If you drove past my house this holiday season, you’d never know that I love the Christmas (holiday) lights as the house is dark. While I would love to go all “Christmas Vacation” with lights, the technical difficulties are my downfall, that, and no outside electrical outlets. Seeing the twinkling lights transport me back to my childhood when I would fall asleep under the Christmas tree (and lights) dreaming of Santa, presents and cookies. These memories are romantic, dream filled, happy times when magic seemed possible.
The magic of childhood wasn’t just confined to Santa and Christmas lights but extended to the fun of the summer carnival. In London, they’ve combined Santa, the carnival and Christmas into Winter Wonderland. After my weekend in Iceland, I was able to enjoy the Christmas lights and Winter Wonderland in London which reminded me of the magic of the holiday season.
Winter Wonderland London
Years ago, I happened upon Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park on a Wednesday afternoon. I was staying at the Sheraton Park Lane which is a short ten minute walk. It was deserted back then and seemed a small carnival in the middle of Hyde Park with Father Christmas (Santa to you and me) in one corner for photos. This year, I revisited Winter Wonderland with a friend and the holiday carnival seemed to have grown exponentially in terms of rides, attractions, market stalls and food offerings.
While the tube announcements caution of the crowds at Hype Park Corner and suggest you get off at Green Park (a very long walk in the cold mind you), I stayed on until my stop. It was a Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m. and Winter Wonderland had just opened a few days prior so there were crowds but not yet the masses that would swarm on the weekends (watch out for the prams!). My friend and I entered walking past the many Christmas market stalls selling a variety of gifts. We then were torn which way to go as there are many sections to visit now.
With the blaring music, my friend and I stopped to watch one ride as it swung back and forth and we both said “that’s kinda lame”. We instantly felt old as the ride amped up the fun (and fear factor) by doing a clockwise loop and then spinning around as it continued swinging. The riders were spinning around and upside down and my friend and I had to take back our comments (we were the lame ones) and just stand there in awe of how much carnival rides have changed from our days on the Tilt a Whirl.
We continued walking and saw a few of our favorite childhood rides that we had in common -Dodge ‘Ems (UK) equals Bumper Cars (US) and decided that they were awesome when we were young. We laughed a lot as we walked around the rides and watched the kids try to win the big stuffed animal. I then wandered off and my friend just smiled as he watched me from afar – I reverted into my solo self – taking photos, going from here to there and singing along with the Christmas music until I found the 80’s music!
The live band was dressed in costumes/wigs (for the 80’s? no idea why) singing as the crowds (older folks in their 30’s-50’s) sat around the fire pits drinking mulled wine and pints enjoying the music. A few people were dancing and singing along.
We continued walking, watching and contemplating if we wanted to lose our stomachs and try the new rides. “I love the swings” I said and thought we could ride the new version that swings around as it goes up and down and around at the same time, “are you ok with heights”? I asked. My friend replied “bad with heights” and that pretty much eliminated all of the rides. He asked if I wanted to ice skate in the small rink and I really wanted to despite my poor coordination, however, my dumb feet had swollen and with my flight the next day, I had to decline. At this point, the line for photos with Father Christmas was long and I was hungry so we left Winter Wonderland in search of dinner.
Christmas Lights in London on Piccadilly
After leaving Winter Wonderland we walked Piccadilly toward Covent Garden for dinner at Polpo. We passed Bond Street lights, Piccadilly Shopping Arcades, Regent Street, Leicester Square shooting stars (make a wish!), circles on the street before arriving in Covent Garden.
Covent Garden Christmas Lights
The Reindeer welcomed us to Covent Garden. In the sheds, one arcade was decorated while the open common area showcased decorative over sized ornament balls with a bit of fun thrown in (the disco ball!). The serenity of the misty, rainy night with the Christmas tree in the background added to the dream like state I was in.
After seeing all of the lights from Winter Wonderland to Covent Garden, it was beginning to look (and feel) a lot like Christmas. The magical spirit of the season sparked by some pretty lights in London made for a great visit to the city.
Originally posted Christmas Eve 2014, I’ve since been back to Winter Wonderland & London lights in 2015 and 2016 so I’ve updated the post a tad. I love Christmas time in London, hopefully you will get to experience it too!