After lambasting Rulantica for being something of a disappointment, I thought it was only fair to write a little about our experience in Europa Park for their Christmas event. Not to spoil the surprise, but it was spectacular. There has certainly been a swell of positivity of late around EP’s Christmas event and I gave to say it is well deserved. I’m not quite sure how, within a matter of less than a month, the park manage to both get rid of all their Halloween paraphernalia and then completely cover the entire park in Christmas decorations. And I do mean the entire park. And the hotels. Forget the usual trope of just decorating Main Street or a particular area. There are quite literally decorations at every turn. The Christmas additions don’t just stop at decorations though. Let me list a few of the changes you’ll see from the Summer season: - Every park show is changed for Christmas. Then there are some additional shows brought in, including a full circus and lake show with fountains and fireworks. There’s even a new ice show where Santa rides a giant snail whilst playing the drums (we thought we’d overdone the gluhwein when we saw this). - New winter food and drink options are available at pretty much every outlet. - New food outlets are also brought in, like a wooden ski lodge in Portugal serving goulash, Mac and cheese and other winters delights. - A massive Ferris wheel is placed on Atlantica’s lake. - The rapids lake is drained and filled with an ice rink, ski school, skidoos, a winter market and an unfeasible amount of Christmas trees. - The German Alley is filled with yet more Christmas markets selling local produce, crafts and of course gluhwein, bratwurst and crepes. - The Schloss Balthasar Gardens are filled with a Chinese lantern display. - There are yet more markets in these gardens as well, but this time offering traditional handcrafted products, many of which are made right in front of you. Expect shoes, dolls, purses and woodwork all made in front of you. - A projection mapping show is added to Eurosat and the French area. - Hotel Colosseo gets its own children’s funfair in the Piazza and yet more gluhwein. - The jousting arena has an ice sculpture exhibit, featuring scenes from the renewed Pirates in Batavia. - There’s an Ice Bar just next door. - The park is dotted with fires to keep you toasty. - The parade gets a Christmas overlay and tree lighting ceremony. - The Jungle Rafts get every other raft replaced by Christmas scenes. - There are just an absolute **** ton of Christmas trees, lights and decorations added across the rest of the park and also sprinkled into the attractions. I could go on, but you probably get the picture. Even if you’ve done EP in the summer, there is almost an entirely new park to explore in the winter. It’s also worth noting that, whilst we were there at least, queues ranged from pretty tolerable on the weekend, to absolutely non-existent during the week. When I say non-existent, I really mean it. At different points in the week we had walk-on Eurosat, Silver Star and Blue Fire was so quiet we managed re-rides without leaving our seats. Even Wodan, Arthur and Voletarium hovered between 5-10 minutes during the week. A couple of other random things to note: - The new dark ride, Snorri Touren, was a delightful little ride; the particular highlight being the snot-covered Snorri finale. One minor gripe, the brief dome screen section feels like it was done to prove a concept rather than because it was needed - it interrupts the ride’s flow and the screen resolution is terrible. - Hotel Colosseo’s rooms are feeling a little dated now, especially compared to the likes of Kronasar. They are not €200 per night rooms. - Everyone goes on about the bakery in France, but Chez Marianne next door is far superior for cakes and snacks, about the same price and it has both a beautifully moody interior and great outdoor seating facing both France and around the back on the river, facing Switzerland. - The musicians at Buena Vista Club in Castillo Alcazar, especially the violinist, who has been there for years, are absolute legends. They do a few sets throughout the night, so if they’re not on when you walk-in they might just be on a break. We particularly enjoy his Titanic “bit” if you get lucky enough to experience it. - There’s no getting around the hotels being expensive for food. If you’re looking for cheaper eats, then either the Pizza place in Colosseo (sit-down, but they will do takeaway if you ask) or Bar Colosseo are your best bets. Other than that, you either need to head into Rust, Lidl or Silver Lake. There’s also a new larger Edeka supermarket now opened right next to Lidl. - The frequency of the shuttle between the hotels and Rulantica has been increased, but it is still a bit of a pain that these locations are spread out. I wouldn’t recommend a special trip from the other hotels to do the bar at Kronasar - it’s probably the weakest of all the EP hotel bars. - The hospitality at EP couldn’t be more different to Phantasialand, where you may have experienced the “get out” attitude at the minute the park closes. The German Alley, along with its markets, Rock Cafe and food stalls were all open for at least three quarters of an hour after the park had officially closed on every evening. It offers a great festive atmosphere to stop for a crepe at the end of the day and there’s even a show from Santa and snow every fifteen minutes. - Despite a lot of the major rides not being advertised to open, the only rides which were closed were Atlantica, the Rapids and the little canoe ride in Ireland. Even the log flume and Poseidon were open. - We were expecting it to be a lot colder than it was, as it happened we struck lucky, with temperatures being 14C some days, which obviously helped with ride availability. So if you’ve not done EP in the winter, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. I’m not aware of another park which goes to quite so much effort for a seasonal event and I’d go as far to say that it might actually be the best time to visit the park if you get decent weather. The park just do far more than they’d ever need to in order to call this a Winter event and it’s amazing for it.