A few months back now, Wyevale Garden Centre in Andover invited Fin (5) & Indi (1) to spend a morning meeting Santa in his magical Grotto. When we were first invited, Christmas was certainly not on the agenda, but it was lovely to think that the kids will both meet Father Christmas (or Christmas, as Fin calls him) in early December.
On a frosty December Saturday morning, Fin donned his shorts (he doesn’t like wearing trousers – and apparently it’s ‘his choice!”) and we trotted off to see what was in store.
We left a bit late to leave for Andover (we live a few miles away, in Basingstoke), so we were a bit on edge as we hit a road closure and diversion, but as we ran up to the Grotto red-faced, and a few minutes late, we were greeted kindly, and shown to little hut on the edge of a path of Christmas trees to start our experience. (We had to park our buggy, as there would be steps to climb, so this should be a consideration for some.)
Fin and Indi were given a magic bean, which they had to keep safe until they met Santa, and as they made their way through the mist, and glittery trees, they had to count the fairies. Fin counted 7, but I think it was more like 17! After passing moving unicorns, reindeer, and other magical creatures, and we were greeted by a friendly elf, who asked Fin if he had his and his sister’s magic bean. Oh boy, which pocket did I put them in?! OK, found them, phew. The elf lead us to a planting station, where the kids had to fill up a pot with soil, and plant their magic bean. The kids were asked their names, and they wrote a little marker for each pot. Then we waited a few minutes for Santa to invite us into his Grotto.
We were invited into a glittery hut, with Christmas trees, wrapped gifts, and a snack for Santa on a table. Santa was sat in his chair, and greeted Fin and Indi warmly. I laugh when I think back to Fin first met Santa, around 1 or 2 years old, and he screamed his head off. Fin was quite nervous meeting Santa, and nervously answered Santa’s questions.
The highlight for Fin was when Santa asked him whether he believed in magic or not. Fin answered, Yes. He was asked if he had his and Indi’s pots with the planted magic beans in, and to put them in a special sparkly, light-up cupboard. A few minutes later, he was asked to press a button next to the cupoard, at which time, a big star lit up. He then opened the cupboard, and two little Christmas trees had grown from the soil. This blew Fin’s mind, and he was asking all the way home how that happened. It was a very cute touch.
After saying goodbye to Santa, we left the grotto a tree decorating station. The kids could use strings of glitter, tinsel and ribbon to decorate their magical trees to take home. We spent quite a few minutes here, because Andy decided he was going to make Indi’s tree look nice, whereas Fin just grabbed a load of blue tinsel strips and dumped it on the top. “Done.”
Once everyone was happy with their little trees, we set off again through the misty trail. We found another log cabin to access up some steps, and Fin led the way. To everyone’s absolute delight, this log cabin was full to the roof with toys! The kids were allowed to pick whatever toy they wanted, and we spent a few minutes searching through the shelves for the perfect things. We chose a little elephant in a bag for Indi (she loves soft toys, and bags), and Fin chose a push along racing car. I honestly thought the kids would get a cheap book from a pound shop as a gift, but this was an exciting surprise for everyone!
We then made our way to the exit, and the kids were buzzing. It was a lovely way to spend an hour, and it started December’s festivities. We usually start our Christmas around the 1st, but this year, we have had a house-full of illness, and we’re a bit behind. We’ll probably get out tree up next week.
We were all hungry, so we grabbed a table in the cafe (Wyevale cafes are always pretty good), and tucked into some sarnies, and drinks, whilst the kids played with their toys. A nice touch was there was a Punch & Judy entertainer that was entertaining the kids whilst we ate, so it kept them nice and quiet. Fin loved the crocodile with sausages hangig from his mouth, and it made me think “I need to take him to a pantomine this year”, as I’m sure he would love it.
All in all, it was a great morning, and I am so glad I snapped up the chance to attend the event. I might even go again…on my own this time 😉
If you would like to visit Santa, you can still book dates throughout December at Andover Wyevale (and other Wyevale centres). I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, and your kids will certainly love it. It’s well worth the £10 price tag.