Christmas will soon be upon us and with it the opportunity to take the kids to visit Father Christmas and perhaps meet the elves and reindeer. Tickets for the popular Santa’s grottos sell out fast, so we’ve compiled a list of 14 recommended venues to consider to give your search a head start.
1. Santa’s Winter Wonderland at Stewarts Garden Centre, Christchurch and Wimborne
A periennial favourite, this garden centre group’s website has crashed in the past from the huge number of people trying to buy tickets to see Santa. This year they have polar bear and penguin themes, and at the Christchurch grotto you can even meet real reindeer as part of your trip. Read our post on favourite local garden centres for more information on Stewarts.
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2. Santa’s Woodland Grotto at Upton Country Park, Poole
At this popular local park great for walks, this year you can go through a new light tunnel to visit Santa in his natural wood cabin and receive a printed photograph to take home. There is also a nativity scene complete with real donkeys and the opportunity to meet majestic owls. An enormous new play area has just opened too for the children to try out when you visit.
3. Beales Santa’s Grotto, Bournemouth
This is proving to be a popular choice this year and it is located in the centre of Bournemouth town centre and is very affordable with adults going free. The Father Christmas takes his time over meeting the children and they are given a nice gift at the end.
4. Father Christmas Magic at Farmer Palmers, near Wareham
This well loved children’s farm recently received joint Gold (with the Tank Museum) for Large Visitor Attraction of the Year at the Dorset Tourism Awards. You can enjoy the Father Christmas Magic in their warm winter cabin on weekends and Tuesday and Wednesday mornings with no booking is required. Read our posts on children’s animal farms and parks for more information about Farmer Palmers.
5. Santa Train and the Festival of Light at Longleat, Warminster
This fantastical event is well worth the journey, as whilst you see Santa you can also explore the breathtaking ‘myths and legends’ themed Chinese lantern illuminations at the Festival of Light. Jump aboard the Santa train journeying along the lake to a snowy winter wonderland station where you will meet Father Christmas and his elves. As an extra bonus, tickets can be purchased with Tesco Clubcard vouchers.
6. Santa Express Steam Train on Swanage Railway
An exhilarating one-hour round trip through the glorious Purbeck hills takes you from Swanage to Corfe Castle and back on board a mighty steam engine. During the journey the children meet Santa while parents enjoy a mince pie and seasonal drink.
7. Santa’s Grotto at the Life Centre, Moordown, Bournemouth
To meet an extremely realistic and funny Santa for a reasonable price, visit Santa’s Grotto at the Life Centre. Children get a lovely present, spend up to 15 minutes in the grotto and adults go free.
8. Santa’s Workshop at the Ark, Poole Park
There are lots of things to do when you spend time at Santa’s Workshop. The children can write a letter to Santa, make food to leave for the reindeers on Christmas Eve, paint a Christmas tree decoration in the new pottery studio and ultimately meet the big man himself. Read our post on recommended local soft plays for more information on The Ark.
9. Post a Letter to Santa, Dolphin Shopping Centre, Poole Town
For those on a budget there is an excellent opportunity to meet Santa for free at weekends in Poole’s Dolphin Centre. Elves are on hand to help with festive crafts, arts, games and dressing up. Children can also post letters to the North Pole and instead of a present can find their elf name and are given an elf hat. Donations to charity are welcome.
10. Sail with Santa Harbour Cruise, Poole Harbour
Take to the water to meet Santa on this round boat trip around scenic Poole Harbour. On board listen to Christmas carols which enjoying a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie for adults and a snack and soft drink for kids. The children are later entertained by Izzy Wizzy’s magic show or Dr Balloonman’s balloon modelling and meet Santa as he walks around the boat.
11. Christmas at Paultons Park near Romsey
A top-notch theme park, where this year you can have a enchanting experience meeting Santa in his Christmas cabin and seeing animals and animated characters. Visit a winter-themed Peppa Pig World lit with twinkling illuminations, seasonal music, giant Christmas trees and completed with Santa and his reindeer from the series.
12. Santa’s Grotto in Sovereign Centre, Boscombe
A very reasonably-priced Santa with friendly staff is open in Boscombe’s Sovereign Centre on Saturdays. All donations go to charitable causes. There is free face painting and you can combine your visit with a variety of free events that are also happening – check the website for more details.
13. [SOLD OUT] Santa Specials at Moors Valley Railway, Ringwood
On Sunday 22nd December you can ride on a miniature railway to meet Santa at his amazing station grotto with gifts for children and adults. There is mulled wine for adults and mince pies and cake to be enjoyed on your journey too.
14. [SOLD OUT] Meet Santa Claus at Kingston Lacy
Visit Santa Claus in the Laundry at Kingston Lacy whilst also taking in the opulent Edwardian house decorated in traditional Christmas decorations. To finish your festive day, after dark see the eye-catching light trail in the garden, which this year has new interactive elements.
That’s the end of our list, thank you for reading. Do you know of any Santa’s grottos we have missed or information we could add? Feel free to get in touch and let us know.