I love going on light trails at Christmas, but this year we haven’t booked on any. N refused to go to Blenheim Palace, even if it was just the outside trail, and also said no to Waddesdon, our other usual haunt. But I couldn’t have Christmas without a beautiful Christmas decorations fix, so I booked myself onto the Alice in the Palace (Alice in Wonderland) Blenheim Palace Christmas special on one of my flexi days.
We’d been last year to see their first themed Christmas palace decorations and I didn’t want to miss this one. The palace is decorated so beautifully telling the story throughout the Christmas decorations, it’s a must see for me. Because I didn’t need to stay for the light trail, I booked a morning slot, the second of the day. I’d definitely recommend booking daytime weekday slots if possible. Arriving before midday means it’s free parking as well, and it was so quiet inside the palace – plenty of room for taking photos and taking your time.
Having a different theme means everything is new. You first arrive in the hall to see a house of giant lit up playing cards alongside beautiful Christmas trees, and the route down the rabbit hole through to the hall of mirrors. So much fun turning this way and that, and seeing yourself in crazy mirror reflections.
The trees as you walk through corridors are beautifully decorated in that room’s theme, whether it’s colours or type of decorations.
There’s a pretty changing colour tunnel to walk through before you discover Alice shrinking small enough to get in through the tiny door – there’s even a replica you can open, which a little toddler ahead of me loved. The White Rabbit’s room is full of rabbit themed décor – children can also look out for the white rabbits in each room as they go.
The Eat me, Drink me room is clever – a large table decorated with various glass bottles and potions. Plus a giant glass table with key on top. There are screens so if you stand in the right place you can be a small character in the room. Lots of fun, and being quiet when I was there, it was great fun having a play.
Next you arrive into the Cheshire Cat’s, the caterpillar’s, and Queen of Hearts’ themed rooms. Each room has so much detail in the main display and alongside the windows. There’s something new to look at each way you turn and if you can’t remember the story, there’s snippets of it as you walk through.
The finale is of course the Mad Hatter’s tea party. From peacocks to beautiful tea sets and cakes, the rose garden and more. Not forgetting an on screen interactive Mad Hatter who copies what you do. For a fairy tale photo opportunity you can have your photo taken with a real life Alice in Wonderland before you leave the party and go back to reality.
You finish off in the chapel where you can write a wish and leave it on the wishing tree.
I love the interactive feel of the Alice in the Palace displays. Much of it you can get right up close and touch where there’s not palace furniture involved, and if you time it right, you can be one of the only people in the rooms at a time.
Afterwards I had a wander around the Christmas market. I felt there wasn’t the variety of stalls for gifts as there was last year, but I bought some earrings and a German marshmallow treat which I managed to eat before N grabbed it! The food options looked good.
Despite visiting in the day time rather than the lit up evening, it still made me feel Christmassy. I do think I need to try and persuade N to come for the light trail at some point too – I think it’s an essential really, to visit one each year.
I’ve included some tips below for buying tickets and visiting Blenheim Palace at Christmas. This year there were some variations allowing for discounts which weren’t available last year (or if they were I missed them), so depending on whether you want to visit the light trail as well, or just the palace or trail.
Buy and visiting tips for Christmas at Blenheim Palace
1, Check all the ticket variations
If you’re an annual pass holder you get into the palace displays for free. The light trails and combined tickets you get a 10% discount. So work out whether buying separately works out better or in combination.
2, Visit before midday
It’s quieter and parking is free. You’ll struggle to make it from midday through to an evening trail though.
3, Turn your ticket into an annual pass
If you gift aid at the same time as buying your tickets, you can upgrade it for free to an annual pass. I did this and paid the £5 extra for a privilege pass which gives a % off food and shopping items.
4, Buy fair tokens when you book
You can avoid having to buy more on the day and spread them out, plus it might avoid being hassled by children if you’ve already spent the allocation in advance.
5, Take your own hot drinks in a flask
Save money while going round the trail
6, Download the Blenheim Palace Christmas app
It has all the visitor information, map of the key points on the light trail, the different rooms in the palace, the stalls in the market and information about competitions you can enter.
Blenheim Palace is open for Alice in the Palace and the light trail until 5th January.
Do you have any Christmas trails or house visits planned? Where do you recommend visiting at Christmas?
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