Give your children something to smile about with our list of the best Santa’s Grottos in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire
Words: Liz Mattock
Santa’s Grottos in Norfolk
Santa’s Magical Journey at Thursford, 25 & 26 November, 2, 3, 9, 10 and 16-23 December
Thursford Collection, Norfolk, NR21 0AS
Join Santa and his little helpers in Thursford this Christmas. Set in the fantasia of the North Pole, big kids and little kids can experience a magical journey past penguins and polar bears to the busy little elves at work in the toy factory making sure no little girls or boys are forgotten this Christmas. Finally, you’ll reach Santa’s House where he is busy preparing for Christmas Eve. Watch snowmen and other cheeky characters come to life in world where children see their dreams come true.
Visit www.thursford.com/santas-magical-journey.aspx to see times, dates and how to book online.
Bressingham Grotto, Sat 2 to Sun 24 December
Bressingham Steam & Gardens, Low Road, Bressingham, Diss, IP22 2AA
Santa will be joined this year at Bressingham Grotto by none other than his lady wife, Mrs Claus. This year Santa is giving all well behaved children (and he’ll know if you have been naughty or nice) a ride on his Polar Express train, meet him in person and make their Christmas wish come true. If you are looking for a quieter venue for your child to visit Santa this is the perfect place for you. Your child gets one to one time with Santa, no time slots and no rush.
To book visit http://www.bressingham.co.uk/events/christmas.
Visit Father Christmas in his Woodland Yurt Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden, 16 – 17 December
School Road, South Walsham NR13 6DZ (The Broads)
Come Christmas and this beautiful heritage garden in the Broads comes into its own. Take a stroll through the illuminated winter woodland garden to meet the reindeer and visit Father Christmas tucked away among the trees in his yurt. There will be live music, illuminations and an Elves’ Workshop with free Christmas crafts and face painting to keep the children busy.
Garden entry applies for adults (£6.75) and concessions (£6.15), £7.50 per child to visit Father Christmas and receive a present (includes garden entry all day). Booking is essential to visit Father Christmas. https://tockify.com/fairhaven/agenda
An Audience With Father Christmas Holkham Hall, 17th December 2017 – 22nd December 2017
Holkham Estate, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, NR23 1AB
Join a special Audience With Father Christmas as he stops off during his busy schedule at Holkham Hall. It’s a chance to meet Father and Mother Christmas in the Saloon where they will regale you with tales of wonder and magic while the all-singing, all-dancing band of cheeky elves will entertain you with musical interludes. We also suspect they will have a trick or two up their sleeves! And of course there will be a small present for all of our younger visitors and a glass of Prosecco or a soft drink for everyone plus a small biscuit for children.
Adult £17, Child (0-12 years) £17, each performance lasts for approximately 45 minutes. To book please visit www.holkham.co.uk
Festive Family Boat Trip Broads Tours, 2nd December – 24th December 2017
The Bridge, Wroxham, Norwich, Norfolk, NR12 8RX
The excitement builds as Santa lands his sleigh on the roof, before coming into the cosy saloon with his sack full of named, quality presents for all the 1 – 15 year olds. Join Santa’s Pixies and of course Santa on board the Vintage Broadsman for an hour of Family Festive Fun. The Pixies will serve mulled wine and mince pies for the adults and a soft drink and a festive cookie to all of the children. Children can take part in our Seasonal Quiz, sing along to Christmas songs and enter our Christmas colouring or drawing competition.
