The Christmas preparations are in full swing and if you’re anything like me you’re probably starting to feel a bit stressed out with all the shopping that hasn’t been done and the never-ending to do list. So cheer yourself up by taking the kids to see Santa and grabbing a glass of something mulled. When you see their faces light up, it will remind you why you’re running around in a festive panic! Here are some places where you can find Father Christmas in West Essex and London:
Santa’s grotto will be open at weekends at Chigwell Christmas Land but there are plenty of other things to entertain the little ones and get you in the festive spirit on weekdays as well. There’s an ice skating rink, a festive food and drink, live entertainment, a gift stall and story book characters on Christmas Eve.
Dates & times: Santa’s Grotto will be open on Saturday and Sundays 1pm-3pm (excluding 25/26/31 Dec and 1 Jan). Christmas Land will be open until 5 January 2017
Price & tickets: Free entry but you need tickets for ice skating which is £8.50 adults and £7.50 children (4-15 years)
Address: Chigwell Hall, Chigwell Hall High Road, Chigwell, Essex, IG7 6BD
More details: Christmas Land website
The Sailortown gallery has been transformed with festive decorations and the sound of Victorian carols being sung. Find Santa in his grotto and receive a festive gift. Suitable for ages 1 – 7 years old.
Dates & times: Until Friday 23 December
Price & tickets: It’s advisable to book in advance but some slots are available on the day. From £7 per child (includes gift). Photographs available at an additional cost.
Address: Museum of London Docklands, No.1 Warehouse, West India Quay, London E14 4AL
More details: Museum of Docklands website
We’ve done this for a few years and our son loves the steam train. There’s mulled wine, mince pies and snacks for the kids when you arrive and a children’s entertainer to keep the little ones busy. You then board the classic steam train for a short journey through the countryside. While on board Santa and his elves visit the carriages and deliver presents to the children. There is limited parking so it’s advisable to get one of the special vintage route master busses from Epping or Ongar which is included in the fare and the children usually love.
Dates & times: Santa specials will run on the 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23 & 24 December
Price: Adults £18, children £15. You can also book out entire train compartments for large groups.
Address: Trains depart from North Weald station, CM16 6BT
More details: Epping and Ongar Railway website
This year there’s a Kung Fu Panda theme at Westfield shopping centre’s Christmas grotto. There’s interactive games and an immersive, cinematic journey that transports guests to the North Pole for a private meeting with Santa. Flying through the skies and arriving at Santa’s study, you’ll have a personalised Christmas passport processed by the North Pole Customs Shop and Santa will know children by name the moment they walk into his study. Handily, there’s also a buggy park next to the grotto.
Dates & times: Until 24th December
Price: £8 off peak, £10 peak. Family £28 off peak & £35 peak
Address: Outside at Chestnut Plaza, adjacent to the Holiday Inn, Westfield Stratford City, Stratford, E20 1EJ
More details: Westfield Stratford website
The tourist hotspot is being transformed into a winter wonderland with a Christmas market, Santa’s grotto and theatrical performances from La Soiree. Visits to Santa last about 25 minutes and are an ‘audience with’ format with about 20 other children and each child will then get a chance to meet Father Christmas and get a gift.
You must buy a ticket for a specific time slot, either online or on the door, before entering Santa’s Grotto.
Dates & times: Until 8 January (Except Christmas Day and Boxing Day), 12pm – 10pm Mon – Fri, 10am – 10pm Sat-Sun
Price: From £10
Address: Leicester Square, London, WC2
More details: Christmas in Leicester Square website
If you want to avoid the more expensive options, a visit to Santa at his grotto in Redbridge library can be a good value option. For just £3.50 your little one can meet Santa and his elves and receive a gift. Booking in advance is advised as he’s only there on selected dates.
Dates & times: Sat 17, Mon 19 – Sat 24 December
Price: £3.50 which includes a gift
Address: Redbridge Central Library, Clements Road, Ilford, IG1 1EA
More details: book online through the eventbrite website
Visit Santa in his grotto in the Canary Wharf shopping centre. There are other children’s festive events at the centre during December including an ice rink, festive face painting, Christmas snow globe, children’s art and craft workshops.
Dates & times: 11am – 5pm, Open on weekends throughout December and then from 22-24 December.
Price: £2 donations required to Richard House Children’s Hospice and Tommy’s, the baby charity.
Address: Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5NY
More details: Canary Wharf website
A favourite with lots of families who return every year the grotto at Crews Hill garden centre. You get to ride on “Santa’s Express” and travel through 20 different Christmas scenes before arriving at Santa’s workshop with his real reindeer. Then after meeting the main man you can visit the giant snow globe and skate on the indoor skating rink.
There’s also a huge selection of Christmas gifts and decoration to buy as well as festive foods and hampers.
Dates & times: 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday, 10am – 4.30pm Sunday
Price: £8 per child (includes train ride through the grotto visit with Santa and present), £2 per accompanying adult. Tickets available on the day.
Address: Cattlegate Road, Crews Hill, Enfield, EN2 9EE
More details: Christmas Wonderland website
As part of your visit to Willow’s activity farm you can get the golden key to Santa’s Toy Shop and you’ll meet christmas characters in the grotto. After meeting Santa and telling him what they would like for Christmas, Santa hands each child a golden key to his Toy Shop where they can choose ANY gift from the hundreds stacked from floor to ceiling.
There’s also lots of other activities including a Nativity Story with animals, festive shows, a seasonal Snowball Shootout as well as animals in The Farmyard. Back outside there’s a Festive Wood Ride, Reindeer Hunt with free box of magic reindeer dust plus Festive Funfair Rides all included in the price.
Dates & times: Until 24 December, 10am – 5pm
Price: £12 adult, £33 child (2-16 years) discounts available for online bookings
Address: Willows Activity Farm, Coursers Road, London Colney, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL4 0PF
More details: Willows Farm website