With bonfire night now over for another year, I feel completely justified in getting into the Christmas spirit! It is now time to start planning those all important Christmas activities, including amazing Father Christmas visits in the UK.
The appearance of Christmas displays creeping into the shops has definitely got me feeling festive, and although it does still feel a little bit early to start thinking about Father Christmas visits, ticket bookings for most are all well and truly open now and it is no secret that the more popular ones book very quickly!
So to spread a little bit of festive inspiration, along with my own Father Christmas visit suggestions, I have also called on my fellow UK family travel bloggers and a friend to recommend their favourites around the UK too.
We have been to many grottos over the years, ranging from simple garden centres up to immersive experiences in the woods, and love finding something new. So here, in no particular order, is a round-up of fab visits across the UK.
1. Father Christmas’s Secret Forest at Crockford Bridge Farm, Surrey
Crockford Bridge Farm offers an interactive and enchanting Father Christmas visit which takes you through a magical woodland trail with elves, storytelling fairies, woodland displays and even a wishing tree!
The actors who lead you through the woods are wonderful and do an amazing job of making it a special and super fun visit for the children; taking them off into a winter wonderland. The trees are so thick and so tall, that you honestly feel like you have been transported to a different land!
The trail ends with a visit to Father Christmas himself, in a cosy and magical woodland grotto. Our boys absolutely loved their visit and ask to return every year.
Booking opens in early November and new for 2017, booking is now only available online and in advance.
2. The Santa Special on the Watercress Line
It may have been a few years back, but meeting Father Christmas on board a steam train on the Watercress Line remains one of our favourite as a family. Our then three-year old was train mad, and as well as meeting Father Christmas himself, we were also lucky enough to pull up alongside Thomas the Tank Engine. I think he nearly exploded with excitement!
Grown ups are treated to a little tipple (we had mulled wine, but I think it varies from year to year) and a mince pie, and kids enjoy a juice and a biscuit.
Father Christmas walks through the carriages visiting each child, presenting them with a gift in a very cute drawstring bag. Our little train fan was so happy!
3. Santa Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm, Surrey
Peter Rabbit, farm animals AND Father Christmas?! The Santa Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm sounds like every child’s dream! Cathy from Mummy Travels took her daughter, and it certainly looks like an amazing experience. This is not your average queue up and meet Father Christmas, it is a full day out which combines all the fun of the farm, with added festive fun such as huskies, reindeer and of course Santa and his elves too.
4. A Visit to Santa at Chill Factor-E, Manchester
If you have slightly older children, then combining a Santa visit with a fun-filled day at an indoor snow park could be just the ticket! Joanne over at Kids Days Out Reviews took her kids to Chill Factore in Manchester and there really was something for everyone; from fast luge runs for the older kids and sledging for the younger ones, all on real snow. Top that with pizza and a visit to santa and it sounds like an awesome day!
5. The Santa Special on the Llangollen Railway
The Llangollen Railway is another route offering Santa Specials, and Karen from Mini Travellers, along with some friends, treated themselves and their children to a whole carriage on board! The route goes from Llangollen Station to Carrog Station, which is actually renamed Lapland during these special trips!
During the two-hour round trip, kids are treated to juice and snacks, and grown ups enjoy a mince pie and a tipple. Father Christmas comes through the carriages and visits all the children at their tables, chatting to them and giving them a lovely age appropriate gift.
6. A Family Day Out at Lapland UK
Meeting Father Christmas in Lapland has got to be on every child’s wish list right? Well, if you haven’t got the time or budget to head north to the snowy scenery of Finland, you can be transported to the magic and wonder of Lapland right here in the UK, at the aptly named LaplandUK. I have read so many wonderful things about this experience, and this post from Charly over at POD Cast shows us just how wonderful it is.
7. The Polar Express on the Telford Steam Railway
It would seem that combining a train journey with a father christmas is a popular choice, and Nat from Plutonium Sox shares another fab looking Christmas train journey, this time on the Telford Steam Railway Polar Express.
This completely immersive experience will transport you and your children into the magical story of the Polar Express, from wearing PJs to receiving a little silver bell with your gift – just like in the movie!
8. Meeting Santa at Harrods, London
If you live in or near London, visiting Father Christmas at Harrods seems almost like a rite of passage. I remember my grandma taking me as a child and I took my eldest for his first ever Santa visit too. There is something just a little bit special about Harrods at Christmas, and visiting the grotto can be magical for the little ones.
Unfortunately on our visit, our little man decided that Father Christmas was the scariest thing in the world and screamed the whole time (we have a pretty spectacular picture that will be wheeled out on his 18th birthday!). So luckily, Ting over at My Travel Monkey has a much better experience to share!
9. A Magical Visit to Santa at Clearwell Caves, Glocestershire
Lisa over at Travel Loving Family recommends a magical visit to Santa at Clearwell caves. With what sounds like a wonderful story trail through the beautifully decorated caves, as well as personalised presents under the tree in Santa’s grotto, it really does sound fab. These pictures, with the pretty lights and beautifully wrapped gifts, are seriously making me feel so christmassy!
10. Enchanted Crystal Grotto, Painshill Park, Surrey.
My last recommendation is a visit that we haven’t actually done yet! But I have wanted to do so since moving to Surrey, and stupidly keep missing the booking window to get the best time slots. So many people have recommended the Enchanted Crystal Grotto at Painshill Park to me, that next year I will be sitting at my computer as soon as booking opens.
My friend Emma has visited with her boys and they simply love the magic of the enchanted crystal grotto. She says “you follow a trail through the forest and past the lake until you reach a marquee. Here, while you wait to meet Father Christmas, there are free workbooks and craft activities for the children, and mulled wine available for grown ups to purchase. You are then called by an elf to head into the magical caves to meet Father Christmas and collect a gift each. If you have older children, it is fun to visit in the evening when the trail is lit up.” It sounds brilliant!
Have you been to any of these fab visits? Or have you got a favourite that I should add to the list? I’d love to hear from you!
And if you’re looking for other ideas for grotto visits, then make sure you read this post by The Mini Malpi.