What do you do when Christmas is over and you feel like you missed out on seeing anything festive? Find pretty lights. That's what. Places such as Kew sell out very quickly so I booked to see Lightopia at Crystal Palace Park on New Year's Eve. We haven't been anywhere on New Year's Eve in years (I'm talking probably 18 years) plus as it is closing on January 2nd anyway, so we got 25% off of our tickets. It is still a pricey experience, even with the discount it was £77 for the five of us, including the £9 that I decided to pay to park there. We would usually go by train but Crystal Palace is only 9 miles from home and being NYE/high Covid rates - driving seemed like the best option.
I booked a 5.30pm time slot. We parked at the Anerely Hill entrance car park (which was actually really quiet) and then it was a short walk to the event entrance. There was a fast moving queue where you're quickly ushered through whilst your tickets are scanned. As we entered there were three fairground rides, which were around £3 per go and a couple of stalls selling light up wands etc.
The first section of the trail had huge light up Christmas trees, baubles and presents as well as a few parts for photo opportunities which people were queueing for. The toilets were just past here too.
As we approached the next area this is where the trail really comes to life. There is a phoenix rising from the flames surrounded by colourful festoon lights that change colour. There were plenty of places to view and take photos and the trail, although muddy in parts was wheelchair and pushchair friendly.
As we moved further along there were a couple of food stalls selling bratwurst hotdogs and carvery meats. The average price seemed to be around £8 here although I did see further still burgers from £5.50. Next to this area there was a small queue forming for a little pathway with coloured dots to jump on that made musical sounds.
After this there are a section of trees that are lit up with strobe effect lighting and then you'll see Alice in Wonderland style flowers. The next area was very pretty with moving butterflies, flowers projected on the ground and lights in the sky that looked like fireflies. All very magical.
You'll then see the Yin Yang style koi carp, a huge sand timer and a Chinese New Year instalment before reaching the Crystal Palace. It used to be a huge cast iron and glass building that was built in 1851 to house the Great Exhibition. The Palace was destroyed by a fire in 1936 and a projection of lights and sounds onto the shape of the Crystal Palace tells the story in around five minutes. This was pretty impressive to watch.
There are lots more mythical creatures to look at including a pretty fish structure complete with bubbles by the pond.
The dinosaurs are next, with some animatronic ones to look at too. Crystal Palace Park is famous for its dinosaurs. I remember visiting them as a child. The huge ones have been there since the 1850s.
There are a family of panda lanterns, then a bridge with fairy lights will lead you past the pond with the huge original dinosaurs. They have been in the park for over 150 years now and were the first dinosaur sculptures ever to be made. They have all been lit up in bright colours. There are also a lot more colourful, pretty lanterns that look like they could be straight from a Tim Burton movie.
The trail ends here. It took us an hour to complete. There were a few other food stalls along the way selling hot chocolate, mulled wine and doughnuts. It is a short walk to Crystal Palace overground station or back to the car park.
We left feeling happy and festive and really did enjoy Lightopia. It is great if you are fairly local to the area but I do still see it as an expensive treat - maybe the rides could have been part of the ticket price? But bravo Lightopia, we loved seeing you on New Year's Eve and we were home and warm by 7.30pm.