Steam train rides with Santa, life-size animal ice sculptures, ginger bread decorating with Mrs Claus and snowy magical forest paths leading to Father Christmas’ House… Regina Motalib selects some of the best family Christmas attractions.
Santa Steam Train Ride
For a festive treat to remember, take your tots on the ultimate ‘choo choo train’ ride. The ever popular Kent & East Sussex Railway’s Santa Specials features an exciting journey with a surprise visitor on board. Upon arrival at the station, visitors will be greeted by the sounds of a traditional pipe organ and unlimited free rides on the beautiful Victorian carousel.
As the train pulls into the station, get ready to hop on board for a memorable trip. During the hour and 10 minute journey to Northiam Station, as well as enjoying some merry refreshments on board the festively bedecked steam trains, families will be thrilled when they hear the familiar bell ringing and chanting of “Ho, ho, ho”!
Father Christmas and his elves come along each carriage carrying sacks filled with presents and stop to greet every child for a chat about their favourite things. Each child will also be presented with a good quality present to take home and put under the Christmas tree. Back at Tenterden Station, the festive fun continues. Families will have the chance to meet the beautiful snow queen and have their photographs taken. As a memento, each family will be given a colour photograph of the special meeting. Extra copies will be available to purchase and will make great gifts for family and friends. Visitors can purchase lunch or a warm snack before enjoying a few more free rides on the carousel.
The Kent & East Sussex Railway’s Santa Specials
Tenterden Station, Tenterden TN30 6HE
Tickets from £17.50. Tel: 01580 765155
Breakfast with Santa at Hamley’s
A visit to a toy store is every child’s ideal day out. Imagine their little faces when you tell them they are going to one of the most famous toy stores in the world. Hamleys looks delightful even to grown ups and at Christmas it is truly magical. Decked with beautiful Christmas decorations, it is the ideal Christmas party venue for your little ones to enjoy some festive food with Santa seated not far from their table.
This scrumptious feast is one your children will be talking about long after Christmas. They can eat delicious food and join Santa for breakfast, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea.
During the hour long experience, Santa’s special young guests are in for a treat with stories about Santa’s magical life in Lapland. To complete their Christmas experience, they also meet the magical elves. During their one to one with Santa, after they tell him about all the things they want for Christmas, each child is presented with a small gift to take home.
You may be tempted to purchase one or two things to add to your Christmas gifts or even treat yourself to a fabulous toy!
The Santa experience at Hamleys
188-196 Regent Street
London W1B 5BT
Tickets from £45 per child.
Tel: 0871 704 1977
If you want to treat your family to one of the most exciting Christmas events around – a trip to LaplandUK is certain to exceed all your expectations. It is the type of attraction you could take your children to every year and always be as delighted as if it were your first visit. This year, the attraction will relocate to the Crown Estate’s Whitmoor Forest in Windsor. A phenomenal amount of effort goes into producing this spectacular adaptation of the Father Christmas myth – and the result is families being blown away every time by the sheer magic of LaplandUK.
Along with your tickets, you will receive a sealed personal invitation addressed to your child. Imagine the delight on your little one’s face when they receive their special letter from Father Christmas requesting their help in his toy factory. Upon arrival, children are transported to a fairytale world. With their LaplandUK passports stamped, they follow the elves along the paths of the magical snowy forest. After helping the elves in their toy factory, they visit Mother Christmas in her kitchen to decorate some gingerbread and listen to her Christmas stories. Your children will love meeting the resident huskies and reindeer and skating on the Ice Rink. The best is saved for last – a magical meeting with the most realistic Father Christmas in his woodland home. As well as receiving a high quality and unique gift – your children will be left mesmerised and no doubt ask you many times how Father Christmas knew so much about them as well as their cat’s name!
Whitmoor Forest, Swinley Road,
Tickets: From £45.
Tel: 0871 620 7063
The Enchanted Christmas House
This award-winning venue is the brainchild of child psychologist and author of children’s and parenting books, Dr Margot Sunderland, with stunning sets and interiors designed by children’s book illustrator, Nicky Armstrong. From the moment you enter The Enchanted Christmas House, a truly magical adventure begins! The Garden of Winter Wonder is where the exciting journey begins. All children are catered for in this fun play zone, whether your little one is a budding musician, keen to dress up, or crazy about sand and water play. You can let them play and make believe to their heart’s content while you enjoy the endless supply of mulled wine, coffee and mince pies. Charming elf guides will then lead you to the Busy Elves Workshop so you can help finish making the Christmas presents. Next stop is the Gingerbread Kitchen, for some gingerbread decorating for the family. Expect fun characters to make surprise appearances throughout including a Christmas Cracker and a Gingerbread Man. There is a personalised visit to Santa Claus where every child gets a present. The highlight of the night has to be “Santa’s Snowball Soup and the Jelly Snails” – the interactive musical theatre finale put on by Mrs Claus and Santa’s magical friends. A festive picnic is also included in this fantastic experience.
The Enchanted Christmas House
2-18 Britannia Row, Islington
London N1 8PA
Winter Wonderland – Hyde Park
Undoubtedly one of the Capital’s most spectacular Christmas events, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is a must see attraction. With all the fun of the fair, circus magic, breathtaking ice sculptures, and some family ice skating set against a dazzling backdrop. The candy floss, hot dogs and Santa’s grotto all add to the festive ambience. For six weeks this famous London Park will be transformed into a fabulous winter attraction, promising fun for all the family.
Enter a fantastical world of real ice and snow as you walk through The Magical Ice Kingdom exhibiting life-size ice sculptures. For a bird’s eye view of all the festive action take a ride on the iconic Giant Observation Wheel. Take to the ice for a whirl on the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink which will be located around the picturesque Victorian Band Stand playing live music. Santa Land is sure to please little ones. It is a haven for young visitors – there will be exciting new rides and attractions as well as Father Christmas, who will be there everyday with a sack of gifts.
The UK’s favourite circus troupe will perform a fun packed daytime family show – Zippos Christmas Circus which will be a mix of colour, comedy and thrills, starring world-class jugglers, clowns and aerialists. There will also be an evening show for older thrill seekers, Zippos Cirque Berserk. Angels Christmas and Yuletide Markets will stock handmade gifts including wooden toys and nativity scenes.
Hyde Park, London W2 2UH
Tickets: Free Entry but tickets required for rides and attractions.
Further info: Royal Parks 020 7298 2000