Planning a trip up north to experience snowflakes floating down from the skies? You may want to save on this, because Winter Wonderland – Karachi’s latest recreational offering – has brought the quintessential Nathiagali/Murree experience to the metropolis. Located within the boundaries of the PAF Museum, Winter Wonderland is Karachi’s first ever ice park where you will be able to take photographs sitting on ice thrones, explore an ice cave and enjoy the tumbles on ice slides and dodgem cars – and all for Rs 1,500.
The ice park is a collaborative effort between Winterland and PAF. Speaking about the project, Farooq Ahmed, GM, Winterland, says it began with a little inspiration from China. The team at Winterland had been toying with the idea of creating new entertainment avenues in Pakistan and took PAF’s intention to lift the entertainment quotient in Karachi as a sign. “Our CEO, Sharjeel Saleem, made a trip to China in 2018 and was inspired by the ice malls there,” he says. “Nothing on this scale had been done in Pakistan before.”
A Chinese consultant was brought onboard in order to get the architectural and functional details of an ice park right and after 18 months of planning and construction, Winter Wonderland opened to the public in January 2020. “Of all the cities we researched, we received the most positive response from Karachi, so we decided to start the journey there. We conducted comprehensive research on the behaviour and immune systems of the people living here in order to ascertain the exact temperature people in Karachi could endure and actually have fun in,” Ahmed states.
Winter Wonderland is spread over 6,000 square yards and includes a huge car park, ice caves, a café, a photo booth and an ice cream kiosk. The ice park itself takes up 15,000 square feet of the space. Eight thousand ice blocks made from Reverse Osmosis (RO) drinkable water went into making the ice park and edible food colouring was used to add colour to some of them. Ahmed clarifies that “Faizan & Sons are our sole ice suppliers and it has been stated in their contract that they cannot entertain any another party when they have an order from us. We put this clause in to ensure we get the top quality ice blocks.” The ice park is equipped with two snow machines (one natural and one artificial) and uses up to 20 gallons of water on weekdays and 30 gallons on Sunday due to the higher footfall.
An entry pass qualifies visitors for an hour of chill time, fully dressed for the experience in jackets and gloves provided by Wonderland, and every session allows up to 250 people to play in the snow – a significant number of people which could conceivably lead to organisational glitches. Wonderland, however, says that everything is running smoothly so far and people are respectful of the safety rules. “If a session starts at 3:00 p.m., we dim the lights at 3:45 p.m. which indicates that the time is about to be over. At 3:55 p.m. we ask visitors to head towards the exit,” Ahmed shared.
In terms of PAF’s collaboration, Ahmed says that “we were commissioned by PAF to do something for recreational purposes. We discussed the idea with them and they have extended their support by allocating the premises and other resources. Initially the tickets were priced between Rs 3,000 and 3,500 but subsequent to a discussion between our CEO and PAF, we brought them down to Rs 1,500, so that everyone could enjoy the experience without putting a dent in their monthly budget.”
According to Ahmed, Winter Wonderland’s popularity has sprawled way beyond Karachi. “The response has been amazing. We get 1,000 to 1,200 people on weekdays and approximately 2,500 people on weekends. People from Badin, Dadu, Hyderabad, Nowshehra and Thatta come here on the weekends.”
Wonderland has also given the corporate sector a chance to think out of the box in terms of their team building day outs and employee recreational activities. So far, the ice park has hosted names such as Getz Pharma, Marin Dow and Searle Pakistan and schools such as The City School Karachi, Convent of Jesus & Mary, Foundation Public School, Karachi Grammar School and SMART have booked space there for school trips.
Wonderland has also managed to garner celebrity endorsements organically. “You must have seen the kid who plays Rumi in "Meray Pass Tum Ho" on our page. His parents got in touch with us for a birthday party and we later found out that the party had been covered by ARY for one of their shows. Anchorperson Wasim Badami then came with his family so I would say things fell into place for us,” Ahmed says. “Other than that, our digital is being handled by ECHO Digital and we are not doing any marketing in-house for now.”
In addition to strengthening the recreational landscape of Karachi, Winter Wonderland has provided employment opportunities to many. The project has approximately 125 employees and, according to the management, there is still room for 15 to 20 more to become a part of the human resource pool. Needless to say, with so much political and economic turbulence around, PAF and the team of Winter Wonderland have given us the (right kind of) chills!