Thank you to Christmas at Bute Park for providing us with tickets in exchange for this review
Christmas at Bute Park is back, with thousands of colourful bulbs lighting up the city centre park for the third year.
The award-winning light trail – which holds the accolade as the most popular light trail outside of London and was named in the Guardian’s top 10 UK light trails – opened last weekend and runs until 1 January 2024.
We headed along last night for an hour of LED escapism, all of us enchanted by twinkling lights and seasonal soundscapes.
This year’s Christmas at Bute Park trail is longer than previous years, at around a mile and a half, with lots of new and immersive light features illuminating the trees and pathways of the city centre landmark, and the music changing to suit each installation.
For those who have visited previously, the entrance has moved slightly, meaning you don’t get the beautiful tree-lined start from previous years. Instead, you’re straight into the food and drink of the Christmas Village, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your budget and the pester-power of your children. There are also food and drink outlets along the route; again, your choice as to whether that’s a positive or a negative! As a guide, a hot chocolate costs £3.50, mulled wine or cider £6, and canned fizzy drinks £2.75.
Elements of this year’s trail take inspiration from legends and myths. We loved the tail of the snoring, sleeping Delilah the dragon hanging over the wall of Cardiff Castle, the colourful unicorns under a canopy of disco balls, and the pair of giant bird wings which make for a great photo opportunity. There’s also a fun new take on the iconic Castle Wall which sees the animals replaced with sheep. This particular installation was created by set design students from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama as part of a commitment by the event organisers to work with emerging Wales-based creatives. Other elements are the result of working with paid trainees and emerging artists from Citrus Arts.
Elsewhere on the trail, you’ll find icicles suspended from trees; the colourful Rainbow Run pathway which you can’t help but walk backwards and forwards in a few times; neon-lit trees changing colour every few seconds, and the Festive Finale of a large Christmas tree which, again, continually changes colour and is accompanied by a laser display which you can see from miles away.
Look out too for the wonderful selfie frames dotted around the trail, inspired by the giant wooden photo frame which will be familiar to visitors of Bute Park, each giving a great backdrop to take those memorable photos.
Following feedback from previous years, the paths are now wider – it was busy when we visited but we didn’t have any bottle necks or waits – and those that are not proper pathways have gridded surfaces on them. That said, we’re glad we wore our wellies as it was muddy at times with big puddles along the way. Christmas at Bute Park is accessible for wheelchairs and buggies although certain parts of the path are a little uneven.
It took us just over an hour to wander around the trail. The experience felt relaxing and calming, as you stop to look at the light displays and listen to the music at each installation. It’s wonderful breather from the busy-ness of the season, a chance to slow down and absorb everything all the sounds and sensations around you.
It is a little on the expensive side – £22.95 for adults, £15.95 for children, and £68.50 for a family of four at peak times. That said, discount codes were heavily marketed from summer through to late autumn, bringing the prices down, and off-peak tickets are slightly cheaper at £19.50 for adults, £13.95 for children and £59.50 for a family. My advice if the cost is off-putting this year is to sign up to the Christmas at Bute Park mailing list to be the first to know of any special offers for next year.
Christmas at Bute Park is open until 1 January 2024.
Peak tickets are priced at £22.95 for adults, £15.95 for children, and £68.50 for a family of four. Off-peak tickets are £19.50 for adults, £13.95 for children and £59.50 for a family. Under twos are free but will need a valid ticket.
For more information, including how to book, visit the Christmas at Bute Park website here.