As mentioned before, the holiday season is my most favourite season of all. I have been making Alexa blast out Christmas songs since November 1st and I have not one, but two Christmas trees! I like to pack my December full of Christmassy activities. Since I have had children, those now involve getting to meet Santa! The biggest is 4 and really buys into the whole experience, so we want it to be as magical as possible. As a result, we’ve been and visited Santa in many places in The Midlands.
This year, we’ve booked to go on the Polar Express on the Telford Stream Railway. It’s about an hour and half away from us, but from reviews I have seen, definitely worth the trip. We have to go in our pajamas too! Last year The Biggest developed an obsession with that film, so we knew we had to try and get tickets. We also have family in Birmingham, so we’re having tea with Santa in Solihull too.
We went to Disneyland Paris in 2016 and was such an amazing Christmassy experience, pre The Littlest coming along and definitely to be repeated in a year or so! I would love to go to actual Lapland as well. Seeing the Northern Lights is up there on my bucket list, so hoping we could combine the two! But here are some of the places we’ve been in the Midlands to see Santa. (Not an ad, places I have actually parted with my own cash monies!)
We’ve been here twice, we were so impressed with it. Woodlands Garden Centre Booking usually opens around August and if you want to go as close to Christmas Day as possible, book as soon as you can! With how Christmas has fallen the last couple of years, we’ve been on Christmas Eve and also the 23rd December, so it’s been peak Christmas excitement. The cost is really reasonable, its about £11 per child and £9 per adult and thats for a cooked breakfast with drinks, and a toy for the child and a cookie to decorate.
Santa’s Helpers are on hand and after breakfast, games are played and some songs and then Santa appears and sits with each child and they get to choose a toy from his elves toy cupboard. The presents are pretty decent and they also offer tea with Santa too. They have recently just sold the Woodlands Centre to the Dobbie’s Garden Centre chain, so not sure what that means for this year’s Santa bookings. However, Rowena’s near Mountsorrel is also a Wyevale and offers a similar concept.
Conkers Discovery Centre is in Moira, near Derbyshire and is an outdoor activity centre which transforms into a Winter Wonderland. They usually use fake snow, but last year when we visited it was when we had all the December snow, so it was extra Christmassy! Prices start from £10 which includes a present and mulled wine for adults (its more on peak dates / times) and they also have Reindeer! We watched a magic show in the open air theatre and then went on the train around the centre. An elf comes to great you and takes you around the enchanted forest, before you end up a pretty log cabin with the reindeer outside and Santa inside.
He was really excellent Santa, friendly and engaged all the children (I went with my nieces and nephews too, so there was a crowd with us!). The Reindeer are only out between 11am – 4.30pm but it’s way more magical when it’s lit up, so I would say try to book either the 3.30pm or 4.00pm slot to get the best of both worlds. It’s an outdoor event, so wrap up extra warm and it’s it’s wet, take waterproofs or an umbrella.
We went to the Twin Lake’s Winter Wonderland when The Biggest was only 19 months old and honestly I think that was a little too young to take them. If they are too small they can’t go on any rides, even if they have an adult with them, which I wish we had known before hand – as even though kids under 95cm are free – it was £15 per adult. It seemed a very expensive soft play trip as that was pretty much they could do, and meet a few animals. It was cold and wet, so we couldn’t utilise the outdoor space.
However, there is a really cool little train you went on before you got to the grotto (an extra £7) which did feel absolutely magical, before you got to a door to meet Santa. He wasn’t the best Santa, but he wasn’t the worst either. Once The Littlest is bigger we would probably go back as he’d be able to go on the rides, but until you’re children are at least 95cm (and The Biggest wasn’t for ages!) you don’t really get the full benefit of the park.
This has been going on for years and something I did as a child, so couldn’t wait to take my smalls on this but felt a bit disappointed. You can pay for a regular trip with a present which Santa will give to them and a snack (between £15-17 per person depending on date) or choose to go for the Deluxe (£23-25 per person) which gives you a longer journey, more time with Santa and a more plush present. The present was nice (a cuddly Kermit the frog) but we had to wait ages for our drinks and snacks. However, the Santa was a really good on, one of the best I’ve seen, – but as he was moving through the train there was someone behind him with the presents on a trolley. The presents were obviously selected by age as at one point a women called out ‘Brenda! We need more 3 year olds!’ and it killed the magic a little.
I love the Steam Railway and it’s fun to go on, but I do think they need to rethink the experience a little. It seems stale and overpriced when compared to what else is out there. However, if you go on a Wednesday (which might be a great idea if you have tinies or home school, as it’s during the day) it’s only £9 and you can bring your own present which Santa will give them. That seems much more reasonable and worth it for that price.
So how about you? Where have you been to see the Big Man and where would you recommend?