The snowy bearded, ruby velvet wearing, ever jolly, slightly rotund symbol of Christmas. Weeks before the 25th we will be using his name to bribe our children into going to bed on time, picking up their toys and saying please. Half the time it will work.
Most parents will likely plan to take their over excited littles to the nearest grotto to meet Father Christmas.
I have taken my son since he was a baby. The first year he was sick on Santa’s nice fur lined boots and the last time tried to hide in the tree when he was asked if he had been a good boy. (He had just poured a bottle of bubble bat on the floor in Boots and was fearful of coal based punishment.)
Where to visit him?
Our grotto of choice this year was our local Wyevale in Sidmouth. Mondays to Saturdays they are open between 9:00 am-6:00 pm and Sundays between 10:30 am-4:30 pm.
It was a beautiful sunshiny day, perfect for visiting a garden centre. We were welcomed by festive stacks of wreaths and a very friendly elf standing in a stone door.
I really loved the Wyevale elves as a) on occasion previously elsewhere I have heard very young elves used very un-elf language like ‘dude’ or ‘let’s take a selfie’. And, b) their costumes and demeanours were just lovely. So warm and approachable.
We jumped along a beautifully decorated little path of tree stumps full of ball balls, penguins and everything festive. There was, very thoughtfully, a little seat with Christmas themed dress up items where we could have pictures taken.
Ho Ho Ho!
The elf then took us into Santa, who was sitting on an impressive golden thrown. The tree next to him was beautiful and he was very good talking to my little one who went into ‘rabbit in headlights’ mode.
It was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement on his little face!
A different experience was that the grotto was filled with toys and the children got to pick their own. I liked this in that they got to receive something they actually wanted. Lovely as this was my son did comment about not opening his gift. Perhaps next year they could have the toys out and the children could choose and then Santa could make a comment like ‘Ah yes I knew you would like that one’ and then have sacks of the different presents wrapped.
As it is predominantly outside I would encourage that you take coats for the children for the grotto as it was a little chilly. You are not outside long so it did not perturb my little munchkin and it made it feel all the more North Pole-esk!
Enjoy the garden centre
All the excitement made little man hungry. The café menu was very family-friendly and freshly-prepared, perfect for little appetites, with activity sets to keep little hands busy. It was a really relaxed atmosphere, the ladies (all dressed up in smiles and tinsel) didn’t even bat an eyelid when my son started pretending to be a knight with Santa’s sword! The food came out quickly and the staff were exceptionally friendly and kind. The restaurant was clean with a beautiful view and plenty of seating. They do a fantastic looking afternoon tea!
The centre itself was just as well decorated. Wandering through there were Christmas trees, free hot chocolates and non-alcoholic mulled wine. Elfie pose boards, a giant bear for perfect festive photo shots, a beautiful home section and lots of toys and gifts!
You don’t have to book to visit the Grotto at the Sidmouth centre. They do ask for a £2 min donation. Wyevale offer a festive breakfast or tea experience with Santa which I think would be lovely to make a day out with the children. This you can book online and we will totally be doing next year!
I can’t highlight how lovely and welcoming all the staff were across the centre, eager to chat and see if they could help with anything. This is somewhere I would be happy to visit all year round.