Review: Blenheim Palace Alice in the Palace Event, The Cotswolds
In recent years Blenheim Palace has started a Winter tradition of organising special events in the Christmas period. They had prepared events in the past but nothing to the scale of today; for example they had a Christmas tree market within the palace years ago compared to a Cinderella themed Palace extravaganza in 2018.
Alice in Wonderland
In 2019 Blenheim Palace prepared an Alice in the Palace event where rooms within the opulent Palace were decorated to the theme of the famous book about a girl in a blue dress.
Speaking about Alice in Wonderland; this was such an odd book to become a classic. A story about a girl who had a weird dream and ended with no character change at all? My old English teacher would have failed me.
The Alice in the Palace event was very popular and several popular dates and times were sold out. Note that if you wanted to stay in the official car park a ticket would need to be purchased even if this costed nothing at certain times. There was also an option for an afternoon tea as well, but I opted for the most basic ticket for just exploring Blenheim Palace.
We arrived in Woodstock in the late morning and parked in the village car park for a reasonable fee of less than a fiver for the whole day. I had combined the Alice in the Palace event with separate evening tickets for the Illuminated Light Trail in the Blenheim Palace grounds.
Woodstock itself was small and pretty as was typical of the Cotswolds, there didn’t seem to be much for a tourist to do outside of Blenheim Palace.
Ticket Collection and Palace Shop
The walk through the driveway towards Blenheim Palace was a long one and there were few signs of the Winter events aside from a few lights. This was understandable since a consistent row of Christmas trees along the long pathway would have bankrupted most households.
They had set up a small carnival at the entrance with food stalls and rides. It was free to enter this area but you would need to purchase tokens to use the rides. Many of them weren’t very popular which I suspect was because they were a bit too old fashioned.
In the same area stood the ticket stands where I collected our tickets. It was possible to exchange our tickets for a free year’s pass for Blenheim Palace and this is true for any standard non-event ticket as well. There is simply no reason not to take on this offer.
The well stocked shop and café was next to the ticket stands and we browsed around before our scheduled visit time-slot. This was certainly the first time I’d seen a tourist shop selling Penhaligon perfume; the starting prices for these scents were £144 per 100ml.
I bought some earrings from a brand started in…Copenhagen. So far so British?
Afterwards we visited the seasonal Winter markets set up right outside the palace. There were several stalls selling food, drinks, decorations and there was a free ATM machine available just to assist your spending. Capitalism will do what capitalism does and in a way it’s comfortingly consistent.
We bought hot-dogs and a chocolate dessert for lunch here afterwards and they were delicious.
The market faced the impressive palace exterior. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and Grade I listed building was constructed from 1705 – 1722 with the Chapel last to be added in 1733.
The style was English Baroque, which generally meant symmetrical buildings, classical figures, exteriors which kept its material colouring and interiors full of ornaments in the French style.
Finally it was time to enter the Palace and we joined a queue to enter a tent like construction erected around the entrance of the building.
We emerged into the Great hall which was decorated with a giant set of playing cards as a centre piece.
Passing through the hall of mirrors and…arches of keys and mushrooms?
A video would soon appear at the end of the hall depicting Alice shrinking and entering through a tiny door. A doll door was located nearby which actually could be opened up.
We then visited the white rabbit’s room, which didn’t seem too related to the story since the rabbit was sitting at the table instead of running away, but I supposed everyone needs a break:
The caterpillar’s room had an eery green tint to match the dreamlike atmosphere:
The pool of tears utilised a mirror on the floor:
We then entered a general area with oversized props and pretty creepy motion capture technology for the kids to play with. As was standard the actual motion capture software was very hit or miss in whether it worked or not:
The Cheshire cat room:
The scariest Queen of Hearts was in the next room and her grotesque face would rotate to face you in the nightmarish red lighting. This would totally scare smaller children which was surprising since I didn’t think horror would be Blenheim Palace’s thing.
The Flamingo Croquet room was pretty fun:
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
Then came the pièce de résistance: a super souped up version of the mad Hatter’s tea party on steroids and drugs simultaneously. The table ran the full length of the huge room and was decked out in cakes, flowers, animals, figurines and lots of cutlery and crockery. It was truly a work of art.
The lighting really made everything pop and there were projections of spinning cards on the ceiling just to add a bit of excitement.
The famous scene of the half painted roses were replicated but with glitter, because glitter made everything better.
The talking flower garden was very subtle in comparison.
Chapel and Garden
This concluded the tour of the main Palace interior and we left the building via one of the wings, walking past rows of subtly glowing trees.
An area was set aside for children to dress up and pose in front of Alice in Wonderland themed backgrounds. I didn’t join in because I’m not that type of fun person.
The last part of the event was the decorated Chapel which had trees set up for visitors to hang up message tags amongst fairy lights. This was very similar to the Japanese tradition of hanging up wishes, except with an Alice twist since themed stamps were available for your tags. In comparison with the rest of Blenheim Palace the theming was very low key which was fine with me since the chapel was so beautiful. When I get my own personal chapel, which is any day now, I would definitely add a lot of statues everywhere.
We then wandered into the gardens really briefly and the area looked really striking surrounded by the blue sky.
We didn’t explore too much though since we were returning later that night for the Illuminated Light Trail.
Afterwards we had another wander through Woodstock.
A brief stop at Woodstock coffee for some hot chocolate to warm up and we were pretty much ready to leave for Oxford via a convenient under an hour bus ride just outside the café.
Blenheim Palace’s Alice in the Palace event made great use of the beautiful historic building and the care and attention to detail was present in every corner. This Palace is worth a visit any day of the year, but its themed events are ridiculously popular for a reason. The tickets are pricey but well worth the price for a special experience and I’m looking forward to seeing what theme will be used next year.
Woodstock itself shouldn’t take more than an hour to explore unless you are planning to eat or stay there, so I recommend visiting Oxford instead like we did if you are looking for more variety of things to see and do.
Blenheim Palace Alice in the Palace Event
Address: Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PP
Friday 22nd November – Wednesday 5th January
Adult – £27.00
Child (5-16 years) – £16
Combined – £30.90 (Child), £40.50
Children under 5 and carers go free for the Illuminated Trail and Alice in the Palace.
Note: These are 2019 dates and prices specifically for the Alice in Wonderland themed visit, refer to the website for the most up to date information.