Ok so we are a couple of weeks off Christmas yet but what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to take my young family somewhere special to kick things off.
I toyed with Hyde Parks Wonderland – however that would mean being unable to take the little ones and only the 11 year old. Surly there must be something closer to home where we can all go?
Hayling Winter Wonderland of course.
The website looks great, the experience sounds exactly what I was looking for.
At least it had better be because this experience was going to cost us £56 for the pleasure.
So did it live up to our expectations – well let me put it this way:
For £56 for a family of five – Don’t Waste Your Money.
Man Alive it was nothing like the experience presented on the site:
Your Visit starts with a return journey along the seafront courtesy of The Hayling Island Light Seaside Railway. There you will be issued your passport, can enjoy the festivities of the day and even meet Rudolph, Santa’s favourite reindeer!
The train ride was what the train ride promised. However the festivities of the day were non existent. There were a few Christmas trees that looked very sorry for themselves but beyond that I didn’t see any festivities. Rudolph had his jeans hanging out the bottom of his well worn costume. We were also treated to a snowman joining Rudolph – well someone in a grubby snowman costume who couldn’t even keep their costume head on the whole time.
The train journey took us to end of the line which was The South Pole (the last time I checked Santa lived at The North Pole).
Following your train journey you will be met by Santa’s elves and escorted to the Kidz Kingdom play area in Funland arcade, or you can ride on a selection of children’s rides. While the grownups are enjoying the fun, they can have a mince pie and a festive tipple!
None of this happened.
In fact when the train got back to its starting point around 50 of us were then just left to find out way around a half shut amusement arcade to the “Winter Wonderland”. We were certainly never shown or told about a Kidz Kingdom play area (which would have been spot in with a 2 year old and a 3 year old who were full of energy).
As for riding on a selection of children’s rides – I think two were up and running, although well hidden amongst the closed ones giving the whole place a very derelict feel.
And where the hell were our Mince Pies and tipple? There wasn’t anyone who even looked like they were offering these or dealing with it. Instead we were stood in a long queue surrounded by slot machines kicking off all over the place – seriously Christmassy.
The elves will return a little later to take you on your visit to Santa, with a breathtaking walk through wonderland, where you will meet Santa Claus himself and the kids will receive an early Christmas present.
The Elves never returned.
We were just told to go up the stairs.
Now credit where credit is due – the actual grotto was nice. It had been put together nicely and you did have to walk around it before getting to Santa’s house. It was atmospheric and the kids loved it. Oh sorry I mean to say WOULD HAVE LOVED IT. As you can imagine our 11 year old was quite happy to just crack on and get round but our 2 and 3 year olds well they were trying to do what all 2 and 3 year olds do and take it all in with shouts of “look Daddy” and “look Mummy”. The problem was one of the elves had actually returned and we were ushered round quickly. The second I stopped with my 2 year old girl the elf was there right on my shoulder, not pushing us on but you didn’t feel comfy stopping to look at anything for more than two seconds.
Listen of course I understand that they need to keep to timescales. Santa has the names of the kids coming to see him so there has to be some order but why during the only bit worth rating rush people through. Your only redeeming feature and no one is allowed to stay and enjoy it?
So we got the Santa.
Santa was jolly and very welcoming – just a shame he continued to get my youngest son’s name wrong.
The usual “no photography while your kids are sat with Santa” was in place giving you the just their one snapshot to take away from it – needless to say we didn’t. Trying to get three kids to all pose at the same time is impossible – Hayling Winter Wonderland certainly weren’t going to pull it off in one snapshot.
This Year Christmas begins at Funland!
No it bloody doesn’t.
The website serves up a picture of this wonderful Christmas Wonderland that will really get you into the spirit of things. Bring Your Kids – Bring Your Family.
They even have testimonials on their site with some amazing claims: ”The most amazing day out in Hampshire.” ”So beautiful, I cried.”
These have to be made up
Did I mention:
The very long hair my wife found in her food in the Wimpy onsite?
The staff member who kicked tables into place while cleaning up in the same place who then shouted at us “sorry hahahahah I said SORRY”.
The 1 Franc coin given to us in our change – how long have France been using Euros now?
And the extra £30 it cost to eat there – starving disappointed kids, we didn’t have much choice but to eat on site before the mood dropped to the point of wishing Christmas didn’t exist.
In the end we felt that we had to give the 11 year old some time in the amusement park to make up for having dragged him along for this farce of a Winter Wonderland.
More expense and yes I am aware that cash also went into their pockets…
Grand total into their pockets £90.
So that was my experience of the Hayling Winter Wonderland – basically an afternoon spent in an arcade picking hair out of burgers and getting 50p’s changed up into 2ps so the kids could play a bit longer on slot machines.
It doesn’t get any more like Christmas than that.
And Aidan’s present broke.
DON’T DO IT PEOPLE.