As the Christmas songs never tire of reminding us, Christmas comes but once a year and Santa Claus is coming to town. But certainly an important part of Christmas for me as a child was heading off somewhere to see Father Christmas before the big day, so I could put in my “order” and get the chance to actually say hello.
FREE ways to see Santa
Ah that little word free, music to your ears at this time of year, as costs stack up and the list of presents still to buy is neverending! Westfield Shopping Centres at Stratford City and Wood Lane in London and Westfield Broadmarsh in Northampton have all got free grottoes, complete with Santa visit, chocolates and a gift. You just have to make sure that you book online in advance (booking fees apply with ticketmaster but not direct with the shopping centres). In the London shopping centres you can even see a 5D cinema show and star in a mission to save all the presents! There’s also a free Santa’s Grotto in Edinburgh in the East Princes Street Gardens.
Cheap ways to see Santa
There’s a huge number of Santa booths and grottoes across the UK with a small entrance fee, so it’s easy to just pop along to your local shopping centre, garden centre or school fete to give your kids that little slice of magic. We’ve picked out some of the best across the country if you want to push the boat out a little. The Christmas wonderlands at Harrods and Selfridges in London are two of the most iconic in the country and this year is no exception, with rave reviews for both as ever. Pet Reindeer and go ice skating as well as see the big man himself at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park in Cumbria, or visit the foresty magic of Kielder Water Winter Wonderland at the Kielder Water & Forest Park just on the border with Scotland. At the southern tip of the UK, head to Torquay where you can search the ancient Kent’s Cavern to find the elves, the presents and more.
Bargain Santa holidays
If you’re after packing up the kids and taking them away for a bit of Father Christmas-related winter magic, think about going to one of Europe’s best Christmas Markets. Dresden offers Germany’s oldest Christmas Market and the chance to see Santa in this lovely setting. There are also elves’ houses to visit and some fun rides to go on. You might even be able to finish your shopping at the same time with hundreds of craft stalls to choose from. Alternatively, why not head to Ireland and the Wineport Lodge in Athlone. They recreate Lapland here in their lakeside setting and as well as visiting the all-important bearded man there’s a chance to pet lots of the residents including emus, donkeys and monkeys.
Blowout Santa Experiences
Or if you want to top off 2011 with an amazing Christmas trip to see Santa somewhere a bit special, there’s a whole raft of places to choose from. Lapland is the traditional spot, with more and more companies offering trips there. Although they can book up fast with people also hoping to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights, so best get your skates on! Sunny Florida is also very popular with Orlando topping the bill. Disneyland and Universal Studios both turn large areas of their parks over to Christmas, with huge trees, tons of decorations and all sorts of special themed events. Alternatively, hop on a flight to New York and spend some time enjoying all the amazing Christmas windows as well as of course heading to Macy’s to see their Father Christmas.