Big man was born in November 2007. He happily slept whilst being cuddled by a work colleagues of my OH by Santa. At one and two I hadn't even thought about a grotto visit. I was shocked when friends were booking grottos. We left it. Big man was none the wiser. I mean what 1 year old understands about Father Christmas?
At 3 I still wasn't into the idea. We took him to a garden centre where Santa sat in a shed. He was actually a really good Santa. He gave middle man a stocking even though we hadn't paid for him.The only problem was big man was scared of Santa. He stood there in awe unable to move. He looked so frightened in the photo they took we chose not to part with a tenner. I was actually kind of relieved that we hadn't spent lots of money on a grotto.
Then something happened. I had a third child and with it came guilt over everything. This is when I was obsessed that we must go to meet Santa even though I had quite literally just had a C-section. We chose The Watercress Line. It was nice in the fact that I could sit down. Father Christmas came through the carriages handing out presents. He needed reminding about little man. It was OK. Nothing fantastic. The boys liked it, so I suppose that is what counts.
The following year we went to Peppa Pig World. This was a lovely day. Mainly, because the park was quiet. The grotto part was fine. Lots of animated animals, but not really my thing. If you have a Peppa Pig fan and live in driving distance I would recommend this for a 3-4 year old. I just liked the pretty lights and Peppa style Santa that they put up. (Yep it doesn't take that much to please me!)
Last year we had the very best and very worst of grottos. You can read my review on Lapland UK as well as my top tips. You need to remortgage to go there, but if you can afford it then it is fantastic. Well if you are lucky with the weather and realistic with your expectations. It is a theatrical production where the actual meeting with Santa is just a very small part. We had a lovely time and thankfully I came away understanding why it cost so much, rather than thinking I had been ripped off.
We then won some tickets to a brand new children's festival The Little Welly. We made the decision to not go and see Santa here just enjoy the festival. It was an eye opener on how a company can spin things to look good when actually they are a wash out. I have no doubt that the intentions of the organisers were to create a fantastic Christmas experience but with the wind and rain it was a muddy mess that had little atmosphere. So there is my take on the grottos I have been to. Are they worth it? Now that is a hard one. Children are believers for such a small amount of time.
So what is my advice to you?
Firstly do your research. Word of mouth tends to be the best recommendation. You may be worrying about where to go from September onwards, but your children won't. They will be happy whether they go to a winter wonderland or a garden centre.I you don't have. It is not worth spending money you don't have. Christmas is expensive enough as it is. Do you know what, I doubt your children will even care if they don't go. It is the pressure that we put on ourselves to be "perfect" parents that is the problem. Last but not least, be prepared that little ones won't be into the idea at all. Father Christmas actually commented on my top tips post saying that he had a sleeping baby surrounded by adults. Sometimes it is worth waiting.
So there is my take on grotto's. What is yours? Do you love or hate them? What is the best one you have been to?