Bucket list – ‘Visit Blenheim at Christmas’ = completed
I recently listed Christmas at Blenheim Palace on my round up post – Ultimate Christmas Bucket List – 26 Great Family Things to Do – Days Out. We were kindly invited to review the preview event on the 25th November and it was, for us, an ultimate family bucket list experience. It was so utterly beautiful, magical and clever. I hope my review can do it justice because honestly it has to be seen to be believed.
About Christmas at Blenheim
This is only the second year that Blenheim has hosted this spectacular event. They have lit up their formal gardens and created a festive trail full of thousands of lights. Christmas at Blenheim is open from 5pm till 10pm now until the 1st January 2018.
The trail is recommended to take an hour and you will see sights and sounds that will bring Christmas to life. It has been designed with all ages of visitors in mind. Blenheim palace is in Woodstock just a few miles out of Oxford.
We arrived mid afternoon at our hotel for the night which was the Travelodge on the Abingdon road in Oxford. After chilling in our room for a while we donned our hats, scarf, gloves, coats and warm clothes and set off on the 20 minute drive to Blenheim Palace
The on site car parking for Christmas at Blenheim uses the same car park as day visitors. This is limited and costs £10 a car. This must be booked in advance. Blue badge holders can park at Blenheim for £7. Blenheim has a park and ride in place for it’s Christmas event. It is a 5 minutes drive away, adjacent to Oxford airport. The cost to use the park and ride is £7 a car.
Once you have arrived at Blenheim you will enter a courtyard with some traditional fairground rides and a few wooden huts selling food and drink. I recommend that you visit everything at the end of your trail. I will talk more about this later. There are toilets here which I recommend you get your children to use before starting on your adventure.
We arrived for preview drinks and mince pies in the great hall and set off at 5:30pm on the trail. We were one of the first on the trail and it was a really lovely experience and one I’m sure we will never forget. The website states that the trail lasts an hour. We were on it for at least 1 hour and 45 minutes and we could have spent longer on it. No one will usher you along. If you want to go slow, go slow. I know some people are concerned that it’s a lot of money just for an hour but we were at Blenheim for three hours and what we experienced is more than worth the entrance costs.
You start your trail at your designated time. You will be let in with a group of people with the same time slot. The first main entrance to the trail is at the big gates opposite the main door to the palace. It is not officially the start of the trail but it is a beautiful start to your adventure with giant snowflakes lighting up the ground. You will meet event staff along the way. They are there to make sure you know which way to go. They are incredibly helpful and friendly.
You make your way down to the actual main entrance for the trail. This is where you have a toilet break opportunity in case your kids have realised that they do actually need it after all. It is now that the sights and sounds of the trail really begin.
As you make your way around the trail you will hear different Christmas songs being played. Some are in time to the lights which adds an even more magical element to the whole experience.
Jamie loved the elf workshop and was desperate to go inside. We spent some time stood here watching and listening.
One of the trails highlights is the tunnel of light. The walkway is covered in hundreds of twinkling lights.
Moving along the trail there is always something new and different to be seen. They have lit up just about every tree with lights of many colours. Sometimes you’d be able to see or hear something else up ahead. We were torn between enjoying where we were for a bit longer and moving on to see what else there was to see. The lights we loved the most were lights that danced in time to the music. One of the best examples of this was the hundreds of boats lit up on one of the lakes.
Often we came across lights or ornaments dangling from the trees. We especially loved these baubles and the stars previous to them.
Halfway round the Trail
There is a really magical halfway stop on the trail. They have brought their waterfall to life with lights of many colours and a fabulous display to Christmas music. This included fire and it runs on a loop so you won’t miss it.
You can stop to toast a marshmallow over a fire or warm up with some soup. Here you will find the first toilets since the ones at the entrance to the trail. I paid £1.50 for a luxury giant marshmallow for us to toast.
