Saturday, 28 November 2009 12:00 AM
A VIP launch with a rather D-list attendance, a half-shut ice rink and a rollercoaster closed without explanation or apology shouldn't really leave you feeling warm and Christmassy, but Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland can't help but induce the seasonal spirit, even with a stuttering start.
X Factor choreographer Brian Friedman and former Big Brother housemate Nikki Grahame were the most glamorous of the celebrities invited by sponsors Capital FM but with a host of new attractions and an unashamedly innocent feel, it'd be a shame to let Christmas pass in the capital without a visit.
With no admission fee, token entries to the park's rides and very reasonable group rates for big top shows or trips encompassing a skate on the ice rink and a spin on the 50m Observation Wheel, it can be as cheap or expensive a day or night out as you want.
It's hard to imagine a child worldly enough to not be impressed by the neon glare of the event while there's ample opportunity for couples to spend a romantic evening in the park or adult groups to enjoy lashings of mulled wine and a healthy portion of Bratwurst before a ride on the - slightly underwhelming - ghost train or the simple and spinetingling swinging chairs.
A live band playing disco hits gives the attraction a distinctly European feel but despite a whiff of cheese in the artificial Bavarian Village, it's refreshing to attend a central London event with mass appeal that doesn't feature reams of corporate branding.
Though a needlessly rude staff member mystifyingly ignored the fact that it was a VIP/press day and offered no apology to a 50-strong queue for a ride closing early, he was thankfully an exception among his helpful and personable colleagues and after some stunning views of the city thanks to the park's sturdy and impressive mini version of the London Eye, it's not hard to see why more than 1.5 million people will visit Winter Wonderland over the next six weeks. I'll certainly be heading back.
Follow us @travelbite