£12.00 for all tickets, under 1 year olds go free, departure times: 11am, 1pm and 3pm, duration of trips 1 hour, Sunday 24th December, 2017 – 11am and 1pm. Check availability before you arrive at https://www.broadstours.co.uk/events/
Steam Trains to Santa, 2nd December – 24th December. 10:00, 12:40*, 13:45*, 15:00*, 17:30* *selected dates only*
Bure Valley Railway, Wroxham: NR12 8UU
Each year Bure Valley railway welcomes its highly popular steam trains to Santa. The enchanting train ride starts in Wroxham and makes its way to Aylsham with the station dressed beautifully in twinkling lights to get everybody into the festive spirit as Santa waits to greet everyone in his railway sleigh. Entertainment and festive refreshments for all the family add to the Christmas magic, before climbing aboard the Santa Train for the return journey to Wroxham. Prices: £15 Adults (13+), £15 Children (0-12). Book at www.bvrw.co.uk
Christmas at Banham Zoo, Africa Alive & Dinosaur Adventure, 3rd December 2017 – 24th December 2017
Kenninghall Road, Banham, Norfolk, NR16 2HE
See Santa Claus and enjoy some festive fun including Christmas crafts and face painting, seasonal food and more. Selected dates for each venue to see Santa. Check each venue for santa dates: www.banhamzoo.co.uk | www.africa-alive.co.uk | www.dinosauradventure.co.uk
Wells Christmas Tide Festival, 2 December
The Quay, Wells-next-the-Sea
Santa has swapped his sleigh for a boat! Following a day of festive fun and activities Santa will sail into The Quayside at 5.30pm. Once Father Christmas has stepped foot on dry land he will meet and greet all the children before heading to his grotto at Adventure Playland. But not before he lights the fuse for another great Wells Christmas Tide Festival tradition – the fantastic festive fireworks display from across the marshes!
Where to meet Father Christmas in Suffolk
Santa’s Grotto at Blackthorpe Barn, Saturday and Sundays from 25 Novembe to 17 December, plus 19-22 December
Rougham Estate, Bury St Edmunds, IP30 9HZ
Visit the stunning nativity scenes at Blackthorpe Barn who are hosting their own Santa’s grotto in their traditional festive barn. Now in its 27th year, the majestic wooden doors are being pulled back to reveal another spectacular sight this Christmas. Aimed at children aged up to nine, the miniature grotto is not to be missed. Get online and book at http://www.blackthorpebarn.com/christmas/santas-grotto/
Santa Tours Felixstowe, weekdays at beginning of December from 6-8.30pm
Santa and Rudolph are getting out and about this month, as they make a tour of town’s streets and homes in their sleigh. Arranged by the local branch of Save the Children and the Felixstowe Rotary Club, it aims to give all families, particularly children, a great Christmas experience as well as raise as much money as possible for Save the Children and Rotary supported charities. You can also catch Santa at the Felixstowe Christmas market on 2 December for festive fun, carol singing and a children’s candle lit parade. More details at http://www.felixstowe.gov.uk
Aldeburgh Celebration of Christmas, 2 December
Aldeburgh High Street
There will be plenty for the whole family to enjoy including a funfair set up near Moot Hall, stalls selling gifts made by local traders, a school choir singing Christmas carols and refreshment stalls serving mince pies and mulled wine. Plus Santa will be paying a visit! It all ends with the grand finale at 4pm with the Christmas light switch on and carol singing.
Cambridgeshire Santa’s Grottos
Santa Specials at Nene Valley Railway, 25 November to 24 December
Wansford Station, Stibbington , Peterborough , PE8 6LR
Christmas at Nene Valley Railway is not one to be missed but be quick as places to travel with Santa on his magical train are filling up faster than a fruit filled mince pie! Proud to have been making Christmas special for children for over 40 years, organisers have had to expand this year to meet demand and add an extra carriage. Mr Claus is dropping by on his special festive train, while the elves make sure his sleigh is in top condition for Christmas Eve.The experience begins in Santa’s grotto where Christmas wishes are made, followed by a trip on the magnificent train. There are three packages available to book online to suit all budgets.
To book your place on this magical adventure call 01780 78444 or visit www.nvr.org.uk to book online.
Frost Garden Centre, 2-24 December
Buckden Rd, Brampton, Huntingdon PE28 4NF
Point your sleigh in the direction of Brampton and visit the aptly named Frosts Garden Centre for an experience like no other. Kids get to sing with Santa’s elves, meet Santa himself and make reindeer food ready to leave out for Rudolph and his friends on Christmas night. We have it on good authority, Santa keeps them on a very strict diet. Before you leave you will be asked to join Santa in his living room while he reads an enchanted story and wishes all a Merry Christmas. Capture your magical family memories by having your photo taken and purchasing it on the day. To book visit https://frostsgroup.digitickets.co.uk/branches.
