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Monday 27 November 2017

Review: Winter Wonderland for toddlers

This week has been a sleepless one - two babes with colds = two tired parents. But tickets for the press preview of Winter Wonderland were on our noticeboard, and we couldn't pass up the chance to check out one of London's festive highlights. 
With our baby snoozing in his sling all evening (apart from a brief attempt to grab my mulled wine, above) our focus was on Winter Wonderland for toddlers - they're not going to be going on the rollercoasters or downing the tankards of mulleed wine, but they'll still be having a fab time thanks to the special rides, the lights, and the food. So, what's good, what's free, what's worth visiting and when? Here's our guide to Winter Wonderland for tots.

When to go

If your toddler isn't at nursery and you're not working full-time, go during the week if at all possible. It's much quieter - meaning fewer queues, less waiting time, and more freedom to wander around without being squashed. Going on a weekday morning will be quietest, but the lights are more impressive in the dark (when there's also live music and shows) so you could go around 2pm to get the best of the 'quiet time' and a glimpse of night-time Winter Wonderland before leaving ahead of the crowds. 

The cost

You don't have to pay to enter Winter Wonderland - so with very young kids you might get away with just sauntering around and the odd hot chocolate. But once they're old enough to ask, you'll be hit in the wallet. The little fairground stalls are £3-£5, the kids' rides start at £2 and the others are considerably more. Certain attractions you can book in advance - like The Magical Ice Kingdom (which is amazing, see below), the Giant Observation Wheel, Zippos Christmas Circus, Cinderella on Ice, and the Sooty show. Take cash as the ATMs in situ charge a fee and most places don't take cards.

The rides

For a toddler, the huge rollercoasters, haunted house, etc won't work - but there are SO MANY rides - really, Winter Wonderland is huge (here's a map and bring a buggy if you're still even remotely at that tired legs stage) that there'll be more attractions for your children than you'll have the time (and money) to go on. Tiny man loved the various carousels, the little train ride, the bumper cars (with Mr ROOW), and the mini Austin car ride. The Santa Express train ride was a big hit too.

The Magical Ice Kingdom was really popular with all of ice - impressive ice sculptures of scuba divers, fish, animals, and even ice thrones and an ice slide to go down (although they won't let you take a tot down the slide on your lap.)

We didn't get the chance but you can also visit Father Christmas in the Santa Land grotto (10am to 6pm) - it's free and kids receive a small present too. 

The facilities

It's really easy to stroll around with a buggy (although harder during busy periods), there are baby-changing facilities at various disabled toilets. I didn't catch one of the shows - like Zippos Circus and The Sooty Christmas Show - but friends who have said they're professional and enjoyable. They're free for under 2s too. 

What to take

Warm clothes - it's all outdoors, bar some big eating and drinking spaces, and The Magical Ice Kingdom is seriously frosty: it's -10°C so you'll definitely want to be dressed up cosily to linger for the time you'll want to. 

* ROOW was invited to press night at Winter Wonderland, but rest assured we're seriously gobby and only rave about things we really love.

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