The final half
I was left wondering if anything could really top what we’d just seen. The answer was most certainly yes. Next along the trail is a slope with thousands of lights that seem to almost wave to the music. You can watch the lights moving up and down the slope and setting off two big spires of light at the top. We found ourselves happily marching along in time to the music.
Then came our absolute highlight. A walkway of dangling lights. You are allowed to spend as long as you want walking amongst the lights. If you watch my video at the bottom of the post you can hear just how much Jamie loved this. It was so much fun, what an experience.
You pass a few more beautiful displays before you come to the last few highlights of the trail.
Jamie’s face was an absolute picture when he recognised Santa’s voice talking in the distance. Imagine his face when he actually saw Santa in front of him on stage. It was his first time seeing the main man this year and he was beside himself with happiness. He was on stage with one of his elves. We arrived near the end and although they were going to do the show again we really had to press on. We had already been on the trail for a lot longer than an hour and Jamie had been promised hot food at the end. Saying that he had wanted to stay though!
It was now nearly the end of the trail and we walked down the hill to the fountains and the finale of the trail.
The finale is a projected film onto a wall by the beautiful area pictured above. The film has been really well made and it feels life like. It runs on a loop so you will be able to watch it all before completing the trail.
Final thoughts – End of our visit
Jamie did not want the trail to end. Yes he was hungry but he could have happily done it all again. In fact the first thing he did was ask when could we come back. I don’t blame him as it was the most magical Christmas experience that I have ever had. What we saw was well executed and thought out. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. You could not tell that it was only their second year it was all very professionally put together and run.
I had promised Jamie a few rides at the fairground. You have to buy tokens before going on the rides. For £7.50 I bought 3 tokens. You can purchase 5 tokens for £10 or pay for just one token if you so desire. There were 4 different rides, mostly for the kids.
Food wise you could either purchase food from Blenheim’s café or from one of their wooden huts. In the courtyard they had stew in a box, burritos, pulled pork or German sausages. For £11.50 I bought two large sausages in a bap with 2 soft drinks. You could purchase many different drinks including mulled wine and hot chocolate. All perfect for warming up after the trail.
You can book your tickets online and book an allotted time to start the trail. Entrance is not covered by a Blenheim Palace annual pass or Blenheim Palace admission. Tickets are £14.50 for an adult, £8.50 for children aged 5-16 and children under 5 can visit for free. A family ticket for 2 adults and 2 children for the trail is £42.00. They also have prices for combined day and trail packages. All prices are subject to change and will cost more if you pay on the day. Some times and days are selling out fast so to make sure you get the time you want it is advised to book online in advance.
To find out more about visiting Blenheim Palace in the daytime please head on over to Blenheim Palace | Family Day out in Oxfordshire
Tips for Visiting Christmas at Blenheim
- Make sure you arrive with plenty of time to spare. The traffic in this part of the world can be very heavy at times, especially around rush hour.
- Pre book your tickets online in advance. Not only to save money but to ensure a time slot for the trail
- Don’t forget to pre book parking if you want to park at the Palace itself.
- Wear wellies if you can. Jamie got his boots absolutely filthy. It is hard to see the ground properly in places and for kids they have no clue what they are walking through
- Wrap up well. You could be on the trail from anything between 1 hour to 2 hours. Although there is a fire to warm up by half way through it won’t make any difference in the long run.
- Plan to be there for at least 2-3 hours.
- I was advised to bring a torch. Although I have this option on my phone it wasn’t needed.
- Don’t forget to take extra money for drinks, food and rides.
- Please take note of where you parked. It can get quite disorientating in the dark.
- Toilets are in the café/shop area, at the start/end of the trail and halfway round the trail. Make sure your kids go at some point so you don’t have to rush any part of the trail to get to the toilets.
You can watch my video from our visit here –
Disclaimer: We were invited to the preview press event for the purpose of my review. All words, photos and opinions are as always entirely my own.
I hope you enjoyed my review. Have you ever been? We’d love to hear.
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