Christmas is coming – it may still seem a while off, and with the uncertainty over coronavirus and possible further lockdowns, it is difficult to make plans for this year. But many of us will want to carry on in the assumption that we can visit friends and family and still do a lot of the festive activities we enjoy, even if they have to be socially distanced.
Santa will still bring presents of course – even if he has to use hand sanitiser and put masks on his reindeer. And from what I could tell last year, having a child sitting on a strange man’s knee is a thing of the past anyway!
Last year we visited Santa’s grotto at Chessington Garden Centre and thought it was amazing, so I was keeping an eye on their website to book for this year. No sooner had the dates gone live they were already starting to sell out! So if you are wondering is it worth going to see Santa at Chessington Garden Centre – here is my take on what they had last year.
Needless to say, I should point out this was last year, and will be different this year – probably in terms of what there is to see, as well as social distancing measures. Also, we didn’t actually see Santa last year, as we went after Christmas. This is a really good tip if you are looking for something to do with toddlers or children in the Christmas holidays, after Christmas when there isn’t a lot else going on. Last year Chessington Garden Centre kept its Christmas grotto open as a ‘walk through’ – minus Santa and the elves, with no gifts or craft workshops, but in return for a donation to charity, with a suggested amount of just £2 per person. The money last year went to Yorda Adventures, a non-profit organisation that works with families around the Kingston-upon-Thames area. It wasn’t very busy at all so we could take our time looking at the exhibits, which were really impressive – so we decided we wanted to go back with the Mini Moo this year and do it properly.
View the slideshow below….
We were greeted by singing reindeer heads then entered a room with fairly traditional decorations – a tree, snowmen and so on, with displays like a traditional toy shop window. But that’s where the traditional decorations ended – next we entered an opulent Aladdin’s cave with plush velvet furnishings, images from the Disney Aladdin’s film, an animatronic camel that told jokes, and more. There was a woodland scene with (I think) characters from the Wind in the Willows, the Owl and the Pussycat in their little row boat, some animatronic beavers, Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, a giant unicorn and giant polar bear (actually that may have been lifesize, they are pretty big!). Then a real crowd-pleaser – Olaf from Frozen alongside Anna, Elsa, Christoff and Sven – Sven was moving as well. More music awaited around the next corner with a barbershop quartet of singing penguins – I could have watched them for ages!
After that we came out into what I think is the elves’ workshop where before Christmas (when you pay the full price) children (normally) do crafts, and then visit Santa himself. This year it costs £16.50 per child and £4.50 for each accompanying adult, which seems a bit steep, but was comparative to the Santa visit we did at Woodcote Green Garden Centre in Wallington, and I thought this was a lot better – though obviously can’t comment on the quality of the gift as we didn’t see Santa last year. I did see a sign last year offering a photo with yourself and Santa for £10 – I don’t think it’s unusual but it’s quite disappointing that it costs this much to see Santa and then you pay an extra tenner just for a photo, even if it comes in a cardboard frame. Is it just me, or should the photo be included in the price?
Either way, we were really impressed with what we saw at Chessington Garden Centre last year and I think my daughter – who will be nearly three at Christmas – will really enjoy it. Unfortunately they have decided not to do the craft workshop this year due to coronavirus, and will replace it with ‘non-contact interactions’ along the way. I’m not sure what that is and doubt it will be as good as doing the crafts, but we can’t really complain given the pandemic (though whether the price has stayed the same as last year when you could do crafts, I’m not sure). You can book here, but will have to be quick!