Nothing feels more festive than a meeting with Father Christmas, and we've found the best grottos to head to this December
Storytelling Grotto, Saltram House, Devon, UK
Presents are all well and good, but this year, visitors to the grotto at Devon’s Saltram House can look forward to festive stories rather than toys. Santa’s base will be the property’s cosy stables – head here to hear his magical tales and to take part in festive singalongs. We also love the fact that staff have gone out of their way to make the grotto accessible to everyone – there will be special sessions for visitors with disabilities such as autism and aspergers. There's also plenty for adults, who can team their festive tales with mulled wine and hot chocolate.
Santa's Grotto for dogs, the Forum, Norwich, UK
That’s right—Christmas in Norwich is for canines, too. The event, which is organised by the RSPCA, takes place on December 8 at the Norwich Forum—bring your furry friend to meet Santa (in this case, a character known as Santa Woof Woof) and you’ll get a free photo of your canine companion, along with the chance to win vouchers for a very special “Dog Pawty.” You can also help your dog avoid the naughty list by booking him in for a session with one of the grotto’s behaviourists.
Reverse Grotto, Erddig Hall, Wrexham, Wales
This year at Erdigg Hall in Wales, it’s all about giving back—visitors to the property’s so-called Reverse Grotto are invited to leave a donation for Wrexham’s food bank. To boost the feel good factor, you’ll also be able to stop by the elves’ workshop to watch Santa’s faithful assistants hard at work. And, on December 8, Santa will also be hosting a very special dinner at Erddig Hall's Hayloft restaurant. There will be craft sessions and Christmas songs as well as delicious food, and children will leave with a present plucked from Santa's sack.
Christmas Sparkle Grotto, Ickworth House, Suffolk, UK
The Christmas grotto at Suffolk’s Ickworth House is a traditional affair—you’ll be able to visit Santa (and collect a Christmas present), before taking part in a range of Christmas activities, including biscuit decorating. Can’t bear to leave? Book a night in one of the estate’s cosy holiday cottages – the largest is the Round House, which sleeps six people. We also love Ickworth House's Greenery Gatherings, which take place throughout December—sign up for one of these guided walks to gather sprigs of holly and ivy which you can use to give your home a seasonal spruce-up.
Santa Claus Village, Rovaniemi, Lapland
What could be more festive than a trip to Santa Claus’s office, in the heart of Lapland? Pay a visit to Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland, and you’ll get an unbeatable insight into Santa’s pre-Christmas schedule. You’ll learn how he uses a gadget known as a rotational speed navigator to deliver billions of presents within the space of a few hours, and will be able to meet the bearded man himself, who will present younger guests with a gift to remind them of their visit to Lapland. Don't forget to finish your winter adventure with a visit to the Santa Claus Main Post Office—all letters sent from here will receive an Arctic Circle postmark, and Christmas wish lists can be posted here, too—half a million children do this every year!
Liverpool Town Hall’s Santa’s Grotto, Liverpool, UK
Liverpool’s beautiful town hall is the setting for the city’s storytelling-themed grotto, where children can meet not just Santa but his friend Buddy the Elf. After a seasonal storytelling session, visitors are invited to share their Christmas wishes before being presented with a special gift. We’d recommend booking early – the 45-minute-long events are hugely popular. The storytelling sessions take place throughout December, with the last ones held on Christmas Eve.
Santa's Grotto, Chill Factore, Manchester, UK
Head to Manchester for the UK’s only Santa’s Grotto on real snow. This particular event takes place at the Chill Factore ski slope, where kids can meet Father Christmas before signing up for a sledging or skiing session. The admission price—just £2.50 per person—includes access to the winter wonderland at the bottom of the slope. Children aged under four get their own dedicated area—Mini Moose Land has a soft play zone, toys and an igloo made from real snow.
Belgravia Santa's Grotto, Belgravia, London, UK
You might be surprised to find out that Father Christmas is the proud owner of a holiday home in Belgravia – a quaint log cabin on elegant Elizabeth Street, which has been transformed into a forested winter wonderland this December. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the chic location, it’s a rather exclusive affair—Father Christmas's cabin has beautiful sofas, a Victorian Christmas tree and a roaring log fire.
Santa might well be used to sliding through the snow on the back of his reindeer-pulled sleigh, but if skis are your preferred mode of transport, here are five fantastic resorts to check out this winter.