Winter Wonderland MK – A Disaster!

poundland santa

‘Poundland’ Santa – is it any wonder children were left upset? It cost us £22 to see this man!

I don’t normally write reviews on this blog, but today I have been moved to do so.

Last month, I booked tickets for our family to Winter Wonderland MK, which opened today. Their website had an exciting sounding write up promising ‘experience all the magic of the holiday season right here in Milton Keynes! For the first time ever, centrally-located Campbell Park will fall under a captivating spell and come alive, to be transformed into an enchanting Winter Wonderland.’ 


The advertising for the event

We had decided to go and make a special day out of it, as the event advertised meeting Santa’s reindeer, ice skating, huskies, and lots more stating it there were ‘an exciting range of activities and attractions to surprise and delight your children’.

Well, I am sad to report that for the hundreds of families who were there today, that there were quite a few disappointments to be had. If you look at the reviews on their facebook page, it clearly shows many of us left feeling the same way

We had spent £42 on pre-booking our visit – a lot of money so we expected to have a nice day out. We arrived at the park at 11am, confirmed our booking to see Santa at 1pm and wandered around (it was very small so didn’t take long). We went to see the Circus and then at 1pm to Santa’s Grotto for the childrens’ visit (which for our three children in total we had paid £22 – photos were extra to this). Being a chilly and windy December day, and as we had already been around the whole ‘wonderland’ were planning to leave after this.

We get to the grotto with our children to find it was closed, with a ‘technical issues’ sign on the door. An elf told us there was an electrical fault – and the earliest we would be able to see Santa would be 4pm. With 3 young children (including a 4 month old baby), standing  in a field (as there was no seating or indoor provision) for the next 3 hours was impossible. We had to try and tell our 5 and 4 year old that Santa was not there after all, after days of telling them what a special day out to meet him it was going to be.

It transpires that the grotto had been closed down, not because of a technical fault (we actually walked through the wonderland about 10 minutes after being first told this and the electrics were fine) but because of the level of complaints which had been received that morning by other people visiting the grotto. Firstly, the ‘gifts’ which were included in the fee turned out to be paper bags with 4 colouring pieces of paper in them and 4 crayons – and there were lots of complaints. As we were leaving at 2pm, we saw someone finally arrive with boxes of toys to wrap…

Secondly, the Santa was disappointing to say the least. Nothing like the photos in the adverts, these were men dressed in Santa outfits from Poundland. While we were in the Winter Wonderland, Santa briefly appeared from the grotto. Unfortunately, his beard was falling down and you could see his normal clothes underneath his costume. Obviously parents were not allowed to photograph Santa (as they were selling photos) but one parent managed to grab a snap of ‘Santa’ and this is the photo on social media which is going around which shows how dreadful it was:

Not exactly ‘magical’ and our children asked where the real one was. To add insult to injury a discussion between the elves and a friend of the security team took place directly infront of us and our children about this friend putting on a santa outfit to help out – as it appeared they were also short of a Santa or two.So had there been any chance our children didnt think it was all a complete fake, the staff made sure they were under no illusion through that careless conversation!

Thirdly, while walking through the grotto (which actually looked quite nice) it became apparent it was quite unsafe, as while we were there one little girl fell straight through the picket fence onto the display. The fencing was not secured, but had no notices warning parents of this.

When we went to complain nobody knew who the organiser or manager was, where to find him or how to get in touch with him. The staff at the box office said they couldn’t help, had only been interviewed for the job two days beforehand, didn’t know anything and couldn’t give any refunds. We were told if we weren’t happy to email the organiser when we got home.

Other issues included a real ice rink being advertised, but it was not real. It was advertised as suitable for all the family, but they only had adult skates and no children supports, so those who had pre-booked for children were also left disappointed.

This was definitely no wonderland, it felt like an opportunity to rip off  parents who had hoped to have a magical day out with their children. On facebook, people are reporting that their comments and complaints are being deleted off the page and not being answered… however the reviews which are being left which cannot be deleted say it all.

While every business needs to make profit and I fully accept and understand this, it feels like a sad state of affairs when it is taken to this extreme for something which is aimed at children.

UPDATE – 7.09pm 14/12/13. Winter Wonderland MK have closed their facebook page in the last few minutes – so anyone wanting to read the reviews or feedback from those attending today will suddenly find it hard to do so. Please share this blog so people have the information in advance of attending the event.

UPDATE – 10.25am 15/12/13. This event has been cancelled. A notice has appeared on the website this morning and people are being turned away from the site. There appears to have been no advance notification to those families booked to attend today that this event was not going to open. Papworth Trust, the event’s charity partner, issued a statement earlier withdrawing their support for the event. A shocking state of affairs, and looks as though there will be many more disappointed families today.