Meet Father Christmas at Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, from 3 December
Wicken Fen Nature Reserve, Lode Lane, Wicken, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 5XP
Follow the trail at this charming National Trust nature reserve in search of Father Christmas! This memorable experience includes making crafts in the elves busy workshop and a magical meeting with the man in red himself! Price: Child ticket £9 www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wicken-fen-nature-reserve
The best Santa’s Grottos in Essex
Breakfast with Santa at Colchester Zoo, 26 November – 22 December
Maldon Road, Stanway, Colchester CO3 0SL
Get your Christmas rocking with Rudolph at Colchester Zoo. Children meet Mr and Mrs Claus and watch the elves tending to the reindeer to make sure they are ready to make the journey to every little girl and boy on the eve of Christmas. Can you spot Rudolph?
Take breakfast with Santa and see what he likes to eat before he takes to skies to deliver all those presents – rumour has it he has a very sweet tooth. Special packages must be booked in advance. Visit https://www.colchester-zoo.com/experiences/christmas-experiences or call 01206 331292.
Santa and Real Life Reindeer at Hearts Delight Garden Centre, every weekend from 25 November – 24 December
Hearts Delight Garden Centre, Long Road, Lawford, Manningtree, CO11 2EF
Get merry and festive to your heart’s delight at Hearts Delight Garden Centre. A small and intimate grotto awaits you with a magical Frozen themed iced tunnel leading wide eyed youngsters to Santa’s grotto. For more information visit http://hearts-delight.co.uk/ or call 01206 392539.
Audley End Miniature Railway, 25 November – 24 December
If you’ve not had a chance to visit Audley End Miniature Railway during the festive season before, then make sure you visit this year for a to a magical family day out. Take the Santa Express into the woods to visit Father Christmas and his elves in their woodland grotto. Children will also have the opportunity to visit the craft area and write a letter to Father Christmas and post it in the festive box. Known as one of ‘the magical Christmas experience in Essex’, this event is hugely popular so be quick to boo your tickets! More information available at https://www.audley–end–railway.co.uk/
Santa’s Grottos in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire
Father Christmas and Festive Fun at Hatfield Forest, Wednesdays and Thursdays through December
Takeley, CM22 6NE
The whole family can jingle all the way down to Hatfield Forest, just outside Bishop’s Stortford this Christmas on selected dates throughout December. Not only will little ones get to meet Santa in person but they can also take part in craft workshops making some very special tree decorations. Hidden in the forest, roars a magical campfire where families are invited to join in, singing carols and sipping hot chocolate under the stars. Tickets can be booked in advance by calling 0344 249 1895 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hatfield-forest
Santa Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm, 22 November – 24 December
Coursers Road, St Albans AL4 0PF
Take a sleigh ride down to Willows Activity Farm, St Albans and spend some time at Santa Spectacular. Children meet Santa and receive a golden key which unlocks a special present just for them. Visit the elf academy where youngsters can learn just what it takes to be an elf, starting with the elf-a-bet. Glide around the ice rink, meet a real reindeer and find out all about the North Pole in Santa’s 3D film. For tickets visit http://www.willowsactivityfarm.com.
Christmas Kingdom at Mead Open Farm, 1-24 December
Stanbridge Rd, Billington, Stanbridge, Leighton Buzzard LU7 9JH
Mead Open Farm is the place to be merry in Billington, Bedfordshire this Christmas. Visit the Christmas village, meet Santa, take a tour around Santa’s workshop, make reindeer food and find out what the very special magical ingredient is. Plus, there is so much more to see and do for kids of all ages and adults too. To find out more visit http://www.meadopenfarm.co.uk/christmas-kingdom-2017/ and book tickets early.
It’s set to be magical, so come and join us and make Christmas memories to treasure. Read our guide to Christmas markets, shopping and events.