Chester's Winter Wonderland has led to a sprinkling of mixed responses in the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of similar attractions around the country.
Some festive experiences have been dubbed ‘Winter Blunderlands’ like The Magical Journey, near Sutton Coldfield, designed by TV’s Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, which had to close while improvements were carried out.
Yorkshire’s ‘Magical Winterland’ in Harrogate closed a day after opening with complaints about rubbish-strewn hallways, creepy mannequins and poorly-constructed exhibitions.
“Feeling as though you and your children have been cheated, especially if funds are tight, is upsetting," reports the Telegraph.
Turning to Chester, the report continues: "And it seems that the Magical Journey isn’t the only Christmas experience in the UK to fall short. Thus, Chester Winter Wonderland is described in one stinging online review as 'a tacky theme park they charge you to walk through'. Possibly, some visitors’ hopes are too high: 'I had been to Lapland in Finland and thought it would be along the same lines'."
Organisers for the racecourse-based experience point out that while supplementary charges do apply to certain elements, such as ice skating, several activities are included in the entrance fee such as the performance stage, craft workshop, the Grosvenor Express train ride and real reindeer. A season pass permits multiple visits. And tickets can be purchased in advance online for £5 adults, £3 children – while under 3s go free.
Reader Yvonne Kirk sprang to the defence of the city’s festive contribution.
She wrote: “Yes, there is a fee to enter, but this one-off payment allows visitors to return time and time again to the ice rink, the fair, the grotto, etc, and the evening lighting is spectacular. The city centre is amazing this Christmas with a superb Christmas market, a children’s lantern parade, two winter watch parades, a Saturnalia parade, a chELFie quiz (with prizes), costumed characters including Frozen favourites on the main streets, screening of Christmas movies at the Grosvenor Museum, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe exhibition at the cathedral, the Christmas tree festival at the cathedral, historic streets with beautifully lit shops and, in most streets, good-quality buskers. And, finally, the most fantastic Christmas tree ever in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre.
“All of these are completely free of charge. There are also many programmed events that do require payment.”