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THE UK’S TOP 10 SANTA GROTTOS

Meet the Big FC on boats, trains, biomes and secret woodland worlds

Although his job mostly involves sitting in a chair and being jolly until The Big Night, Santa does have to park that juicy, red behind into a lot of grottos each December.


And if you’re overwhelmed by the choice of Santa tête-à-têtes, Time Well Spent’s elves have rounded up Blighty’s top ten for you.

LAPLAND UK

Pure Christmas magic, which leaves visitors of all ages in no doubt that Father Christmas exists and resides within the ancient elven civilisation at Lapland UK. This extraordinary, immersive experience starts when your child opens the icy cold, wax-sealed invitation from the Big Guy, inviting them to Lapland to help the elves make their toys.

Deep in Ascot's snow-covered, Enchanted Forest, the elf folk present the Small People with special elven passports, enabling entry through the secret doorway to Lapland, where they will discover a jaw-dropping world full of elven characters, the toy factory, real reindeer and huskies, Mother Christmas’s Kitchen, The Elven Village complete with ice rink, elf emporium, restaurant and Elva’s Post Office for a magical, four-hour experience in an astonishingly detailed and sprawling world.

Finally, deeper in the forest, past the magical sleigh, they head to Father Christmas’s wooden cabin and see their own names handwritten on the Good List, before meeting St Nick himself, in front of a roaring fire - he knows plenty about each child and will present them with a toy and a special bell, only awarded to his best elves.

Unsurprisingly, tickets for this award-winning show are like gold dust, so this year’s event has sold out. But you can book your 2023 tickets as soon as tickets go on sale in January.

Lapland UK, Whitmoor Forest, Swinley Rd, Winkfield Row, Ascot SL5 8BD


MAGICAL SANTA WEEKENDS AT MACDONALD AVIEMORE RESORT

Three days brimming with Christmas magic, including the UK’s only free-range reindeer herd, Santa’s grand arrival, plus a visit to his woodland grotto and the elves’ workshop.

There is also a Christmas panto, festive family movie pass, a gaggle of daytime and evening Christmas entertainment. And on top of that, there’s a hearty Scottish breakfast each morning, special, festive dining experiences every day and splash fun in the indoor pool with flume and wave machine. Magical Santa Weekends, Macdonald Aviemore Resort, Highland Resort, Aviemore, Inverness-shire, PH22 1PN. Select dates between 9-25 Dec 22


ROYAL ALBERT HALL’S STORYTIME WITH SANTA

From 2 - 21 December, the Royal Albert Hall’s entire porch is transformed into a giant, enchanted grotto for Father Christmas himself. Children can meet him and his merry head elf, Crumpet for charming storytime readings of the Christmas story and Chris Naylor-Ballesteros’ Tiny Reindeer as well as a one-to-one natter with Santa and a prezzie. Royal Albert Hall's Santa Storytime, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP. 2 - 21 December


SANTA’S WINTER WONDERLAND AT SNOWDOME

Play and slide in a real snow wonderland, complete with sledges, snow slides, snow tubes and proper, falling snow. Then join Santa and friends for their all new, Santa in Wonderland stage show. Explore Santa’s Village, meeting his real, furry animal friends before finally visiting the Big Man’s home and leaving him a letter in the magical, talking post box. SnowDome, Leisure Island, River Drive, Tamworth, Staffordshire, B79 7ND. Until 1 January


SANTA’S SPECIAL TRAINS - EPPING ONGAR RAILWAY

For turbo-Polar Express vibes (in Essex) head to the glorious Epping Ongar Railway to board Santa’s Special Train.

Grab some festive drinks and nibbles and listen to the brass band while awaiting the magical train, then head over the footbridge for photos with the man in red and a view of the steam train’s grand arrival.

Once onboard, children can write their letters to Santa and will be entertained by his elf friends, while waiting for Father Christmas to waddle through each carriage, meeting the children and giving them presents. Epping Ongar Railway, Station Approach, Chipping Ongar, Ongar, Essex, CM5 9BN.

When: 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18 and 20 to 24 Dec.


THE FATHER CHRISTMAS EXPERIENCE AT MARSH FARM

Marsh Farm never disappoints in the Santa stakes. Small People must first head to the Elf Academy, where they will learn the crucial magic required to be inducted as honorary elves.

Once they’ve received their elf passports, they stop off at Mother Christmas’ kitchen, for treats to fuel them through the adventure, which includes an audience with the Mr FC himself, a trip to the Teddy Bear market and a visit to Elfville’s Toy Shop, where they can exchange their Magical Snowy (elf dosh) for any toy on the shelves. The whole experience lasts 2.5 hours. Marsh Farm, Marsh Farm Road, South Woodham Ferrers, CM3 5WP. Until 24 Dec

NOIR KRINGLE - THE BLACK SANTA’S GROTTO EXPERIENCE

Amazingly, Noir Kringle is London’s only diverse Santa experience, launched in 2018 to give children and parents the opportunity to visit a magical Christmas grotto where Father Christmas and all of his elves are Black.

Noir Kringle events have been sell out hits every year since, for families who value the importance of positive Black representation, inclusion, and diversity.

Mr Kringle loves rum coke and sorrel for Christmas Eve and his cosy workshop is full of the sounds, smells, and spirit of Christmas that encapsulate Black British culture.

Noir Kringle, Crooked Billet Yard, Shoreditch, London, E2 8AF. 17 - 20 December.
SET SAIL WITH SANTA, POOLE

If a Santa rendezvous on dry land doesn’t float your boat, perhaps a Santa boat will?

Santa’s embracing some self care away from the North Pole on a cruise around Poole, and you can join him for some mulled wine, mince pies and carols while you sail around Brownsea Island, Sandbanks Peninsula, Studland Bay and more.

Santa meanders around the boat, meeting the little ones and dishing out gifts.

After leaving your 1.15 hour Christmas cruise, you can wander around the Quay and admire the Christmas tree and festive shops.

Santa Cruise, The Quay, Poole BH15 1BQ. Until 24 December.



FATHER CHRISTMAS AT THE EDEN PROJECT

There are few places as other-worldly and exciting as the Eden Project, so it’s no surprise that Father Christmas has set up camp there this December.

Little ones can meet him and his newest helper Elfie, who is fresh out of Elf Training Camp. Elfie is keen to help, but accidentally causes havoc. Children discover how he learns to be brave and teams up with Father Christmas to deliver a Christmas miracle. During each 40-minute session, kids will check out Santa’s Eden camp, including elf bunk beds, bedside stories and letters from children before meeting Father Christmas himself, leaving with a storybook of Elfie's adventures, plus a chocolate treat. Eden Project. Bodelva, Cornwall, PL24 2SG. Selected dates and times between 2-24 December. From £10 for a child with one adult.


WINTER’S TAIL AT CHESSINGTON WORLD OF ADVENTURES

Follow the jolly elves as they guide you through a snowy wonderland with real falling snow, to Santa’s cosy cabin for an audience with the Big Guy. Afterwards, children head to his Toy Workshop top explore where he builds his gifts and can choose their own present to take home. Kids can also help the elves make (and eat) festive treats in the Magical Cookie Kitchen as well as enjoying The Wild Christmas Panto and a host of live entertainment to get them in the Christmas spirit, from carols to audiences with Mrs Christmas. And on top of that, they can enjoy some family favourite rides, like Room on the Broom and Adventure Tree, as well as lions, gorillas, sharks and rays at the zoo and Sea Life aquarium.

Chessington World of Adventures.Leatherhead Rd, Chessington KT9 2NE. Until 24 December



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