A trip to Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland has become as much a part of the Little Vikings family Christmas as spending an afternoon with a highlighter and a copy of the Christmas Radio Times and investing in a massive tub of chocolates that no-one really likes but everyone eats. Much more fun than trying to dodge the strawberry creams is an hour on the ice with the kids, listening to festive tunes while we circle the giant Christmas tree. We headed along to the launch of Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland with three very excited children in tow to see what families can expect this year. There was no need to follow the signs to the rink: the sight of the twinkling 30ft tree and the sound of Christmas classics old and new lured us across the car park to the biggest ice rink in the north.
First stop: get your skates on! Skate hire is friendly and efficient (and included in the price), with double-bladed skates that go over normal shoes for younger children. Skates on, we followed the sound of Slade’s Merry Christmas onto the rink. We’re not a family that’s ever going to grace Dancing on Ice, but that won’t stop us having a go. In fact, our youngest first took to the ice at the age of two and loves it even more than our older kids. Now four, she’s the first to strap on her skates and discard the penguin skating aid to see how she can manage without it.
After a couple of wobbly circuits, we all found our feet and enjoyed gliding around the ice with varying degrees of competence. The four-year-old needed to hold a hand or penguin at all times, but the six and eight-year-olds managed on their own after a bit of practice. We had to navigate a bit of a puddle on our way around, which added to the challenge but was presumably an opening night teething problem. By the end of the hour, we’d gone from Bambi on ice to a slightly more confident family of slightly less wobbly deer who really didn’t want to leave the rink. It’s one of those rare activities that we all enjoy, regardless of age.
The prospect of a warming hot chocolate with all the trimmings at Papa Hutte took the edge off having to hand back our skates. The cosy rinkside bar and cafe has a range of hot and cold drinks and a selection of simple warming food like cheese toasties and soup. There’s mulled wine, too, plus Brew York ales and lagers. Grab a wooden table, as we did, and don’t forget to point the children in the direction of the kids’ corner in the hope of five minutes of peace and quiet (miracles happen at Christmas, right?).
If you’ve got any energy left – a restorative hot drink or cookie will do the trick – there’s a vintage funfair with a small but perfectly formed selection of traditional rides and activities, from hook-a-duck to a carousel.
Families with serious stamina could easily combine a trip to Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland with a visit to see Santa in his grotto or some Christmas shopping at the Outlet; parking is free and there’s a huge selection of shops and restaurants to choose from (and a covered outdoor play area too). For us, our ice skating trip is enough of an adventure in itself, and one that gets easier and more enjoyable as our children grow (and develop better balance!). The ultimate recommendation comes from the fact that they all keep asking if we can go back, and I’ve already booked to take the little one again (the parent and toddler ticket is a bit of a bargain at £10.95). The Radio Times can wait.
Top tips: Book your tickets online rather than attempting to buy them on the day; popular slots sell out early. Gloves and thick socks are a good idea for everyone.
Good to know: Penguin and snowman skating aids are available; penguins are for younger children but anyone can use a snowman. Phones and bags are not allowed on the ice for safety reasons. There’s no official lower age limit other than ‘if they can walk, they can skate’. Birthday party packages are available from £12.25 per person.