dent in parents' wallets. You've been warned.
Beyond the entertainment, the Winter Wonderland organisers put in a solid effort at making the whole experience as child-friendly as possible. In addition to the family entrance mentioned above, there are baby-changing facilities available at every major toilet block, and a Family Chill Space in Santa Land, where younger visitors can have some downtime away from the bright lights and excitement of it all (and parents can use facilities provided to heat up baby food/bottles).
Buggy parks are provided outside the theatre shows, kiddie skates and skate aids are available on the ice rink, and shows such as Paddington on Ice are just 45 minutes long, ideal for kids' attention spans.
In short, Winter Wonderland is very family-friendly, as long as you plan ahead, and don't mind parting with a fair bit of cash.
What's on at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2019
What's not on at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland? The huge festival site encompasses Christmas markets (yes, plural), funfair rides, bars, food and drink stalls, a circus, an ice rink, a theatre and more. Here are the main highlights:
Ice rink at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Apparently the biggest open-air ice rink in the UK, Winter Wonderland's skating area is rather picturesque, centred around the park's permanent bandstand, and often with live acoustic music to accompany your figure-of-eights. It's at its best at night, when a canopy of lights hangs overhead. Book ahead, especially at busy times, or check out your other winter ice skating options in London.
Christmas markets at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
That's right — markets, plural. Although in the madness of it all, it's not entirely clear where one market ends and another begins. Basically, expect a lot of German-style wooden chalets selling everything from candles to soaps, scarves, jewellery, wooden carvings, sweets, fudge, chocolate, festive food, baubles and decorations, and much more.
Theatre shows at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
From circus to comedy to ice skating, Winter Wonderland hosts plenty of festive stage shows. Zippo's Christmas Circus is a family-friendly production of clowns and acrobatics, while the death-defying, motorcycle stunts of Cirque Berserk are perhaps best left to a more mature audience. Kids are in for a treat with Paddington On Ice, a skate-based retelling of the story of the Peruvian bear, while really young ones are catered for with Mr Men and Little Miss: The Show. Elsewhere, the Winter Wonderland Comedy Club has called in some big names from the comedy world, including Milton Jones and Zoe Lyons.
Book ahead for all shows.
Ice Kingdom at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
If walking in a Winter Wonderland isn't festive enough for you, how about walking in an ice kingdom in a Winter Wonderland? This year, the ice sculptures take the form of characters and scenes from A Christmas Carol, using 500 tonnes of snow and ice. Dress warm to wander past the likes of a 6m Big Ben, and the Cratchett family feast at a chilly -10°c. Book ahead for this one too.
Funfair at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Even if you've never been to Winter Wonderland, you've probably seen its rollercoasters protruding into London's winter sky. There are more than 100 rides and games to choose from at Winter Wonderland, ranging from a traditional funfair for kids and tamer adults, to wild loop the loop rollercoasters and waltzers. You might recognise the Star Flyer from its summer residency next to the London Eye, but for us, it's all about the huge observation wheel — it's a new one this year, 70m high (the tallest transportable wheel in the world, natch), and offering seriously impressive views over the fun below, and the skyline beyond.
Food and drink at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Whether you're after a warming hot chocolate or mulled wine, or a full meal for all the family, Winter Wonderland has plenty of eating and drinking options — though bear in mind that it may not be your cheapest refuelling option, and seating can be limited (/non-existent) at busy times.
Boozehounds are well catered for with a variety of bars and watering holes. Bar Ice (book ahead) serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails in -10°c surroundings, while Bar Hütte Karaoke offers more of an apres-ski vibe. The open-air Fire Pit bar is a bit more rustic, with live music sets, and marshmallow toasting opportunities. A carousel bar (hard work after a couple of pints...), Arctic Lodge, and Scandi-style tipi bar are just some of your other options for liquid refreshment... and that's before we get to the beer-based options of the Bavarian Village.
To soak it all up, you've got (deep breath): street food, crepes, waffles, churros, sweet stalls, barbecue pits, hog roasts, fish and chips, Bratwursts and a whole hosts of sit-down restaurants in the aforementioned Bavarian Village. Just don't go chowing it all down at once, especially if you're planning a post-lunch whirl on the waltzers.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland tickets
You don't need a ticket to get into Hyde Park Winter Wonderland — it's free to enter and wander around. But several of the attractions, the theatre shows, and some of the bars, require tickets once you're inside. It's best to book as far in advance as possible, especially if you're visiting at peak time.
Free things to do at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
As we've said, entry to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is free, but things get pricey once you're inside. That doesn't mean you can't do it on the cheap though.
Visit Santa at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland's Father Christmas is free to visit — a rare thing in a city of pricey grottos — and there's even a gift included for children who've been good. That said, you can't book for your freebie rendezvous with the man in red, and queues have been known to be several hours long in past years.
Live music at the ice rink
Sure, it'll cost you money to get on the ice rink, but there's nothing to stop you standing at the edge watching the comedic falls unfold and listening to the live acoustic music emanating from the bandstand.
Best time to visit Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Want to visit Winter Wonderland without the crowds? Good luck with that — it's a very popular attraction, with a rumoured 2.5million people visiting during its six-week run every year.
As you'd expect, weekends and evenings are the most popular times — and Saturday evenings can be the most hellish — so visit on a week day if possible. If that doesn't fit into your schedule, try to visit earlier in the run if possible — the weeks closest to Christmas tend to be busy all day, every day. Weekday mornings are the best, if you're fully flexible — and are ideal for visiting with pre-school age children.
Tips for visiting Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland app
There's an official Hyde Park Winter Wonderland app, updated for 2019, which has all the information you need for a visit — including a very handy map — and where you can buy tickets.
Meeting people at Winter Wonderland
If you're meeting up with family or friends for a trip to Winter Wonderland, we recommend meeting outside the Hyde Park attraction, and heading through the gates together. Not only do the crowds make it hard to find people inside, but we've known it to be so rammed that getting phone signal is impossible too.
Contactless payment on rides
If you're going to be going hard on the rollercoasters this winter, consider a Season Ride Pass. The prepaid card can be loaded online, meaning that once you get to Winter Wonderland, you don't have to queue for ride tokens — just tap in to each ride you want to go on. Like an Oyster card, for the adrenalin junky.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2019, 21 November 2019-5 January 2020.