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Winter Wonderland opened on 22nd November 2018. It had a charity evening on the 21st which was attended by celebrities and others who paid £65 a head for unlimited ride tickets. The event was in aid of the Royal Parks. Tonight (22nd) was the public’s turn to sample Britain’s largest pop up theme park.

There have been many changes to the site, the most obvious being the switch of many family/children’s rides from the Hyde Park corner side to the Marble Arch side. Conversely much of the market on the north side was instead dispatched to the south side. Many of the rides are in completely new locations and very little remains in the spots they have occupied these last few years.

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That old favourite – the Bavarian Village – stays where it is.

The Bavarian Village remains in the same spot, although the approaches to it are not somewhat different. The Big Wheel has been at the Marble Arch side for a long time. This year it was shifted to a position just to the side of the München Looping. The famous roller coaster remains where it as been these few years, as is Wilde Maus. The Eurocoaster was shifted next to the Wilde Maus to make way for the Giant Wheel. The Alpine Fun House used to stand opposite the München Looping now its been shifted further south. The Haunted Mansion remains where it has always been.

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The Haunted Mansion stays where it is.

A number of visitors seem to like the new arrangement. Its interesting, although given that I have been used to the old arrangement the new took a little bit of getting used to but on the whole it seems to have merits, although I imagine keeping the old arrangement with some minor changes wouldn’t have gone amiss. However the main reason for the changes is because the family area and Zippo’s circus were moved to the Marble Arch side where a new dedicated family entrance would be established. There is still a family area on the south side but its far smaller than previous.

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Winter Wonderland’s shop is bigger this year and its also moved towards the central area away from the Marble Arch side.

The main Xmas market is now on the south side, and arranged differently. I immediately noticed how this new arrangement was encouraging more people to look at the Blacksmiths/Hungarian Wood Carver workshops. So far I have not worked out whether the new Xmas market is in fact better, but there is one thing I like about it and this is the fact it is now on the gentle slopes leading down to the Serpentine. This, coupled with the new curved streets (rather than the old straight and somewhat boring streets) has made it a much more interesting place to browse, buy presents for Xmas or enjoy the different foods on offer.

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The Xmas Angel markets and the Helter Skelter now on the south side of the park.

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Another view of the Helter Skelter from the kids fun area. The Angels Xmas Market is to the right.

Clearly there is one other benefit that results from this switch. The big tent and other larger attractions previously in this area can now make use of the flatter terrain on the north side of the theme park whilst the smaller attractions, the market stalls for example, fit nicely on the slopes, these do not require so much ground estate and can fit the contours nicely – its definitely more pleasing than the previous location.

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Dr. Archibald Master of Time. Winter Wonderland’s first immersive VR ride.

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Riding Dr. Archibald’s with VR headsets.

The new VR ride, Dr Archibald’s, takes place where the family area was roughly before, and its set upon a flat area at the bottom of a slope. Its is a nice touch because the main approach past the Hangover (in its usual spot) to the new ride now consists of an avenue sloping directly downwards giving everyone a good view of Dr Archibald’s. Clearly they have done this to ensure the new ride is as visible as possible from the main rides area. I dont know why they did not put Dr Archibald’s further up with the other main rides but it doesn’t really matter because it seems quite well placed anyway. Dr Archibald’s is a family ride thus another possible reason for its location is to forge a connection between the more adult themed rides and the other smaller family rides which have been relocated down here.

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The new wide avenue opening up a vista past Hangover down towards Dr. Archibald.

The Giant Wheel for the first time this year has an immersive experience. People will be able to ask Google’s Bot for things like whether it snows in their pictures or request things like a hot chocolate drink as they wait for the ride. This is being done in partnership with Google who are providing the AI side of things. This along with Dr Archibald’s, is showing us how technology is becoming a pervasive influence in terms of theme parks. The old type of theme park ride (whether its the Big Wheel or Archibald’s guided rail trucks) is being supplemented by new technology and its making a difference however the good old roller coaster or waltzer ride wont be going away very soon! To replace these completely one would have to develop holographic rides and I think its a long way off yet!

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The north side which is more open since the changes have been made. The Giant Wheel is now nearer the centre of the park.

New rides this year include Dr. Archibald Master of Time, the Real Ice Slide, Grundler & Preuss’s Circus Circus, Wipe Out (KMG Surf Ride), and there’s also new bars such as the Explorer’s Rest and Bar Ice sited either side of the Winter Wonderland shop/The Magical Ice Kingdom.

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The Explorer’s Rest.

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A bigger Winter Wonderland shop sited in the centre of the park.

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New ride the Real Ice Slide. It didnt seem well used, its entrance is somewhat obscure….

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The München Looping, a Winter Wonderland favourite, is back!

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Another new ride from Germany, this is Circus Circus.

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The Fine Food Cabins are in the same location, however there’s more room now. Previously it was a fairly constrained thoroughfare.

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The Wilde Maus (Wild Mouse) stays where it is.

People/Entertainers:

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One of the people I spotted this evening, or rather a cockatoo, was Teddy Knight as his name is! Here is Teddy on the shoulder of his mentor. I spotted them walking through and asked for a photograph. If you want to know moew about Teddy Knight the cockatoo or follow him, he is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Another person I met was Mark (he’s a real person not a cockatoo sorry!) He’s one of the security guards at Winter Wonderland whose job is keeping a look out to make sure everyone is happy and most importantly that everyone is safe. He is a wildlife photographer and showed me some of his work which I found impressive. Its not just animals he also does landscapes, buildings, cars, even the pretty Dorset coast and so on. I basically said to him, ‘you are a much better photographer than I am!’ Well that is true! My photography is the pits lol! I would like to do a post on the security – if they’ll let me – about what they are doing and the challenges they have to face. It looks an easy job however I am sure there are times when things become difficult and then its no enviable job, especially when people have had a bit too much fun and drink….

As far as other people come and go at Winter Wonderland, this was the first time I spotted Father Christmas here. Since this was the opening night for the general public, there was a parade with musicians, jugglers and the famous white bearded man himself, as my next pictures show. But first some guys I spotted outside the Magical Ice Kingdom!

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Caped crusaders – the type sadly without any super powers! Seen outside the Magical Ice Kingdom.

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Santa’s band comes marching down the street…

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And his jugglers follow with a happy face and smile!

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The gracious presence of the King and the Queen, think they must be from Kensington Palace! Its gotta be Meghan (with a wig) and Harry!

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The Jugglers with their unicycles, making sure I capture their every move as they jest and joust on this night of merry fun!

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The Queen, looking quite purple is she not? Morning sickness or what?

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And finally comes Father Christmas. Yipee! Hip Hip Hooray! Big applause for the famous man himself – yes he really does exist!

I’ll be back with some more stuff on Winter Wonderland. Be seeing you 🙂

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