We have a tradition in our house of only going to one Santa’s Grotto and that is at Coolings, a local garden centre. We’ve been to the same one each year since Big L was 6 months old so this year will be his seventh visit. We’re booked to go again on Sunday in fact. However, last weekend Vince’s parents came over for a pre-Christmas visit and our one Grotto rule was broken.
We made the mistake of introducing them to Bluewater a couple of years ago and they love it. I don’t think I’ve ever met people that can shop quite like they can and to say they enjoy eating out would be an understatement. Let’s face it Bluewater covers both bases. So, we planned a trip to Bluewater while they were here. While there, in amongst the rest of the “can I have, can I have” from Big L was “Pleeeeaaase can I go to Santa’s Grotto”. I wasn’t keen on the idea since we already have one booked but it occurred to me that it might be nice for Mamie and Papi to see their grandchildren visit Father Christmas.
We stumbled across booking for the Grotto on our way round the bottom floor at The Village – to be fair it was well signposted, it kind of lures you in. I went to the desk and asked about availability. There were spaces!! We booked two slots in 10 minutes. The tickets are £10 per child which includes entry for two adults. Usually extra adults are chargeable but the lovely elf on the desk put our two children through individually. This is great customer service in my opinion and I hope he doesn’t get into trouble for that!
The grotto is outside next to the ice rink. It looks fab – like a big wooden (plastic) chalet. There was no fooling Big L that it was plastic but he is six. We just said it was magically transported from the North Pole and his curiosity was satisfied. Outside the chalet was a large sleigh that you could have your photo taken in – the very kind elf and security guard were very helpful taking photos and keeping Big L entertained during our wait to enter.
When we were called in there was a room with an elf and Mr Crumb Santa’s head chef. There was an oven in the corner of the room and cooking bits and bobs on the table. There were a couple of rows of little chairs so I expect during busier periods these are full up. On our visit however there was just our two and one other boy.
The little show put on by Mr Crumb and his bumbling assistant was very funny, very pantomime – which was new to the outlaws and they thoroughly enjoyed it! The kids loved it, there was lots of pointing, shouting and laughing especially when the gingerbread man biscuits turned out to be one giant gingerbread man in the oven! Then they were given elf ears to disguise the fact that they are in fact human children so they could enter the next room. Here we had our photos taken with the giant gingerbread man, Big L was a little nervous of him but this was short lived. The kids decorated a (wooden) gingerbread man each to put on the tree at home.
Once decorated we went in to see the big man himself. It was a bit too much for Little L who screamed and screamed but Big L still managed to have a chat with Santa and tell him he wants – a surprise (phew). More photos and then Santa gave them both a present. It’s actually a really lovely reindeer with the Bluewater emblem and the year on its foot. Then through another door and out to view the photos. This is where they really make their money but hey! No one is forcing you to buy photos – but you aren’t allowed to take them inside so I guess you kind of have to. Anyway, there were key-rings and snow globes etc etc but you can buy the digital images (if you buy another product) for £1.
All in all it was a great experience for the money, a shame you can’t take photos but I suspect we have been spoilt in previous years going to our local garden center where it is allowed (at least up until last year). If you haven’t booked anywhere yet then I would recommend it and so would Big L! If you would like to book online then you can here.