I have avoided visiting Father Christmas so far with the children, with Amy she didn’t have any way to enjoy it so I felt it was a bit pointless. I felt a little cheated by the Christmas experience having a severely disabled child. Once I had William I wanted to do everything possible with him to make up for it, including visiting Santa’s Grotto. The first opportunity I had was at a stay and play when he was about 18 months old, he was terrified of the darkened room and a man in a costume that hides his face. Creepy! I held off a bit after that, and whenever we saw a grotto out and about they weren’t keen. Last year William braved it at a village Christmas fayre and enjoyed it, so I thought this year I might try again. We were invited to our local garden centre Santa’s Grotto and winter wonderland experience at Notcutts Maidstone (see here for more information and to book), and I thought it was worth giving it a go.
We arrived for our pre-booked time slot and checked in with some friendly elves. We were then showed through to see the real live Reindeer and baby reindeer – or goats really. That was a really nice touch, and not one I expected. The whole thing was far more involved than I thought actually, the last time I went to a proper grotto was sometime in the late 70s I think so times have really changed! It’s no longer just a cheap mock up shed with a plastic toy and a guy with a bad suit. Well at least not here it wasn’t.
They were all very excited, Daniel didn’t have a clue really! Phoebe was all smiles and then she suddenly had a wobble, she’d heard some funny noises coming from the shed and got all scared. She burst into tears and said she didn’t want to do it. I reassured her as best I could and explained there was no funny train or scary noise and that it was all good. She’d brought her Christmas list with her to show Father Christmas it was so sweet. Before we went in I filled in a form with a few choice details about each child for Father Christmas to have a look at to remind himself about last year and how good they’ve been this year.
Crisis averted we went across to the magic tree station with a rather friendly elf who helped the children plant a magic seed, sprinkle it with glitter and then out of the cupboard after some magic words appeared a mini Christmas tree for all the children! We were all enthralled.
By now I was feeling the magic and a nice warm glow as we headed into the main house. It was a log cabin of Christmas delights, we could see how Father Christmas lived! On hand were more elf helpers to guide us through. Then it was on to the man himself.
Father Christmas had a beautiful red suit on with all the trimmings, and knew just what to say. There were four children all together and we didn’t feel rushed at all and were allowed to take our own photos. There was the chance to talk to Father Christmas, have official photos taken with him and each child got a present for their age group and gender.
Daniel wasn’t so keen, he thought FC was a bit scary, and the promise of presents wasn’t enough to tempt him to look Santa in the eye! I had a little chat with him though, so I think he’ll still get some presents. Daniel is nearly 3, so if your child is under 4 I’d do a tester somewhere or brief them fully! He did like getting the present though.
I thought that was it then, but we were ushered through into another bedroom all decked out with brilliant details, and the words ‘Narnia’ were spelled out in fairy lights. At the end there were fur coats hung up and we went through the magical wardrobe into actual Narnia! By now I was transported and I thought it was amazing. The children’s faces were a picture. So many Christmas trees all lit up, snow everywhere and even the snow Queen was there. Again it was unhurried, and we were the only people there. There was a huge sleigh we could sit on with a reindeer, and the chance for official photos, I also took my own.
You can tell from the happy faces Daniel and Phoebe had forgotten to be scared about anything! Here we all are as a family, we now have some lovely memories and my eldest son (8) is a firm believer. He’s not 100% convinced but he’s pretty sure – Father Christmas must be real!
I would definitely recommend Notcutts in your area as a place to see Father Christmas. The cost may vary, but in Maidstone prices start from £10 for each child and £2.50 per adult. At least one adult must accompany a group of children. The toys they got were a jewellery making set, a science experiment kit and for Daniel a WOW toy soldier set, all of which are quality toys. They also got the tree and the whole experience. Official photos could be purchased afterwards from £6 but purchase isn’t necessary. I will be going back next year.
Are you going to see Father Christmas this year with your family? Let me know in the comments below, and tell me about your experiences!
Disclosure: we were invited to the Father Christmas Grotto free of charge. All opinions are my own.
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