2018 was the last time that we had been to see Santa at Thorp Perrow, when our children were just 7 and 3. We really enjoyed it back then, but would it meet the requirements of a now 10 and 7 year old?
Parking is always very easy at Thorp Perrow, and we were able to stroll straight up to the kiosk window. We had booked for the slot first thing in the morning and the arboretum itself was very quiet because of that. It felt lovely and calm strolling along the paths through the woodland gardens, winding our way along the Christmas trail to Santa’s Grotto, looking for the Christmas cut outs and listening out for the wintery sounds coming from motion sensor speakers.
We came in with our dog, who remained on the lead, she was able to come with us all the way to the Grotto, then stayed in the doggy park area (where there is a bowl of water and some hitching posts) while we popped over to meet Father Christmas.
The staff in the Grotto have an excellent system in place to make the experience even more magical, which involves filling in some details before you arrive, then passing them on to the Head Elf when you get there. I won’t explain it any further in case there are any children reading, but it is very clever!
On arrival at the Grotto we were met by our elf, Poppy who led us slowly through a snowy winter woodland scene, she chatted with the children about the different things they could see and interacted with them. We heard quite a lot of banging and some strange noises coming from around the corner which initially were slightly disconcerting – but all was revealed when we were able to meet Rosie the donkey, who keeps Santa company. She was a little bit grumpy, but the idea was nice!
There’s a clever Santa reveal moment at the end of the walk through, after bagging some reindeer food and Father Christmas himself was fantastic, totally authentic and has the requisite real beard and eye twinkle. He spent time talking to the children and we were able to take photos and each child was given a present too.
The trail was a 20 minute stroll each way, and we spent around 15 minutes in the Grotto itself, so by the time we got back to the tearoom we were ready to warm up with a hot drink and some treats.
We each had a hot chocolate (they do children’s hot chocolates as well as adult sized) and they were fantastic. The hot chocolates came with cream, marshmallows, sprinkles and mini gingerbread men – it was honestly the best one I’ve had all year!
We also tucked into children’s lunch boxes, crisps and homemade cakes in the cosy surroundings while the kids completed their colouring sheets (which came in the lunch boxes) and I completed the word search on the back of the trail map.
A special mention needs to be made for the staff at Thorp Perrow – every single person we met was helpful, smiley and chatty. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and were made to feel so welcome. This experience gets a big thumbs up from the adults and children alike.
Something that needs a mention is that you do need to pay for the Santa experience for the children, along with the general entrance fee for everyone to the Arboretum – some people were arriving who had just paid for the Santa experience and hadn’t spotted that they need to pay for both. You could easily spend a good number of hours there if you were to walk all the way through the woodland gardens and stayed to play at the play area too, so it makes sense.
Booking via the Thorp Perrow website here (Don’t forget to book both entrance AND grotto tickets!)