Friday, 27 November 2015

The Most Honest Review of Gardens by the Bay Christmas 2015

Gardens by the Bay is one project I was highly skeptical about. I certainly did not think that land scarce Singapore deserves a second Botanic Gardens, and Botanic Gardens itself was not attracting many large crowds. Yet, Gardens by the Bay has successfully branded itself as the go-to destination for themed festivities, and the 2015 Christmas Wonderland is no exception.

For the 2015 Christmas event, Gardens by the Bay has been transformed into a Nordic Village of the far North. There are multiple dining options, custom made rides and even an ice-skating rink! Yes, you heard right. There is an ice-skating rink. In fact, this event kind of reminds me of 春到河畔 (river Angbao) 10 years ago, when the focus was on the festive atmosphere and family activities. 

Overview of Christmas Wonderland

Gardens by the Bay Christmas is probably the largest Christmas event in Singapore. This event started a few years ago with some Christmas themed plants and decorations in the flower domes, and the event never stopped growing. In fact, the only other Christmas event in Singapore that comes close is USS Winter Wonderland, which I will cover in another post soon.

Christmas Wonderland 2015 is centered around the Supertree Grove area, where most of the Food and Beverage Outlets are located. The area is also home to The Palace, a really extravagant structure with Ice Skating Rink and a Snowdome! The fairground area is where all the action takes place, and there are about 6 different games and 4 kids rides. I personally felt the activities are a bit too spread out so the decoration, while extensive, is not as immersive as, say, those done by Universal.

Before we continue, let me just say that I did not attend last year's Gardens by the Bay Christmas so I will not be attempting to compare with past years.

Supertree Grove

Let me get this straight. The decorations and theming of Gardens by the Bay Christmas 2015 is really great. The attention to detail is amazing and I really love the way the design incorporated Asian elements into the Nordic theme. There are multiple temporary restaurants and food stalls, every one of them intricately themed. The prices are comparable to food sold at other tourist resorts like USS, or even the normal restaurants of Gardens by the Bay itself.

Every single restaurant, cafe and food stand is themed to a Nordic Village.

What I felt could be better is that the decorations could be more concentrated so that you will really feel you are transported into another world. Now, what I see is a series of really marvelous show scenes, but there is nothing to tie them all together. In fact, I think the Supertrees themselves are a bit too dominating and takes the attention away from the beautiful village houses. That may not be a bad thing. The decorations are very, very selfie friendly!

Look at the level of attention to detail in this Asian restaurant! No! Look at how much the Supertree dominates over the Christmas decorations!

Even from this angle...
There is also a stage area in Supertree Grove, but the lights were not switched on (no performance) so I could not take any half decent photos of that area. The stage is small and most performances seem to be bands and small group/solo carolers.

The Palace

If you want one thing that sums up the extravagance of Christmas Wonderland 2015, it must be The Palace! This massive structure not only boasts beautiful exterior lighting, the inside is home to a snow playground and a full sized ice skating rink! In fact, the ice rink is similar in size to the one on Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas

The place also got powerful aircon so it is a good place to relax if you are feeling warm. Not surprisingly, this makes the Palace one of the most congested areas of the whole event.

I am not kidding you, right? This is like some Elvish kingdom!
The snow playground can only accommodate Kids, and from what I know there is an admission fee. In fact, all games and attractions in Christmas Wonderland 2015 are ticketed (ie. need to buy ticket). However, it is cheaper than Snow World at Jurong so it is a really good alternative if the parents just want to let the kids play. Also, the inside is not as cold as Snow City so the temperature may be more tolerable for kids.

And the snow playground, only for kids though. Yes, the snow is real.
For me, the best part of the Palace has got to be the ice skating rink. When I got in there were many people (about 40-50) sitting around, many of them are changing their shoes. However, I wish they could stagger the shoe changing and playing time such that when one session is playing, the next session is already changing shoes.

I still cannot believe they actually made an Ice Skating rink in a temporary shelter!

Cannot skate? Fret not! Make friends with one of these polar bears or penguins and they will make sure you do not fall!

What more can I say?

