East London’s very own Winter Wonderland? Well, maybe close to it yes. Situated in Victoria Park, Hackney Winterville is the self dubbed antithesis of corporate theme parks. This family friendly pop-up town offers a break from bubble gum, cookie cutter commercialism and instead provides a fresh taste of independence, championing the independents and creatives.
Split into zones, you have a funfair, shops, restaurants and a kids area with smaller rides and a Santa’s grotto. You need to buy tokens for the rides in both the main funfair and also the children’s zone. These are priced at £1 per token and there are signs at the token booths to let you know how many tokens each ride takes. Prices vary, we spent 3 tokens (£3) per person on some rides and there were others which charged 5 tokens per person. I chose to stay clear of the £5 ride, there was a great looking mini roller coaster charging this amount but it just seemed over priced.
Winterville is hosting a pantomime but the tickets for this is already completely sold out. There is also an ice rink on site which you can still buy tickets for. Sessions run every hour and run for 45 minutes. A trip on the ice will cost you £12 per adult and £8.50 per child. You can book your ice skating tickets in advance on the Winterville website, though you will incur a charge. There are also charges for taking you r money out of the ATM machines within the Winterville site so worth bearing in mind before you get there! I paid £2.95 for my transaction which made my eyes water, but was less hassle than trying to take my six year old out of the park in search of another machine. More fool me for not planning ahead!
There are plenty of free activities to take part in within Winterville. We made puppets in the House of Fairy Tales. This was possibly my favourite area. You could have your name engraved on a grain of sand (for £2.50) get the best home made vegetable soup (£3.50) and buy some quirky, original Christmas gifts whilst your kids sat up on the main stage and got their craft on, sewing together their own puppets.
Another attraction I really enjoyed was the roller disco. There was plenty of space to sit down and chill out and it also had its own bar. Reasonably priced and playing some serious tunes, it was a major highlight. It also was a major reminder at just how out of shape I was and how long it had been since my Roller Express days, when everyone owned a pair of Bauer Turbos and I could spin and jiggle as well as the BUMP crew. The staff were really friendly, helpful and set the vibe.
The location is served by numerous bus routes, many of which stop right outside the park’s entrance making it ideal for reaching via public transport. We caught the overground train into London Fields Station and then took the 277 bus the rest of the way. Bethnal Green tube station is also nearby. There is a bike park directly in front of the Winterville entrance and it was great to see that so many people had taken the opportunity to ride to the venue.
If you are planning on attending Winterville with young children, you may want to go early. When we got there at around midday, it was very family centric, however, by the time we were leaving (around 4:30) the average age of the people around me had shifted dramtically, the pubs were all heaving and the vibe had turned more into a party than a magical Christmas experience. That’s great if you’re going with a group of friends but not sure how much a 5 year old would get out of it.
Winterville is open until 2 January (shut 25th and 26th December). For more information check out the official website winterville.co.uk