Thanks to Christmas at Bute Park for providing us with tickets in exchange for this review
After sell-out success last year, Christmas at Bute Park is back, with the magical light trail taking over the city centre park for the festive season.
The 1.4KM route features a series of incredible light installations and special effects and even a couple of hands-on attractions too. Some favourites from last year have returned, but there are plenty of new illuminations too.
We visited last night as part of the opening weekend celebrations, arriving at around 6pm when the skies were dark and clear, and the park was starting to get busy with families, couples, and groups of friends of all ages.
You’ll find plenty of photos below but for a video experience of Christmas at Bute Park, check out my Reel on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram account.
As you walk around the trail at your own pace, there is something awe-inspiring to see wherever you look – a tree-lined path where every branch is adorned with tiny lights, light projections on the ground and castle walls, illuminated lily pads in the river, flames blasting into the cold air, walking under what look like icicles hanging overhead, a walkway with a light curtain on either side, a full-on light display set to music, and so much more.
New for this year is the Illumaphonium, blue-lit musical pipes that can be struck with a baton to make your own music. This was a definite hit with my three children, creating such a beautiful and festive sound.
It struck me half way around just how relaxed and calming it all felt; the combination of music, lighting and really taking our time to enjoy the experience was so soothing.
It took us around an hour to walk around. Other than the queue to have tickets scanned, and a little bit of wait at the Liquid Sky installation we moved freely around the trail. You could certainly take longer than this to explore if you were to stop to buy festive hot drinks or to buy and toast marshmallows, in one of several fire pits adjacent to the fire garden installations.
A definite highlight for us was the light display set to music at the end of the trail. You can see the beams of light from the other side of Cardiff, as we discovered in the days before our visit, so it was great to see for ourselves the dancing spots of light on the ground, the beams criss-crossing in the sky and the beautiful coordinated movements of colour set to music.
We were lucky that we visited on a dry night but were still grateful that we’d chosen to wear wellies. Although the paths through the park are flat and accessible for buggies and wheelchairs, they are are muddy at times… and then there were the occasional puddles my children chose to walk through.
The question people keep asking me: is it worth the expense? It’s certainly not cheap at £19.50 per adult, £13.95 for children aged 3-16 and £59.50 for a family ticket for four. Hot drinks were around the £3 mark, mulled wine or cider £5.50, four marshmallows to toast on the fire pits £3, or £5 for marshmallows and biscuits to make S’mores, plus there’s a range of street food vendors serving savory and sweet dishes at the end. You can see how the costs could soon add up.
If I’m honest, the price tag of close to £75 for tickets the five of us would have made me think twice about booking, had we not been invited along to review. We also didn’t buy any food or drink while inside, instead warming up with our own hot chocolates and marshmallows when we got home.
But, that said, it is a high-quality experience with such intricate detail. The light displays are truly beautiful and awe-inspiring, the twinkling seasonal music helped to create a wonderfully calming atmosphere. It felt magical and other-worldly and it kept all five of us captivated throughout. The sheer number of lights everywhere and how long they must have taken to install, the scale of the event, the detail and ambition of the installations, not to mention the electricity bill – you can see where the price tag comes from. So, yes, pricey, but in my opinion, worth it for a magical experience.
Christmas at Bute Park is on until 1 January 2023. Visit the website here.
Adults £19.50, children 3-16 £13.95, family (2+2 or 1+3) £59.50. Children 2 and under, free.
Check out my blog post for more ideas of family-friendly events in and around Cardiff this Christmas.