The Hunter Valley Gardens is celebrating “Snow Time” and has transformed into a winter wonderland to provide your kids with a taste of the snow just an hour north of the Central Coast.
Playing in Puddles visited on Sunday and we absolutely loved tobogganing down the 40-metre ice slide, building snowmen in the Play Zone and gliding around the ice rink (okay, so we were more shuffling than gliding, but we had a lot of fun).
Snow Play Zone
We spent ages in the Snow Play Zone building snowmen and throwing snow balls. It was such a treat to do this in the glorious sunshine with no-one complaining of cold fingers or frosty cheeks. Dressed in t-shirts and sunnies, it felt like we were at the beach, and despite the balmy 19C temperatures the snow held up. We also didn’t have to navigate the normal puddles and slush that renders everyone with wet bottoms and sodden gloves – a discomfort Aussie Spring skiers know all too well. This was snow play with perfect conditions.
The Gardens supplied shovels, buckets, and wooden blocks that could be used as a nose or eyes. The plastic sand spades supplied last year have been replaced with garden trowels and they’re far better for digging into the snow.
To get the most out of this activity (which is obviously a highlight) it’s best to come prepared. We dressed the boys in waterproof pants and we all wore gloves and shoes that had a lot of grip so we didn’t slip on the snow. Our butts stayed dry and our hands stayed warm and we were able to play in the snow far longer than others who’d dressed for the beach.
Tobogganing the ice luge
The tobogganing was a highlight for us – for both the adults and the kids. The icy slide was a super-fast ride that had everyone laughing and many kids shouting, “Again, again! That was awesome! Let’s do it again.” Every single person who slid down that icy hill came away with a smile on their face – it was pure joy to do and watch.
They have two 40-metre ice slides that each take two sliders. Our three year old sat on our lap to slide, while our five year old flitted between going solo or sliding with us. We never waited more than two minutes in line. Given that some Australian ski resorts have now banned tobogganing (bah humbug to that), we loved that we were able to come here and let our kids experience this fun.
NEW Walk-through Snow Cave
New to Snow Time in 2019 is a walk-through snow cave packed with furry Arctic animals such as polar bears and penguins. Kids love giving them a pat and taking selfies.
Want to experience falling snow? On the hour every hour “snow” flutters from the sky in the enclosed area surrounding the Snow Cave. Now this isn’t real snow – the Hunter’s temperatures make that nigh impossible – but your kids will still love it.
Ice Skating at Snow Time!
Ice skating is a heap of fun, but if you’ve never done it before it can be a little tricky to master. This is why ice skating at Snow Time is so perfect: the skating, skate hire, helmet hire and kids seal chair pusher (more on that later) are all included in your entry fee. You have twenty minutes on the ice (which is honestly enough for most people) and they limit numbers to ensure everyone has ample space to glide, slide and occasionally take a dive.
We all donned skates (yep, they have tiny skates so even tiny tots can have a go) and hit the ice. We shuffled, laughed, attempted to glide and had a lot of fun. We’d definitely recommend hiring a seal chair ($5), as they give little legs a rest (and parents something to hold onto).
As well as the chance to wander the beautiful grounds, the Gardens also boasts a 35-metre long x 12-metre high super slide, a Venetian carousel, a giant swing chair, a ferris wheel and multiple large inflatables and jumping castles.
Someone in charge must have kids as they’ve thought to cleverly split the inflatables and jumping castles into two zones – one section for toddlers and a second for older children. Simple but genius!
Tokens for individual rides are $6 each; unlimited rides wristbands are $15 per person.
Playing in Puddles’ Verdict
This is honestly one of the happiest and most entertaining events we’ve attended with our kids. Our day was full of new experiences and enormous smiles and as we looked around we saw other families clearly feeling the same. This is one of those special events were the whole family can truly have a fabulous time. Kids and parents beamed as they slid down the toboggan slide; families laughed in the Snow Play Zone; and the ice rink was a real leveller as parents and kids equally struggled to glide with grace. It was fabulous. We can’t wait to do it all again next year.
This isn’t the cheapest activity around – special events such as this rarely are – but it’s honestly one of the happiest and most entertaining events we’ve attended with our kids. And if you think about all of the experiences and advantages you’ll soon realise it’s worth every penny.
Your kids can spend an entire day playing in the snow in the glorious sunshine – without risk of blizzard conditions or -5C temperatures. And, drum roll, it’s only an hour away! The drive to the Snowy Mountains is eight hours! (yes, Google might tell you it’s six, but we all know that kids need toilet stops and food stops and just general “I’m going crazy in the car” stops, so the drive always takes a lot longer). If you’re not into skiing, or the cold, or just don’t have the time or money or inclination to drive more or less to Victoria, this is an absolute gem.
Entry costs: Adult (16yrs +) $34; Child (4-15 yrs) $25; Child under 4 free; Family Passes from $85 (1A + 2C). See website for more options. Ice skating, tobogganing, the snow cave, snow play, face painting and roving entertainment are included in entry.
Ride costs: Tokens for individual rides are $6 each; unlimited rides wristbands are $15 pp.
Snow Time at the Hunter Valley Gardens
When: 10am-6pm, Saturday June 29 until Sunday July 21 2019.
Where: The Hunter Valley Gardens, 2090 Broke Road, Pokolbin.
Age group: All ages.
Tip: Ice skating sessions last 20 minutes, starting from 10am every day; book a session early to ensure you don’t miss out! Take waterproof pants, gloves and shoes with grip for snow play. There is an ATM on site and a lot of the food vendors now take card: wahoo!
Contact: 02 4998 4000, www.huntervalleygardens.com.au