"Hidden" Corner

There is actually a quiet corner at the back of the Palace. Simple go out the back door of the Palace and you are there! It is quite modest, just 2 game stalls and a chair-swing ride. However, if you like minions please drop by here, because one of the games have some of the largest concentration and variety of minions I have ever seen at a Game Stall!

Try to count the number of minions in this stall!

This area is outside the area of focus of the event and is generally quieter.

The Fairground

The Fairground is the most fun, action packed zone of Christmas Wonderland! Here, there are rides, games just like in the good old days. In fact, I think it is the closest thing to Oktoberfest that you can get in Singapore, and it certainly reminds me of the time when funfairs will visit Singapore every Chinese New Year outside Marina Square. Price per ride is about $4 to $6, which is the (overpriced) market rate in Singapore. Only 1 catch: The rides there are all kids rides:

  • Carousel
  • Mini-Train
  • Helter Skelter (or giant slide)
  • Chairswing (at the "Hidden" corner)
According to the event company, every single ride is custom made overseas for this event.

Yup, this is what you call a Helter-Skelter!

But for me, not funfair will be complete without the Games, and Gardens by the Bay deliver in spades! The game stalls are large and allow several people to play at once, and the prizes are really, really big. Like the Minions I talked about above are larger than the $39.90 Minion plushies sold at USS, and the Giant Bears at the topple the can stall is taller than some of the kids that won the game! 

Of course, as with every game stall, the ones on display are usually the biggest prizes, but what I really like is the atmosphere - when people try to show off (and fail miserably) in front of their friends and family!

This looks like a Carousel, but it's actually a game stall!

The stalls are really wide and allow several people to play at once, but since the day I went was off peak most lanes are closed.

Oh man, this reminds me of the days when I (read: my parents) will spend RM100 a night on games at Genting Highlands
This is evidence that you are in Singapore! In fact, there is even a safety notice that discourages people with back, neck and heart problems from boarding the Carousel!


In recent years, Singapore is really stepping up when it comes to big events. Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay 2015 is no exception, and I think it marks a great final chapter to Singapore's very exciting series of SG50 events. Having planned several SG50 events myself, I am well aware of the effort required to pull of something like this, and I think it really reflects how far big events has come in Singapore.

For us, we get to immerse ourselves into a true winter wonderland - a Nordic Village, a Colourful palace and a good-old fairgrounds. The wide walkways allow the event area to hold really large crowds, and I cannot complain about the location. Just the opportunity to eat nice food under the stars and makes it worth the trip in itself. 

I just find it wasted. They could have chosen to do the event at the giant lawn within Gardens by the Bay so that the Christmas decorations will not get overwhelmed by the Supertrees. Also, I think that operating the trackless mini-train is quite a safety hazard because the pathways could be very crowded during the weekends and there are kids running around the place. Nonetheless, these are relatively minor issues.

I will be covering the USS Christmas event, as well as 5 theme parks in the Pearl River Delta region of China in the coming weeks, so please stay tuned and like the Second Drop Facebook Page!


  1. Is the Gardens by the Bay Christmas Wonderland free?

    Yes, the main event area is free. However, you still have to pay for Food and Beverages, to take the rides and attractions and for entering Flower Dome, Cloud Forest and OCBC Skywalk
  2. How long does it take to complete the attraction?

    About 1 hour is suffice if you just plan to walk through without taking part in any attractions. However, there are enough activities to last you through the entire evening.
  3. What is the best day/time to visit Gardens by the Bay during Christmas

    If you want to soak up the winter village atmosphere without too much crowd, weekdays before 7.30pm and after 9.00pm is good. However, there are some shows that are during the weekend peak periods (eg. Sat between 7pm and 9pm), so if you like shows you may want to join the crowd on those periods.
  4. Are the games very difficult to win?

    Attracted by the beautiful prizes? If you have tried the games at Legoland Malaysia, the games are of the same difficulty (in fact, I think at least 4 games are identical). I tried them at Legoland and it is not easy at all! Nonetheless, I was still able to spot some people winning big prizes! Topple the Can seems to have quite a high win rate (I saw 2 big prize wins in the 3 mins it took for me to walk past the area).