As a festive start to December, InQuire got a chance to visit Margate’s magical frosted fairground, Dreamland. In desperate need of ice skating, mulled wine, and a hip trip to Father Christmas’s Grotto, you might say this trip answered all our prayers.
Upon arrival we passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, swam through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and finally reached the Grotto. Here we met some very cheerful elves, who guided us through the steps needed before meeting the man in red himself. These steps included an obscene yet somehow perfectly reasonable amount of glitter, VIP grotto access cards, and a blues singing Elfis (yes, that is an Elvis-impersonating elf, find him in the background of the picture below). At last, we were greeted by a modern-day Father Christmas, a lanky man with a patterned waistcoat packed with presence and presents in equal measure.
Clutching our gifts we embarked on our next adventure: ice skating. Our newspaper news editor, Grace, talks about her first experience conquering the ice rink:
You can’t call yourself a festive attraction without an ice-skating rink. Dreamland’s was everything you could hope for from a skating rink: Christmas songs were blasting, children and adults were skating (or at least trying) in unison, and the staff were friendly and encouraging. As a newbie at skating, it’s fair to say the experience is one I won’t forget. After donning the highly fashionable blue plastic boots, we tentatively made our way to the rink. The others were off right away, and with some basic instruction, and a tightly clasped hand, I too was on my way, albeit in very slow and jaggedly manner. Fearing I was holding the others back, I stepped off the rink, and found comfort in a companion; a penguin stabiliser. Now, bear in mind that this instrument was meant for use by children, and I’m 5’7”; it’s fair to say it was probably quite a sight (in fact, just see the picture below).
Having said this, the penguin did really help, and I was soon flying around the rink. In fact, it was also a great conversational piece. The atmosphere was friendly and social, and there was not an ounce of judgement towards my lack of skill; if anything, this just caused people to be even more friendly and supportive. Once the hour on ice was over, we had a nice hot cup of mulled wine from the bar adjacent to take the edge off.
As soon as you step into Dreamland, it distinguishes itself from other amusement parks in the UK; it has a very particular aesthetic that is present in every little detail of the park. It’s fantastic to see the original concept for Dreamland –which found its inspiration in the 1920s from Coney Island– still so well preserved. The visitor’s impression of that aesthetic is further enthused as soon as you step onto one of the rides. The Scenic Railway (fun fact: the oldest roller-coaster in the UK) is a thrill for both children and adults –especially ones like us, a little terrified of big roller-coasters. This one was just perfect. The ride is manually controlled by a break-man, as it would have operated in the 20s. Ours was called Jack; he would put up his hand up ahead of a drop and scream with us as we descended, making the experience infinitely more hilarious and exciting!
The Gallopers was the most romantic ride. As the ponies rocked up and down, the experience was only made more enchanting by the lights and the old Christmas music that played. The whole experience was a Dream.
A close contender to this was the Big Wheel, at 35 meters high it provided us with a stunning view of the already beautiful landscape of Dreamland, illuminated by Christmas lights. The best way to enjoy the Ferris wheel is definitely with a hot chocolate or mulled wine, as we did.
After an evening spent on rides, we talked with raspy voices all the next day from all the laughing and screaming –absolutely no regrets.
Whether or not you’re much of a rides person, Dreamland fairground exudes holiday spirit with a cheery and festive atmosphere, and is sure to find something to satisfy anyone’s appetite, especially through delicious food trucks! The middle of the park, as well as the diner inside, hosts a range of cuisines, including vegan options. We helped ourselves to some giant candy floss sticks, each in different fun flavours, including Turkish delight. Walk through fairy lights heaven at the Tree Top bar and (literally) lose yourself in the Mirror Maze if you need a break from coasters. The arcades were exactly what you’d expect from a seaside resort harping back to a simpler time. There were 1950’s pinball machines, ample 2p machines, and some more modern casino and arcade style amusements, including a boxer machine and a couple of slot machines. In the main foyer, there was also a roller-disco and diner. The roller disco was great fun, and was much easier to pick up than the ice-skating. The staff were on hand to give you a hand if you needed it, or in our case, to innocently take the mickey out of you for wearing the kneepads and wrist-protectors and belting out the Christmas songs whilst skating around.
Everything about Dreamland felt nostalgic; it allowed us to relive our childhoods whilst taking a trip back in time through the decades via the 1920s rollercoaster, the 1950s amusements, and finally up to the 1980s roller-disco. In Dreamland, we were no longer uni students with 101 deadlines, we were no longer lost 20-somethings with no direction… we were just big kids, having the time of our life during our day at the fayre.
To get the Dreamland experience before Christmas yourself, visit: http://dreamland.co.uk/christmas